Category: Reviews in Short

Burning

grouchyeditor.com Burning

 

Until its ending, which I thought was unnecessarily ambiguous, Burning felt like a Korean version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. A young man (Ah-in Yoo) falls in love with a free-spirited girl (Jong-seo Jun) in the first half of the film and then, after the girl vanishes, he spends the second half engaged in an obsessive search that leads to some very dark places. But until that abrupt and unsatisfying ending, the movie is compelling and filled with haunting images. Release: 2018  Grade: B+

 

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Dolemite Is My Name

 

I’m old enough to remember when Eddie Murphy burst upon the American scene in movies like 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop and, of course, on TV’s Saturday Night Live. It was a dynamic time for Murphy and for his audience, because we hadn’t seen anything quite like him.

So it’s a bit melancholic to see middle-aged Eddie in Dolemite Is My Name, sporting a pot belly and lacking that brash, youthful energy of days gone by. But Murphy retains some of that spark, and in Dolemite he’s given a role that leaves behind fat suits and haunted houses in favor of some depth. Alas, the story of 1970s comedian-turned-movie-“auteur” Rudy Ray Moore is oh-so-familiar and predictable. It’s in the same ballpark as Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist, but not quite as good. Release: 2019 Grade: B-

 

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Walking Out

 

I have a weakness for movies like this one. You know: wilderness movies with hungry bears, or deep-sea movies with dead-eyed sharks. That’s because, unlike most sci-fi and horror films, these scary stories could really happen. To you. Or to me. Walking Out, in which a father and his teenage son encounter peril in the Montana mountains, does well with its survival elements. On the downside, although Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins are believable as dad and son, their on-screen chemistry left me a bit cold. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

**

 

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

 

Whenever a studio announces plans for a movie version of a beloved TV show, the hope, at least among fans of the series, is that the movie version will be bigger and better. Bigger budget = better experience. There is good news and bad news about Netflix’s two-hour revival of the classic Breaking Bad. The bad news?  The movie, which follows the trajectory of young Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the death of Walter White, is no better than the series. The good news? The movie is just as good as the series – and you don’t get any better than that. Release: 2019 Grade: A

 

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A Young Man with High Potential

 

Is it just me who finds it off-putting when a perfectly good suspense-drama finds it necessary to include a 10-minute sequence of graphic gore? Young Man concerns a social nerd/computer genius (Adam Ild Rohweder) who falls for a sexy girl (Paulina Galazka), then lets things get out of control and winds up running from the law – a cliché plot, for sure, yet suspenseful and well acted. But when Crime and Punishment veers into Blood Feast, it loses me. Release: 2018  Grade: B-

 

 

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A Simple Favor

Anna Kendrick does A Simple Favor.  Big mistake.  

 

I was beginning to despair of ever again seeing anything clever and funny, i.e. entertaining, in a Hollywood “comic thriller.” But then I saw A Simple Favor, which has it all: clever script, fast-paced direction, and engaging characters. Anna Kendrick is perfectly cast as a Susie Homemaker with a video blog who gets drawn into a murder investigation when her new “best friend,” a glamorous mystery woman (Blake Lively), goes missing.

At times the plot does get a bit far-fetched. I gave that a pass because of the top-notch cast and a tongue-in-cheek tone that works.  Release: 2018  Grade: A-

 

**

 

Personal Shopper

Pretty much how I felt while watching this film

 

A Simple Favor is a female-centric movie for everyone. Personal Shopper is, alas, a female-centric movie for diehard fans of Kristen Stewart only.

Stewart plays a celebrity’s assistant in Paris who grieves for her recently deceased twin brother. And grieves. And grieves. The first hour of the movie was intolerable: Kristen mopes, Kristen strips, Kristen engages in endless, pointless text messaging with a mystery man who might be her brother’s ghost. No, thank you. Release: 2017  Grade: D

 

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.                   

 

June is a short month. That’s my excuse for not finding a movie that interested me enough to warrant a typical two-paragraph review in short.

I tried, but there is such a sea of mediocrity out there in Streaming Land that … sigh. I can barely muster the enthusiasm to write a sentence or two about the films I did watch, much less an entire paragraph. To wit:

 

The Wolf’s Call (2019) – France tries to do a Tom Cruise action flick without Tom Cruise or much action. Not a great idea, France.  Grade: C

 

The Isle (2019) – Plenty of atmosphere in this period piece about ghostly possession. Howling winds, candlelit cabins, and gorgeous outdoor scenery – but nothing remotely scary.  Grade: C-

 

Murder Mystery (2019) – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston mingle with the beautiful people and try to find a killer. Sadly, Sandler and Aniston are no Nick and Nora Charles.  Grade: D

 

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The Perfection

 

Some movies seem to revel in insulting the audience’s intelligence. Moviegoers enjoy twists, so The Perfection doles out twist after twist – never mind that each one is more nonsensical than the last. Audiences also like sexy movie stars, so The Perfection includes a gratuitous lesbian sex scene between stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning. Last but not least, modern movie fans apparently can’t get enough gore and so – you guessed it – this movie has it in spades. Are we happy yet?

Williams and Browning play star cellists who encounter a terrifying virus while on a trip to Shanghai—or so it seems.  So far, so good; the movie looked great and there was genuine tension. But then the far-fetched twists began, so that by the end of the story The Perfection was anything but.  Release: 2019  Grade: D+

 

Logan Browning’s ass is the only thing approaching “perfection”

 

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The Meg

 

Popcorn movies like The Meg, in which a giant shark terrorizes people at an ocean research facility, used to be a lot more fun. Those older movies were also silly, of course, but they had a sort of careless charm. I’m thinking of flicks like Deep Blue Sea. These days, popcorn movies seem weighed down by conscientiousness. Does The Meg have a diverse cast? Check. Does it have Chinese stars to please the all-important Asian market? Check. Are there pricey special effects? You got it.

Sadly, last on the filmmaking checklist is any sense of originality or creativity. Instead, we get borrowed bits and pieces of superior movies, like Jaws and The Abyss and yes, even Deep Blue Sea. The good news? If your brain needs a rest, you needn’t bother following The Meg’s plot, because you’ve seen it all before. Release: 2018 Grade: C-

 

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Long Lost

 

A young man receives an invitation to visit his long-lost half-brother at his posh country house — but there are nasty surprises in store for the family reunion.

Long Lost is a decent enough erotic thriller marred by an unconvincing twist ending. A movie twist, if it’s to be a good one, has just two requirements: It has to be surprising, and it should be at least somewhat plausible. Long Lost’s big reveal is certainly unexpected. But is it realistic? Not really.

Still, the movie is entertaining thanks to an intense, creepy turn from actor Nicholas Tucci (above), who personifies a cliché that I am loath to use but that fits perfectly here: toxic masculinity. Release: 2019 Grade: C+

 

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The Monster

grouchyeditor.com Monster

 

It’s a simple title and a simple story, but sometimes that’s all you need. The Monster, in which a troubled mother and her 10-year-old daughter are terrorized by a creature in the woods, owes a debt to similar filmssubstitute the creature in Alien for the rabid dog in Cujo, and you have the gist of it — but what’s a pleasant surprise is the relationship between mom and her kid. Believe it or not, they seem both real and intelligent. In a horror movie. Go figure. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

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