Posts Tagged ‘review’

Sometimes, there are movies that I really wanted to see at the time they came out but, for some reason, I don’t. This was certainly true of The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). It was well reviewed and had name stars (George Clooney voicing the title character, Meryl Streep as his wife).

Finally, this summer, it showed up at the nearby Madison Theatre, and the Wife and I attended one weekend afternoon. The premise is interesting: “An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation.” The idea of fighting against one’s nature and take responsibility for his family versus the lure of one more series of thefts.

I liked the early part of the film well enough. When the farmers threaten the entire animal ecosystem, the film was more engaging. I enjoyed the stop-motion animation throughout, but the Daughter opted not to see the film because, just on the previews, the movie looked “creepy” to her.

Bill Murray has a very distinctive voice as Badger, even in animation (Jungle Book). Also solid: Jason Schwartzman as the mopey Ash Fox, Eric Chase Anderson as Ash’s cousin Kristofferson, Willem Dafoe as Rat (naturally) and Owen Wilson as Coach Skip.

Wes Anderson is a writer/director I either enjoy (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom) or not (The Royal Tenenbaums). I liked the film.

This was annoying, though: some rube sitting behind us, but on the other side of the aisle was periodically flashing a red pointer at the screen. I thought the guys sitting immediately in front of them were going to punch out the culprit.

And I Was more sad than angry because he was just encouraging people to stay home to watch on DVD or some streaming service rather than enjoying film in a more communal way. Given the fact the movie only cost us 35 cents apiece to watch – the first showing of the “family” film on Saturday is always a bargain, so you can spend more on the concessions – this joy sucker helps diminish the art form.

Here’s the trailer for The Fantastic Mr. Fox.


The irony of our family seeing An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is that we drove about 40 miles to see it on Labor Day weekend. The movie came and went in the local theaters too quickly, so we trekked to Williamstown, Massachusetts, where my wife and I had been just the week before, and we noticed it would start playing there.

Image Cinema is a nonprofit entity in the town where Williams College is located. My daughter, on a school field trip, had visited there in the last year.

Matt Souza of Salon wrote: “Would I still recommend ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’? Sure, although I doubt there is much one could glean from this movie that couldn’t be obtained by rewatching ‘An Inconvenient Truth.'” I think that was my problem is that it was Al Gore forming groups of people to take on the fight, or occasionally reminiscing, and that it wasn’t quite enough…

Until the footage of the 2015 devastation from Typhoon Koppu, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Lando, that struck Luzon in October 2015. Somehow, the sheer enormity of the storm made me sit up. And soon thereafter, the movie showed recent (2015) storms in east Texas and Louisiana. Obviously they were not the storms from 2017, and THAT was the point.

Maybe it’s because I’m a poli sci geek, but my favorite part of the film, near the end, involves getting India to agree to more solar power in some sausage-making horse trading for the Paris climate accord. And then, just before the end credits, the news that the US was pulling OUT of said accord, which I knew, of course, but it still ticked me off. (If I thought it would do any good, I would recommend a certain party watch at least the Paris section.)

It’s sometimes difficult to connect the dots, and we treat each rain event, massive fire, and drought as unconnected from each other. In the Weekly Sift piece Houston, New Orleans, and the Long Descent, the author noted that while “President Obama had at least managed to include climate change in the federal government’s own building plans,” his successor has – foolishly, to my mind – reversed that policy.

I found An Inconvenient Truth compelling movie making, and the sequel not so much, although I happen to like it when Al Gore gets angry occasionally. Still, the Daughter had not seen the original movie, so An Inconvenient Sequel was an instructive enough use of our time.

Three or four years ago, someone recommended to my wife that she read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls about her unconventional growing up with her two sister and a brother. So she was anxious to see the movie in which “a young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.”

The good news is that, in all the story jumping back and forth in time, I always knew when we were in the narrative, even with three sets of children. Movie magic at its best. For instance, Jeanette was played by Chandler Head as the youngest iteration, the one who suffers a defining accident in the movie. My wife says that in the book, the child was even younger, three or four.

Then the growing up Jeanette, who ends up in the deep end of the pool, was played by Ella Anderson, who, heaven help me, I recognize from the Daughter watching the annoying show Henry Danger. Both the younger iterations were quite good.

Jeanette as an adult was played by Brie Larson, who was so good in the movie Room that she won an Oscar. Here she plays one note for a long time, a fairly blank facial expression. I suppose she’s supposed to be showing how closed off she’s become by her upbringing. But it isn’t until an arm wrestling match between her fiance David (Max Greenfield) and her father (Woody Harrelson) that she shows much emotion at all.

Harrelson as Rex, who is forever promising to design and build the titular structure, is very good as an maddeningly intelligent dreamer, whose views on the economic system are not entirely wrong. (You see the REAL Rex at the end of the film.) Naomi Watts as the mom, Rose Mary, has less to do, but is fine.

I guess the problem is the disjointed storytelling made me feel that 127 minutes. Perhaps if with a different linear flow, and some judicious editing, it worked better for me and the critics.

But The Wife and The Daughter evidently enjoyed The Glass Castle more than I.

The Wedding Plan is, as the LA Times put it, “not your mother’s rom-com, even if it may start out that way.

“Michal (Noa Koler) is a 32-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman in Jerusalem whose fiancé, Gidi (Erez Drigues), announces that he doesn’t love her. Crushed, yet bound and determined to get married anyway, the lonely Michal decides to keep her planned wedding date (22 days away, on the eighth night of Hanukkah); pay up with Shimi (Amos Tamam), the bemused and dashing owner of the banquet hall she’s already reserved; send out invitations, and put her faith in God that a suitable groom will appear in time.”

I note that on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics are 84% positive, but only 65% the general public enjoyed it. I suspect that the audience expected that it would be funny in a more familiar and obvious manner, the way a movie such as The Wedding Planner (2001), the film with Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, presumably was supposed to be. (I’ve seen only bits and pieces of that one.)

I will admit that The Wedding Plan really started getting interesting as we get closer to the established betrothal date, especially after she meets cute/odd with Yos (Oz Zehavi), the international pop star who couldn’t possibly be interested in her, could he?

Michal has an interesting group of cohorts, including her mother (Irit Sheleg), who is not so secretly mortified by this public embarrassment, her not-happily married sister, and her friend/partner in a mobile petting zoo business.

As you can see from the trailer, the film is in Hebrew with English subtitles. Of course, I saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, during its last week of its run. I was uncharacteristically alone, since my wife was resting after her foot surgery.

If nothing else, it’s an interesting meditation on faith. If you don’t expect to be falling out of your seats with laughter, you may enjoy it.

The Big Sick is your typical boy-meets-girl, girl-breaks-up-with-boy, girl-gets-very-sick, boy-meets-girl’s-parents rom com. OK, that was a bit cheeky, but not entirely incorrect.

The one-night stand that became a romance between stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) is the starting off point of the film. Yet it was Kumail dealing with her mother Beth (Holly Hunter) and father Terry (Ray Romano) which drives much of the middle of the film.

Also intriguing is Kumail dealing with his own parents, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and and Azmat (Anupam Kher), the former of whom is especially busy trying to fix him up with a nice Muslim girl.
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The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kamail and Emily V. Gordon, and written by them. I saw Kamail on The Daily Show recently talking about the writing process. On some of their real dates, they had radically different recollections of how a certain date played out, and they used that conflict in the script.

The movie showed real insights into the culture clash, the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart, without being pedantic. It manages to be quite funny while at the same time dealing with the emotions surrounding Emily’s …well, see the title.

I was really fond of this movie, and if anything, my wife more so, which we saw, naturally, at the Spectrum Theater in Albany. “They” say write what you know, and in plagiarizing their own experiences, Nanjiani and Gordon have avoid hitting any false notes. And in the current political atmosphere, it even seems especially timely.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Some believe that, like some other Apatow works, it was too long, but at at a tick under two hours, I thought it was just right

Here’s the trailer. See the movie!

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