Flash Reviews, Pt. 15

27 November 2016-1 January 2017

 

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

Edge of Seventeen

I was very very very pleasantly surprised with this charming, coming-of-age story. Hailee Steinfeld manages to deliver a remarkably likable performance as a character that could easily be utterly unlikable. Woody Harrelson is excellent. The music is great. Lots of laughs and some pretty moving scenes too. Reminiscent of the best of John Hughes.

Allied

A remarkably underwhelming film. It was alright, but I just wasn’t enthralled with it.

It’s a Wonderful Life

A lovely, lovely film. A great story about the worth of every soul and the power of quiet, small acts of goodness.

Sully

Not a great film, but some great moments. The scene towards the middle of the film once the plane has landed on (in?) the Hudson and everyone is evacuating had me in tears and feeling all sorts of emotions that I still can’t really identify. Tom Hanks is fine, Aaron Eckhart does well.

Manchester by the Sea

Beautiful film (the cinematography, the way music is used throughout, the emotions evoked by the editing, the deeply human performances). Casey Affleck anchors a solid cast with a haunting, heart-wrenching performance (Michelle Williams does a great job as well and is particularly remarkable in a scene towards the end of the film (maybe her last scene? I’m not positive about that)).

I’ll be thinking on this one for awhile. The almost mundane, quotidian nature of the tragedy it plays out is striking and deeply moving. There’s a raw reality here that resonates.

Rogue One

A Star Wars Story

I liked it, quite a bit. Lots of good stuff going on (Felicity Jones is, unsurprisingly, incredible, Donnie Yen is great, Diego Luna is pretty solid especially early on, Alan Tudyk is a delight, if at times feeling like he was part of a different movie).

It’s gorgeous and fun to have a different vibe, but it seemed to be missing something and I’m not quite sure what that is. Also, in as non-spoiler-y a way as possible: VADER. That’s what I’m talking about.

I wanted some more character development and exploration of the provocative themes that are hinted at throughout the movie, but still a fun ride.

Sicario

Woah. A bleak film that is gorgeously shot and filled with solid performances. The music is remarkably fitting and everything works together very well.

Love Actually

Love it. So much love and Britishness. Yes, it dances dangerously close to the saccharine, but for some reason it works. Liam Neeson is everything I hope to be as a parent.

La La Land

If you could bottle up pure joy and transform it into a film, the result would be La La Land. The opening sequence put a gleeful grin on my face that lasted throughout most of the film. A truly wonderful cinematic delight. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are perfection. The music (sung and otherwise) is beautiful and so so so catchy. The lighting and editing and camerawork are all breathtaking. Wow. (The “I Ran” scene is absolutely hilarious.)

I was pretty confident it was going to be good, but man, this was incredible. To borrow the words of another work of genius, La La Land is passionately smashin’ every expectation (and those expectations were pretty high).

So, yeah, do yourself a favor and bask in the pure, unadulterated delight that this is.

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

The best of the prequels, but still not at the level of the originals (or VII or Rogue One). The battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin is some of the best dueling in all the films, but that can’t quite salvage the film as a whole for me.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope

Solid. Some of the dialogue felt more cheesy and awkward this time than on past viewings, but I’m not quite sure why that was. Still a great enjoyable film.

Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

Amazing. I stand by my long-held conviction that this is the best of the series. The cinematography, the classic lines, Hoth and Cloud City with a dash of Dagobah? A great lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke and that reveal followed by that anguished scream…can’t beat it.

Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi

This was my favorite growing up and I felt a lot of that magic again watching this time. The opening at Jabba’s Palace is excellent and I don’t hate the Ewoks. Plus Vader’s journey of redemption is moving and hopeful and powerful and tragic.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

A fantastic fun film. Love it. The characters are great. It’s beautiful to look at and the dogfights are superbly executed. The lightsabers are great (I still get chills during that final duel with the sound of the snow sizzling on Kylo’s blade) and there’s some cool Force stuff. Also, the Falcon sequence on Jakku makes me feel wonder and awe every time. So great.

Assassin’s Creed

Surprisingly not bad. The last 15-20 minutes severely lower how good it is, but overall, an interesting ride. Fassbender is great and Marion Cotillard is solid (though they undermine a lot of the interesting facets of her character with her final scene). The action’s pretty good, though they mingle the present and past in ways that I think takes the viewer out of the scene and lowers the impact some of the sequences could have. Some interesting ideas at play (that are pretty muddled in their exploration, but are there-ish).

Saturday’s Warrior

Still love/hate this movie. Watched it as a family on Christmas and sang along with my mom to all the songs.

Ant-Man

Still funny. Lots of fun here, even if the villain is generic and disappointing and more of the same.

 

BOOKS

Jane Eyre

I finally read this and it was very very good. I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s been awhile since I’ve read much of this era of writing (oddly, since that’s what I’m studying in my MA program), but I enjoyed the writing, the story, the characters were well drawn and compelling.

A Christmas Carol

I read this every year and it is still lovely. Hilarious and heartwarming.

Ready Player One

A fun fun fun book. Filled with loads of 80s nostalgia and adventure and interesting sci-fi stuff. Very enjoyable.

The Philosophy of Beards

Fascinating. A 19th-century British book about how great beards are, which combines a couple of things I quite enjoy. A short and interesting book.

When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Seek a Quality Life

I think there’s a lot of wisdom here. The ideas are compelling and I think can result in better relationships and lives.

American Gods

A long, meandering journey that I enjoyed. There’s a lot of cool play with mythology throughout, which is fascinating. The language is rich. There’s some sex and graphic language that may be off-putting to some, just fyi.

 

Past Installments here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, and Part Fourteen.

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