Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review: BlacKkKlansman (2018)

* * * *

Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace

I have something of a love/hate relationship with Spike Lee. I think that he's made two of the greatest feature films to come out in the last thirty years (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X) and one (25th Hour) that deserves, at least, to be in any conversation of the greatest films to come out in the last thirty years. He's a gifted filmmaker and one who is unafraid to take a clear political stance in his work - a rare virtue in an industry that, more often than not, demands a certain amount of watering down in order to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. My problem with Lee is that, despite his extensive filmmography and 32 years of trying, he has yet to create a decent female character (don't even bring up She's Gotta Have It, which is sometimes cited as Lee's "feminist" film, even though it's anything but). His latest film, BlacKkKlansman, doesn't change that - on reflection I'm pretty sure that there are only 4 women in the entire film with speaking lines and one is just a disembodied voice coming from off-screen - but the rest of it is so good that I can get past that.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: Three Identical Strangers (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Tim Wardle

First comes shock and elation, then come the questions and, with them, the anger. Tim Wardle's documentary Three Identical Strangers tells a story so unbelievable, and ultimately so cruel, that even those at the center of it acknowledge that they'd never believe it if they hadn't lived it. Running at a brisk 96 minutes, Three Identical Strangers is intensely focused in its storytelling, which isn't always a good thing as the film hints at certain narrative threads only to quickly move away from them rather than explore them, but what it does explore is so compelling and fascinating that those omissions almost don't matter. Alternately funny and tragic (and sometimes both at the same time), Three Identical Strangers is a deeply engaging documentary and one which is probably most effective if you go into it knowing as little about it as possible so be forewarned that you may not want to read beyond this paragraph if you want to remain unspoiled about some of the story's twists and turns.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Review: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

* * *

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is the most movie you'll see all summer. It has everything. Allies who turn out to be enemies, enemies who turn out to be allies, double crossing, globe hopping, love triangles (of a sort), car chases, helicopter chases, gun fights, room destroying fist fights, assassination attempts, nuclear bombs, and at least four occasions when it's entirely conceivable that Tom Cruise could have been killed during the filming of the scene. I can't wait to see what insane thing the next Mission: Impossible's director manages to talk him into doing. Maybe he'll go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Maybe he'll wrestle a tiger. Maybe he'll surf a wave of lava. Anything's possible!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: Sorry to Bother You (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Boots Riley
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield

Sorry to Bother You is a work of surrealism that, like all great works of satire, manages to strike brutally close to home the more wildly it goes over the top. While the film's big, grotesque twist is pretty far outside the realm of possibility (at least, one desperately hopes so), the film's depiction of income inequality and the effects of unchecked capitalism feels familiar even in its most exaggerated elements. If things continue on their current trajectory, where the top 1% have 40% of the wealth and governments have been steadily dismantling all of the mechanisms that once kept income disparity more in check and maintained a path for upward financial mobility, certain elements of Sorry to Bother You's narrative don't seem at all far fetched. An assured, inventive, and thought provoking film from Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You more than lives up to all the hype it's inspired since its debut at Sundance earlier this year.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

* * *

Director: Ol Parker
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters

The Mama Mia movies are the sort of works that force you to examine your own taste in art. In a purely objective sense, you're aware that they're not "good" and that, in fact, they don't even really come close to the normal standard of what makes a movie good. They are, if you are being brutally honest with yourself, barely movies at all in any traditional sense. Their narratives are thin as air, existing merely to connect a series of songs to each other, not always accomplishing that in the most elegant of ways. And yet. Isn't the aim of art to stir something in the audience, to touch some emotion and heighten it through the experience of consuming it? If the goal of the work is to bring the audience joy and it succeeds in doing so then isn't it, by definition, a "success" even if it does so in a fashion that might generously be described as "clumsy." This is all a round about way of saying that Mama Mia! Here We Go Again is as terrible and wonderful as the first film and I loved every minute of it.