Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Crisp Criticism - "Vice", "Bumblebee", Escape Room", "Wildlife", "On the Basis of Sex", "Mary Poppins Returns", "Bodied"

Julien Faddoul

Vice *

The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the United States and the globe.
A cowardly film: Smug, innocuous, haphazard assemblage of performative tics and quasi-castigating jokes designed to warn the left and censure the right to the kind of underhanded political maneuvers that most educated people already know of. This is the same approach (only more so) that McKay took with his last film. But even if the goal is to educate, as a time capsule it doesn’t work because committing so vociferously to parodic skits gives the film no shelf-life. So what is the point? To lecture and postulate for 130 minutes about how evil one individual was and how we let such people have power even today? That’s not cinema; that’s not even a TED talk. Any amount of enjoyment comes from the cast, all of whom have infectious fun playing capitalist dress-up.

wd – Adam McKay
ph – Greig Fraser
pd – Patrice Vermette
m – Nicholas Britell
ed – Hank Corwin
cos – Susan Matheson

p – Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Megan Ellison

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons, Alex MacNicoll, Aidan Gail, Cailee Spaeny, Colyse Harger, Lily Rabe, Violet Hicks, Justin Kirk, Don McManus, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Matthew Jacobs, Shea Whigham, Eddie Marsan, Stefania LaVie Owen, Adam Bartley, Kirk Bovill, Jillian Armenante, Bill Camp, Fay Masterson, Alfred Molina, Naomi Watts, Joseph Beck, Paul Perri, Brandon Sklenar

Bumblebee *

On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town, where he is discovered by an 18 year old girl.
The first of the Transformers movies to have any sort of charm, telling a fairly simple girl-and-her-mecha story. But the script is far too awkward, relying heavily on schmaltz and 80s pop-music.

d – Travis Knight
w – Christina Hodson
ph – Enrique Chediak
pd – Sean Haworth
m – Dario Marianelli
ed – Paul Rubell
cos – Dayne Pink

p – Michael Bay, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom DeSanto, Mark Vahradian, Don Murphy

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Pamela Adlon, John Cena, Dylan O'Brien, John Ortiz, Jason Ian Drucker, Stephen Schneider, Rory Markham, Len Cariou

Escape Room

Six strangers are stuck in a room. Oh no! What is going on?
Live-action puzzle solving; characters that lack any sense of logic; you know if it's for you.

d – Adam Robitel
w – Bragi Schut, Maria Melnik
ph –  Marc Spicer
pd – Edward Thomas
m – John Carey, Brian Tyler
ed –  Steve Mirkovich
cos – Reza Levy

p – Ori Marmur, Neal H. Moritz

Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen, Kenneth Fok, Adam Robitel, Jessica Sutton, Jamie-Lee Money

Wildlife **

A teenage boy must deal with his mother's complicated response after his father temporarily abandons them to take a menial and dangerous job.
Dramatically flabby family drama that (admirably) tries and fails to hide its literary origins and become engaging cinematically. Its best moments involve the often unacknowledged sophistication of teenagers.

d – Paul Dano
w – Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan   (Based on the Book by Richard Ford)
ph – Diego Garcia
pd – Akin McKenzie
m – David Lang
ed – Louise Ford, Matthew Hannam
cos – Amanda Ford

p – Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Andrew Duncan, Riva Marker, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Alex Saks

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Zoe Colletti, Mollie Milligan, Marshall Virden, Travis W. Bruyer

On the Basis of Sex *

The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Regrettably melodramatic depiction of one of history’s greatest lawyers that offers only intermittent moments of perspicacity.

d – Mimi Leder
w – Daniel Stiepleman
ph – Michael Grady
pd – Nelson Coates
m – Mychael Danna
ed – Michelle Tesoro
cos – Isis Mussenden

p – Robert W. Cort, Jonathan King

Cast: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, Cailee Spaeny

Mary Poppins Returns

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael's children through a difficult time in their lives.
Plastic, impersonal and wholly unnecessary. Disney relies solely on two things here, 1) Repeating almost every thematic beat from the original so that metronomic nostalgia can freely take its course and 2) Mockingly recreating a long-gone forelock-tugging class-conscious England so that non-British millennials can point and laugh at how cartoonish it all was back then. Blunt survives the experience the best, trying as hard as she can to make the character her own, while dwarfing a woefully miscast Miranda, who here coasts on his own cultural prominence, despite never having been a particularly good actor or singer.

d – Rob Marshall
w – David Magee, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca   (Based on the Stories by PL Travers)
ph – Dion Beebe
pd – John Myhre
m – Marc Shaiman
ly – Marc Shaiman, Scott Whitman
ed – Wyatt Smith
cos – Sandy Powell

p – Marc Platt, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Karen Dotrice, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, David Warner, Jim Norton, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Bodied ***

A progressive graduate student finds success and sparks outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject becomes a competitive obsession.
Exceptional, refreshingly unfettered and unpretentious sports comedy set in the world of Battle Rap that exhibits a rare cinematic love and valuation for the English language. It uses counterculture dissection as a discourse for exploring themes of microaggression, gentrification, insincere liberalism and general racism. In the end, it can’t quite sustain the spinning of all those plates, but it’s certainly the best film about rap ever made.

d – Joseph Kahn
w – Alex Larsen, Joseph Kahn
ph – Matt Wise
pd – Brett Hess
m – Brain Mantia, Melissa Reese
ed – Chancler Haynes
cos – Edda Guðmundsdóttir

p – Eminem, Jil Hardin, Paul Rosenberg, Adi Shankar

Cast: Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Walter Perez, Jonathan Park, Shoniqua Shandai, Rory Uphold, Anthony Michael Hall, Debra Wilson, Amanda Valenti, Faithe Herman, Ryan Ochoa, Corey Charron, Travis Fleetwood, Dizaster, Ashley Michelle Brenner

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