Bob’s 2018 Retrospective: 200 Mini-reviews! [Part 1: The Average]

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The Lodgers

By coincidence, here’s another story of a once great family left to the last heirs in a crumbing mansion in the woods – this time in Ireland. This time way more horror and supernatural. The best thing about this movie is the broken down, fog coated world of the mansion and it’s estate. The story is of two children who have rules to keep unless receive the wraith of the waterlogged ghosts/demons/faerie/weird-parents int he basement. It’s not well defined. A young man from the village catches the daughter’s eye and things break down for them. You likely have many guesses to how this plays out from other similar stories. Each of them are referenced and the movie begins to go down each of the paths causing a dissonance. So, it’s not wholly satisfying as it doesn’t quite add up. The performers are all solid, but the whole was let down.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

You’re are surprised as I am this ended up in the “3” category. You expected it on the Worst List, eh? Going in, so did I. I HATE HATE HATE the first Mamma Mia. Yet, the Abba jukebox musical won me over. It’s about a deep as a baby pool and has a plot that is held up by a string, and characters that exist only on screen and I should hate it. Two stories are told. Lily James, with an infectious twinkle in her eye, plays a young version of Meryl Streep’s Donna as she graduates college, says she’s gonna travel the world, and promptly settles down in Greece to run a hotel on a small island. She meets the tree men who may be Amanda Seyfriend’s dad in a series of adventures – although the movie seems to lean on Pierce Brosnan being the dad. In the modern world, Seyfriend mourns her mother while expecting to give birth very soon. There’s an unexpected charm in each character and song – standouts being “Waterloo” and the titular song. We even get Cher playing Lady Gaga – another stand out is a duet “Fernando” with Andy Garcia. Funny and sweet, it’s an fun by empty film. Take a chance on me.

Mid90s

Like Bradley Cooper (later…), Jonah Hill has learned a great deal from the director’s he’s worked with, crafting a well made film that feels more accomplished than many first-time directors. Little Stevie is looking for new friends and culture in mid90s Los Angeles. He finds connections with a group of skater kids. Thus starts a slice of life style film. It’s essentially plotless, focusing more on Steve’s character development with his friends then some outside force. Each friend is distinct with their own issues and voice. All of this feels real – the ol’ camera dropped into life. Gorram does Hill get the feel of the 90s. This wasn’t my life at all (I’d be about Stevie’s age), but enough lined up to just how life was that it felt right. There is a little pacing issue, as the 84 minutes feels much longer. I think this was due to the lack of direct conflict – even the similar feeling Florida Project had it with the mom’s issues.

Mohawk

No matter what else one can say about the movie, a hunt and slash set in the French and Indian Wars is a different setting. I wanted to enjoy this more than I did with the setting and based around Native Americans as the heroes pushed into violent action. Very much a reversal. However, it feels filmed in the backyard on weekends on production value. I can often push this away, knowing low budgets and all, but I couldn’t get over that hump. That said, the leads were engaging the violence a plenty!

Mom and Dad

I’m in it for Lance Hennrikson and Nic Cage trying to kill each other. As I say often, fantastic premise- something in the air causes parents to try to kill their children – lacking in execution. It’s one of those movies that leans on it’s premise as enough to make a full movie. After a first act out in the world of a decent amount of carnage, the remainder is in Nic Cage and Selma’s Blair’s house. Think how The Purge presents this big world issue and staying inside Ethan Hawk’s home. There are some good set pieces and wild ideas but I keep getting distracted by wondering what else is happening out there. But dammit, fuck yeah Lance and Nic!  

Most Unknown

Fascinating, but often a little dull, documentary about the importance and joy of science. Nine scientists take turns visiting another in a loop – Scientist 1 visits 2, 2 then visits 3. In which we get a slice of each’s discipline. It is wonderful seeing the joy of knowledge and learning coming from the visiting scientist. We all need to keep that spark going. It serves well as an entry to the wide world of science.  

The Nun – Bob’s ReviewCody’s Review

The newest entry in the Conjuring-verse is a mixed bag. There are solid sequences that start get a mood going, but then slam into a pointless jumpscare. The empty abbey creates a great atmosphere as well. But there are too many things that don’t work; underwritten to a big degree and dumb decisions by all. 

The Old Man & The Gun

Goddamn, Robert Redford is charming. He’s always got that twinkle and his eye and a sly smile. Pair him with Sissy Spacek and one has a great pair to watch on screen. They play friends and lovers in David Lowery’s new film – based on a true story of the now elderly compulsive breakout artist and bank robber. Casey Affleck is the cop on his trail. Redford is as watchable as ever, but sadly the film behind him is plodding and nearly a snooze. Redford’s charm is enough to keep carrying forward to make watchable, though.

On Chesil Beach 

Just gonna copy my short(ish) review from earlier this year

t’s a shame when the third act of a film nearly sinks a film after two solid acts. Sadly, this is the case for the Ian McEwen adaptation of his 2014 novel. Newly married couple Edward (Billy Howe) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) are on their honeymoon when they come across a problem they haven’t had to deal with before in their chaste upper/middle class 1962 England: they aren’t ready for sex. Leading up to the explosion of emotion and turning point of the film at the titular location, we see two narratives: the disastrous attempts at the act, and the courtship of the two charming leads.  As the newlyweds, both Howe and Ronan shine; especially Ronan, now eleven years after breaking out with the last McEwan adaptation ATONEMENT, who can say so much with the slightest look. Their courtship is by most points standard, it’s wonderful to watch them come together and fall in love, and they sell the awkward interactions of two people truly alone for the first time who know what they need and want to do but unsure of how to proceed best. So what’s the issue? The aforementioned issue coming to head, the argument and revelations on Chesil Beach doesn’t fit. At this point, it betrays the characters growths and actions of the preceding acts; coming from nowhere. They feel like totally different characters. While it’s supposed to be, how both react is just eye-rolling absurd. It also functions as the climax of the film, leading to the after-effects third act to feel like a very long coda instead of continuing the story. All the steam is gone; causing a disjointed narrative. This could work very well in a novel format (I’ve not read this so don’t quote me if it does in the actual work), but doesn’t translate to the way stories unfold on screen.

I really wanted to like On Chesil Beach, and for a little over half the run-time, I did. Ronan does make it worth the journey, even if the last portion is weak.

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