Critical MeMe

Time spent watching films, even crappy ones, is time well-spent.

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Location: Missouri, United States
    These aren't comments on ALL of the movies through which I've cried, yawned, laughed, and rolled my eyes, but just about everything I've seen since early 2002 is here plus a few from earlier. Post dates reflect my screening & parenthetical dates are the year of US release (aka Oscar eligibility).
    Yeah, a movie review blog isn't very original. But originality is overrated. Just ask Michael Bay.


The Girl With All the Gifts (2016)

Doesn't come anywhere near the quality of the book and it’s difficult to separate the two from each other. Because I know exactly what the ending means via the written page, it’s hard to know if the way the movie presented the end really “works” -- I know that neither Gary nor Nathan derived the book meaning from it (they thought the teacher was a hostage), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just don’t think it’s AS good a thing. Basically, my family saw it through the lens of typical dystopian tropes: the humans are the “good guys” and the zombies must be cured. The book saw the zombie children as the next -- amoral -- phase of evolution and the humans as simply a dying breed. The latter is much more interesting.



Logan (2017)

All of the best scenes in this movie had one thing in common: Patrick Stewart. The fight scenes were choreographed well but, after a while, they felt pretty same-y. It’s a diverting film but also quite a bit longer than was necessary.

This had the same effect on me that Rogue One did: it’s a diverting chapter in a series I don’t care much about.



The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)

French girl falls in love with an American who is called back to the states when his father falls ill and never returns. She has his child and has to find some way to support the kid.

This woman has all of the bad luck. When she lands a potential husband, he’s not interested in taking the kid. When she finds a sugar daddy who doesn’t mind the kid, he winds up being a notorious jewel thief. After being convicted as complicit in his crimes, she does 10 years and her child’s put into an orphanage. But she still isn’t allowed that happy reunion as she realizes the stigma of her name will hurt his chances of a career. So she takes to the street to trick for medical school money.

It would be fine if it were just told "straight" but it tries to go one step further by making the above into a story being told to the wife of the now grown-up son in order to keep her from leaving her driven doctor hubby. Not sure why they felt that extra layer was necessary, but the story suffers for it.


Camp X-Ray (2014)

Kristen Stewart has just been put on Army assignment as a guard at Gitmo. While there she develops a tentative friendship with one of the detainees, which makes it impossible to ignore treatment intended to humiliate him.

It’s a very small movie that packs a quiet punch. Stewart once again proves she’s one of the more underrated actors of her generation.



Weiner (2016)

Before this doc, the only thing I knew about Anthony Weiner were the punchlines. But I grew to really respect the guy as a politician (it's a mark of how great the stigma of his scandals are that I'm almost embarrassed to admit that). He is obviously passionate about representing the people. He shows it on the campaign trail & the film kicks off with some fiery speeches he gave while he was a congressman, so it’s not just “campaign stuff” with him. Once he was in office, he was still fighting.

But wow. Talk about a guy who can’t stay out of his own way. I imagine Weiner’s dalliances are pretty tame for a politician and I can’t help but thinking that’s why people are so entertained by it. Weiner's private life comes off as more silly than sordid. And, for a politician, there’s apparently no recovering from “silly."



Get Out (2017)

The camerawork in this movie drove me crazy from the very first scene, in which we were following someone so closely that I couldn’t keep my bearings as to where he was in relation to his surroundings: a quiet suburban street. Other than that, this is a pretty solid, if predictable, thriller.

Black guy dating a white girl is going with her to meet her wealthy parents whom she swears, though she hasn’t told them he’s black, won’t have a problem with it because they are NOT racist. That seems to be true. Though there’s some awkwardness at first meeting, it seems to be due to their inexperience rather than prejudice.

The similarities to movies like The Stepford Wives and The Skeleton Key were unmistakable, making it pretty hard to be surprised as events unfolded. There was some comic relief, but if the laughs had been sprinkled in more liberally, I think this movie would've been elevated considerably (see Cabin in the Woods, also starring Bradley Whitford). As it is, it’s a fine but forgettable diversion.


Swiss Army Man (2016)

Man stranded alone on an island is in the process of committing suicide when a body washes up on the beach. Hopeful that he might finally have some company, he quickly discovers that, though the man is dead, he is quite useful.

His explosive flatulence is a propellant, making him a morbid jetski. He acts as a pumpable water reservoir. Objects can be loaded into his throat and then shot out, etc. Also along the way, the body starts to hear, see, talk, and absorb knowledge -- becoming a true friend to our castaway as he struggles his way back to civilization.

The only thing that lets this film down is the denouement. Once he gets back to the "real world" and we're allowed to start piecing together what we've been watching, there’s a truly bizarre finish that just, in my opinion, didn’t work. Other than that, the story reminded of Lars and the Real Girl, but told strictly from Lars' perspective.



Nocturnal Animals (2016)

The first several minutes of the film are horribly uncomfortable, unnecessary, and confusing: several obese, middle aged to elderly women bounce and spin in their birthday suits. Now, I’m a full-figured gal nearing 50, so I wasn’t disgusted by their bodies -- but, in the absence of context, my knee-jerk reaction was to take offense. Are we making fun of them? Are we supposed to be grossed-out? What is going on and why? It’s an unfortunate start to what turns out to be an absolute masterpiece.

Susan has a gorgeous husband, an interesting job, a showroom of a house, insomnia, and general despondency. Her ex-husband sends her his about-to-be-published novel and, as she reads it, we see the novel play out. It was an interesting device because the "book" storyline was terrifying, but the story-within-a-story structure allowed me to remind myself that it wasn't real... “it’s just the book,” which is hilarious as I should be able to tell myself that about the movie I’m watching too… But it was seriously that well done. When Susan would startle from the page, I was relieved for the reminder of its fiction as well.

In addition to the present-day and the book tracks, we also have a flashback track of her life 20 years ago when she knew the author. It could have been confusing but, instead, they weave together to make a film that's absolutely breathtaking.