Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie No. 67 (2017): ARRIVAL

Arrival (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner

Okay. This is science fiction. But, not the usual summer blockbuster science fiction. Its strength lies in its quirky script and narrative. Do I say cerebral? I like it when the a movies challenges or disturbs or tickles my brain cells. Amy Adams is terrific her performance is so affecting. The scenes leading to the ending are jaw dropping. Saw this a few weeks back; but, as of this writing I'm still in awe. I really like the message of the movie, or of "Abbott and Costello." And, I have to commend the technical quality - cinematography, sound, score - of the movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie No. 66 (2017): DIVINES

Divines (2016)
Director: Houda Benyamina
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Deborah Lukumuena
In French, with Englisg subtitles

Two high school girls are at the center of the narrative. They both want to get out of the present predicament they're currently in. Douna, being the impatient and ballsy, is the first to walk out of school and seek the treacherous path to the so-called "freedom." Her best friend, Maimouna, joins her though tentative for a reason that's well established in her back story. We'll meet some characters that will contribute to shaping the movie's narrative, down to the bleak conclusion.

The characters are not likable. It's easy to understand their actions, but difficult to empathize with them. Whatever they do are enough to justify the consequences of their actions that will lead to the final resolve. The lead actors are believable, particularly the one who played Douna. She's so effective you'll want to hate and hit her for being the drama queen that every one can easily despises.

Divines looks like a movie from the film movement that was French New Wave.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Movie No. 65 (2017): BITTER HARVEST

Bitter Harvest (2017)
Director: George Mendeluk
Cast: Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper

I'm not sure if the original audio track is Russian or Ukrainian. I saw the version with English audio. I would have preferred the audio track to be in the native language (Russian or Ukrainian, or dialect), with English subtitles, of course. Despite the competent cinematography, the movie is easy to dismiss as wanting.

The movie is confused. While it appears like an account of the genocide by starving the people of Ukraine, by virtue of Stalin's policy, the fate of the lovers, whose point of view the movie is told, gets in the way. That dark phase of history has just been set aside as mere backdrop, which, in my opinion, is an utter disrespect to millions who died during these dark times. And, by the way, the melodrama is just not appropriate.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie No. 64 (2017): THE MISSION

The Mission (1986)
Director: Roland Joffe
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson

The movie, set in 18th century South America, is about missionaries and slave traders who compete for the trust of Native Indians living above an enormous waterfalls. The story is told in terms of letters which appear like a reportage about what happened to the mission. 

I have to admit, the movie has some lapses in the narrative. Despite this, however, the movie still manages to be something that's so beautiful to watch, even up to the heartbreaking finale. Even after seeing the movie, I tend to forget the lapses. What remains lingering in my head are the stunning photography, proficient editing, great performances of the lead actors, and the haunting musical score. Gabriel's Oboe (by Ennio Morricone) has been one of my favorite music of all time. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 30, 2017

Movie No. 63 (2017): HOWL

Howl (2015)
Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler, Amit Shah

The title suggest the movie is of the horror genre. It lives up to expectations from a horror movie. It may not be among the best horror movies ever made, or the best of the werewolf sub-genre, but Howl really gives real and decent thrill, all with near-escapes and gore. 

Howl's milieu is similar to Train To Busan's. The former has werewolves while the latter has zombies that haunt and terrorize the passengers. In both cases, there are more reasons to like than to dislike the movies. In Howl, in my opinion, it would be more thrilling had the werewolves not been shown in (many) close-ups. Their howling and shadows as they move past the bushes are more than enough for the audience to feel the terror. 

But then, I enjoyed the show.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 27, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Movie No. 62 (2017): GET OUT

Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams

It's Meet The Parents and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner gone awry. And it's both fun and thrilling to watch like I don't expect it to be. It gets to the point that it becomes disturbing, which justifies its horror classification. 

This is horror with style. It discusses racism in its most horrifying way.


Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie No. 61 (2017): DEVIL'S KNOT

Devil's Knot (2014)
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan

Three little boys are murdered. The witch hunt for the murderers and hysteria-filled trial follow. The community is very much involved and affected by the incident and subsequent "circus." Atom Egoyan has shown in his previous films a similar cinematic treatise of collective despair. But, the problem is focus. The film tends to divert into something that, instead of providing answers, creates more questions that dilute the narrative. Despite this, however, the film is watchable and is a decent piece of entertainment.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 60 (2017): MOONLIGHT

Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes

The movie is a portrait of young (black) man in search of his identity. It's told in three "chapters," each of which focusing on a phase of his life - as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. Generally, the movie is good, sometimes haunting. Performances are outstanding. But, for it to be called monumental or masterpiece, in my opinion, is an exaggeration. 

In the three of four times of trying to see it during the weeks leading to Academy Awards ceremonies early this year, I would doze off within the first 10 or 20 minutes. I was indifferent despite the praises the movie received. But, yesterday I managed to finish it. I'm glad I got to see its so-called genius. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 59 (2017): HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS

Hello, My Name Is Doris (2016)
Director: Michael Showalter
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Natasha Lyonne

Sally Field is Doris, a senior citizen who works as office staff. Her domineering mother has just died. Now, she seems helpless having lived a sheltered life in an apartment cluttered with "collections" decades gone by. Life has to go on.

On the first day of her return to the office, after the funeral, her "coming of age" begins with a smile from a man half her age in a crowded elevator. And so, the begins her new adventures and misadventures.

Doris is funny, but her spur-or-the moment decisions, brought by the desire "to live" a life she missed (or didn't have) are heartbreaking. Sally Field's comedic timing is awesome. The movie is enjoyable to watch.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie No. 58 (2017): PATAY NA SI HESUS (Jesus Is Dead)

Patay Na Si Hesus (2016)
Director: Victor Villanueva
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Angelina Kanapi, Chai Fonacier
In Cebuano and Tagalog, with English subtitles

The premise is very simple. Jesus is dead. His ex wife and children embark in a road trip of some hundred kilometers to attend his wake. The movie is about the what happens during the trip, where we learn about each character's story.

It's entertaining, hilarious, and irreverent. It's easy to love this movie. While this may remind one of Little Miss Sunshine, this is definitely very much different. It has its own genius.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2017