Friday, 19 January 2018

THE COMMUTER

A businessman on his daily commute home gets unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that threatens not only his life but the lives of those around him.

Full of plot holes but entertaining during the hot days of summer holidays when there’s not much else on other than kids animation. Liam Neeson plays Liam Neeson even though his character is called Michael MacCauley. And if you’ve seen other Liam Neeson movies, you pretty much know what to expect. The premise is interesting. Lots of talking with strangers, plenty of action, some suspenseful moments, and none of it to be taken seriously. If you’re looking for some B movie escapism, you will enjoy it. Ridiculous and over the top — but fun.


Monday, 15 January 2018

DOWNSIZING

A social satire in which a man realises he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendour.

Not a perfect movie, but has some interesting things to say about the environment and consumerism. And if you watch carefully, there are even some philosophical ideas that have been around for centuries but are put into a modern context. So there is an intelligent scriptwriter behind it all. Matt Damon is good, as usual. There are some excellent visual tricks and the writing is very witty at times. Unfortunately, by the end of the movie, it becomes overly pretentious. Interesting but ultimately not quite as satisfying as it could have been.


Sunday, 14 January 2018

THE POST

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.

When read, the plot sounds pretty exciting and adding Steven Spielberg in as director, who knows how to tell a good story, you’d think this would be an on-the-edge-of-the-seat thriller. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. It’s nearly two hours of complete boredom. I couldn’t believe how bad the script was. Most of it is just endless dialogue amongst the characters about whether they will publish the secret papers or not. The actual person (Daniel Ellsberg) who took the risks to steal the papers and leak them is marginalised in the movie with little time given to his story. We are never even told what happened to him! There is almost zero suspense and it’s pretty obvious how this one ends — even if you don’t know it from a knowledge of the history. Speaking of history, there is almost no context provided for the events in the story. Unless a viewer had some idea of the Vietnam War, it would be hard to see the point of all this dialogue that goes on. We’re not really told what is in the secret papers that are so significant. And, to cap it all off, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks don’t seem to put much into their roles. The whole thing is bland and uncompelling. A dismal failure of a movie.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

DARKEST HOUR

A thrilling and inspiring true story begins on the eve of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

Gary Oldman is brilliant as Winston Churchill, but overall, the movie is pretty average. It seemed to plod along without any real highs and lows that built significant tension. There are some excellent moments — the “fight on the beaches” speech, of course, was one of them. About the only time there seemed to be any real emotional engagement was during a scene on a train when Churchill seeks the views of the common people about whether his government should negotiate with Hitler or fight on.  The problem is that it never happened and the style of the scene is out of sync with the rest of the movie. For me, the movie was educational — at least, the parts I assume were true. I liked the movie CHURCHILL (starring Brian Cox) better than this one because it gave a richer picture of who Churchill was. If you are interested in Churchill or the period, worth a look. Otherwise, I suspect you might find it a pretty boring experience. I do think Oldman may win an Oscar along with the makeup man!


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

PITCH PERFECT 3

After the highs of winning the world championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren't job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.

The first Pitch Perfect movie was excellent. Since then, the have declined in quality with this final installment, PITCH PERFECT 3, the worst so far. The music is ok, but there is nothing that hasn’t been done before. The actors play the same roles, of course, with Rebel Wilson the standout who has the funniest lines. There is a very thin plot which merely allows movement from one musical performance to the next. The final act is quite uplifting, but overall, there is very little that is worth spending time on in this movie.


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

JUST TO BE SURE (Ôtez-moi d'un doute)

When 45-year-old widower Erwan discovers by accident that the man who raised him isn't his real dad, he begins a search for his biological father. He soon locates the mischievous, 70 something Joseph, whom his mother knew briefly. Erwan falls not only for his charm but that of the impetuous Anna, who has ties to them both. The conflicting familial loyalties soon become compounded by the pregnancy of his own daughter Juliette, who defiantly refuses to name the father.

A pleasant French romance but the main stars don’t really seem to have much chemistry. And the plot is pretty contrived. It’s supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t do much laughing. Pretty clichéd and very little subtlety.


Friday, 5 January 2018

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

After seven months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Bill Willoughby, the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Jason Dixon, an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated.

THREE BILLBOARDS is an excellent movie that is deeper and richer than I expected. At first, I thought it was going to be a typical “David and Goliath” story with David winning over Goliath. But, while there are indeed elements of that, this is not the heart of the story. What makes this such an engaging piece of cinema is the nature of the characters and the relationships between characters. In fact, this is a primarily character-driven movie and it is all the better for it. The cast is brilliant. Frances McDormand, as Mildred Hayes, is scorching as she works through her grief as it is manifested in her behaviour towards the police chief (Woody Harrelson) and, in particular, in her interactions with Jim Dixon (Sam Rockwell). It’s an entirely unpredictable story shot through with black humour. But, even though we are laughing at the humour, we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of searing melodrama. A masterpiece of storytelling with a bold ending.