End Of The Year Review Catch Up
Over the course of the year, we see a lot of films, and between our day jobs and our passion for seeking out new films, we don’t always have as much time as we’d like to write formal reviews for every single thing we see. Some, like Bad Times at the El Royale or The Rider, we don’t get around to seeing until way late in the year, and others, like Searching or Incredibles 2, we’ve yet to even see… So, before we drop our end of the year list, we thought we’d bring yah all up to speed on the other films we saw this year and how we felt about them, especially if some of them might just crack our top 10.
Bad Times at the El Royale
Bad Times at the El Royale has a great ensemble cast, solid set design, fantastic direction, but the script is too try-hard Tarantino — with the allusion to QT firmly in the title (Royale with Cheese) — lacking any gratifying or meaningful payoff. Some may say that writer/director Drew Goddard is dissecting the post-Tarantino film craze here, but it was less an investigative examination and more gratuitous fanboy to us. We get no answers about some things and there are a lot of loose narrative threads that never jive or gel or fully tie together. Fortunately everything is elevated by the cast and their performances though, namely Cynthia Erivo who is absolutely terrific, and there’s some really fantastic moments of match-cut editing. Suffice it to say, 2018’s done a lot worse, but it’s also don a lot better too.
Rating: 3.5 unbuttoned cult leaders outta 5.
For his second effort, writer/director Brady Corbet swings for the fence, and while we applaud his direction and overall ambition, the film feels unfocused and somewhat incoherent. In particular, its central message was lost on us; we had no idea what he was trying to say. We loved the prologue, but the film became more and more unraveled as it moved closer toward its fairly unremarkable and disappointing conclusion. It does make you think a bit, and it gives you a lot to take in, but as far as putting it all together, this puzzle is missing some crucial pieces. Jude Law is great, and Natalie Portman is good, but Raffey Cassidy was more mesmerizing in her dual performance.
Rating: 2.5 tantrum throwing pop stars outta 5.
The House That Jack Built
Love him or hate him, provocateur Lars von Trier is back with a brand new controversial tale. This time, it’s a meditation by way of Dante on art using murder as metaphor, and it’s every bit up its own ass and artfully on point as we’ve come to expect from von Trier. We loved nearly every second of this twisted and deranged endeavor, which seems like a blend of Antichrist’s confrontation and American Psycho’s sadistic satire with Nymphomaniac’s narrative structure. At first, the film is as stiff and rigid as Jack’s refrigerated victims, but the rigor gives out as time wore on, and we became utterly enthralled in the blissful madness of it all, meta metaphors and all. The epilogue, in particular, is a real searing scorcher that ends on the highest possible note.
Rating: 4.5 layers of Hell outta 5.
A pretty safe, generic and all around crowd-pleasing racially charged buddy road film that shines through the charming interactions of its leads. Viggo goes full-tilt into the Italian stereotype so much that he somehow winds up coming off as authentic, and Mahershala finds layers to his character that would’ve been lost in the hands of another performer. This is a delightful surprise for a Peter Farrelly film, but it would’ve had more impact (and perhaps also be a true Oscar contender) if placed in the hands of a more deft, bold and poetic filmmaker. Its conclusion, in particular, is too conveniently neat and resolves with a false sense of “feel good” that doesn’t land and undercuts some the stories potential impact. But goddamn, it was a pleasure watching Mahershala slam on those keys.
Rating: 3 love letters outta 5.
Oof... Duncan Jones keeps slipping further and further from the greatness of his debut, Moon, which ironically has a tie-in in this sloppy, stupidly juvenile, incoherent mess of a film. We were almost going to slap this dud with a zero, if it weren’t for Paul Rudd, who shows a despicable side we have yet to see, Alexander Skarsgård, who manages to squeeze empathy from the stone of his character, and the world, which is obviously a Blade Runner ripoff but also feels so lived in and accessible. We don’t normally feel the runtime of the film’s we watch, but we felt every second of this, and we did not enjoy most of it. Its script is juvenile and illogical, and its third act is a real shit show — and not the good kind. The most confounding bit about it all is the title card at the end that dedicates the film to parenting. It’s just an odd piece of cinema and a waste of two hours.
Rating: 1 mustached Paul Rudd outta 5.
Roma contains some of the richest, most textured and mesmerizing cinematography all year, as well as some of the most fantastically arresting direction, and natural performances. This is a slice of life story that you lose yourself in. Cuarón has tapped into an emotional plane a la Bergman with a Tarkovskian sensibility and Felliniesque moments. His framing and composition is next level, and structurally, the story creates an interesting cycle, which you’ll catch if you’re paying close attention. Easily Cuarón’s most mature film, and his best since Y Tu Mama Tambien (in our opinion), Roma is subtly affecting and ripe with emotionality, despite being somewhat detached from its characters. Though this is a personal story to Cuarón, it’s as if he’s saying that this could be any housekeeper working for any family during 70s in Mexico City.
Rating: 4.5 rolling waves outta 5.
Crazy Rich Asians
A charming (albeit recycled) romp of a rom-com that only really gets knocked down by its B storyline, which doesn’t service the plot at all (it severely weighs down the pacing and bloats the runtime). Crazy Rich Asians succeeds in knowing what it is as all times (AKA Cinderalla) and never trying to be something it’s not. Constance Wu is fantastic, and so are the zany supporting characters. We were blown away by the intricate beauty of all of the sets/locations, and the wedding sequence was absolutely enchanting. The gags are sharp and laughs come aplenty with this delightful charmer.
Rating: 4 fireworks outta 5.
The western genre is not exclusive to Americans or men, and if anything, Chloé Zhao’s fresh outsider perspective on The Rider yielded some wonderful results that quite honestly rendered us stunned. A smart blend of true life (using the actual people involved as its actors) and fiction, The Rider paints a wholly authentic picture of cowboy life that is equal parts heartbreakingly tragic and beautifully inspiring. With influences that include the likes of Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and Wong Kar-wai, it should come as no surprise that Zhao sees the poetry beating within the story and gives her subjects the empathy and humanity they deserve. The film also boasts some the year’s most quietly impressive cinematography and spectacular performances from its slew of non-actors, particularly its central lead, Brady Jandreau who is softly electric. Discreetly affecting and absolutely touching, we were moved to tears by the film’s final moments that remind us to never give up on our dreams.
Rating: 5 broke horses outta 5.
Well, that brings us up to speed. What did you think? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!