Image Credit to The Playlist
Here are very short reviews of some, but not all, of the films I saw in January 2018.
All the Money in the World (Ridley Scott): A true-story kidnapping film that repeatedly skips multiple days in its timeline to maintain tension. Yet, it finds a way to convey the weight of all that elapsed time on its characters.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasdan): Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works while you are watching because it finds humor in its premise that four high school teenagers are suddenly changed into middle-aged adults with different bodies, races, and genders, and because it uses the reason for their transformation-that they’re trapped inside a videogame universe-to stage cool, but not breathtaking, action sequences. The film lingers afterwards because it has a surprising, subtly conveyed, and level-headed message about how as fun or rewarding as certain escapes, such as social media, schoolwork, sports, and videogames are, you should make time away from them so that you can live in the world, form friendships, and find yourself.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski): “Why don’t we create a film set in Assassin World, focus on the best assassin, and have all his opponents tell the audience that he’s going to kick their asses. Then, let’s show him doing just that.”
A Ghost Story (David Lowery): A narrative about a ghost (Casey Affleck) who watches and tries to connect with his widowed wife (Rooney Mara), A Ghost Story plays as a dull and laborious meditation on grief for the first two-thirds of its runtime. Only after a cliché, but realistic and energetic speech on the irrelevance of life in the grand scheme of the universe does the film come alive. It becomes a haunting examination of God knows what-the cosmos, the history of Earth, the shared knowledge that death awaits us all. Witnessing the shift, alone, makes the experience worth it.
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan): After Natalie (Kelsey Chow) is found brutally raped and murdered on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Jeremy Renner’s emotionally wounded Cory Lambert uses his knowledge of the land to help Elizabeth Olsen’s inexperienced and under supported FBI Agent Jane Banner solve the crime. Despite spelling out the links between Lambert’s past trauma and the case he’s working on, Wind River ends up being a gripping procedural in which the main character uncovers clues, leads, and a clearer picture of the crime by surveying the treacherous and harsh environment he works and lives in rather than leaning on suspect interviews or lab work. A late stumble emphasizing vengeance leaves a bitter taste, but doesn’t spoil the film.
The Post (Steven Spielberg): Spielberg is so gifted at camera placement, blocking, crosscutting, and attaining great performances that he almost convinces you to feel sympathy and dread as the owner of a newspaper contemplates not running negative pieces on her friend, a government official who lied about the disastrous conditions of the Vietnam War.
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig): The story of a rebellious teenager who bucks the rules of her Catholic school, challenges her mother’s defined roles for her, and longs to leave her home city of Sacramento and go East, Lady Bird is this year’s likely Best Picture winner. What feels authentic, moving, and true about the film is how its lead protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), matures beyond her narcissistic worldview without renouncing all that she stands for and all that she aspires to be. What feels slightly disappointing about the picture is how it takes a few too many precautions, including obvious score music, dialogue that mainly serves to foreshadow thematic changes, and images that align neatly with the words of a voiceover instead of deepening them, to make sure that no viewer fails to grasp the complex evolution at its heart.