Sunday, September 25, 2016

Me Before You (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she's taking care of.
Directed by Thea Sharrock. Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, and Stephen Peacocke.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This movie started out so promising and fell so far. Let's put aside the politics of the movie to begin with (though I have fairly strong feelings about that and will probably get to those later). The characters of Will and Lou are so clear and interesting in the first half hour, and it was delightful watching them interact. But then the mood shifts. The melodrama begins to pile on, pound after pound after pound. The interactions no longer make characterization sense and are just serving to push the plot forward.

I think the problem here is that the scriptwriter (also the author of the novel, apparently) had no idea how to write believable change, so when the characters break out of their previously established molds, it feels forced and awkward, and they just continue to change and break out, and so nothing feels right ever again, all the way to the ending sequence which is one more abrupt emotional shift away from the scene before it. It's awkwardly put together, and I really wish a better writer had gotten a chance to tackle it.

As to the movie's message, I have issues with that as well. While I sympathize with characters who have lost their will to live, I can never see their deliberate deaths as anything other than a horrifying tragedy. It can never be heroic or condoned to me. I can never get behind a movie that implies that an injury like this means someone's quality of life is gone. I feel like that is already a dangerous and unkind stereotype, and this film does nothing to combat that, nor does it ever dig far enough into the issue to even make a compelling case on its behalf. It's a failure on both a moral and an artistic standpoint, as far as I'm concerned.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Me Before You < O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Me Before You < Anchors Aweigh
Me Before You > Band of Outsiders, I guess. On the principle that I loathe Godard.
Me Before You < Enough
Me Before You > Cold Mountain
Me Before You < The Robe
Me Before You > David Copperfield (1935)
Me Before You < The Searchers
Me Before You < First Blood
Me Before You < Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Me Before You < Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Me Before You < Fame (2009)

Final spot: #2100 out of 2513.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson.

What really makes this movie enjoyable is that, unlike most action movies, it isn't building up to one giant action sequence. Instead, we get mini-heist after mini-heist after mini-heist. There's a constant rise and fall in the action, so the downtime never feels dragged out because you know something else big is right around the corner. It's also ridiculous in all the right ways. At least once, possibly more often, I laughed out loud at a particularly ludicrous plot twist. This movie is what I always want James Bond movies to be - slick, silly, and fun from beginning to end.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > A Clockwork Orange
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < Smashed
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < It Follows
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Heavenly Creatures
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > M
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Little Children
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < The Producers (2005)
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Contagion

Final spot: #517 out of 2512.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Big Man Japan (2007)

IMDb plot summary: An eccentric man living alone in a decrepit house in Tokyo periodically transforms into a 100-foot tall giant in order to defend Japan against similarly sized monsters.
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto. Starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, and Tomoji Hasegawa.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

This movie is off-the-wall crazy and I love it a lot. I went into it not knowing a single thing about it, so when it made an abrupt shift from slice-of-life documentary to Japanese monster/superhero movie, I was completely taken aback. It becomes a very funny (and sometimes, simultaneously, very sad) movie about celebrity and saving the world. And I have to say, I 100% adore those monster designs. They are strange and sometimes unsettling and silly and original and every time they announced a new monster I got all excited for the fight, which is... not at all what I would have expected. I'm still mentally figuring out whether there's a meaning to the end of the film or whether it's just silly for silliness' sake. Both are enjoyable, but I'm hoping for the former because the movie got me to genuinely care about its unfortunate lead character and I'd like to have some sort of resolution on his behalf, even if it's a sad one. Overall though, really enjoyable movie, and one I'd probably never have found on my own.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Big Man Japan > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Big Man Japan > Gone Baby Gone
Big Man Japan < Kramer vs. Kramer
Big Man Japan < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Big Man Japan > Heavenly Creatures
Big Man Japan > Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Big Man Japan < Shakespeare Behind Bars
Big Man Japan < Witness for the Prosecution
Big Man Japan > Cold Comfort Farm
Big Man Japan < Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Final spot: #504 out of 2510.

Loins of Punjab Presents (2007)

IMDb plot summary: Enter a roller-coaster world of seven strangers whose lives collide during a singing contest in a small New Jersey town.
Directed by Manish Acharya. Starring Shabana Azmi, Ajay Naidu, Ayesha Darker, and Michael Raimondi.

I had no idea what to expect with this movie. I'd never heard of it, but Netflix thought I'd like it a lot, and sometimes their rankings are pretty close. This ended up being a really enjoyable mockumentary that takes some unusual turns. It starts off with a typical satirical setup and conflicts but by the end of the movie, you really end up caring about these characters, no matter how laughable they were at the beginning. It's still funny and satirical at the end, but there's a note of heart that I wouldn't have expected from the setup. There aren't any laugh-out-loud moments throughout, but the jokes nearly all hit the mark, and the characters are creative and fun to watch.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Crazies
Loins of Punjab Presents < Gone Baby Gone
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Gold Rush
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Green Mile
Loins of Punjab Presents > Princess Mononoke
Loins of Punjab Presents > Radio Days
Loins of Punjab Presents < Atonement
Loins of Punjab Presents < Dog Day Afternoon
Loins of Punjab Presents > Mr. Holmes
Loins of Punjab Presents > Monsoon Wedding
Loins of Punjab Presents < Au Revoir Les Enfants

Final spot: #659 out of 2509.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Adama (2015)

12-year­old Adama lives in a remote village in West Africa, sheltered by the Cliffs. When Samba, his elder brother, suddenly vanishes from the village, Adama decides to set off in search of him.
Directed by Simon Rouby. Starring Azize Diabaté Abdoulaye, Pascal N'Zonzi, Oxmo Puccino, and Jack Mba.

Wow, this movie looks gorgeous. Some of those shots were just stunning; I'm thinking in particular of the one where he's walking and in the background are shadows of passersby. It's the kind of story that should affect me more than it does, but in the end, I don't know that I connected much with the main character. Earlier this year I watched Beasts of No Nation, and that was a much more compelling movie about young boys in the midst of war, partly because of the strength of the main character, who was a vibrant and interesting child. Adama can't help but seem a little bland in comparison. Worth watching for the animation, but doesn't deliver as I hoped when it comes to the story.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Adama > The Crazies (2010)
Adama < A Clockwork Orange
Adama > The Gold Rush
Adama < The Green Mile
Adama < Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
Adama < Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Adama < Splice
Adama > Peter Pan Live!
Adama < Elf
Adama > Connie and Carla
Adama > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

Final spot: #926 out of 2508.

Closer to the Moon (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A Romanian police officer teams up with a small crew of old friends from the World War II Jewish Resistance to pull off a heist by convincing everyone at the scene of the crime that they are only filming a movie.
Directed by Nae Caranfil. Starring Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong, Harry Lloyd, and Anton Lesser.

This is such a great concept for a movie, but something about the execution didn't work. The tone was off, setting us up for a lighthearted satirical comedy about politics and film, and ending in a sappy melodrama where none of the characters from the first half seemed to be comfortable. There's no real discernible character arc -- things happen to our central character, but they don't affect him or change him in any way -- and the ending seems like an afterthought more than anything. Disappointingly awkward.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Closer to the Moon > Rebecca
Closer to the Moon < A Clockwork Orange
Closer to the Moon < The Gold Rush
Closer to the Moon < Hancock
Closer to the Moon < George of the Jungle
Closer to the Moon < The 5th Wave
Closer to the Moon > Life of Pi
Closer to the Moon < Company (2011)
Closer to the Moon > Sex Tape
Closer to the Moon < Cafe Society

Final spot: #1228 out of 2507.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

IMDb plot summary: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.
Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, and Rebecca Ferguson.

I went into this expecting a warm-hearted comedy, and, indeed, that's what it is for the first two-thirds of the film, until it begins to slowly shift toward a romantic drama. The final 20 minutes or so of the movie are heartbreaking and touching all at once, and because it gets into that darker side, we really grow to love and care about Florence instead of just laughing at her. The acting in this is superb, and between Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg (easily the best acting I've ever seen from him), it's difficult to say who most steals the show. Not quite the movie I was expecting, but well worth seeing.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Florence Foster Jenkins > Rebecca
Florence Foster Jenkins < A Clockwork Orange
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Gold Rush
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Green Mile
Florence Foster Jenkins > sex, lies, and videotape
Florence Foster Jenkins < Crimes and Misdemeanors
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Great Mouse Detective
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Cat Returns
Florence Foster Jenkins < Army of Darkness
Florence Foster Jenkins > Porco Rosso

Final spot: #671 out of 2506.