Movie Reviews: January & February 2019

Years ago I used to keep track of all the movies I watched and scribble down little reviews of them in a journal. At the beginning of 2019, with little forethought, I began to do so again (though in a Wordpad document this time).

Since after two months I’ve accumulated a nice little pile of reviews, I thought I might as well share them with the world. Most people have probably seen these movies already, given that I rarely treat myself to new releases (why pay for Redbox when you can just wait a little longer, and get the same thing for free at the library?). Here they be, all the same.

Please note: I don’t expect the majority to agree with my assessments. I tend to dislike popular films, which means I have a lot of unpopular opinions. If you really liked one of these movies that I didn’t, I’d love to hear your more positive takes!

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The Big Sick (released 2017)

Interestingly compartmentalized. I think I’d like it better as a stage play.

OK enough, but not my style.

This Beautiful Fantastic (2016)

A quirky, compulsive young woman (Jessica Findlay Brown, known by most as Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey) must turn her disastrous backyard into a proper garden after clashing with her cantankerous old neighbor (Tom Wilkinson).

The story follows a similar course to most others that involve a cantankerous older person and a fresh-faced youth. Throw in a charmingly weird love-interest (Jeremy Irvine, who is too good looking for the role, as is so often the case) along with a helpful single dad (Andrew Scott, who is impossible not to like, even when you can’t not think of him as Sherlock Holmes’s evil arch-nemesis), and you’ve got yourself about the kind of movie you’d expect from such a combination.

It tries a little too hard to be cute, in my opinion. But it is still cute. Nothing to write home about, really, but clean and decent enough entertainment for a rainy winter evening.

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A Quiet Place (2018)

I like to sum A Quiet Place up by saying it’s the greatest movie about a Christian home-school family* that I have ever seen. And that is not inaccurate.

Of course, it’s also a horror film.

Films have to work on multiple levels to be at their best, you know.

A Quiet Place works on all the levels. I avoid horror 98% of the time, but I loved this one. It is full of suspense and gasp-y moments. It is also a pretty touching family drama.
Creative story telling is scandalously rare in movies, especially these days. A Quiet Place owns the medium. It’s an exceptional film, and easily my favorite of the year, so far.

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*Discussion topic for all current and former home-school people: Did this movie family home-school before the monster invasion, or is it something they reverted to out of necessity? Please let me know your theories.

Black Panther (2018)

A culturally significant work. Take that away, thought, and it’s really just another super-hero movie. The story-telling did not excite me, and the visual flash (as in all such modern stuff) made my eyes hurt. By far the worst part pf Black Panther, though, was hearing an American accent coming out of Martin Freeman’s beautiful British mouth. The sound made me feel physically ill.

I liked the music and costumes. I’m glad Hollywood occasionally acknowledges the diversity of the human race*, and that people watch and enjoy such productions.

Personally, I did not enjoy it that much. But it also didn’t make me want to growl quite as much as the average superhero flick. So there’s that.

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*Please note that I am not patting Hollywood on the back for making this movie, as they seem to be doing for themselves. This is the 21st century. At this point, it’s kind of sad that a blockbuster with a predominantly black cast is treated as something extraordinary.

Baby Driver (2017)

Here’s something I’ve never said before: Wasn’t crazy about this movie, but it was worth it for the action scenes.

The car chases are nothing short of exquisite. The precision in certain sequences make them feel more like choreographed dance routines than movie chases. And the soundtrack is basically the central nervous system of the whole film. Pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, the violence went a little too yuck for my tastes at the end. I guess it’s not an Edgar Wright movie if someone doesn’t end up getting impaled.

*Shrugs*

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The Incredibles 2 (2018)

A few inventive elements, and creative action sequences that are better than any other superhero movie you’ll see. I was, nevertheless, underwhelmed. Pixar can do a lot better.

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

A surprisingly faithful adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s novel, though rather truncated. At just 80-ish minutes long, it could have taken its time more. The Cornwall scenery is lovely (if under-used), and Rachel Weisz is pitch-perfect as the title character. Sam Claflin struck me as plain dreadful playing opposite her… though I suppose the way his character was written didn’t give him much to work with.

Overall, it was close to being good. And somehow that made it even more disappointing than if it had just been bad.

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Hidden Figures (2016)

A good story about some amazing women.

After brushing up on the history a little, I’m a little uncomfortable with certain inaccuracies. Even if I understand they’re made to hype up the drama factor, it just doesn’t seem like history should have to be altered to be entertaining.

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Eighth Grade (2018)

Too real. Way too real.

Wonder Woman (2017)

For someone who really doesn’t care for superhero movies, I seem to have watched a lot of them in the past two months.

Wonder Woman is more satisfying than many (perhaps even most) others, but still relies too heavily on special effects. The plot is pretty predictable, too.

What I did appreciate was the quality of compassion present in the title heroine. Nothing puts me off quite like a “strong woman” character whose strength seems to be defined solely by physical prowess and mental toughness. It was refreshing to see a character whose tender heart was part of her strength, too (even if she was still a hardcore, butt-kicking warrior-type, which Wonder Woman obviously is). Gal Gadot played the role really well.

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Also, just a side observation: Is there a woman in all of history who has aged better than Robin Wright? Goodness gracious, she look amazing.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

I’m behind the times on most of these movies, but let’s end with an exception. After waiting five years for the release of the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy’s final installment, I took the liberty of seeing it on its opening weekend.

The burning question, of course: Was it worth the wait?

For a lot of fans, it probably is. The Hidden World boasts all the sweeping emotional highs and lows we’ve come to expect from these films. Its visuals are absolutely stunning. There were times when I felt (no, knew) that I was watching art in motion.

But, alas. I did not leave the theater with that feeling of closure and satisfaction that I’d ultimately hoped for.

The plot and characters in Hidden World did not feel complete and authentic to me. The jokes more than bordered on annoying at times. Whatever happened to the charming snark of the first movie? These things were not to my taste, obviously, but I could live with them. What drove the penultimate nail into the coffin of my disappointment was the ending.

Without trespassing into the spoiler realm, let’s just say that the film is trying to have its cake and eat it, too. The aim is poignancy that doesn’t leave the audience depressed. But it didn’t work for me. It felt too much like cheating. Good stories don’t cheat.

The second and third movies of HTTYD are not entirely unworthy endeavors. And yet when all is said and done, I’m not sure I don’t prefer to look at the first perfect installment as if it were a stand-alone film.

See Hidden World, if you will. It’s not bad. It simply wasn’t what this viewer wanted it to be.

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