The Films of 2018

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Films of 2018

#26 Post by Dr Amicus » Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:52 pm

Son of Amicus missed out on Pacific Rim 2, so I took him to see Rampage this weekend to make up for it. The result was one of the most purely entertainingly stupid films I've seen in ages - the plotting is perfunctory, the dialogue is exposition-masquerading-as-conversation (especially true of the corporate sibling baddies - much of which hints at subplots excised during rewrites) - but the gleeful ludicrousness of it all is something to behold. The most convincing character in the film is George, the friendly CGI Albino gorilla that gets infected with the PLOT DEVICE SCIENCE THING - although Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing Negan-doing-an-impersonation-of-Tommy Lee Jones is fun - and there is one moment near the end which was genuinely surprising:
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To cure George, our heroes drop the vaccine in the villainess's handbag, then make sure she gets eaten by the now huge, unfriendly CGI Gorilla
Frankly, it's Jurassic World's delinquent younger brother - not good for you, but much cooler.

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colinr0380
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Re: The Films of 2018

#27 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:29 pm

If you want some context (spoiler: monsters destroy buildings) on the original video game series that Rampage is based on, Matt Kowalewski of the Super Best Friends channel has done a retrospective of it here

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Films of 2018

#28 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Apr 18, 2018 5:49 am

Morgan and omnipresent lead Dwayne Johnson have been doing some press together for this, and from what I've seen they seem to have a natural chemistry which leads me to hoping they can do more together soon.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2018

#29 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:18 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:Son of Amicus missed out on Pacific Rim 2, so I took him to see Rampage this weekend to make up for it. The result was one of the most purely entertainingly stupid films I've seen in ages - the plotting is perfunctory, the dialogue is exposition-masquerading-as-conversation (especially true of the corporate sibling baddies - much of which hints at subplots excised during rewrites) - but the gleeful ludicrousness of it all is something to behold.
If my firstborn was a few years older, I might have taken her to this, and probably would have been better able to tap in to the absurdity - though I was also surprised at how violent and murderous (in a mostly non-cartoonish way) Rampage ended up being. This makes Armageddon look like a thoughtful examination of the human consequences of space rocks hitting urban areas by comparison; at one point
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the Sears Tower (or whatever it's called now) collapses lengthwise across downtown Chicago, and - despite being on the roof at the time - Dwayne Johnson and Naomie Harris stumble out from the cloud of wreckage and one says something like "I can't believe we survived that!" while standing on a pile of rubble that has probably just flattened 1000+ people. There are Batman v. Superman-style "This area's being evacuated!" attempts to allow the audience to wave away the likely civilian deaths (and just focus on the hundreds of military and police casualties, I guess), but those are undermined by heavy emphasis on the race against time to stop the MOAB-ing of Chicago since there are still so many civilians in the area.

In addition to the blood lust, there are some mind-numbingly stupid moments, not least the utterly wrong-headed understanding of the physics at work inside a cargo plane nose-diving toward the earth. I will say, however, that this movie did help me appreciate how much Johnson's charm adds to an effects-driven inanity like this; if this had been a Wahlberg vehicle, it would have been easily 30-40% more unbearable.

If I didn't have a MoviePass and hadn't already seen everything else of interest available, I wouldn't have given this a shot, but I imagine the often barren summer months are going to see me subjecting myself to more of these types of high-budget, low-IQ entertainments just to keep up the viewing pace I've set, which if nothing else does help me properly calibrate how to think of the other minor films I would have seen anyway; I'm already liking something like Red Sparrow or Game Night more in retrospect.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Films of 2018

#30 Post by Dr Amicus » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:21 pm

The film adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has been big news here in Guernsey (who'd have guessed!), indeed we had a big premiere with cast and the director a day or so after the big London Premiere. Anyway, it's doing really well in our local cinema - last night, when I went to see it, it was sold out for the early evening screening.

Set in 1946, Lily James is a successful novelist (nope, I didn't believe it either) who receives a letter from the eponymous society and, intrigued, visits Guernsey and the society - cue history lesson (the Channel Islands were the one part of Britain that was occupied by the Germans in WW2), romantic entanglements (she's engaged to a rich American but meets a hunky, book-loving Guernsey farmer) and a mystery (what happened to the missing member of the Society?). It's all very pretty (but not filmed here - see Truffaut's Adele H for actual footage of Guernsey), inoffensive and a pleasant time waster with a likable supporting cast (Penelope Wilton, Tom Courtenay). Apparently, apart from the UK, this is largely being released on Netflix rather than cinemas - which seems a decent fit for the film (unlike, say, Annihilation).

Possibly because its local appeal has brought out people who don't normally visit the cinema and are not used it, but I have (outside of kids' films) never been to a screening with so much going out and coming back in again - one guy a couple of seats down from me left and came back 20 mins later (I suspect he popped to the pub next door)...

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Current Events: Kanye West Says Things

#31 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri May 04, 2018 3:17 am

I realize my opinion is going to be met with a great deal of eye-rolls and fluffed up feathers here or elsewhere, but this feature-length interview with Charlamagne Tha God asking questions straightforwardly of a lucid and engaging and dare I say relatable Kanye West is one of the most compelling things I've seen this year from a solely cinematic perspective. West is an understandably controversial figure of the moment, for more visceral and understandable reasons than was the case when he was just acting up and being strange in the past. He is truly pushing people's buttons in a way that I empathize with greatly but that also nauseate me when they come out sideways, as they have a seemingly infinite amount of times in these last few waves of news cycles. But what one sees in this interview is that this is someone who is emerging from his id and trying to figure out a path forward toward a more complex and developed mindset toward the world around him, and hitting political and sociological landmines left and right on the way the same way that anyone grappling with their maturity does, the way that anyone figuring out their place in the world as they see it does.

I don't profess to know how things are going to turn out for West, but I do know that there is much more value here than in any clickbait from TMZ or whomever else - and it is absolutely a profound flaw of West's that he continues to entertain such avenues for his thoughts and expression, because they have nothing to give back. This interview is spare and beautifully photographed - with questions that are respectfully direct being asked of someone who is perhaps the most famous man on Earth at the moment, and it's longgggg - I wouldn't expect most people to get beyond the first 30 or 40 minutes, but that's sort of beside the point as far as I'm concerned. This is someone who has absolutely no respect in the public sphere at the moment from anyone worth listening to (i.e. from anyone who isn't a glib reactionary MAGA conservative, and "respect" from them is worth just about nothing anyway), but if your only exposure to West is through his music or even just through such aforementioned clickbaity, sensationalized videos and quotes and tweets, this is worth at least looking at a little bit of.

He's just about my favorite living artist, and that has been a difficult mantle to take up over the years. His fascination with high fashion is unrelatable (despite being present since before he had a couple of pennies to rub together), his respect for fellow wealthy people and corporate heads (my theory for his even entertaining some sort of weird kinship with Donald Trump - nothing extending too far into the political) is misguided, and his ability to pile faux pas onto faux pas is exhausting and often indefensible. But what compels me about something like this interview is watching someone who has all the pieces to make something truly brilliant out of his existence - he just hasn't put them all together. He probably never will. He's put some of them together at times (the shoes are actually very good, I'm sorry if this offends). But there's an entire other level to this human being that still only flies out in distorted fragments, and it's unfair to expect well-rounded genius from artists or anyone else. But if it weren't for something... else - this is someone who would totally fade into the background, would already be long gone from our consciousness. And this interview pulls him into the foreground in a way that is polite to the subject and even moreso the viewer, especially since they're surely firing this interview up expecting something they can throw rotten fruit at. For the moment it's made my list of the best films of 2018 so far, as it's an absolutely unexpected document of something playing out in real time right now that could go in any number of unusual directions. And considering how thoughtful and lucid West is for much of it, hopefully an indicator that he's going to come through all this and pleasantly surprise everyone.

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Altair
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Re: The Films of 2018

#32 Post by Altair » Fri May 04, 2018 12:06 pm

I have to say, I was impressed by how well photographed and edited the whole interview was - it certainly has a stronger aesthetic than the majority of interviews; the standicam footage at the end of West and Charlamagne wandering around West's (vast) estate at sunset is actually beautiful.

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Films of 2018

#33 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri May 04, 2018 12:44 pm

I wish I knew who directed it, I'll try to do some digging around tonight to figure it out so I can properly credit them here. There are smart editing decisions throughout the interview, too. It has a better flow than most sit-down interviews do without the camerawork being flashy.

And don't get me started on that damn house. It is stunning in a way that something that gigantic and expensive almost never is and speaks to very good aesthetic taste on the part of its owner, which I would assume many wouldn't expect if they don't know much about said owner!

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2018

#34 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat May 05, 2018 3:18 pm

I was somewhat reluctant to see Greg Barker’s The Final Year, a documentary covering Obama’s foreign policy team (primarily Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, and John Kerry) in the twilight of his administration; as it focused on committed, capable people doing their best to improve the way America relates to the world, I worried that it would be a crushingly depressing contrast to current events. And the Damoclesian specter of Trump is definitely there throughout - especially as Barker weaves in moments of people reacting to the 2016 campaign coverage while visiting refugee camps or bilateral talks - but this darkness is more than balanced by the quietly inspiring people doing the hardest work of government, pushing for engagement and humanitarianism while also facing brutal realities in the Middle East, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. This is definitely a documentary more notable for its scope and access to its subjects than the artistry of its presentation, but the editing is strong enough in showcasing this time in history and the work of diplomacy in some of the most difficult regions in the world to make it worth seeing for those who already have an interest (and, frankly, those inclined to sympathize with Rhodes’ astounded inability to formulate a complete sentence in response to Trump’s election late in the film).

Among the best moments of the film feature the trips to Laos - where Obama and his team reckon with the almost unbelievable scale of the brutality visited upon that country by the United States a half-century ago - and Hiroshima in the first visits to the country and the peace memorial, respectively, by a sitting president. The consequences of the failures of diplomacy are front and center, as are the value of presenting humility, optimism, and openness to the world.

This concludes my bizarro-Svet review of The Final Year.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#35 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon May 14, 2018 5:30 pm

In the same year as his Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Lelio tackles another LGBT-centered drama with Disobedience, which replaces the former film's occasional forays into stylized unreality with a more straightforward drama, though one amplified by the tensions around sexuality and gender within a London community of Orthodox Jews. This film doesn't work quite as well as A Fantastic Woman did, for a handful of reasons I'll get into below, but it still affirms Lelio's talent and ability to draw new angles, flavors, and surprises from subject matter and story beats that have been well-tread elsewhere.

While Rachel Weisz and particularly Rachel McAdams are very strong in the lead roles - former secret lovers separated when Weisz fled the Orthodox community and reunited upon the death of her father - Alessandro Nivola's performance as McAdam's husband and designated successor to Weisz' father's rabbinical post was a welcome surprise, especially as that character is allowed to take some unexpected turns. He makes a simple gesture to Weisz in his penultimate scene that in my opinion makes the entire movie, and provides depth to his character and the film's examination of Judaism and rigid social structures that wouldn't be present if his role had been more one-dimensional.

I'd be remiss not to mention - and I've tried to set aside my previously declared crush on McAdams in making this declaration - that the major sex scene that got a fair amount of attention out of Toronto is in fact quite good, with a refreshing blend of kink, passion, and restraint that adds color to the audience's understanding of the central relationship in a way that integrates it into the proceedings rather than making it feel obligatory or prurient. As always with these things: grain of salt, mileage may vary, etc. etc.... but as someone who would like to see the ratio of realistic portrayals of sex vs. violence on film reach something closer to an equilibrium (rather than the 1:100 imbalance we get now), this one is worth keeping.

Lelio does lean a little too hard on the score for support at times - which I think is indirectly an acknowledgement that the script doesn't always do quite enough to flesh out the reasons behind some of the characters' actions or, more to the point, inaction - and some the more prominent cinematographic flourishes are distracting given the relative simplicity of the rest of the film's presentation, particularly the use of extreme shallow focus during a climactic monologue. These moments help keep the film from some of the heights that his previous work achieved, but I still liked this, found several moments moving, and continue to be on board for Lelio's explorations of love and identity under various external pressures.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#36 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat May 26, 2018 6:12 pm

Michael Pearce's Beast was a pleasant surprise, an unexpectedly sexy, transgressive adult answer to the YA romantic fantasies so prevalent in recent years; more than once, this film struck me as an interesting thematic partner to Cory Finley's Thoroughbreds from earlier this year, though where that film's style is cool, controlled, and tightly constructed, Beast is hot-blooded, jittery, and shaggier. The less said about the plot, the better - I really appreciated not having seen the trailer or heard much about this from US critics after its Sundance appearance - but could basically summed up as
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girl meets boy while audience tries to figure out which one is crazier.
Jessica Buckley, an Irish actress who has mostly done TV work up to now, makes a strong impression with an unpredictable lead performance - alternately strong-willed and brittle, sensual and alienating, and her co-lead Johnny Flynn plays well to the harder edge of the 'alluring bad boy' spectrum. The often-hand-held camera pushes uncomfortably close to both lovers and corpses, scenes of overflowing exuberance and intense anxiety, but quite handsomely frames Jersey's forests, cliffs, and beaches while the score (by Jim Williams, who has worked regularly with Ben Wheatley and composed for Julia Ducournau's superb Raw) thrums menacingly underneath. All the supporting performances are dialed to a slightly higher pitch, which suits Pearce's desire to keep the audience unsettled and unclear exactly where its sympathies should lie until the final moments.
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Speaking of those final moments, for a second I thought the film was going to end on a particularly dark note, with a fade to black on a walk by the ocean; while that surely would have been the more provocative ending, the next few minutes give the audience plenty to chew over in their own right - slightly undermined in my case by the theater lights coming up right as the climactic action occurs. Nothing like the convenience and reliability of automation in the movie theater industry.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#37 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu May 31, 2018 6:36 pm

I spent most of Chloé Zhao's The Rider appreciating its attractively photographed landscapes and colorful skies, and respecting but not particularly enjoying its hybrid narrative-documentary examination of a horse trainer and rodeo competitor grievously injured by a bronco and trying to redefine his place in his family and community knowing that his riding days might be over. While Brady Jandreau's sad-eyed and pensive lead performance is often quite good, one of the key stumbling blocks to fully investing in the film is much of the rest of the cast of nonprofessionals living in the same Dakotan badlands depicted in the film, who inhabit thinly developed supporting characters with wildly varying degrees of success. Where, for example, the amateur cast of Andrea Arnold's American Honey seemed perfectly at home in that film and what it asked of them, The Rider seems to need more heavy lifting from some key characters, and their inconsistent ability to bear those demands helped keep me only perfunctorily engaged with its spare, bleak plot developments for much of the runtime.

Luckily, the final 20 minutes or so pull the film out of a slow descent into Western Miserabilism by providing some character moments the audience can grab hold of - with stakes that seem both more specific to these characters and more universally relatable - and by suddenly transitioning from a straightforward vérité style to the use of montage and voiceover. If the metaphor of the protagonist's central struggle isn't too on the nose for you (and/or if you don't feel overly manipulated by the use of disabled cast members), the final moments can be sneakily powerful and in my case retroactively improved the rest of the film, but I'm unsure that in my case the stylistic shifts weren't just such a relief that they artificially enhanced my appreciation of the narrative resolution we get.

Despite the reservations expressed above, it was clear enough even when I was less engrossed in the film that Zhao is a talent worth following. The Rider is an uneven sit, and saves its best moments for last, but those prove to be worthy enough of the wait to recommend.

(As an aside, country music generally and the derivations of it present here - including country rap - are by far my least favorite types, but its use here, especially during a campfire scene early on, is quite good as is the more traditional score.)

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Re: The Films of 2018

#38 Post by All the Best People » Sat Jun 02, 2018 12:31 am

I saw The Rider during Spirit Award season and found it a definite step up for Zhao from Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which I did like. She has a knack for finding undershot communities and finding the essence of their members' interpersonal dynamics, and she also has a strong eye -- the cinematography in The Rider is impressive, a lot of difficult exposure work with faces and landscapes.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#39 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:49 pm

Adrift is one of those perfectly functional and (almost) entirely inoffensive mid-budget true story dramas we don't see much anymore, directed competently enough by Baltasar Kormákur and starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as two wanderers who come across each other in early 1980s Tahiti, fall in love, and attempt an oceanic crossing only to end up in the crosshairs of a sudden tropical storm. The film's interwoven structure - cutting back and forth between the attempts to keep the crippled boat afloat and be rescued and flashbacks to the developing relationship between the young lovers that led to their dire situation - works in its favor to allow the central relationship to develop, amplify the feeling of passing time on the crippled ship, and allow the audience some occasional relief from the desperate present-tense circumstances. Woodley does well with the grittier aspects of the role - especially in the panicked moments of the immediate aftermath - and is fine in the more conventional romantic drama scenes; she also captures a certain natural ease that (to her credit) doesn't always make her feel like a movie star and allows her to disappear more into the role, while Claflin is a little too much of a pretty British pixie dream boy to allow his performance to work on the same level.

In all, this was nothing I can recommend anyone go out of their way to seek out, but it's also just well executed enough that if you do find yourself watching it, you won't be too angry about it.
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The discussion immediately after the film opened in reviews and on Film Twitter alluded heavily to a big twist, which even without spelling it out ruined that reversal. Announcing the presence of a surprise like that is perhaps fine to do when there are more than two significant characters in the film and the situation as established in the first 15 minutes of the movie (and the heavy foreshadowing re: hallucinations, etc.) makes it clear what's going to be revealed long before it is. Not that Adrift is pioneering some ingenious screenwriting innovation that has to be protected like a fragile egg in order to retain its effectiveness; the twist undermines the significance of some key moments that came before it, and doesn't add nearly enough to justify what it undoes. It's just that it doesn't even have a chance to be mildly surprising or emotionally resonant for an audience geared up to expect it and then pointed by that expectation to the only obvious solution. Thanks to critics for not just blurting it out in the lede or on social media, I guess, but maybe wait longer than three days after the movie opens for everyone else to start referencing it in headlines as if we were talking about the 20th anniversary of The Sixth Sense or something.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#40 Post by nitin » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:55 am

I saw Disobedience tonight and I largely concur with DarkImbecile’s take on it. The acting by the three main actors is terrific, the direction and writing is mainly strong and everytime the movie sort of goes off the rails towards the back end, it quickly manages to get back on interesting and sometimes even surprising footing.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#41 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:51 am

The user rating of Gotti is at 76%, with over 7,000 user reviews, despite getting an average of zero from critics and only being shown on 500 screens.

The movie's official Twitter sent this out in response, essentially making an attempt at categorizing film critics as "fake news".

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Re: The Films of 2018

#42 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:43 pm

I felt about Bart Layton's American Animals much like I did about the sour chewy candy I indulged in while watching it: pleasurable in the moment, but jittery and a little queasy after the fact. The prominent featuring of the actual criminals and their perspectives and rationalizations throughout (and, less so, those of their direct and collateral victims) presents a bit of a minefield that the film doesn't quite manage to navigate without feeling like it provides them a platform they don't deserve. The semi-documentary style and skillful editing make for an engaging enough experience in the moment, and the cast (led by the increasingly interesting Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan) do more than might be expected with characters who never have their motivations explained beyond a kind of vague dissatisfaction with middle-class American aspirations and a desire to do something 'real'; still, I couldn't help but feel slightly uncomfortable with the movie's (intentional or otherwise) pull on the viewer to identify with, feel sympathy for, and maybe even excuse what are basically a bunch of stupid, entitled jackasses. I appreciate that the film forces that uncomfortable interaction with the perpetrators and our own ingrained desire to see them succeed, but ultimately it didn't feel like there was enough substance to these kids beyond the sheer audacity and pointlessness of what they were attempting to justify investigating them to this extent.

On a purely technical level, Layton certainly does more than enough as screenwriter and director to make me interested in seeing his work on a fully fictional narrative feature (his previous effort was the well-received documentary The Imposter, which I haven't seen). He incorporates the various art and naturalist motifs well into the imagery, the heist itself
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(both the aborted first robbery attempt and the botched real thing)
are pretty thrillingly executed, and he for the most part keeps the head-smackingly stupid decisions and failures of the anti-heroes from alienating the audience to the extent they probably deserve. Overall, not an entirely successful effort, but just stylish and different enough to be worth seeing - though I imagine responses to this will vary wildly.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#43 Post by All the Best People » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:51 am

Eighth Grade is wonderful and honest, with few missteps and a completely winning performance, not to mention assured and thought-out decoupage. I know nothing Bo Burnham (I didn't even know he was a comedian until the post-screening Q&A), but this is promising.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#44 Post by bottled spider » Sun Jul 15, 2018 3:21 am

The Seagull (Michael Mayer). "Chekhov for Dummies" would be an unfair overstatement, but you get the idea: one feels too much led by the hand by the acting, and more so the direction. There's also something of an unfortunate Merchant Ivory tone that doesn't suit material at all. (That's not by any means a dig at actual Merchant Ivory productions). The musical score is unimaginative and excessively present.

(Caveat: I may have been a little soured by a fucking awful audience).

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Re: The Films of 2018

#45 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:52 am

All the Best People wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:51 am
Eighth Grade is wonderful and honest, with few missteps and a completely winning performance, not to mention assured and thought-out decoupage. I know nothing Bo Burnham (I didn't even know he was a comedian until the post-screening Q&A), but this is promising.
I saw him at Edinburgh in around 2010 - he was just 20 then (think his comedy career started out on Youtube). A lot of the UK comedians who'd paid their dues and made it the hard way weren't happy.

Anyway, he's in one of my favourite Key and Peele sketches - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EtalOOS-eM

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Re: The Films of 2018

#46 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:09 pm

I'm not sure if Dark Money will play that widely across the country, but it's currently running at IFC in New York and I highly recommend it for those who want to see how campaign finance has been utterly corrupted thanks to the Citizens United decision. Montana is especially wary of business interests buying the judiciary and public officials (the copper industry notoriously did that in the 19th and early 20th century, and to this day the destructive environmental impact of its mining practices remains), so its fight for campaign finance reform following Citizen's United is both harrowing and inspiring. Reportedly this will air sometime on P.O.V. on PBS sometime before the November election, but whenever docs get shown on PBS, they typically get re-edited for time, so it's better to see the whole picture intact if you can.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#47 Post by Ribs » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:15 pm

Considering the first one was an actively ugly, cheap, unpleasant looking production, color me very surprised that Robert Yeoman shoots the shit out of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!. The whole movie is a delight to watch aesthetically, which I think without much question was by far my biggest problem with the initial film.

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Re: The Films of 2018

#48 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:43 pm


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Re: The Films of 2018

#49 Post by bottled spider » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:08 pm

Prescient. A Letterboxer raves
WARNING: only for people who know how to appreciate the fine art of having fun!!!! if you’re boring, that’s totally okay — just buy a ticket for mamma mia! here we go again then see something else!! that way this escapist masterpiece (and colin firth’s career) is still supported PLUS you won’t harsh our karaoke dance party’s vibes :)

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Re: The Films of 2018

#50 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:26 pm

Antoine Fuqua's sequel to the grim, ultraviolent, not-very-good The Equalizer is still grim and ultraviolent, but enough of a moderate improvement to make it a less painful action exercise than staying in an outside world that remains decidedly not air conditioned despite our supposed progress as a technological society.

This script does more to make the quest of Denzel Washington's unstoppable killing machine character to balance the scales in favor of those normal workaday people who can't kill a roomful of deserving criminals/rapists/black ops specialists with their bare hands - the film at one point makes explicit the suspicion that these type of relentless yet relatable assassins in the Taken/John Wick/Man on Fire vein are just the superhero fantasies of the middle-aged - about as interesting as it is likely to get. More screentime and narrative energy is put into the various side stories orbiting around the central revenge narrative (the catalyst for which is never explained, at all), adding some variety and flavor in the form of supporting actors like Moonlight's Ashton Sanders - who gets more screen time than anticipated and further demonstrates that he should stick around in this line of work.

The various set pieces also have a bit more character than the first film's ultra-bland Home Depot showdown, culminating in a
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McCabe and Mrs. Miller-style house to house cat-and-mouse game in a fake hurricane, which also includes the first action movie exploitation of something I've wanted to see since I learned about it in middle school: the flammable nature of aerosolized baking flour! Some of the attempts at emotional character moments, meanwhile, don't work as well as they should: a scene with Washington giving Sanders some real talk feels too close to a pre-scandal Cosby lecture to young black men for comfort (worse, there's an egregiously missed opportunity to harken back to it when the white villain tries to rationalize his villainy shortly thereafter), and a holocaust survivor subplot ends on an exploitative note.
In no way is this unnecessary sequel worth putting effort into seeking out, but if you too find yourself stuck in the doldrums of summer with all the better options blacked out as previously used on your MoviePass app, I'll bet you could probably do worse than this for mindless summer entertainment (and if I get desperate later this week, I'll report back on whether Jurassic World or Skyscraper are in fact as bad as I assume they will be).

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