Flash Reviews, Pt. 9

24 February 2016-21 April 2016

 Welcome to another installment of Flash Reviews, where I share brief snapshot reviews of the movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read and occasional other entertainment I’ve consumed since the last time I did this. Usually once every two months or so. WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead, so just watch out. Not super detailed spoilers, since these are just snapshots, but the better you know my tastes, the more likely you’ll be to find something spoiled.

 

FILM

Phoenix

A powerful film about the holocaust and dealing with survival. I was enthralled, but the end felt like it came too short. I wanted another 10-15 minutes to come to some sort of resolution.

Brooklyn

A finely crafted and well-acted film about being caught between worlds. All the performances are quite good, but obviously Saoirse Ronan steals the show. A straightforward narrative that doesn’t really hold surprises, but the beauty is in that reliability and the comfort of knowing where things are going and how beautifully it unfolds.

Rushmore

Love this one. Wes Anderson’s second film is a true treasure—Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams knock it out of the park.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Wow. The first half is hilarious and the second is heartbreaking. The humor is goofy and off-the-walls and the relationships feel real in their problems and complexities. Not a film I’ll watch frequently, but a good one.

Deadpool

One of the few films I regret watching. There was so much potential and it was largely thrown away. The film thought it was clever and subverting the superhero genre, but largely ended up making cheap jokes and substituting high school boys locker room humor for true genre subversion. The action was well done, if over the top in its violence and gore. Not worth the hype.

The Royal Tenenbaums

A Wes Anderson classic. A large ensemble cast that does a nice job. Some great family dynamics throughout the film of wanting to build connections, but struggling to overcome past actions. A little on the slower side.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I wasn’t thrilled with this the first time I watched it, but found it quite charming and funny this time around. Bill Murray is at peak deadpan here and perhaps less likable than usual. The music is fantastic.

The Darjeeling Limited

This feels similar to Life Aquatic for me in terms of pacing and tone, though it deals with some of the same sort of reconciliation familial themes as Tenenbaums. Jason Schwartzman steals the show and the interactions between him, Adrian Brody, and Owen Wilson are believable and wonderful.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I absolutely adore this film. Near perfection. The minute attention to detail and the crafting that took place is overwhelming. The vocal performances are all spot on. It’s heartwarming, delightful, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Watch it now.

Moonrise Kingdom

Again, Wes Anderson is on the top of his form. The precocious children are quite funny. Edward Norton is great. A truly delightful film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Probably my favorite Wes Anderson film (though it’s neck and neck with Fantastic Mr. Fox). There’s a sort of charming, melancholic whimsy throughout the film that resonates pretty strongly with me. Ralph Fiennes is perfection as Gustave H. There’s a depth to the film in the way it deals with pretty heavy issues, but almost entirely on the periphery. All of the production design and costuming is unbelievable. A true wonder.

The Godfather

Marlon Brando is iconic. The entire film feels like the template for the gangster movies that have existed since. It felt a bit like a trope, a cliché, but I think because of the influence that it’s had. The performances are solid, though the film felt a little long and meandering for me.

The Godfather Pt. II

Al Pacino is terrifying. Eyes that tell you he’ll do whatever it takes. Robert de Niro is incredible. I wanted more of his story. This may be blasphemous for a film buff, but I don’t quite get the hype. The weaving of the different timelines felt a little sloppy and like the cuts were for some sort of convenience, rather than driven by narrative or thematic purposes. The plot seems to jump around with little regard for introducing some of the conflicts, skimming over complexities and dwelling on others. Maybe I missed something, but while I enjoyed the film and think it’s a well-made film, I did not see one of the greatest films ever made that most seem to.

Hot Fuzz

Excellent. Bizarre, but hilarious. Absolutely absurd in the best possible British way.

10 Cloverfield Lane

I have not been as tense as I was watching this for a long, long time. The film twists and turns and keeps you guessing, constantly overturning your expectations. A tightly made film, with a small, claustrophobic set and outstanding performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr. The less you know about it going in, the better. Some may hate the ending, but I think it was narratively justified. Quite impressed.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A giant clustercuss of a film. As I wrote on facebook: 1) Daredevil may no longer be Ben Affleck’s worst superhero film.

2) If you’re looking for a streamlined, coherent plot and well-rounded characters, try Spiderman 3.
3) A thorough exploration of the dangers of dialogue as exposition, sole means of character development, and philosophical musings too “deep” to be contained in the narrative itself.

The Tourist

A fun romp of a film. Interesting stuff, but not anything particularly special. Less action than I had anticipated.

The Sixth Sense

Stellar. Creepy, but stellar. I knew the twist because, well, it’s 2016, and the film was still well crafted. The way you could read all the scenes two relatively equally convincing ways was masterful. Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are phenomenal. Olivia Williams is also great, though with less to do.

Zootopia

An incredibly clever film. I was thoroughly entertained. The message of inclusion and understanding is also worth listening to.

Training Day

Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington are both on top of their game here. It starts out relatively straightforward, but descends rather quickly into some interesting moral complexities. Quite good if morally ambiguous cop films are your thing.

Steve Jobs

An interesting way to tell Jobs’s story—three acts, each focused exclusively on the immediate build-up to a noteworthy keynote address by Jobs. Acting is great. Aaron Sorkin has his typical witty back and forth, quick talking, fast walking on full display here. Engaging with complex personalities at work.

Saturday’s Warrior

I actually quite liked this. I know, I’m as shocked as you. Something about the cheesy earnestness just gets me. I would liken it to “In Our Lovely Deseret,” which is so cheesy, it’s hilarious, but so sincere that I can’t help but love it. I wrote up a full review for The Cultural Hall here.

Argo

A solid film. It’d been a few years since I watched it, but it’s quite good. Tense, but human. Ben Affleck does nice work here, in front of and behind the camera.

The Town

Another Ben Affleck led and directed effort. Also, pretty solid. Jeremy Renner turns in a solid performance as Ben’s childhood friend and partner in crime. The last heist and ensuing action sequence is intense, as is the car chase following the second heist. Some solid action here. I appreciated the hopeful, but not overly sappy and too perfect ending.

 

TELEVISION

House of Cards, Season 4

Far better than Season 3. Absurd? Sure. Engrossing in that mounting absurdity? Absolutely. Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey are still phenomenal as the Underwoods. Great, great things here.

Dollhouse

Whedon does it again. An intriguing concept that gets used in a number of satisfying and creative ways. Solid stuff throughout. Eliza Dushku, Olivia Williams and Fran Kranz stand out among a solid ensemble. Great work.

Daredevil, Season 2

I think improves on Season 1 almost all around. Fisk was a fantastic villain, but the season was stretched out a bit thin. Punisher and Elektra together make for some great stories. The Hand was a bit underwhelming, particularly compared to the richness and complexity of The Punisher and Elektra. Foggy and Karen do great work and are solid grounding for Matt. But the stand out is the action sequences. Fantastic. Absolutely incredible.

 

BOOKS

My Name is Asher Lev

I liked this book quite a bit. It was hard to read. I sympathized with both Asher and his father, while identifying more with Asher. The idea of feeling called to do certain things in a deeply spiritual sort of way, but being unable to explain that and for others to view your actions as antithetical to the very religion that you are trying to live is something that resonates pretty strongly and personally with me. The way the book captured that was painful because of how real it felt.

Coraline

A quick read. Mildly terrifying, but with an overall empowering and hopeful message. Darkly delightful in a Roald Dahl sort of way.

 

Past Installments here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven and Part Eight.

 

 

 

 

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