Movie Mondays ~ Monday, April 22, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, April 22, 2019

Been a busy week as always, but I still managed to sneak in watching three films this week. One, I’ve always wanted to see since I first heard about it — two, I had not seen in 30 years and wondered if I would have a similar reaction to my first experiences with the film, and three, a film that I absolutely expected I would need to see on an Oscar run but was overlooked after much critical and audience acclaim. Would I agree with the critics and moviegoers…or the Academy? You’ll find out soon enough.

 

As always, thanks for reading! ~ Chris K.

 

FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 04/15/2019 – 04/21/2019

 

53. Welcome to Marwen

Biography, Comedy, Drama (2018)
Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Diane Kruger, Janelle Monae

 

This was a film I really wanted to see at the theaters. It is a Bob Zemeckis film, and being the big fan I am of his productions (particularly the BACK TO THE FUTURE film series, CAST AWAY, and a little gem of a comedy though raunchy as hell that you might not have known he directed, USED CARS), I knew it would be great on the big screen. Oh, yeah, Mr. Z also did that other little film FORREST GUMP. Heard of it? Heh. Yeah, I thought so. Anyway, I knew if it was a Zemeckis film, MARWEN would be visually stunning — and it is.

 

In this movie, we meet an artist who has been traumatized by an earlier incident that left him hurt physically and emotionally. To combat the horrifying experience and resulting loss of memory, he creates a whole new world set in WWII, and here, we meet up with his doll-counterpart captain flanked by a squad of strong women. The story is based on a real artist and perhaps that makes the film seem even odder — that someone really went through the trouble of doing something so elaborate to build their own coping mechanism.

 

WELCOME TO MARWEN was panned by critics and cost far more than it made at the box office. I was determined to figure out why. And you know what? I will admit that it is a very odd story based on truth (though I’ve since learned some of the biographical background has been modified sometimes significantly). Maybe people struggled with the visual effects that made Steve Carell and Leslie Mann in doll form look a bit bizarre, they might have even thought creepy, as their Marwen counterparts get all schmoopie with each other (to borrow a beloved line from SEINFELD).

 

 

I will admit that the film’s pace was slow at times and you weren’t really sure if you wanted to stay in the land of Marwen or return to the real life of its creator and artist Mark Hogancamp played skillfully by Steve Carell. But I couldn’t figure out why this film had such horrible ratings. It’s not fantastic but I’ve seen far worse. There are some real visual treats in this picture. I enjoyed the squad of tough, clever women who guard the homemade village of Marwen and as someone who grew up absolutely enchanted by miniatures and dollhouses (um, still am!), I appreciated the level of detail created in the making of this film.

 

This one’s not a life-changing piece, no, but I think if you like Zemickis films, appreciate the versatility of Carell and enjoy the rest of the talented cast (so many great actors including a charming Mann and always delightful Wever plus a bonus of the charismatic Monae and  GAME OF THRONES favorite Gwendoline Christie aka our favorite badass lady in shining armor Brienne of Tarth) — I think you should give this one a shot. Settle those expectations at low to mid-range levels and you might find yourself enjoying this odd journey some of the time.

 

Score: 83

 

WelcomeToMarwen

 

 

 

 

 

54. Midnight Run

Comedy (1988)
Robert DeNiro, Charles Grodin, John Ashton, Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano

 

What happens when you go back to a comedy you loved at 18 years old and watch it again 31 years later? Will it still be funny? Thankfully, the chemistry between DeNiro and Grodin is still laugh-out-loud funny. I adore this pairing and so many of the supporting cast including Ashton and Farina are hilarious as the bumbling bounty hunter wannabe and crime boss, respectively. The film follows the journey of one former cop and now bounty hunter (played by DeNiro) as he sets out to find white-collar criminal Grodin, who knows a thing or two about hiding money and hiding from both the feds and crime syndicate out to get him.

 

I must admit that I found this film much more entertaining 30+ years ago, so either it just doesn’t hold up or maybe my comedic tastes have gotten more sophisticated. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a classic and the first time I remember seeing DeNiro in a funny role and realizing ‘holy crap, this guy can do comedy, too?!’ But for me, it’s usually Grodin who steals the scenes with his signature deadpan expressions and dry comebacks.

 

If you haven’t seen it before, my guess is that you will get a kick out of this one. As someone who saw it many times before but several years earlier, it did lose some of its “wow” factor for me, but I still recommend it.

 

 

Score: 85

 

 

 

55. Crazy Rich Asians

Comedy, Romance (2018)
Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh

 

I was totally convinced that this film would be nominated for Best Picture, even if it was shut out from all acting categories. All that I had read was positive from critics, from audiences and from fellow actors and filmmakers in the industry. It seemed like CRAZY RICH ASIANS would be a shoo-in to be nominated. And then it wasn’t. I didn’t get a chance to see it before the Oscars because I was too busy seeing everything that was nominated. But I was always curious — did this one get slighted? Should it have been up, too? And I have my answer for you.

 

Hell, yes! This film was by far one of the most entertaining 2018 films I saw between this year and last. The audience meets a sweet, attractive young couple who we immediately fall in love with played by Wu and Golding, who are perfectly cast as the lovebirds. But what the Chinese-American Economics professor Wu does not know is that her handsome and perfect boyfriend also happens to have a past he’s been hiding. He comes from…gasp! Money. (Trust me — this is all in the trailer, so there’s nothing I’m giving away here.) What follows though is far more charming and infectious, and you’ll want to tag along for the trip over to Singapore as Wu’s character is introduced to her young fella’s real world.

 

The film is beautifully photographed. Everything from the lighting and sound to cinematography and set design, costume and makeup, it is all captivating. I especially loved how the filmmakers used popular rock songs in the soundtrack but with new renditions sung by Asian performers. At once, I felt connected to the music yet it was suddenly fresh and new, which only made me listen more intensely because I knew the melodies so well but now the words were something I’d never heard sung that way before. How original!

 

The story is nothing new. Strong protective mother tries pushing her weight to get in the way of her potential future daughter-in-law’s path to love and matrimony with her son. Trust me — you’ve never seen it portrayed like this before. And I must give major props to Wu for an exquisite performance. From the first 30 seconds we meet her, we are rooting for her. She has that star quality that only certain performers carry which immediately wins over the audience and has them hanging on every word, smile or teardrop. Wu has it. Many people feel Julia Roberts has that “it” factor. I get that. I would agree.  And interestingly enough, I absolutely see some parallels between the look and feel of this picture compared to MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, a film that has over time become a personal favorite of mine.

 

I say see this film regardless of your age, your gender, your current marital status, your ethnic background — it is romantic, funny and heartbreaking, all at once. And I enjoyed every moment of being swept off my feet and know for certain that this will be a film that I will return to again and again.

 

 

Score: 89

 

CrazyRichAsians

 

 

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