By: Henry J. Fromage –
Well, I’m doing it- I’m accepting Oberst’s 365 Days of Movies Challenge. With an extra day off and a disinclination to doing things this weekend, I got through a lot, and it was an eclectic bunch:
Had to review this one, and while it offers all the Hollywood polish, the huge CGI visuals, beautiful production values, beautifuler people, the big explosions and bigger heroism, it doesn’t tackle the central issue with its premise as well as it looks like it was going to. Still entertaining, but disappointingly regressive in the end.
2. Creative Control
A much nearer-term vision of the future, this stylish story of an ad exec tasked with trying out next level virtual reality glasses both looks good and nails certain aspects, like, yes, the first application would totally be sex-related. Plus, Reggie Watts!
3. Holy Hell
This account of living inside a cult is particularly detailed because the cult’s former filmmaker put it together, and got tons of his former cult-mates to speak about their experiences. An unnerving how-to guide on bending others to your sick, narcissistic will.
I was hoping for more of the bizarre non sequitur sense of humor that Storks did so damn well, and got enough of it to be satisfied. Definitely a Dreamworks up the middle play, complete with dance party ending, though.
5. The Ardennes
Belgium’s submission to this year’s Oscars didn’t make the shortlist, but this dour crime tale, despite its familiar rhythms, does build to a bloody and magnetically shot finale.
Anyone who has a father, particularly a blue collar working class father, and probably even more particularly a black blue collar working class father, will find something to relate to in this powerfully acted if awfully stagey theatrical adaptation. Troy Maxon may not be all good, hell, he may be all bad, but time lengthens all shadows of men like this, for ill and good.
I’m not surprised that this didn’t make any money, but I am surprised that so few critics seemed to find anything redeeming about it. This is no Charlton Heston classic, and Timur Bekmambetov as always overreaches the bounds of his CGI budget, but this version of the old Lew Wallace tale still delivers on its swords & sandals promises while finding some interesting contemporary parallels.
The Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3 filmmakers take a big, neon-soaked step forward stylistically, but man is this bubblegum pop dark web movie driven by questionable character decision-making. Joost and Schulman know how to shoot a teeth-clinching action sequence, though, that’s for sure.
9. Love & Friendship
Wow, Jane Austen and Whit Stillman would have gotten along. The latter takes a lesser-known novel of the former’s and spins it into bustle & frill comic gold, thanks to rat-a-tat witty dialogue delivered to great effect by a resurgent Kate Beckinsale and supporting performances like Tom Bennett’s wonderfully brainless wealthy gentleman.
10. The Wave
The amazingly named Roar Uthaug puts Hollywood recent disaster pics to shame (not terribly hard, because that consists of… Roland Emmerich?). Fictionalizing the likely future occurrence of a massive landslide creating a football field-sized tsunami that engulfs the gorgeous tourist haven of Geiranger and delivering Hollywood-sized thrills in the process on a fraction of the budget, Uthaug’s already got the new Tomb Raider movie on his docket as a result. I’m guardedly optimistic.
11. The Girl on the Train
So, spoiler alert, but it turns out Tate Taylor is no David Fincher. Mind-blowing, right? Anyway, I came into this expecting a trashy Gone Girl rip-off with at least a few of its pleasures intact and got a dreadfully boring bordering on laughable wanna-be thriller whose apparent entire thesis is “Women be cray-cray, men be sex-obsessed idiots and/or evil incarnate.” Hot, pungent garbage, and not the fun kind.