Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.2
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of almost 1200 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Madeo (2009) — 8/10
This movie starts out with Madeo dancing in a field, fading to her working in her shop, watching her mentally retarded son Yoon Do-joon playing with a dog near the street. The son is about 18 years old and is with a friend. They are nearly hit by a Mercedes that accelerated into Do-joon—and they grab a cab to follow it to the local golf course. They find the car, break off a mirror, then break into the golf course and hunt down the owners. They inexpertly do battle with the older men and the next scene shows them all in the police station, resolving the dispute.
The broken car mirror is pinned on Do-joon whereas Jin-tae gets off scot-free. Do-joon is simple, so he believes the story himself. His mother must come up with the money to pay for the damage. Do-joon spends the night drinking, waiting for Jin-tae to show up, but he never does. It’s possible that Do-joon was just confused about Jin-tae having promised him he’d show up.
On the way home from the bar—and after having hit on the owner’s daughter, who responded positively, since Do-joon is, despite his feebleness, quite good-looking—Do-joon staggers home. On the way, he sees a pretty girl and follows her up a hill, scaring her. She throws a rock at him and we see him walk away. He gets home and crawls into bed with his mother.
The next morning, we see mother at work and Do-joon being talked at by some people. They turn out to be police officers and arrest him for the murder of the girl he’d seen the night before. He signs the confession, but mother doesn’t believe it. It looks for all the world like the police are railroading Do-joon just to close the case.
Mother goes on a mission to clear her son’s name. First, she tries to dig up evidence on Jin-tae, who she suspects—and then knows—did the crime. The evidence she produces is not even close to conclusive and the police laugh her out of the station. She is further convinced, though, and continues her search. It is here that we see that she is nearly at least as disturbed as her son, as incapable of seeing reality.
She goes to a lot of work to find the dead girl’s cell phone, which has a lot of incriminating photos of local men on it. Jin-tae helps her a lot here, seemingly not the bad guy he was at first. She uses these pictures to tickle Do-joon’s memory and gets a lead on a local junk collector who he says he saw there.
She heads to his home and offers to give him acupuncture to help him forget the “terrible sight” he claims to have seen. She knows a special spot on the thigh that affects memory. She thinks it is his desire to confess, but he in fact tells her the story of how her son killed the girl because she called him a retard. He was only doing what his mother always taught him to do—fight when insulted.
His mother kills the old man to prevent him ever telling his story. She burns down his house.
Soon after, she is visited by the police because they’ve found the real killer, a former boyfriend of the murdered girl. She insists on visiting the young man in prison—she knows he didn’t do it. He turns out to be even more mentally handicapped than her own son.
She nearly breaks down, but says nothing. Do-joon comes home. He discusses the girl with his mother, seemingly more devious than his condition would allow. The mother swallows her horror.
Next we see her preparing for a bus trip for mothers of grateful children. Do-joon buys her a big bag of food and supplies, then slips her the acupuncture kit that he found in the ashes of the junk-collector’s house. Does he know? Does he understand? She is shattered all over again. Both she and her son are murderers.
She boards the bus and we see the other women dancing in the aisle on the bus ride while mother broods out the window. She takes out her acupuncture kit and pricks her leg, smiles, stands up and melds into the crowd on the bus, dancing.
- Chris Rock: Tamborine (2018) — 7/10
- This was largely a confessional show: Rock confesses to having cheated on his wife, to having been a bad husband and father and to being addicted to porn. His style is unchanged and he’s still funny when he nails a joke. I thought a bunch of his material was filler, though—crowd-pleasing stuff rather than harder-hitting like his last two specials.
- The Mangler (1995) — 6/10
- This is the story of a town run by a crooked old man, Bill Gartley. He owns the giant laundromat where the mangler—a laundry-folding machine—resides. It turns out that the rich rulers of the small town consolidate and hold their power by offering the occasional sacrifice to the demon that lives in the machine—a virginal sacrifice. The movie probably established a few horror-movie tropes, has some pretty solid directing and a couple of good actors (e.g. Robert Englund as factory owner Gartley and Ted Levine as John Hunton, the cop on his trail). The effects are very solid, telling the story well, with the machine chasing them down the stairs to hell being a pretty terrifying scene.
- Hot Rod (2007) — 4/10
- This is a movie about a wanna-be, terrible, terrible stuntman, played by Andy Samberg. Samberg is charming, but not as charming as he would become in the next decade’s worth of films. The script was very, very thin with a ton of filler material that would normally find its way to DVD extras and deleted scenes. Instead, they were included to pad out the film to almost 90 minutes. I like the cast—Will Arnett, Ilsa Fischer, Danny McBride (who’s never been as good as he was in Tropic Thunder) and Bill Hader—but they had nothing to work with and just phoned it in like another SNL skit. Ian McShane was also wasted as Rod’s step-father, with whom he has a complicated, violent relationship.
- Queer Eye S01 (2018) — 9/10
- This too-short season features a brand-new five-man crew from Atlanta. The premise is the same as the original show (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy): they bring their not-inconsiderable style skills to bear for men who have absolutely no sense of style. These men generally don’t know how to eat, drink, shave, comb, or dress themselves. Their apartments are a disaster area that often borders on a health hazard. They sometimes have women in their lives (one has a man) and sometimes they’re single. These men are nominated by friends and the crew takes on the most hopeless (and diverse) cases: a gay guy, a poor, older man, a man working two jobs with six kids, a reasonably affluent software developer, a die-hard football fan/cop, etc. Each show has a formula: Tan helps them with haberdashery, Antoni helps them eat right, Bobby remodels their home, Jonathan helps out with hair and beard and Karamo takes care of personality-tuning. It’s a nice show because they’re nice guys and they really seem to help. Their advice is good, not harmful and there isn’t the meanness normally present in reality TV.
- A Bad Moms Christmas (2017) — 8/10
- The cast from the first movie returns with their mothers in tow. They’re all pretty good, the writing is sharp and its overall pretty entertaining. The focus on how hard it is to be a mom is the weakest part—the voiceover is painful. But when the start showing instead of telling, it’s very good. Christine Baranski as Mila Kunis’s mom is great, as are Susan Sarandon as Katherine Hahn’s mom and Cheryl Hines as Kristin Bell’s. We also get to warmly welcome Wanda Sykes back in her role as a therapist.
- Marlon Wayons: Woke-ish (2018) — 5/10
- It’s nice to see Marlon still getting work, but a lot of his standup is just him making stupid sex jokes on stage. He tends back to skit comedy, even when alone, some of which hit and most of which didn’t (at least for me). The gay Martin Luther King was a good bit, but went on way too long.
- Fire Walk with Me (1992) — 7/10
- This movie fills in a lot of the gaps in the first two seasons. It brings to screen the whole story leading up to Laura Palmer’s death. Agent Cooper hardly shows up in it at all. This is more-or-less a prequel to the two seasons. Frost’s latest book covers a lot of the same territory, but it was great to see it acted out. It was quite a bit darker and more graphic than the TV series. Highly recommended for fans—probably confusing for non-fans.
- Big Bang Theory S10 (2018) — 8/10
- The crew is still doing the same thing, but seem to have found their mojo again. I feel that this season was better than the sudden downturn from seasons 8 and 9. The dynamics between the couples are more natural and self-deprecatingly funny. Howard and Bernadette have a child—with Raj and Stuart living with them as well. Sheldon moves in with Amy. Leonard and Penny are cute together. It works and was pretty entertaining. Not bad for a season 10.
- Mr. Robot S03 (2018) — 10/10
- The plot thickens considerably, with the effects of the initial hack growing to global proportions. The backdrop of season three is a world plummeting into abject misery, with everyone fighting over E-Coin, the only currency left with any value. Elliot makes his peace with Mr. Robot—even teams up with him—and learns more about Tyrell’s role in the whole pyramid of power. The plot sloshes back over season two to fill in many blanks with flashbacks and half-remembered memories. Elliot wants to undo the hack and thinks he knows how to do it. Mr. Robot resists him, at first. Darlene gets into trouble with the Dark Army. Elliot keeps losing time to Mr. Robot. Angela gains power but is a pawn in the schemes of Price and Zhang. Wonderfully filmed, lovinglyw written, nuanced acting. Highly recommended.
- Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (2017) — 7/10
- Jeff Garlin wrote, directed and starred in this movie about detective Gene Handsome, a clever, funny and lonely detective saddled with a humdinger of a case. The script is interesting and a bit loony, but has some great lines. Natasha Lyonne is Handsome’s partner Fleur Scozzari, a foul-mouthed and slutty cop with no compunction about sleeping with notoriously well-equipped suspects. A fun little movie.
- Anna Karenina (2012) — 7/10
- Kiera Knightley portrayed the eponymous lead quite well. As in the book, Karenina is trapped in a world in which women have nearly no rights—even those in the upper class. Her rebellion takes the form of an affair with Vronsky. It’s an interesting balancing act: with a tight lens, Karenina is rebelling against the patriarchy, a good and true warrior for what is right. With another, she is sleeping with the man whom she feels like sleeping with, because her husband is boring. Is she striking a blow for women? Hardly. She is an aristocrat, swimming on the surface of a sea of misery, populated by people who have none of her luxuries. Her concern isn’t to be able to stay with Vronsky, or the scorn that she receives from everyone else in the upper class—it’s clearly whether she can maintain her lifestyle. That she would no longer be a member of the upper class was never a question. No-one even considered whether she’d have to give that up. Still, her brother is an example of an inveterate gambler, chronically in debt and in his cups, who’s also had an affair—but he is hardly remonstrated for it. His wife accepts it and moves on.
- Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) — 8/10
This movie is about Adéle, a young (15) French girl still in high school at the beginning of the movie. She’s naturally pretty but not especially outgoing and struggling with all of the same things that all teenagers struggle with. We join her in school, where it seems that French high-schoolers learn much different material than I remember from my own days in school. They really read their literature and they really get into the philosophy of it.
That’s part of the reason why this film is 3 hours long. The other is the languorous storytelling and lovely, lingering scenes. The camera lingers on Adéle a lot. The director seems a voyeur—reminiscent of Kubrick with Lolita.
Adéle spies Emma while crossing the street one day. She thinks nothing of it, but Emma stays fixed in her mind. Adéle has a failed quickie with a male friend and begins to realize that she may be more interested in women. There are large parts of the school that are OK with it. Her small circle of friends is not OK with it. They are nearly shockingly small-minded and bully her mercilessly, loudly and rudely.
Adéle seeks out Emma at a gay bar and they begin to see more of each other. Their passion is well-documented, tastefully if a bit lengthily. They visit each other’s parents’ homes—Emma’s parents are more accepting while Adéle’s parents are far more traditional and cannot be trusted with their secret.
The film follows their relationship over years, with Adéle graduating and becoming a nursery-school teacher and Emma’s painting career still in the starting blocks. They throw a party at their shared home, with only Emma’s friends there—it’s not clear that Adéle has any friends other than Emma. It’s clear that this is just fine with Emma.
Emma is a crueler person, more judgmental , insecure and frustrated. Her career doesn’t go anywhere because she can’t adapt, she can’t distinguish criticism from critique. She assumes the stronger role, with Adéle so much younger. She thinks she’s being encouraging when she tells Adéle to write more, but she’s really just trying to impose her own goals on her.
Emma is more controlling and Adéle chafes, eventually cheating on her with a work colleague (a man). We find this out in a shouting match in which Emma analytically interrogates a nearly guileless Adéle, who has been cheating but is too naïve to even lie gracefully about it. She cries and is thrown out on her ass. Emma can’t brook disobedience and Adéle is still a young fool who never had a real youth.
It’s a pretty great movie about a love affair, edited nearly perfectly, even at 3 hours. It’s just long enough to make you feel you know the characters and the gaps are long enough to provide real drive in the story. The only exception is the 30-minute coda: it felt a bit long. Emma and Adéle met for a drink, where Adéle tries to get Emma back, but she doesn’t love her anymore. She still wants her, but she doesn’t love her. Next, we see Adéle at Emma’s gallery opening—where there is awkwardness and discomfort galore.
The movie ends on Adéle leaving the gallery, frustrated but resigned, with a young man chasing her, to no avail.
- The Corner (2000) — 9/10
- This is a six-part HBO mini-series written by David Simon, Ed Burns and David Mills. It is based on the book of the same name and tells the story of “the corners” of Baltimore, where the drug dealers reign supreme and the police have only an ephemeral presence. The characters are mostly pushers and users, focused much more closely on the small fish than on the big fish, as The Wire would do a few years later. Several actors and actresses were recognizable from that show: Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander and so on. The presentation is relentless and there are only very small windows of hope. Some escape from addiction and the life of the street where others succumb. Highly recommended.
- Jessica Jones S02 (2018) — 8/10
- This season leaves Kilgrave behind for the most part, although he continues to haunt Jessica’s dreams from time to time, when she worries that she’s becoming a killer just like he was—before she killed him. Season two follows Jessica as she learns more about her past and about what really happened to her family. Trish is back and develops a bit further, but into a manic addictive spiral. Malcolm is also interesting and Jessicas makes him an associate at Alias Investigations. Jeri Hogarth continues to seek a way out of her disease—trying to find a cure from the same people that gave Jessica her powers. Trish goes down this path as well, trying to become Jessica. There’s a decent amount of closure at the end of this season as well as plenty of avenues left open for exploration in season three (which is almost certainly on its way).
- The IT Crowd (2006) — 6/10
- This is a British sitcom from the early noughts that tells the story of an IT department at a giant company. Helming the company is the dynamic and pretty comical Christopher Morris as Denholm Reynholm. The two IT guys are Chris O’Dowd as Roy and Richard Ayoade as Maurice. In the first episode, Katherine Parkinson as Jen is installed as their manager by Denholm. The stories focus mainly on the awkwardness of IT professionals. There’s a laugh track. Season two is better than season one.
- Annihilation (2018) — 8/10
This is a lovely and interesting and intriguing science-fiction movie about an inscrutable alien force that lands on Earth, occupying a lighthouse and emanating an ever-advancing shimmer. Years of observation have yielded only casualties and very little information. The shimmer doesn’t advance very quickly but it’s inexorable. It transforms everything it touches, refracting it not just visually but intrinsically, genetically.
The mood is somewhat like Stalker but more prosaic, more explanatory, more wordy. The cast is almost exclusively female, but it doesn’t parade it about. it just works. Natalie Portman is excellent, as are the others. Oscar Isaac, as one of the few male actors, is enigmatic and delivers a solid performance. There are long stretches of unexplained weirdness, where the viewer is allowed to come to his own conclusions.
The ending is somewhat ambiguous, although there are more than enough clues. Lena (Portman) makes it to the lighthouse, but does she return? Where did that tattoo come from? From one of her compatriots? How?
I think this was an all-around excellent science-fiction movie and it says a lot about Hollywood that it was distributed via Netflix in the rest of the world while it was strangled in the crib in the States.
- Ghostbusters (2016) — 6/10
- This was a decent remake, but nothing really to write home about. The leads—Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon—turned in decent and occasionally funny performances. There was a bit too much reference to the original movie in the second half. I like the first half much better, during which characters were established with almost no reference to the original films. Chris Hemsworth is decent as the bimbo secretary, but the charm wears off after a bit. The second half devolved in a standard relatively shlocky and charmless action movie where the leads are women doing stupid shit instead of men.
- Foo Fighters: Back and Forth (2011) — 8/10
- This is a documentary about how the Foo Fighters formed over the years and how they got to be the six-man band that they are now. They seem like a pretty great bunch of guys and they make some really killer music. A must-watch for fans.
- Get Out (2017) — 10/10
- This is a riveting, fantastic and absolutely fat-free movie about a young man who goes upstate to meet his girlfriend’s parents. She tells him that they are left-wing bleeding hearts and that everything will be fine. Once they get there, things are most definitely not fine. He thinks, though, that things aren’t in the same way that things usually aren’t fine when there’s a black guy nearly alone among a bunch of rich, white people. I won’t spoil any more, but the casting is great, as is the directing and pacing. I loved it. Highly recommended.
- Hail Caesar! (2016) — 7/10
- This is probably the weakest Cohn brothers’ movie I’ve seen. I watched it twice and got a bit more out of it the second time, but it was more style than substance. The story is about a bunch of communists who kidnap a famous movie star (George Clooney) in order to get a giant ransom out of the studio—compensation for all of the writing the communists have done over the years, for which they were never properly credited or compensated. Josh Brolin is the head of the studio, trying to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his major star. The rest of the cast (Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johannson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill) is spectacular and they do a great job, so I gave it an extra point. As expected, there is some good dialogue but it’s a bit thin. I had to intuit a lot about the plot in order to see any deeper meaning—I think the movie was about the power of anti-Communism and homophobia in old-time Hollywood (and possibly still today).
- Mad Men S01 (2007) — 8/10
- This is a period TV show about the 1960s advertising world in New York City at a small agency called Sterling Cooper. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the king of the agency, their #1 ad-man and draw for customers. The show follows many threads simultaneously and is primarily focused on the treatment of women in the 1960s, how much people smoked, how much they drank, how callous they all were to each other. The alcoholism, smoking and misogyny are, at times, breath-taking. There is almost not a single redeeming character in this show, but it’s fascinating. It’s a bit overdone at times (I think), but overall very entertaining and worth watching.