Friday, March 9, 2018


From: http://www.designbolts.comNow that I have the MoviePass app, and any individual movie is free (unless I insist on popcorn), I see a lot of movies. Mostly I go with my friend Linda, whom I would be uncomfortable seeing mature content with, so I'm mostly PG based. I thought I'd keep a record of what I see in case there are some forgettable ones. Here's a list for 2018.

Tomb Raider PosterTomb Raider. I have never played the game, so I had some mistaken ideas, some positive and some negative. I was looking forward to a super-hero main character, but Lara was disappointingly human. I mean, she was American-Ninja strong, with upper arm strength that I sincerely envy, but she was easily distracted, not much into long range planning, and rarely looked below the surface. The movie assured me that she was super-bright (proof -- she knew a one line quote from Hamlet) but beyond an adeptness at Japanese wooden puzzles she rarely showed it. No Jack Reacher here.

On the plus side, the movie was proud of being science-fictional rather than fantasy, and made fun of Lara's dad when he tried to push things in a magical direction. Lara showed him. And then at the end we find that her dad was really a deep bad guy who got outmaneuvered in his evil empire and Lara declares herself ready for a sequel, although I wasn't sure if she planned to rule the evil empire or take it down.

A Wrinkle in Time PosterWrinkle in Time. It was stunningly beautiful with vibrant colors especially on the vacation planet. It resonated well with my memories of the book, and I think the changes made sense. The pacing seemed a bit slow, possibly because they were so proud of the visual effects. Charles Wallace wasn't entirely convincing as a child genius but he really stepped up in the last scenes inside IT's brain. I think Calvin lost some scenes to the cutting floor, but he isn't that crucial to this story. I can see him following Meg for the rest of his life -- he wants someone with that kind of loyalty on his team. And she has great hair.

Well worth seeing twice, or maybe even three times.

Every Day PosterEvery Day. I read David Levithan's book and enjoyed it, but wondered how they would transfer the concept to the screen -- A is a person who wakes up every day in a new person's body and drives it around for the day. There's no explanation, it's just an idea that is explored. I thought the movie did a good job with it by focussing on the girl whom A falls in love with and having the audience figure things out along with her (I think there is a sequel to the book that retells the story from her point of view but I haven't read it -- maybe they use that for the movie too?).

The movie sticks close to the emotional arc although it leaves a few strands dangling where I think the book stuck in more plot -- there's no outside threat, just two kids in love with an insurmountable barrier that they try to cross.

The 15:17 to Paris Poster15:17 Paris. This is an example of a film doing what it says on the tin. If Clint Eastwood made a movie getting three young men to star as themselves doing a heroic rescue on a French train, this is exactly what I'd expect. (He did. It is.) The timing moves as steadily as a soldier's march, from the bad guy getting on the train to flashing back to Our Heroes' childhoods and youth leading up to their European vacation. I enjoyed the little joke of everyone warning them off Paris up until the last minute.

Questions I have left over -- where were they going in the car at the start? Why did no one lend them ties for the award ceremony? And I hope the main character doesn't really think that his whole life has been aiming him here, because he's still quite young and has a lot of life left over.

Black Panther PosterBlack Panther. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people, large stories. I liked the way T'Challa could only defeat his challenger when his soul was complete -- if he couldn't honestly respond to "SHOW HIM WHO YOU ARE" he fell. I thought Ross was coddled a bit -- he was a good soldier but an untrustworthy man, a bit like Okoye's boyfriend, who was willing to betray his friend for a chance at glory. Shuri is a perfect gem.

Trying to fit it into the Marvel Universe is a bit dicey because it's strange that T'Challa doesn't mention his attempts at revenge/murder or his discovery that revenge eats the server, although maybe that informs his approach to his challenger.

The Post PosterThe Post. Another look at corruption in politics which I enjoyed as a perspective on an old Cybils book (Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin). No surprises but competent performances by Tom Hanks and especially Meryl Streep who stand for news over politics. Even if you've forgotten all your history there's no doubt that our characters will choose the better route.

I liked the nods to the added difficulties faced by women in business, especially have that hand-fed to us to the astonished face of Tom Hanks, whose character hadn't even noticed the problem. And the bits about Graham's suicide, which I hadn't known about.

The Shape of Water PosterThe Shape of Water. The women men don't see, including gays and fish-men as the invisible. I was thrown out by the physics of filling a room with water (that is one powerful door latch...) and by the body horror of the rotting fingers but then came around again for the final chase scene and underwater escape.

The evil white-man/military-industrial complex theme is a bit overwrought, but the quiet heroism of the underdogs and the strengths of their friendship keep the story afloat. The main character seems passive at first, but she's the one to take action and to inspire her friends to push past their meager existence to make a difference even as their personal hopes wither.

Darkest Hour PosterDarkest Hour. Nothing new, but a reminder that history isn't inexorable -- people in England didn't know they would win and many thought defeat was inevitable before Dunkirk. Also Churchill was a bit of an ass. I liked the weight given to the arguments of Chamberlain's team -- Churchill was best known militarily for a bloody mistake, so his willingness to spend the lives of the relief for Dunkirk was suspect.

The subway ride scene was cute in all it's Henry V's Hal junket glory, especially since the regular people tell him what he wants to hear, which isn't that surprising since they only know what he's had them told.

Ferdinand PosterFerdinand. Don't worry if you haven't read the book as the movie shares a species and a name but not much else. It's colorful and fun and kept the kid happy, so kudos, but definitely don't think too hard. Oops, I'm thinking. I felt really bad for the man running the bull training yard that Ferdinand messes up, because that business is clearly on its last legs. Apparently they haven't acquired any new animals since Ferdinand first runs away, so the second escape means everyone loses their jobs and probably homes.

Also, Ferdinand could have killed dozens of people when he snuck into the market. Yes his friend was sad when he was dragged away, but I was on the side of law and order in this case. I suspect her family would also go bankrupt if they had to pay for the damage he caused.

The Greatest Showman PosterThe Greatest Showman. Frothy and rather fake-looking, this circus movie skimmed over the any dark corners of life in the big tent to enjoy the excitement and egoism of being on stage. I don't think they paid much attention to historical accuracy (we looked up Jenny Lind afterward and things don't seem to match up) but then it never really pretends to.

I liked the shows and the dramatic rescues, and the enthusiasm of all the actors charmed me. I was a bit too cynical to lean into the hopeful lessons on inter-racial dating and how love can conquer all, or the idea that a guy trying to get rich can dabble in social justice on the side and buying a beer will cheer up people looking at desperate poverty. And I liked seeing it with my oldest, who hadn't gone back to college yet.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle PosterJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. This had the delightful quality of exceeding my expectations. It was lighthearted and fun, and didn't stomp too hard on any of the possible squishy bits involved with body and gender swapping and female friendships. And it left us all with the same vote on the Bechdel test -- we think it passed even if you only count the in-game parts.

I liked the Chekov's gun usages, with everything from a weakness to cake to a fear of poisonous snakes to what it means to lose a life in the game, and I really liked the ending where the girl's crush is treated with the respect it deserves but not more than that. And I liked seeing it with my kid.

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