A Trip to the Cinema, October through December 2017

I’ve already written about Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so they’re not on this list. But here’s everything else I watched between October and December. And as always, there are spoilers to come.


The Florida Project

A beautifully honest movie about a little girl living in poverty on the outskirts of Disney World.

This is one of my favorite films of the year. It has some of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. I love the film’s palette. I love the slice-of-life format, because it fits the subject matter. The ending’s a bit of a head-scratcher, though.

Favorite moment:

The mother scamming her way into a hotel’s restaurant just so her daughter can eat a “fancy” breakfast. The camera focuses only on the daughter’s face, so we can only see what the mother sees. Love comes in many shapes and sizes. Even though Halley has failed Moonee as a parent in a lot of ways, there’s no doubt that she loves her daughter more than anything.

Least favorite moment:

The dream-like ending recorded on a phone, because it was really the only way they could film anything within Disney World itself. The ending felt disconnected from the rest of the movie’s tone and delivery.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Lanthimos’s modern take on a Greek myth. A doctor tries to mentor a young boy who lost his father. One day, the boy tells the doctor that the latter’s wife, daughter and son will slowly die unless one of them is killed.

I personally did not get this movie. It wasn’t psychologically disturbing whatsoever even though that was the predominant hype going in. There are some darkly funny moments throughout the film, but I left the theater feeling empty. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to get out of that viewing experience or any of the characters. After The Lobster, another film by Lanthimos that I thoroughly enjoyed, I felt a bit let down here.

Favorite moment:

The doctor tries to decide who to kill by paying the school principal a visit.

Least favorite moment:

Raffey Cassidy’s singing.


The Square

Things go out of hand for Christian, a curator of a Swedish modern arts museum.

I enjoyed the satire as a whole, because I had just recently visited San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art twice with friends. There are lots of impressive works of arts on display, but sometimes, you’re just staring at a table or a clump of dirt, and you can’t help but wonder why. Why am I looking at a clump of dirt stacked up against mirrors? So definitely, The Square touches on the general public’s disconnect from the world of high, contemporary art. Nevertheless, this is not a short movie, and whoo boy, it definitely takes its sweet ass time to get off the ground. Moreover, the film starts laying it on thick in the latter half of the story, especially when it’s juxtaposing the lavish donations that the museum receives with shots of homeless people on the streets. In some ways, this is irony at its best since the film itself points out the main character’s hypocrisy in exploiting a sensitive subject matter for his museum’s own gain. But at some point, even irony becomes overbearingly smug.

Favorite moment:

There’s a dinner party in which an artist pretends to be a gorilla for the delight of his affluent guests. This scene could’ve been a standalone short film due to its intensity.

Least favorite moment:

The movie just kind of ends without much of a resolution.


A Bad Moms Christmas

Three women have toxic relationships with their parents, but thanks to Hollywood, everything always works out in the end. One of the women has a dad who is a complete enabler, but he convinces her that her mother loves her despite breaking all sorts of sensible boundaries.

I wanted to kill some time, and instead, I killed some brain cells. How do you like Christmas-themed penis jokes? Haha, look at this penis made out of gingerbread! Classic.

Favorite moment:

If Justin Hartley can be that in shape at 40, there’s still hope for the rest of us schlubs.

Least favorite moment:

Amy casually condoning her mom’s racism.


Thor: Ragnarok

Because this isn’t an anime, hammer dude fights his sister instead of marrying her.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but every time I make myself watch a Marvel film, it feels like I’m enduring an overlong TV episode instead of something that actually belongs on film. Anyway, the movie had a lot of predictable jokes, especially Thor’s awkward exchange with Valkyrie about how much he respects tough, strong women. This shit writes itself and it shows.

Favorite moment:

Uh… Skurge trying to impress the ladies with guns was kinda amusing, I guess.

Least favorite moment:

Everything with Benedict Cumberbatch. After the big fight with Hulk, the Sakaar stuff was boring until the escape.


Lady Bird

A coming-of-age movie about a Catholic girl in Sacramento.

The movie plays it safe, but it’s surprisingly touching and earnest for a teen movie. I’m really impressed with how the movie portrays love between a mother and daughter even though they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on everything. There’s a neat moment in a thrift shop where they’re bickering non-stop, but as soon as they see something that could work as a prom dress, both women become one. We later see the mother busy making alterations to her daughter’s dress, because that’s just how much she cares. People in our lives show their love for us in all these moments we can never see, and that how you know how strong their love is. Love shouldn’t always be a spectacle.

Favorite moment:

Lady Bird’s conversation with the principal:

Sister Sarah: “It’s clear how much you love Sacramento.”

Lady Bird: “I guess I pay attention.”

Sister Sarah: “Don’t you think they’re the same thing?”

Or how about Lady Bird’s mother trying to write her daughter a going-away letter, but she’s not satisfied with any of the attempts. The two of them have a difficult and strained relationship even though they both love each other. Later, the father digs the half-written drafts out of the trash and secretly hands them to Lady Bird. Yeah I admit it; I teared up.

Least favorite moment:

Hm, I don’t know if I have one.


Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Denzel Washington tries to play a lawyer with autism.

I couldn’t stand this movie. It meanders and lurches all the way to the conclusion. It has no clue what it wants to be.

Favorite moment:

The opening narration, I guess? It makes you think you’re about to watch something powerful.

Least favorite moment:

Maya, the non-profit civil rights activist, can’t help but find herself attracted to Roman, so she calls him up and asks him out on a date. I audibly groaned in my seat.


Murder on the Orient Express

Another adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery.

It was okay. The movie lacked energy somehow. I thought it started out great, but it never felt like it was building up to any grand conclusion, which is what I expected going into a big murder mystery. The reveal fell flat. Branagh also makes some odd choices like filming the characters through odd camera angles that don’t seem to lend anything to the movie itself.

Favorite moment:

The long tracking shot where we get to see Hercule Poirot climb onto the train for the first time and bump into all the different characters he’ll be interacting with over the next few days.

Least favorite moment:

No one goes to jail. No one is punished for Ratchett’s murder. I know this is true to the original story, but a crime was committed. I cannot abide by this nonsense.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A distraught mother buys three billboards to ask the sheriff why he hasn’t found her daughter’s killer yet.

I loved this movie. It wonderfully mixes drama and humor. Most of all, it is a great study of grief in its many forms. Frances McDormand is still an amazing actress.

Favorite moment:

The final conversation between Mildred and Jason on their way to kill a suspected rapist.

Least favorite moment:

Well, it’s pretty nuts that you can throw someone out a second-floor window and not be arrested. It’s pretty nuts that you can torch the entire police department and face no consequences. The lack of realism here doesn’t bother me that much, but I can see why others would find it an issue. For me, however, the film is more about the characters’ emotions than the small town verisimilitude.

Also, the CGI deer wasn’t very good.


Justice League

A generic World of Warcraft villian with barely any backstory is threatening the world, so a shitty version of Batman teams up with Wonder Woman and some people I don’t care about to try and revive a shitty version of Superman. Then when Superman comes back to life, he’s about as overpowered as you expect him to be, so the last half hour is just an inevitable chore.

I was bored from the get-go. The villain sucked, Batman sucked, Superman sucked, robo dude just looks and sounds silly, so on and so forth.

Favorite moment:

Uh, Superman tracking Flash despite the latter’s superspeed was kinda dope.

Least favorite moment:

Batman fighting some bugman thing at the start of the movie. I legit thought that we’d cut away to a movie set, and that this scene would be some kind of parody of Batman within the film itself. But fuck no, this was actually part of the story.


Coco

A boy wants to play the guitar, but his family cannot stand musicians. He somehow finds his way into the Land of the Dead where he needs his great-great grandfather’s blessing in order to return to the real world.

I loved this movie, and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried like a bitch during the ending. The Land of the Dead looked great, and the songs were great. It’s a shame Disney felt they needed to lure people to watch this film with Frozen.

Favorite moment:

Miguel playing Hector’s song for Coco so that she wouldn’t forget her father.

Least favorite moment:

Eh… nothing was bad. I wish I could’ve heard all of the songs in Spanish. Oh wait, that super long Frozen short right before the film was pretty insufferable.


Marshall

This is supposed to be a movie about Thurgood Marshall. Y’know, the first black Supreme Court judge?

In actuality, the film is really more about Sam Friedman, Marshall’s partner on a case. Sam has a character arc, not Marshall. Sam gets his triumphant moment in court, not Marshall. Marshall’s just a coach. He drops into town, shows the cowardly, unambitious white man the light, then leaves before the case is even wrapped up. The movie smacks of the Magical Negro trope, and it’s a slap to the face to anyone who bought a ticket hoping to watch a movie about Thurgood Marshall.

Favorite moment:

Eh, the ending credits.

Least favorite moment:

The painfully long he said, she said between the defendant and his accuser.


Darkest Hour

Winston Churchill faces opposition on all sides as he tries to avoid appeasing Nazi Germany.

Gary Oldman’s performance is solid, but the film is pretty much a TV special. It doesn’t really capture any of the difficult parts about Churchill’s character nor does it really show us anything we don’t already know. It’s just another feelgood piece about how awesome heroes are.

Favorite moment:

Nothing really stands out. The film plays it safe through and through. There aren’t really any emotional high points, and Churchill’s speeches aren’t as stirring on film as I had hoped them to be.

Least favorite moment:

Super hammy moment where Churchill goes to talk to “the people” in the London Underground. I agree with this review.


Call Me By Your Name

In northern Italy, a 17-year-old boy enters into a relationship with an American graduate student.

I have mixed feelings about the film. The movie is wonderfully acted and gorgeously shot. Unfortunately, the whole thing just strikes me as a bit bourgeois. It just feels a bit self-indulgent and irresponsible, really. I feel bad for Marzia, the girl who has a brief fling with Elio even though he knew he had feelings for Oliver by the time he hooked up with her.

Favorite moment:

Elio’s father’s speech at the end of the movie. Here are two quotes that I love:

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”

“…and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there’s sorrow. I don’t envy the pain. But I envy you the pain.”

Least favorite moment:

At one point in the film, Elio masturbates into an apricot, then leaves it on a nightstand right before taking a nap. When his lover Oliver comes in later and sees the apricot, he tries to eat it in front of Elio. Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing.

There’s also another moment that I’m not a fan of. Elio sneaks into Oliver’s room, finds a used pair of boxers, and puts it over his head. C’mon, if Oliver was a woman, we’d all find this behavior incredibly creepy.


The Shape of Water

An adult version of Beauty and the Beast, pretty much. The movie is defined by imperfect relationships and partners lacking the ability to communicate effectively even though Elisa is the only mute character in the story.

It’s my least favorite Guillermo del Toro film, but still enjoyable through and through. It just doesn’t feel as imaginative or fantastic as his previous works. Still, the acting is great. Sally Hawkins supposedly studied Charlie Chaplin to learn how best to emote without words and it shows. If anything, the setting is beautifully crafted and perfect for Elisa to nimbly dance through.

Favorite moment:

The “heist.”

Least favorite moment:

The monster biting off a cat’s head. Poor cat.


The Disaster Artist

James Franco pretends to be Tommy Wiseau in a movie about the making of The Room.

I liked it, but the film is pretty much a soft jab to the shoulder. It’s barely a critical look and mostly serves to reinforce the mythology behind Wiseau and his “so-bad-it’s-good” movie. Franco’s acting is great, but his vision for the movie is dull and overly simplistic. I wanted more pathos. I wanted more about the relationship between Tommy and Greg. I know everyone wants to see a direct remake of The Room itself, but I actually think that’s a mistake. Why would I want to see James Franco as Tommy Wiseau playing Johnny when I can just watch Tommy Wiseau playing Johnny? Anyway, The Disaster Artist felt a bit like one long advertisement for The Room.

Favorite moment:

Mrs. Sestero: “Tommy, how old are you?”

Tommy Wiseau: “I same age as Greg.”

Mrs. Sestero: “You’re 19?”

Tommy Wiseau: “Yeah. That.”

Mrs. Sestero: “Sure. And I turned 14 today.”

Tommy Wiseau: “Wow, happy birthday!”

Least favorite moment:

The whitewashed ending.


I, Tonya

Margot Robbie tries to convince us that she’s Tonya Harding, the controversial American 5’1″ figure skater back in the early 90s.

It sounds like I’m negative about the film, but I’m not. I loved it. At points, the film does make it hard on the audience to suspend their disbelief, though. For example, no amount of make-up is ever going to convince me that Robbie can successfully pull off a 16-year-old girl. Not gonna happen. But in a way, like the rest of the film, this is perfect for our post-truth reality. Tonya Harding never felt as though she was ever in control of her narrative growing up. Naturally, she bears some responsibility for that, but just how much is up to you to decide. And now that she’s older and you’re sitting there listening to her, you bet your ass you’re going to get her side of the story.

Favorite moment:

Tonya Harding’s triumphant moment interspersed with her lowest moment. We see her pulling off the triple axel as well as her celebrity boxing knockout.

Allison Janney also steals the scene every time she shows up as Tonya’s cold, abusive mother.

Least favorite moment:

I don’t think they’re bad moments, but those sudden outbursts of domestic violence were very difficult to sit through. Just brutal.


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Instead of a board game, Jumanji is now a video game. Yay…

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but the film lacks the original’s heart. Naturally, it doesn’t have Robin Williams to carry it. The setup is way too long. I know the story feels it has to explain why the characters are stuck in a video game, but I don’t really give a shit, y’know? Like who honestly cares? We’re just here to watch Kevin Hart make fun of his height and Jack Black pretend to be a teenage girl. The ending is also uninspired, and I could’ve done without all the post-game epilogue where the dorky guy gets the dorky girl while the popular kids learn to quit being such popular jerks. But man, my theater was fucking packed, so even if I wanted to leave, I couldn’t. Anyway, Dwayne Johnson smoulders and Karen Gillan does her best to give us those big doe eyes. We know who the stars clearly are.

Favorite moment:

Kevin Hart being thrown to the rhinos as sacrifice.

Least favorite moment:

Everything outside of the actual game.

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3 Replies to “A Trip to the Cinema, October through December 2017”

  1. “Least favorite moment:

    The monster biting off a cat’s head. Poor cat.”

    I can relate to you so much. My least favorite moment in any movie, anime or series is when a cat or a dog dies. For me, you can kill any amount of humans, but don’t you dare touch the cat.

  2. There are only three movies here that I watch. Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and Coco. I missed out a lot. That is to be expected, though. I’m not a cinema person. I go to a cinema only if my friends take me out to watch together.

    A lot of those movies do seem interesting. I’ll watch them later if I find both the movies and the time.

    My opinions on those three aforementioned movies are the same as yours FYI. It seems superhero movies have lost their charm and grace period, and Disney should have really moved on from Frozen already.

    Are they going to treat Frozen the same way that Type-Moon treat Fate? Lololol

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