Movie Reviews 

20th Century Women

by Alan Rapp on January 20, 2017

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 20th Century Women
  • IMDb: link

20th Century Women movie reviewI was a big enough fan of writer/director Mike Mills‘ 2011 film Beginners to include it on my best of the year list. In his first film since Beginners, Mills reuses themes of nostalgia and the awkwardness of life along with some of the same structure (including inter-cut stills and narration to frame a time and place), but although 20th Century Women features a strong cast it lacks the intimacy and magic of his previous movie.

Set during the 1970s, the film focuses on single mother Dorothea (Annette Bening), her teenage son Jaime (Lucas Jade Zumann), and the other women in their lives, Jaime’s longtime best-friend Julie (Elle Fanning) and Dorothea’s friend and tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who Dorothea enlists to help raise her son to grow into a proper man.

The strength of the script is the film’s characters and their interactions (even if Mills struggles a bit a making some of these women, based on the real women who raised him, a bit too cute and quirky for their own good). A notable weakness is the size of the cast leading to a less focused film that while enjoyable isn’t necessarily all that memorable.

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Elle

by Alan Rapp on January 13, 2017

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  • Title: Elle
  • IMDb: link

Elle movie reviewIsabelle Huppert is marvelous as the sixty-something head of a successful video game company who is raped in her apartment by a stranger in a ski mask. Refusing to tell the police, Michèle instead continues on as if nothing happened even as she begins to suspect that one of her resentful employees may be her attacker. Filled with mostly depressed and confused characters, somehow the film is never as bleak as its subject matter might lead you to believe.

Despite being raped in the movie’s opening scene, Michèle is anything but a victim; she’s smart, successful, and in complete control of both her company and libido. Elle isn’t a revenge fantasy or a drama focused on our protagonist coming to terms with the attack. Director Paul Verhoeven, no stranger to erotic or psychological thrillers, has something much different in mind in screenwriter David Birke‘s adaptation of Philippe Djian‘s novel. And Michèle is no angel, sleeping with the husband (Christian Berkel) of her best friend (Anne Consigny), and lusting after her neighbor (Laurent Lafitte) despite their age difference and his wife (Virginie Efira).

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A Monster Calls

by Alan Rapp on January 6, 2017

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: A Monster Calls
  • IMDb: link

A Monster Calls movie reviewReminiscent of other movies about a kid losing himself in his imagination rather than deal with the difficulties of his life, A Monster Calls is a visually impressive adaptation of the book of the same name. The story may not offer a darkness as palpable as “The Nothing” (points for all who get that reference), but there’s plenty of real emotion beyond Conor’s (Lewis MacDougall) struggle to hide from both the constant bullying at school and his mother’s (Felicity Jones) deteriorating health.

Conor’s fantasy comes in the form of a giant walking tree who returns night after night to share stories with the boy while demanding Conor reveal the truth concerning his own dark nightmares. Once played out the plot plays a bit too much like a bizarre therapy session, but the film’s message certainly rings true.

Other aspects of the script deal with Conor’s loose relationships to both his father (Toby Kebbell), who has moved on to a new family, and his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), who is just oblivious and strict enough not to understand Conor’s struggle but never mean enough to come off as evil.

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13th

by Alan Rapp on December 30, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 13th
  • IMDb: link

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th movie reviewTaking its name from the 13th Amendment, the documentary from writer/director Ava DuVernay examines the role race plays in the criminal justice system of the United States and how it is used to continue the subjugation of African Americans following the end of slavery. DuVernay makes a compelling case with his film, documenting the racial inequality within the United States with statistics and facts while examining the self-enforcing logistics of the problem.

Connecting Jim Crow laws with higher arrests and convictions of African Americans, DuVernay attacks the system which was designed to continue to view those with a darker skin color as worth only three-fifths of a white man. Along the way he also touches on Southern propaganda and political maneuverings which turned racism into a war on crime.

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Fences

by Alan Rapp on December 28, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Fences
  • IMDb: link

Fences movie reviewAdapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, Fences is notable more for its impressive performances than plot. Denzel Washington, who does double-duty as both lead actor and director, does all that he can to make the stage play fit the big screen but there’s little doubt what venue the story is best suited. As a film the story certainly works, but I wonder how much better it may have appeared on stage.

The talky script, adapted from the stage by playwright August Wilson, offers a slice of Americana in a low income area of Pittsburgh where former Negro League baseball player turned criminal turned garbage man attempts to make the best of the life he’s carved out for himself. The small cast focuses on Troy’s (Washington) relationships with close friends and family including his wife Rose (Viola Davis), son Cory (Jovan Adepo), troubled brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), and best-friend Bono (Stephen Henderson). The more we learn about the outwardly charming Troy the less we like him. Troy is a bully, alcoholic, adulterer, and an all-around son of a bitch. The film’s first hour is a slow boil under the which pressure continues to rise until it boils over when the conflict between Troy and his family comes to a head.

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