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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 02:48 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 06:54 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 11:50 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; 01-13-2020 at 12:33 AM.

  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 went 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 Richard Lawrence and Will Smith, one of three, 20 years on. The Balgian, 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; 01-17-2020 at 06:12 PM.

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