Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Summer Movie Report 2016

Here is my summer movie report for this year.  Sue and I saw seven official summer movies. Without giving too much away, I give my basic reactions.   Included are the Metacritic ratings in parentheses.

Love & Friendship (87)  Whit Stillman, known for his semiautobiographical triad Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, returns to his Jane Austen obsession (Metropolitan being inspired by Jane Austen.)  – this time with the re-telling a little-known Austen short story.  The critics loved this movie, and I can’t help but feel that I should have liked it more.  But in my dotage I found the plot a bit hard to follow and couldn’t quite keep the myriad characters straight.  Suggestion:  take notes.  Kate Beckinsale, however, is marvelous and astonishingly attractive at age 43.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (80)  For us, this wins as the flat-out most entertaining movie of the summer.   I’m going out on a limb here, but this movie may be Sam Neill’s finest hour (yes, and that includes Jurassic Park).  The movie could also double as a travelogue for New Zealand.

Cafe Society (64)  Here is more Woody Allen nostalgia.  The reviews were mixed on this one but, for Sue and me, it was also way up there in the sheer entertainment category.  It wasn’t as good as recent Allen offerings Midnight in Paris or Blue Jasmine, but still well worth watching.   With a funny Steve Carell, Twilight star Kristen Stewart, and Jesse Eisenberg as Woody Allen’s stand-in.

Captain Fantastic (72)  I’m of two minds about this movie. I think that you’re supposed to really admire the lead character for his totally principled approach to his life, but he was also really annoying and obnoxiously self-righteous.  So, I didn’t know what to think of him – perhaps that was the point.  But, for you Aragorn groupies, Viggo Mortensen, the lead, turns in a superb performance. 

Indignation (79)  Adam Chandler of the Atlantic Monthly once wrote an article entitled, “Stop Making Film Adaptations of Philip Roth Novels.”  Of course, moviemakers continue to ignore this demand.  (I think some six have been made so far.)  Indignation is the latest effort.  It may not fully capture Roth but it was still a pretty good movie – one of those movies that continues to haunt you days after you’ve left the theater.  Never did the 50’s seem so strange.

Don’t Think Twice (83)  We really enjoyed this movie.  It joins Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Café Society as our favorites of the summer.  Maybe all you need to know about this movie is who is involved.  Comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote and directed the movie, and is in the cast.  Also in the cast is comedian Keegan-Michael Key of the Comedy Central series Key & Peele.   And, I should mention co-star Gillian Jacobs, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon (class of 2000)(Did anybody know her?  James, Ali, Theresa, Pete?).  Finally, one of the producers is Ira Glass (Birbiglia has made a number of appearances on This American Life).

Florence Foster Jenkins (71)  Sue, I think, liked this movie more than I did.  And, it’s a rather amazing true story.  Jenkins was an item in the 30’s and 40’s in New York City.  So, it’s the sort of thing I would have liked to ask Mom or Dad about.  My problem was that I didn’t see why I should care about this person.  Sue, however, saw something honorable in Jenkins.  In any event, we agree that Meryl Streep is as accomplished as ever, and Hugh Grant gives a particularly elegant performance.


James R said...

You've done it again. I didn't know about any of these but promptly added them all to my Netflix queue. Only the first two have been released, and I'll have to wait till old age before they arrive ("very, VERY long wait"), but I have somethings to look forward to.

James R said...

I'll offer the best of my summer fare, but you may want to check out Myk's list first. This was a summer of strange, so if you don’t like strange,"Beware".

The Family Fang (67) is strange for being a comedy, a mystery, and a decently deep family introspective. It has one of the greatest opening scenes ever. EVER!

The Lobster (82) not only creates a strange world, but also maintains a strangeness in conversation and relationships. It is also strangely allegorical on normal relationships.

Midnight Special (76) is normal sci-fi strange, but was engaging for me. I like it when both the moviegoing and the characters are trying to figure things out together.

Green Room (79) is unsettlingly strange with gore. Again, I found it fairly engaging but not for the squeamish. Captain Picard plays evil well.

Perhaps the strangest of all is Holy Motors (84). It’s basically vignettes, but each strange enough to hold your interest as you try to determine what is really going on.

Big Myk said...

Our ignorance of each other's films is almost mutual. I am not familiar with your list, with the exception of The Lobster. And, I must say, from the little I've heard about The Lobster, it sounded pretty strange.

A couple of reflections about my list. One, is acting just getting better and better? Whatever complaints I might have had with any of my summer movies, none concerned the quality of the acting. This is one more piece of evidence for my contention that the world overall is getting better.

Two, between Roth and Allen, I learned a lot about Judaism and Jewish American culture this summer.

James R said...

To date I have been able to view Love & Friendship, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Cafe Society. I enjoyed each one with Love & Friendship my favorite. The DVD advantage is that you can replay the beginning character explanations. In the "Making of Love & Friendship" they said it best when someone said it plays more like Fielding than Jane Austen.

James R said...

I'll like to put out the alert to those two or three people who prefer the fake stories on this site to those on Facebook. (Everytime someone mentions family news they learned on Facebook, I say I have to get an account, and then they say, no, don't bother. So, like a child's belief in Santa, I keep posting here.) Anyway, I'm not sure this is a summer movie, but I recently received the disk from Netflix so the timing seems reasonable.

The movie is Captain Fantastic. I hadn't heard much about it, but I really liked it. It is sort of J.D. Salinger's Glass family without the religion. I know, the religion was the significant part. But, despite being run-of-the-mill atheists (Why can't people get over their childhood fantasies?), they, like the Glass family, meet life head on. It is thoughtful, yet sometimes hilarious.

James R said...

Oops, I forgot this was on Mike's list—that's why I saw it. Anyway, this is another one of Mike's choices that I liked.

Big Myk said...

I've been on another roll of good movies. These include The Queen of Katwe (a Disney movie with a Disney theme; nevertheless, it is unflinching in its portrayal of Katwe, perhaps the worst slum in Kampala: no electricity, no street signs or addresses, just a maze of alleys and dilapidated shacks); A Man Called Ove (from Sweden's best-selling novel since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- a cranky old man develops an unlikely friendship with an Iranian immigrant).

The best movie I've seen lately is The Innocents. This movie has Pete written all over it. It's based on the field notes of Madeleine Pauliac, a French doctor and former member of the resistance who was working with the French Red Cross in Poland immediately after the war to locate, provide medical care and repatriate French soldiers imprisoned in Poland (her name has been changed in the movie). The movie isn't easy to take and raises a number of difficult questions.

I also recently saw Locke, released in 2014. If you knew the premise of this movie, you'd probably never watch it. I put it among the best movies I've seen this year. And then, from 2008, I saw Frozen River, another very satisfying movie. Two working class women desperate for money smuggle illegal immigrants into New York State from Canada across Mohawk lands.