By: Henry J. Fromage –
Business trip week 1 of 5 means less time for what would be a pretty awesome day job, but no fear- I got to see a pretty quality hodgepodge of films nonetheless.
85. Miss Sloane
While undoubtedly a trashier, more mid-90s adult thriller vein of drama than this Aaron Sorkin-lite rapid-fire bot mot delivery system purports to be, there’s no doubt that it builds to a satisfying finish, nor that it boasts a magnetic performance by Jessica Chastain. Definitely worth a watch, probably with a nice tall glass of cheap red wine.
86. Seoul Station
The animated prequel to last year’s Korean genre hit, the zombie-infested Train to Busan, probably would have made a better live-action film than that one even was. While the animation is pretty unpolished and it can get a bit wonky tonally, it’s undoubtedly more adult and complex in its themes than its sister hit, and builds to one hell of a twist and climax that is quite unlike anything you’ve seen in any other zombie-related fiction, I guarantee you.
Longtime Sony Pictures Classics producer James Schamus makes his directorial debut with this handsomely mounted adaptation of Philip Roth’s highly autobiographical 2008 novel based on his college years in a small almost-Midwestern university. It’s very well and passionately acted, probably putting it above any other Roth adaption out there, but that’s also a pretty low bar. The ending in a vacuum is very affecting and well done, if clearly a bit of clearly un-autobiographical melodrama to spice things up, but the lead up to it doesn’t really jibe, and using it as a framing structure doesn’t work at all.
88. Insidious: Chapter 3
Jump, jump, jumpety-jump scares. Lin Shaye is a horror legend, Blumhouse is great, yadda, yadda, yadda. Boring.
89. We Are Not Your Friends
One of the worst wide-release box office performers of all time, but I have to admit I don’t really see why. Zac Efron plays an aspiring electronica DJ who experiences some pretty typical rise and romance and fall plot mechanics, but Max Joseph directs with plenty of verve and energy befitting the music- often quite a lot of fun.
90. Kong: Skull Island
This is quality blockbuster fun. I don’t really get the criticism about character development, as I’d wager this film does as good a job as pretty much any recent blockbuster at balancing a cast of characters this big, aided greatly by casting recognizable, talented faces in just about every role. And the underdeveloped Tom Hiddleston/Brie Larson romance crack- what romance? They weren’t even trying for that, and there was no time for it anyway. Not exactly the environment for romance to bloom. What we’re left with is very enjoyable large-scale mayhem set against a lot of homage-paying Vietnam imagery, that, yes, doesn’t achieve the depth it’s probably shooting for, but c’mon. It’s giant gorilla vs. giant lizards, and it’s awesome.
PS- Absolutely no idea how this timeline is supposed to integrate with Godzilla. Are all these people going to be 75 years old when the inevitable match-up occurs? Are we going to get a bunch of Mothra and Gamera movies between now and then with these characters?
91. Escobar: Paradise Lost
Telling a Pablo Escobar story through the eyes of thoroughly white, American Peeta Mellark might not be in the best of taste, but this film is well-made and well-acted by both Hutcherson and Benicio Del Toro in a role he probably should have been offered years ago, and once the thriller elements get going they’re propulsive enough. Still, this movie doesn’t bring anything new to the table in developing much the same story that Narcos has been handling so masterfully for the last couple of years, and Wagner Moura may be no Del Toro, but the time his performance has had to breathe on that show makes it the definitive rendition.
92. Shin Godzilla
Centering a Kaiju movie around the bureaucratic response to it is a ballsy move, and one ripe for political satire. It all pays off, rather drolly and hilariously for the most part, although the film undoubtedly begins to drag as it passes the hour mark and the editing and acting start to stray into amateur territory in odd little spurts. It certainly helps that the Tokyo destruction is as large-scale and convincing as Toho has managed. No idea why Godzilla starts out as some sort of deformed unagi-salamander, though, except that Japanese genre films sure love their transforming. Also, the “American” character is deeply confusing, unless it’s a response to casting Asian-Americans with undoubtedly terrible accents in native Asian roles, in which case it’s brilliant.
93. The Great Wall
League of Legends– inflected nonsense meets an updated, CGI-saturated rainbow-colored Zhang Yimou wuxia film with bonus dodgy Irish-accented Jason Bourne action. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect, for all the good and all the bad that entails. If you have a predilection towards any of those elements, you’ll not have wasted your time, but if that sounds godawful to you, it’ll probably live down to your expectations.