Monday, December 18, 2017

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Tales of the Weird and True

It's Awards Season and Star Wars weekend, which means a lot to talk about. Beginning with...

The Shape of Water
dir: Guillermo del Toro
scr: Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor

Del Toro's adult fairy tale is a dreamy ballet of misfits and monsters, a valentine to the bizarre that's directed right at my heart. Yes, they made that aquatic creature sexy - you could bounce a coin off it - but they also made every character, hero and villain alike, a fully-realized, complicated person that still exists within this fantasy world. Magical.

The Last Jedi , The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya, and more, after the jump....

Darkest Hour
dir: Joe Wright
scr: Anthony McCarten

If you're the kind of person who thrills at Brits in suits arguing over policy in dusty offices (I am), boy howdy is this the movie for you! Gary Oldman's phenomenal: bellowing, lip quivering, layers of convincing prosthetics making him a credible Churchill. Editing and score keep up the energy.

dir: Reginald Hudlin
scr: Jacob Koskoff / Michael Koskoff

A promising, unusual premise, executed with the sophistication of a forgotten after-school special, its good intentions marred by awkward transitions, an uneven tone, and shockingly surface-level performances.

The Prison (프리즌)
dir/scr: Na Hyun

Exciting, suspenseful action-drama about crazily out-of-control corruption in a South Korean jail. A solid critique of limited, unscrupulous judicial system, with a rip-roaring finale that recalls that of Brute Force. Han Suk-kyu a real terror as the crime lord ruling the prison. Now streaming on Netflix.

The Disaster Artist
dir: James Franco
scr: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on the book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Funny parts are better than the whole, and James Franco impressively disappears into Tommy Wiseau. And yet, a gross smugness throughout, beginning with the misjudged prologue and carried through to the distractingly mangey wigs and quick abandonment of genuinely fascinating narrative threads.

Ghost in the Shell
dir: Rupert Sanders
scr: Jamie Moss and William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the manga by Shirow Masamune

Superb effects and makeup, but it's still a half-baked mystery in an under-explored universe. Juliette Binoche showed up for work, running circles around the rest of the cast. You can read Johansson's casting as part of a commentary on Western corporate exploitation of the East. Maybe.

I, Tonya
dir: Craig Gillespie
scr: Steven Rogers

You have to laugh because if you didn't, you wouldn't stop crying - still manages to wring both, fairly, without cruelty. Deeply empathic, almost seems to be rooting for everyone to just stop getting out of their own way. Great specificity in costumes, makeup, sets.

The Last Jedi
dir/scr: Rian Johnson, based on characters created by George Lucas

Upends expectations to deliver one of the best entries in the entire series, eschewing obvious narrative threads in favor of surprising thematic ones: your birth does not determine your destiny, redemption is not a guarantee, heroics are not synonymous with heroism. Most welcome surprises are the cheeky sense of humor and the erotic chemistry between...ah, but I shan't spoil here!

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