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

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Solo: A Star War Story

Yes, wholly unnecessary and often misguided, Solo was still damned entertaining as an action-adventure flick. There is a great deal that doesn’t work here, starting with a first act that could and should have been dropped, Han getting his name, and a whole bunch of “how Han got the thing he had later” that no one cared about. After it starts moving, the film gains its footing for a fine adventure. Alden Ehrenreich is mostly able to channel Harrison Ford’s smarmy charm, even if it feels like an impersonation. I love Chewie is noted have eaten human before.  Donald Glover is perfect as Lando – this should have been his movie. He and his kick-ass droid. (there is a dark implication after the droid’s fate if you think about it). The Kessel Run sequence is exhilarating and has a Elder God! Fuck yeah! Emilia Clark is awful and Paul Bettany’s villain is underdone. And NO to Clark kissing Han. Space Dad and only kiss Space Mom. YOU’RE NOT LEIA. it’s like seeing your dad with ex-girlfriends in photos before he met your mom. Just not right.

All in all, Solo has enough good stuff to be a mostly positive review. I look forward to more Star Wars spin-offs but maybe it’d be best to keep to non-trilogy characters like those featured in the excellent (fight me, Carol) Rogue One.

Summer 1993

A young girl is orphaned and sent to live with her aunt and her family. Touching, with fantastic child acting, Summer 1993 is a small but compelling film of a large next step so early in life.

Three Identical Strangers

Another in a year of great documentaries (more to come too). It’s lovely when a documentary can play as another genre, with a tale stranger than fiction. Imagine you are staring your first year at college, and when you arrive people call you by another name and ask how your summer was? Not just a few, everyone. Come to find out, you have an identical twin you went to the school the previous year. You meet, you connect, become close friends… and only thing find out there is a third. That alone, three triplets (actually quadruplets but one died at birth) separated out to different families, none of which know their adopted son has brothers, finding and becoming semi-famous is enough for many documentaries. But there is so much more behind how this all came to be. I’m not going to spoil the layers that are peeled away and the messed up truths and conjectures being it all but it creates a fascinating thriller. The brothers themselves are interesting characters, they should be as the film is built on their backs and features their talking heads more than anything else. A shortcoming of the documentary is so much talking head time. Shocking and profound, Three Identical Strangers is a great watch.

Unsane

To many filmmakers, filming a whole film on an iPhone could be a weak gimmick. Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to make it work and use the unconventional method to it’s best effect. The story is of Claire Foy, a young woman who is involuntary committed after meeting with a therapist. It’s made double worse when her stalker shows up an employee of the facility. Or does he? To Soderbergh’s great effort, the viewer is never entirely sure of the truth of the situation. As Foy attempts to figure out what’s going on with her, making connections, enemies, and fighting off the layers of hell being dropped on her, we’re along for the ride just as confused and trying to figure it out – in a good way. How is the iPhone a great method for filming? The nearly fish-eyed lens, odd resolution and just different feel than conventional camera, lead a general unease. We’re thrown out of the standard and are on shaking ground for sheer difference.  It may get a little to exposition and standard thriller in the third act, but Unsane is still a thrilling ride anchored by a fantastic Claire Foy. (her stalker is played by Josh Leonard of The Blair Witch Project – there some trivia for you filthy animals).

Upgrade

Fuck Venom. Watch this instead. Many others have compared the two films, for good reason. They both feature a down on his luck man forced to connect with a symbiotic body modification which can take control of his body and together they must take down an evil Elon Musk type. While Venom is dull, with awful character use, ugly to look at, and overall bore – Upgrade is none of those. Many will figure out the ultimate truths of the plot early on, but that doesn’t hurt the ride Leigh Whannell takes the viewer on. Logan-Marshall Green gives a wonderfully physically performance, highlighted when the upgrade chip takes control of his body. Exhibiting robotic martial artis perfection with his limbs with a wild loss of control fo the rest of his body takes some skill. Whannell directs with a manic energy. For the gore fans, there is good amount as well!

Veronica

Lauded over the summer of the scariest movie in years, Veronica doesn’t quite live up those accolades, but it is a solid, scary film. It’s also rather cliched and telegraphs what’s to come pretty easily. Although familiar, it is done very well making absolutely worth a watch with the lights off.

You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay is an underrated director. Between You Were Never Really Here and We Need to Talk about Kevin, she has made two tense, fucked up character studies of lost and disturbed people. Both films are brutal and unflinching. Here we have Joaquin Pheonix as Joe, a hired gun with a past – as he finally gets over his head and might not get out of this case. Wraght wth danger and tense scene after tense scene, it’s a good thing the film is 89 minutes; I don’t think I could have take much more. Plus, longer it may lose steam and just not be so damned good. … the river…

On the next page: the Pretty Bads!

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