Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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The First Eight Months: Part One

As of Sunday night, I have finally seen fifty (50) movies released in the United States in 2018. We haven't talked about the films of this year since April, so why don't we use this occasion to rectify that?

Previously written about (16): Annihilation, Are We Not Cats?Black Panther, The Death of Stalin, Fifty Shades FreedA Futile and Stupid Gesture, Golden Slumber, Little Forest, Love, Simon, Paddington 2, The Princess and the Matchmaker, Ready Player One, Red Sparrow, Tomb Raider, Unsane, The Young Karl Marx

But you know what I haven't written about, until now?

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!
dir: Ol Parker
scr: Ol Parker, story by Ol Parker and Richard Curtis and Catherine Johnson
adapted from: the original musical play Mamma Mia! conceived by Judy Craymer and written by Catherine Johnson
seen: Regal LA Live 16

As Sophie deals with continuing her mother's legacy, we flashback to how young Donna came to Greece and collected her dot-dot-dots. This is not deep entertainment, but by God, Parker knows just how to deploy an ABBA new-mom ballad for maximum emotions. The dancing is great. The cast is having a ball. I saw it twice.

Brief notes on 16 other films - including Solo: A Star Wars Story, BlacKkKlansman, and Incredibles 2 - just after the jump...

dir: Sebastián Lelio
scr: Sebastián Lelio & Rebecca Lenkiewicz
adapted from: the novel by Naomi Alderman
seen: AMC Sunset 5

A woman returns to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood she left decades ago for her father's funeral, reigniting dormant passions and conflicts. Interrogates the way we define our identities by faith, relationship status, career, sexuality, without trivializing or dismissing any of them, understanding how one person's prison is another's community. And yes, it's hot.

The Spy Gone North (공작)
dir: Yoon Jong-Bin
scr: Kwon Sung-Hui / Yoon Jong-Bin
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

True story of a South Korean spy posing as a businessman in talks with North Korea during an election year. All talk, little action, showing how the fate of a nation is decided by closed-door conversations. A quiet yet passionate conversation about how we define loyalty, how we practice patriotism, and the symbiotic relationship between the two Koreas. An ace score.

dir: Jason Reitman
scr: Diablo Cody
seen: via RedBox

A struggling wife-and-mom-of-three welcomes a night nanny into her home. Tackling depression, motherhood, nostalgia, and the general messiness of life, Diablo Cody proves once again to be among the most empathic, clear-eyed writers working today. She and Reitman understand the value of both language and silence. Full of welcome surprises. Charlize!

Believer (독전)
dir: Lee Hae-Young
scr: Jung Seo-Kyoung / Lee Hae-Young
adapted from: the Hong Kong film Drug War written by Ryker Chan / Wai Ka-Fai / Yau Nai-Hoi / Xi Yu
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

A cop tries to nail a mysterious drug lord with the help of an informer. Invigorating editing, superbly photographed, electric performances - all almost distract from the fact that the actual plot and its twists are stupid. Man is it exciting to watch though.

Lean on Pete
dir/scr: Andrew Haigh
adapted from: the novel by Willy Vlautin
seen: via RedBox

A boy connects with a horse during a real shit time. Shows the modern West as a broken America whose hardscrabble inhabitants are barely surviving. Very pretty. Somewhat meandering. Not a bad movie, but I did not respond to it - perhaps you will!

Ant-Man and the Wasp
dir: Peyton Reed
scr: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari
adapted from: the Marvel comic characters created by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne suit up to prep something so they can find Hope's mom in the Quantum Zone. This was adorable and amusing. Paul Rudd has this one scene that's simultaneously funny and bittersweet and...just moving! Great showcase for him! One antagonist too many?

Solo: A Star Wars Story
dir: Ron Howard
scr: Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
adapted from: characters created by George Lucas
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

How Han met Chewie, got the Millennium Falcon, and became the lovable rogue we know today. Production design, makeup, score, costumes, visual effects, sound design: superlative! Performances: hell yeah! Screenplay: somewhat rickety.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
dir: J.A. Bayona
scr: Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow
adapted from: characters created by Michael Crichton
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

Say this for the new dino movie: I don't want to tell the plot because the gradual unveiling of it is genuinely unexpected. It is not a good movie, but I cannot imagine feeling passionate about it one way or the other.

Champion (챔피언)
dir/scr: Kim Yong-Wan
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

LA-based bouncer returns to Korea to compete as a professional arm-wrestler. Eh.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
dir: Stefano Sollima
scr: Taylor Sheridan
seen: Regal LA Live

Assassin finds himself running for the border with the Mexican druglord's daughter he kidnapped for the CIA. Cinematography and score on par with original (a great thing!). No condescending observations about how soft women are this time around; this series should always focus on Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.

Set It Up
dir: Claire Scanlon
scr: Katie Silberman
seen: via Netflix

Two overworked assistants decide to matchmake their workaholic bosses so they can have free time...and then sparks fly. Charming!

dir/scr: Lucrecia Martel
adapted from: the novel by Antonio Di Benedetto

A Spanish officer in Buenos Aires awaits transfer. Wow does this movie nail the frustration of stagnation! Wickedly funny. Central performance by Daniel Giménez Cacho really is marvelous.

Incredibles 2
dir/scr: Brad Bird
seen: Regal LA Live 16

Liked it more than the first one, perhaps because it's a little more flip? Fight sequence between ElastiGirl and Screen Slaver is downright terrifying - he has a hatchet, she's blinded! The music is anxious! Still, I tend to agree with the villains in these movies: superheroes are eugenicist enablers of a semi-fascist nanny state.

What a Man Wants (바람 바람 바람)
dir: Lee Byeong-Hun
scr: Jang Gyu-Sung / Bae Se-Young / Lee Byeong-Hun
adapted from: the Czech film Men in Hope written by Jirí Vejdelek
seen: CGV Cinemas LA

A man is inspired by his philandering brother-in-law to commit adultery, leading to hijinks. Modern day sex comedy whose jazzy score and sophisticated silliness hearken back to prime Woody Allen. Game cast elicits belly laughs.

Book Club
dir: Bill Holderman
scr: Bill Holderman & Erin Simms
seen: Regal LA Live 16

Reading Fifty Shades of Grey reinvigorates the libidos of a group of 60-something besties. A movie filled with great moments, even if it is more sketched than written and lit like a Sears family photo. Diane Keaton has a monologue about her first kiss that made me cry; Don Johnson and Candice Bergen walk off with the movie.

dir: Spike Lee
scr: Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
adapted from: the book by Ron Stallworth
seen: The Landmark

"Fo' real, fo' real shit" about a black cop in 70s Colorado who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. Good on Spike Lee for once again underlining how hate and prejudice is dangerous for all, not just those who can't "pass"; for pointing the finger at enablers; for saying man, these motherfuckers don't care whether you're a cop or a radical, they're coming for you; for acknowledging that they'll even allow a little quid pro quo if it gets you off everyone's back for a while and only affects the small fish. I was angry and devastated the whole runtime. Recommended!

Tomorrow: 17 more!

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