Movie Diary 5/7/2019

Wild Rose (Tom Harper, 2018). A Glasgow lass dreams of Nashville stardom, but the realities of her life – even beyond being in Glasgow – weigh her down. Jessie Buckley, an impressive presence in last year’s Beast, takes full ownership of the role, without the slightest impulse to ennoble a difficult character. The film doesn’t avoid every pitfall of the rags-to-riches arc, but it creates a few good variations on the theme. (screens in the Seattle International Film Festival)

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Movie Diary 5/6/2019

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Rob Letterman, 2019). Ryan Reynolds is the voice of Pikachu, speaking human language in this outing. (This is what it is to write about movies in 2019.) Reynolds confirms he is a signature actor of the era, even without being seen, and the movie bends to his smartass style. The jokiness is competent in the tongue-in-cheek way of everything funny today. Bill Nighy talks about Pokemon in an absolutely straight way. Everything else is fan service and inside gags. (full review 5/10)

Movie Diary 5/5/2019

The Fall of the American Empire (Denys Arcand, 2018). I can’t say I have always loved Arcand’s French-Canadian interrogations of society (which include Jesus of Montreal and Stardom), but watching his new one, I found myself grateful for his ambitions and his longevity – and the regular kvetching. This one is a kind of loose descendant of The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, but it also functions as a heist movie. Given our grifter culture, how can this not be appropriate? Arcand’s penchant for sweeping pronouncements and fairy-tale touches is still present, and so, splendidly, are two of his regular actors, Remy Girard and Pierre Curzi. It’s not always clear how we’re supposed to take all this; Curzi, for instance, plays an investment banker (or whatever the slippery term would be) whose actions are probably responsible for the world’s problems, yet we end up rooting for his latest machinations to work, and the actor’s weathered charm is irresistible. Whatever its flaws – and it has its share- the movie is pleasantly grown-up. (Screens in May at the Seattle International Film Festival.)

Greater Love Hath No Man (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1911). 16-minute Gold Rush western, with a plucky but inconstant female miner moving from one man to another. But the emotional heavy-lifting is done by “poor Jake,” the spurned lover, who will sacrifice himself in the end to protect his former ladylove from marauding – ah – “Mexicans,” who seem to be causing problems at the camp. The film ends with rousing action, including a dense final shot in which dozens of men and horses are choreographed to maximum effect in the frame. If undisputed early-film pioneer Guy-Blaché wasn’t a great director, she was certainly a heckuva producer.

Falling Leaves (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1912). Consumption and a miracle cure are the elements of this extremely effective 12-minute heart-tugger, which shows enough dynamism within the frame to suggest that indeed Alice Guy-Blaché was a great director, or at least a gifted one.

Tramp Strategy (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1911). Comedy of mistaken identity too complicated to summarize, except that it allows a tramp to infiltrate a fancy home and have himself a high old time, which involves some very funny moments and interesting games with audience sympathy.

Intruder Shot Preview (This Week’s Movies)

longshot

Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron: Long Shot (Lion’s Gate Entertainment)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Long Shot. “Takes it time to allow mutual attraction to build, and Theron and Rogen play it with just the right amount of uncertainty and fun.”

The Intruder. “Everything is telegraphed a mile in advance, and the plot depends on various characters doing the dumbest thing possible at the worst time.”

And a summer preview.

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a vintage review of Matteo Garrone’s 2008 film Gomorrah. His new one, Dogman, opens this weekend at the Grand Illusion Cinema. Read it here.

Movie Diary 5/1/2019

Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas, 2018). A wonderfully talky piece set in the world of writers and publishers and affairs, especially two couples. One set is played by Guillaume Canet and Juliette Binoche, the other by the not-known-to-me-but-equally-engaging Vincent Macaigne and Nora Hamzawi. Not Assayas at his best, but the homage to middle-era Woody Allen is pleasant, and the look is lush.

Movie Diary 4/30/2019

Long Shot (Jonathan Levine, 2019). The political humor doesn’t fly because there’s no way to outstrip our current hellscape, and the R-rated bodily-function stuff is obligatory. But Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen click together. One admirable thing: the “unlikely” hurdle for the couple is not that she’s the elegant Secretary of State and he’s a crusty journalist, but that a person of principle should struggle to be with someone who compromises her positions for political gain. Which is a little more interesting than you might expect. The trailer has a bunch of lines that aren’t in the finished film, but they should have cut a long scene where Rogen and pal O’Shea Jackson, Jr., debate their politics, and Rogen is forced to admit his liberal intolerance, a scene that feels like a sop to part of the audience. Also, an unrecognizable Andy Serkis plays a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul as pure monster, the Gollum of our cultural landscape. (full review 5/1)

Tolkien (Dome Karukoski, 2019). Corny in the manner of Brit biopics, but pleasanter than most, largely thanks to Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins – though the emphasis is more on the importance of male comradeship than romance. (full review 5/9)

Movie Diary 4/29/2019

The Intruder (Deon Taylor, 2019). Young couple (Meagan Good, Michael Ealy) buys a fancy estate in Napa; former owner Dennis Quaid can’t let go of the place. Cue the jump scares. Oddly, the film never mentions race, even though the couple is black and their stalker is white and we are living in the age of Get Out and the Metaphorical Implications are going off the chart. Overall, not great. (full review 5/1)