Dulled Gold (Film Thoughts: The Goldfinch)

goldfinchI used to be such  voracious reader, and in some ways I still am, but now through online and social media. An older version of me would probably have devoured Donna Trtt’s novel ‘The Goldfinch,’ but I have to confess I have not read it – the 800 or so page count really felt daunting to me. So here we are with the film version, and I wish I could do one of those side by side comparisons on how the book was treated, but I can only go through a point of view of knowing very little about the story.

And I didn’t mind the film. I am sure it was probably most difficult to translate the text, but I thought John Crowley’s film flowed well, and for the most part told a story that appealed to me. I couldn’t help but see some parallels in my life (moving from New York to Las Vegas, for example) and I thought that for the most part this is one of those New York City stories – I feel like I know and have known these people. As the young Theodore, I was most impressed by Oakes Fegley, who showed great range. Ansel Elgort is wonderful to look at for sure, but I felt Theodore became less interesting once he took over the role. Also, I think I might have liked it even better if the movie had played that interpretation of Theodore and Boris having (romantic) love for each other, but maybe that’s just my Ansel projection. All in all, not as bad as some people say, though admittedly imperfect.

A Weekend and A Year (Movie Thoughts: The Weekend/The Wedding Year)

large_The_Weekend_Theatrical_Poster_Lo_ResMaybe I am really getting old. I just watched two movies starring and about millennials and I should have liked them both, but I ended up just being disappointed by them. These movies feature good stories, but I just cannot abide by some of the bad behaviour and entitlement issues these young people have. Or am I just being cranky.

Stella Meghie’s ‘The Weekend’ has just the right low key touch, but the biggest mistake here is it involves around Sasheer Zamata’s character Zadie. I don’t know if the character was written that way, or because of Zamata’s performance, but Zadie is insufferable. her cutting wit comes off as mean-spirited, and she is disrespectful to everyone, including her mother – and I hate people, fictional or not, who are mean to their parents. She is still hung up on her ex here, and goes on a weekend trip with him and his girlfriend, but her contempt, jealousy and sense of entitlement overpowers whatever sympathy she can get (for me: none) Zamata’s stand-up routine is probably better experienced, but her transition to the big screen is a complete failure. Someone described this film as Woody Allen-esque, aand sure, I can see some of the imitations, but all in all, this film is as much a crime as the ones Allen is accused of.

wyyRobert Luketic’s ‘The Wedding Year’ has a nice premise about how a relationship evolves over a course of the couple attending seven weddings, but something got lost in the process here. Again, we get an unlikable character here, Mara, who is at the center of the film. She talk and acts dumb, and the weddings which are supposed to frame how she evolves, is treated as stupid comic interludes, and by the time the characters show some emotion it’s already too late. It doesn’t hurt that there is no sizzle in the leads. I never believed that Sarah Hyland and Tyler James William was a couple – never figured out why the two character saw in each other. All in all, there’s a good movie here somewhere, but you wouldn’t know it from the finished product.

Scarborough Affairs (Movie Thoughts: Scarborough)

ScarboroughPostermainbigimg59901I know the teacher-student love affair is sort of a thing, a fetish ff some sort for some people, but in Barnaby Southcombe’s ‘Scarborough,’ it’s the subject of parallel stories between two sets of lovers, and yes, they are of the teacher-student kind. The material is derived from a play by Fiona Evans, and I bet it played better on stage. The framing of the film is a little awkward, and the story opened up just highlighted its pretenses. At times, to me, it even felt icky, especially the Lolita-esque set up between Aiden (Edward Hogg) and Beth (jessica Arden)  These situations should be a lot more nuanced than presented here, but we don’t get a sense of that. I did appreciate the location, which is a North Yorkshire resort town, that seems appealing, though I read that the place has seen better times. Maybe this film will give it more attention.

Jennifer’s Time (Film Thoughts: Hustlers)

960x0Doing a pole dance set to Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal,’ Jennifer Lopez’s entrance into Lorene Scafaria’s ‘Hustler’ is going to be one of the most memorable entrances in modern cinema. And then she follow that up with a next scene wherein she is splayed out at a building rooftop, wearing a fur coat and smoking. It is a most fabulous scene for a much fabulous actress in a role where she shines and shimmers that people are talking Oscar. and you know what? I agree. At the very least, she deserves a nomination for her fantastic turn here as Ramona Vega, wherein she risks blood, swear, and tears to give justice to the role. in the beginning, I thought the character was just a heightened version of JLo the persona, but it is much more than that, she gives the slightly underwritten character shading and depth, and she commands the screen when she is on, Poor Constance Wu, who has to stand beside her most of the time. Although Wu has the meatier role, her paper-like screen presence pales next to the force that is JLo, and her more than competent acting most times look lukewarm next to the Lopez sizzle.

I have some problems with the screenplay, as I thought the resolution petered. But Scararia has crafted a very entertaining film – funny at most times, provocative for sure, but most importantly, weighty. It has something to say, and it says it cogently. And the women here – all of them- are all bad ass. Just right before the film, they showed the trailer for the new Charlie’s Angels. Those girls have a tall order to overcome with the Hustler hustlers.

P.S. This film also has the sickest soundtrack from Janet Jackson to Usher to Scott Walker to Chopin.

Scary Stories From Dark Times (Film Thoughts: The Keeper/Trautmann, Past Life)

the_keeperFor me, it is interesting that after all these years, there are still very interesting stories being told about the second world war. And I myself am more into them like before – perhaps old age has done this to me. I recently saw a film from last year, ‘The Keeper,’  which is an Anglo/German co production. It tells the true story of Bert Trautmann, a British POW who became a football hero for Manchester. It is a great story, and the film, co-written and directed by Marcus H Rosenmuller, is a great watch. It shows how Trautmann overcame being a Nazi sympathizer to become a football hero. There are great performances here, anchored by David Kross’s charming portrayal of Traumtann (In some markets, that is the title of the film)  I think I gravitated towards it because of the great love story between him and Margaret, the British woman he married (played by Freya Mavor) I got caught in the story instantly, and I this in the end feels a little more than just a football romance, it gives us a lesson on humanity and love. Much recommended.

past-lifeThere was certainly a lot of thought in Avi Nesher’s ‘Past Life.’  It’s a story of a young woman who finds out secrets from her family history. For me, this is a more interesting picture than an enjoyable one –  there is too much exposition and the payoff was a little limp. Still, this has some vivid characters that you will want to know, and some good performances, especially from Joy Rieger as Sophi. I also thought the production values were well done, as this is a period piece set in 1977. It felt like so.

Though Cute (Movie Thoughts: Falling Inn Love)

dMz89EX3lbTrPbh10CC9q2vgzkXI really don’t know how I feel about all these Netflix movies. While occasionally we get a ‘Roma,’ we also get a lot of thee middling fares, such as ‘Falling Inn Love.’ Thi film, directed by Roger Kumble is a typical rom com that wouldn’t be out of place in the Hallmark Channel (look at the poster, it even looks like it came from there)  And its predictability knows no bounds, you can practically mouth off the screenplay as you are watching. But sure, there’s some low-key chemistry between the two leads (the current Administration probably won’t be too happy about the interracial coupling)  and although Christina Milian’s too-earnest acting mostly grated on me, Adam Demos was there to provide heat. This is mindless, though cute.

After The Wedding (Movie Thoughts: The Wedding Do Over)

TheWeddingDoOver-PosterI thought ‘The Wedding Do Over’ was a Lifetime movie, and surely, there is nothing wrong with Lifetime movies, but apparently it is on the Pixl Channel, which is available through the Amazon prime platform. In any event, I found myself watching this film, and guess what? I truly loved it. I subject myself to seeing so much crap sometimes that I forget that sometimes simple – just a simple feel good movie – will feed the soul sufficiently.  Some people would consider this a cheesefest, but I don’t care, I got caught in the story of Abby and Peter (Nicole Gale Anderson and Parker Young) who were once slated to the altar but something happened and the wedding was cancelled. Now they have to work together on their mutual friends’ wedding (okay, the set up is somewhat of a stretch but we can all get pas that)  and of course in the process, they get to face all wounds and try to mend them. I believed this, and it helps that Anderson and Young have great chemistry. And you go along as they rediscover the feelings they have for each other – of course those feelings never left, It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is all going, but it is a nice feel-good journey. I loved a whole lot of it, and no one can take that away from me.