Archives for category: movie reviews

There are a lot of reasons why a film can be lousy. Perhaps the worst one is laziness. “The Con is On” (2018) is a limited-release bomb of a caper flick. The caper stinks (stolen loot, a psychopathic Russian, a big jewel, whatever). Uma Thurman looks spectacular and gives the impression of effort as a con artist with a checkered past, but her husband is Tim Roth doing a half-assed Dudley Moore impersonation. Crispin Glover plays himself as a bipolar director. Everyone else sucks and is not worth mentioning, except Parker Posey, who is horrific as a whacked-out movie flunky.

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Pro tip: Never watch a DVD that’s been previously touched – even once – by someone under the age of 21, because it will be scratched all to hell. Having said that, I still enjoyed muddling through my borrowed copy of “300” (2007). Despite missing most of the climax, I know the story (outnumbered Spartans are total badasses). Besides, the story isn’t the point. This film is notable because of its ground-breaking special effects, which give you the surreal feeling that you are either watching a comic book come to life or a commercial for the best video game of all time.

Honky male actors have been making mediocre action movies for years, so I see it as a sign of gender equality that Taraji P. Henson made the incredibly mediocre “Proud Mary” (2018). It’s got two hallmarks of mediocre action cinema: Good guys with 100 percent handgun accuracy versus bad guys with 2 percent accuracy, and the Law of Unlimited Bullets. The slapped-together plot has her assassin character trying to flee a crime family, save an orphan and survive a mob war she semi-accidentally started. The title hinted that Henson might try a spin on 1970s blaxploitation films. Disposability won out.

There’s a common movie construct where an innocent person becomes party to an ill-gotten gain (they witness a bank robbery or find out where some dirty money is stashed, something like that). The innocent and a bad guy end up having to rely on each other to grab the stash before even badder guys can get it. Meanwhile, the bad guy becomes angst-ridden and a decision must be made. “Blood Diamond” (2006) manifests this construct in Sierra Leone, with Leonardo DiCaprio as the conflicted protagonist. A good, not great, film where the setting is more interesting than the story itself.

As I watched “Isle of Dogs” (2018), I was reminded how much I used to enjoy “Samurai Jack.” There’s a zen-like inner calmness at the center of these two pieces of Japanese-flavored animation that I savored. This film is loaded with metaphors for all kinds of stuff I didn’t have time to try to discern (it’s a dark story about the potential for a doggie holocaust, and there’s heavy – perhaps too heavy – political symbolism). I was too busy either trying to make out the tiny writing on my normal-human-sized television or I was simply enjoying the calm, deliberate, confident storytelling.

With his fair hair, pale skin and faint voice, Truman Capote cast somewhat of a ghostly appearance. So does the stark winter countryside portrayed in “Capote,” the 2005 film that examines the creation of the novel “In Cold Blood.” The spectral nature makes sense, since the novel, and the film, deals with a quadruple homicide. As Capote becomes infatuated with the murderers, the rural Kansas setting, painted in long-distance shots and moments of ambient sound, harbors the ghosts of the murdered, so that we don’t become too infatuated ourselves. It’s a brilliant device, moments of art within a creepy story.

At one point during “You Were Never Really Here” (2018), Joaquin Phoenix appears to extract a tooth with a pair of pliers. Since he’s sooooo Joaquin Phoenix, I briefly wondered if he was really doing it. If there’s one actor who would, he would. It was a fascinating distraction and synopsizes this film about a seriously traumatized dude who rescues traumatized kids only to get caught up in a 1970s-style pervy political conspiracy. Between the flashbacks and hallucinations, there are a lot of fascinating distractions from the fact that the plot – and a lot of the dialogue – is completely incoherent.