Bob’s 2018 Retrospective: 200 Mini Reviews [Part 2: The Pretty Good and the Pretty Bad]

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Braven

Jason Momoa and Stephen Lang are in this home-invasion action flick. Do you need more? Momoa accidentally gets the ire of some drug runners and trap his family in their house. Wrong guy to fuck with. Really. When you got Momoa and Lang (as his father) to fight back against Garret Dillahunt (another actor I always like), you have a tense, well-designed flick.

Bumblebee – REVIEW

Best of the Transformers movies, hands down. Cut out all the stupid in the Michael Bay 2007 film, and you’re left with this. Hailee Steinfeld anchors with a solid heart and performance as she bonds with her robot-car. Following the beats of ET to a near T, it has well done character moments, fantastic robot design, and in a huge change from Bay – action scenes you can follow! John Cena is given the best lines and adds a level of fun to it as well.

Cargo

Another post-apocalypse movie. This Martin Freeman led film shares a lot of DNA with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But far far less bleak, with zombies too. The zombies aren’t the draw, it’s the rich character work and survival notions.

Catwalk

Did you know there a circuit of cat shows? Like the same as dog shows, but with far far more cuteness and lounging. (no one makes the cat’s walk). As a cat person, I love this, and loved this flick. Catwalk is a very amusing documentary about the Canadian circuit. It’s also honest and loving. The people who live this world are weirdos, they know it, and the film in no way makes fun of them for it. This isn’t’ a “ha look at the weirdos” but a look at a world you’d never see outside of something like this. There are the fights to be expected, the cattiness, hehehe, but companionship and just a love of their cats and the strange hobby they all share.

Christmas Chronicles (review in December short takes)

Kurt fuckin’ Russell as Santa Claus. Netflix knows you secretly wanted it. Thank you, Netflix! Their big Christmas this year is effortlessly charming thanks to Russell’s energetic and iconic performance at Saint Nick. You know the story, two kids are down on the Christmas spirit and they get to meet Santa and go on an adventure! The adventure is fun, Russell is great, there is a load of solid humor and character. Review here.

Crazy Rich Asians

I’m not much a romantic-comedy fan, so when one works for me, it’s a big deal. Crazy Rich Asians was a big deal to many people, becoming a bonafide hit and the first Asian led Hollywood movie since The Joy Luck Club. Although it does hit many of the expected notes of the genre, many are sidestepped or turned on their heads to great effect. All the leads are charming especially Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu in a star-making role and Awkafina in a scene-stealing supporting role. I’ll admit it, the film won me over. I cared for the main couple and their lives and their love. There’s a reason it was highly talked about a massive hit.

Director’s Cut

Films offer producer credits and set visits for those who put in for the crowd-funding. What happens when a total psycho donates a ton of movie and doesn’t like the way the director takes the movie?  You get Penn Gillette’s character in the incredible meta Director’s Cut. Presented as a director’s commentary on a special cut of a film, Gillette (of Penn and Teller) narrates the creation, and his mind loss of focus and take over in his own way by him film. The film within the film is a cop procedural staring Missy Pyle. Mixing this with footage Gillette adds creates a dissection of filmmaking and fans-too-close culture. It’s a very uncomfortable sort of funny (and it is very funny) as insanity takes over, and the character goes three steps too far with his obsession of Pyle. Of course, this film was crowd-funded adding yet another layer.

Disobedience

I’m going to quote my review at WatchPlayRead.com

The marketing may focus on the forbidden romance between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams’ characters, but the film casts a wider net in regards the title.  Weisz is the disavowed daughter of a well-loved, recently-passed London Rabbi returning home. Her own disobedience is outward and direct, causing simmering anger from others in her former community.  In particular, of a relationship with the McAdams; now married to the male portion of their childhood close trio, who is about to take the Rabbi’s position. McAdams gives a career best performance as a deeply unhappy, oppressed woman who longs to escape her community; despite a commitment to her religion.  The women’s chemistry is strong, and it’s to great relief their relationship is not sensationalized by the filmmakers, but instead as a natural need. There is a subtle and impressive use of composition to create a distant, uncomfortable world for McAdams until her moments of freedom when this opens up. I’ve not mentioned Alessandro Nivola as the third part of this trio, grappling with his own demons; but he’s just as wonderful although overshadowed by Weisz and McAdams.  With amazing, understated performances and a compelling mutlt-faced story, Disobedience is a fantastic film.

Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Gus Van Sant’s newest film may be most accessible. The true story of a paraplegic cartoonist (Joaquin Pheonix) is as inspirational as many stories of the same. Phoenix is compelling as a man fighting his addictions before and after his accident.  It’s told in a very loose timeline – it’s often hard to tell what year we’re in as we move in and out of flashbacks. Jonah Hill is at his career best as a helpful councilor. This may seem rote, but Van Sant’s uncouth style allows a familiar story to be told a new way.

Dumplin’

Dumplin’ is utterly charming, positive, and just a breath of fresh air to watch. Yes, it can be often cliched – crag queens teaching girls how to be fabulous anyone?- but it’s well done enough that you won’t care. Danielle MacDonald, after making a splash in Patti Cake$ last year, continues to wow. She needs to be a star. Everyone does great work here. Big props to Harold Perrineau as one of the aforementioned drag queens. Took me a minute to recognize him! Bex from Hellfest is hilarious, and Maddie Baillio takes what could have been an awful character the shines. Gotta love Millie! Jennifer Aniston, big star she is, but she allows the other actresses take the spot light. It’s breezy but it’s damned enjoyable.

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