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Thread: End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL

  1. #16
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    HARRIET (Kasi Lemmons 2019). A handsome, straightforward telling of the story of Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist leader, escaped slave and leading "conductor" of the Underground Railroad who had blackouts and visions from childhood beatings and talked to God. African American director Lemmons eschews the violent horror of Steve McQueen's more original and powerful but also excessive 12 Years a Slave (NYFF 2013) and focuses instead on this extraordinary woman's anger, courage, and holiness as as she first escapes from the Brodus Maryland farm to The Railway HQ in Philadelphia, then returns to free her family, and mounts 13 more missions recovering 70 people in the 1840's and 1850's. Cynthia Erivo is extremely convincing in the lead. The costumes are precisely accurate but as often happens, the dialogue maybe not so much. The family that had owned Harriet is shown to be economically failing, dependent on their slaves as their most valuable asset, held responsible by neighbors for their own escaped slaves. Some think the film gets too personal about this family but it shows how embedded the "peculiar institution" was. One feels both uplifted and horrified. Watched at Albany Twin New Year's Day 2020. Metascore: 66%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2020 at 01:48 PM.

  2. #17
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    1917 (Sam Mendes 2019). Another great period war film from the Brits, like Nolan's Dunkirk, but as dramatically uni-focus as that was many-leveled. Focused in multiple long-shots providing a real-time feel on a couple of lance corporals who must complete an impossible mission across enemy lines in WWI to save a battalion from a doomed "surprise" attack on well-prepared Germans. It's a tour of the Western European Front. Trenches with their rats, lorries, muck and damp, ruined battlefields and farms show Mendes spent his big budget well. Officially out on Christmas, but Jan. 10 in wider venues. Some critics find this too technical, and took off points. But it's horrific, stirring, and richly original. One of the year's best movies. Watched at Sony Metreon, San Francisco, Jan. 4, 2020. See it and find a big, big screen in a full theater. Metascore: 79%. But is a Best PIcture Oscar nominee.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-17-2020 at 05:54 PM.

  3. #18
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    THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOULLEBECQ (Guillaume Nicloux 2014). Today's most famous and successful French writer plays himself in this deadpan spoof telefilm by Nicloux. Ugly, prune-faced, nondescript, the film's Houllebecq is calm and good humored in captivity, he only wants to be given plenty of cigarettes, access to a lighter, and liquor to drink. He gets on quite well with his kidnappers and they with him. A spirit of conviviality prevails. There is no sense of condescension or hostility: when his release comes, he admits he could have stayed longer. The film itself is unpretentious, without focus on public response, negotiations, anything like that. Maybe a nice break and vacation but M.H. is a [i]drole de type[/i and somebody you'd like to hang out with. His books never appealed to me, but now I like him. Some admiring English language reviews (though no AlloCiné rating because no theatrical release) made me want to catch up and see it. Enjoying Nicloux's recent Netflix mini-series, the 4-part time-travel love story starring Gaspard Ulliel "Twice Upon a Time" ("Il y était une deuxième fois"), pushed me to follow through. Watched via Amazon streaming Jan. 6, 2020. Metascore 60%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-06-2020 at 10:50 PM.

  4. #19
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    INVISIBLE LIFE (Karim Aïnouz (2019). Shows some nice late-2019 releases are still coming our way for the first time. It opened Dec. 20 but came to my fave local theater, the Albany Twin, Jan. 10. A rich dreamy work, from a novel, about two loving sisters in Fifties Rio whose cruel father, after banishing one for having an illegitimate child, hides from them both ever after that they're still living in the same city. A color- and emotion-soaked swoon, Douglas Sirk melded with Brazilian saudade, melancholy yearning. Original title A vida invisível de Eurídice Gusmão . So good it made me start to cry a while after I'd left the theater. Metascore: 82%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-12-2020 at 11:33 PM.

  5. #20
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    BAD BOYS FOR LIFE (Bilall Fallah, Adil El Arbi 2020)Maybe not really year's end, since it bears the date of the new year, but I want to mention it, without reviewing it. Anyway, this is dump season material, though a high quality, audience-pleasing example. It's an enjoyable, loud, colorful, violent formula buddy picture starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, one of three, 20 years on. The Belgian, Arab-descent helmers, in their early thirties, have worked as a team since 2015. Mike Lowrey (Smith) draws back Marcus Burnett (Lawrence), who was attempting to retire, to defend him against Mexican criminals out to kill him in revenge for an earlier conviction. The expensive, preposterous action and foreign location scenes suggest a Fast and Furious influence. The two actors keep it surprisingly fresh, despite the formulas, the repetition, and their age (Lawrence is 61, Smith 51). The action is over the top, and the plot turns preposterous, but it's not serous, you know? Watched Jan 17, 2020 at Hilltop. Metascore: 59%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-19-2020 at 09:23 PM.

  6. #21
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    Some clinkers - nothing else coming out right now .



    THE TURNING ( Floria Sigismondi). Another version of Henry James's TURN OF THE SCREW. This has bratty kids and an annoying snobby English governess at what they say is a great house in Maine. It looks more like a stately home of England. Unfortunately the interiors aren't up to the outside; maybe they're not the same place. These people are unbearable. It's surprising new tutor Mackenzie Davis (of "Halt and Catch Fire") doesn't walk out the first day. I walked out. Watched at Hilltop Century Jan. 28, 2020. Metascore 35%.



    THE GENTLEMAN (Guy Ritchie 2020). This shows Ritchie, using the services of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, and Colin Ferrell, among others, returns to his original style of cockney provocation, with focus on a Yank (McConnaughey) who gets rich growing pot on rich Englishmen's estates. And it's got funny dialogue. Only it's racist and homophobic, and there's no real action or pacing. It's just dialogue. With meanness in the thinking. So, no good. Watched at Hilltop Century Jan. 28, 2020. Metascore 51%.



    GRETEL & HANSEL (Osgood Perkins). Stunning photography, when it's bright enough, highlights this drab, slow-moving version of the fairy tale into a fantasy-horror-thriller format that never acquires a pulse. This is the time for horror film losers, with THE GRUDGE, UNDERWATER, AND THE TURNING all out in the past month. For me, THE TURNING has more interesting characters than this, till you get sick of them. Reactions like "young adult horror at its finest" and "a low keyed gem" are a mystery to me. A classy production is lost in drabness and boredom. . Watched at Hilltop Jan. 31, 2020. Metascore 56%



    THE RHYTHM SECTION (Reed Morano 2020). A women (Blake Lively, who we all like from "Gossip Girl") getting revenge against all those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family) pretends to be a professional assassin, and operates with the collaboration of Jude Law. There are BOURNE-style scene changes - New York, Madrid, Tangierrs, Berlin, etc. - and rough variations in the killings (which often go poorly, especially with the shaky-cam images). But it is really not fun, not well paced or varied. Watched at Hilltop Jan. 31, 2020. Metascore 43%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-06-2020 at 10:54 PM.

  7. #22
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    BIRDS OF PREY (Cathy Yan 2020). Shows that women can make a movie as violent and disgusting as any man can. Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, directed by Cathy Yan, who previously made a Chinese movie called Dead Pigs, take on the theme of what happens to Harley Quin, a DC Comics creation who's the girlfriend of The Joker, when she and The Joker are no longer an item. It feels like a train wreck to me. Cathy Yan likes complicated, over-produced and over-explained ultra-violence. So this is what Margot Robbie is capable of? The most offensive disaster of early 2020. Walked out after under 50 minutes. Only stayed that long becasue of a lengthy, extremely unpleasant and noisy introduction that is hard to distinguish from the noisy, irritating trailers that preceded it. Avoid! Watched at Hilltop, Feb. 6, 2020. Metascore 60%.

    This was showing at 6, 7, 8, and 8:40 on its first evening, and they are selling two different T-shirts.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-07-2020 at 12:31 AM.

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