by Adam Riske
Some quick thoughts on four films now in theaters.
These are ranked least favorite to favorite.
(2018) - I was mildly embarrassed to see Death Wish
(2018) but too curious about a new Eli Roth movie not to go. And…it’s weird and not very good. Of course, the timing of the film in awful and what it’s saying at certain points is gross, but it didn’t strike me as being made with malicious intent. You can easily be offended by this movie if you choose to be, so go in with that warning. Death Wish
(2018) feels more like a movie made by an over-excited kid who likes cinema violence and lives in a movie bubble. There are several scenes where Eli Roth could have pushed the victimization elements further (like in the superior Death Sentence
) but reigns himself in. Its feels like he’s trying to make a palatable (and more mainstream than usual for him) revenge movie and not one by which you feel emotionally challenged. There’s good and bad to that: on one hand, it was a relief as a viewer to not have to see it get horrifying, but on the other it isn’t honest with seeing through its ugly premise. Bruce Willis is spotty; sometimes engaged and other times not. He’s most interesting pre-attack when he’s playing a normal, passive guy. The movie has a lot of annoying side bits like radio show host weigh-ins or Bruce Willis learning how to do everything crime via YouTube videos. I can’t think of any positives about Death Wish
(2018) really. It’s just sort of there.
Rating: 1.5/4 Riskes
- This one was a little bit of a relief because it felt like a throwback to mid-'90s Paramount globe-trotting thrillers. Jennifer Lawrence, accent aside, is good here carrying a surprisingly action-lite suspense movie that dips at times into seedier Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct
, Starship Troopers
) territory. For that I commend it, because it feels more dangerous than other spy movies where the edges are sanded off. While not thinking Red Sparrow
is a great success overall (it’s not interesting enough to justify a hefty runtime, the character motivations and plotting feel writer and not character influenced, the sex is not hot which is a problem for a movie selling sex as one of the agent’s weapons of choice), I do think this is better than other recent spy thrillers like Atomic Blonde
or any of the Black Widow stuff in The Avengers
films (I prefer her character in the Captain America
movies). Red Sparrow
is worth seeing but you’re fine if you wait until VOD or cable. Then again, it’s beautiful to look at so maybe a trip to the theaters is ok too.
Rating: 2.5/4 Riskes
– This is the type of movie you can recommend to anyone. Game Night
is fun, with a strong cast (Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons and Kyle Chandler are standouts) and more cinematic than usual for the modern-day comedy genre. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein add some cool transitional touches to make the movie look like a board game and the whole film has that fun Clue
vibe to it (it’s not as good as Clue
). My only criticisms are that I think the filmmakers know the Plemons character works so they push it too much and there are times when the not-great action interrupts scenes where you’re already enjoying the chemistry between characters. I tweeted after I saw it that Game Night
is a 3.5/4 movie fighting like hell with a 2.5/4 movie. In the week that has passed, I find myself still thinking about Game Night
with affection and would stop and watch it again if it came on cable. The cool thing about the movie is that most of the laughs come out of character traits and not punchlines. That ages better.
Rating: 3/4 Riskes
– This movie blew me away. First, it’s hypnotic. Second, it’s technically amazing, with a world that is similar but distorted, presented in an interesting way visually. The score is great, the performances strong…nearly everything worked for me. Are there a few plot details I didn’t love? Sure, but I don’t let that bother me if I’m riding the wave of a movie I really like. I’ve read/heard Annihilation
be described as a statement about depression and self-destructive human tendencies and I can see that. The cool thing about Annihilation
is that I think it allows for different readings based on who you are individually. For me, it was more of a body horror movie. Not to get in too much detail, I have skin problems on one of my legs that I need treatment and medicine for and this movie’s scenes of environments with plaques and scales or other distortions really unsettled me in a good way. I felt a sort of weird kinship with the characters as they witnessed what they usually saw as normal unravel; it’s comforting in a way I wasn’t expecting that’s hard to describe – like you’re not alone and just as confused as they are. Like the setting of the film itself, Annihilation
is mysterious, raw and feels like it slipped in theaters by accident. We don’t usually see movies like this.
Rating: 4/4 Riskes
Your turn! What did you think of these films? Have you seen anything else recently that’s worth recommending?
So all I've seen out of these was Annihilation. Which I liked, didn't love. I continue to be frustrated by Natalie Portman's acting choices, and I wasn't crazy about how they framed the narritive. Luckily, it does feel like a movie that can be improved by repeat viewings. It's very smart, and very dense. I'm excited to watch it again now that I know what's going on. It almost felt like an Andrei Tarkovsky movie.ReplyDelete
Also, about Death Wish. The poster for it uses this screen shot of Bruce holding his finger gun, but Photoshops in a handgun. Which leads me to believe that they asked Bruce to come in for the cover shoot and he was just like "no I'm not gonna do that"
I think I'm used to Natalie Portman's acting style by now that I enjoyed her performance. She seems kind of dazed a lot of the time on-screen and I think that worked for Annihilation. The framing I didn't mind because I think it just made the whole thing more mysterious.Delete
The placement of the Bruce Willis finger moment in Death Wish is very funny because it's so dumb.
Well.....Looks like I'm seeing Death Wish now.Delete
I totally agree with you regarding Annihilation. Besides the unsettling and challenging narrative, the film looks absolutely gorgeous. The fact that I could count the number of things I've never seen in a film before impressed me. There is a bear-Skeletor creation that will haunt me in my dreams.ReplyDelete
The noise it made....so greatDelete
I loved Annihilation so much I immediately went out and bought the entire Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. If they do decide to do the sequels I hope Alex Garland stays on board. I had such strange emotional reactions to this and Ex Machina that I've never had before from a movie. IMO, he and Denis Villeneuve are the best Sci-Fi directors working today.ReplyDelete
Garland and Villeneuve are two of my Sci-Fi favorites, too, along with Rian Johnson. Don't get your hopes up regarding Garland doing sequels; he has stated emphatically that after 2-3 years on a project he prefers to move on to something new.Delete
Game Night is fun and silly, and mostly succeeds on charm. To me it played more like a TV show, but that could be because of the cast members' previous work.ReplyDelete
Annihilation is very good. I left the theater not understanding what it was trying to say, but upon reflection I can see how self-destruction and cancer could be the dominant themes. Looking forward to seeing the movie again.
I am too. I also really enjoy how inexplicable it all is.Delete
I love the way you described Annihilation. It sounds like something I would enjoy. I was on the fence, but now I'm in, hopefully this weekend.ReplyDelete
Glad to hear Game Night is good. Good comedy is hard to come by (at least theatrically) these days and it's really hard to gauge based on trailers. I used to rush out to see new comedies, miss those days.
Red Sparrow, I'm so torn on it. To me, after all the recent comments and reading this article now, I think I'm back in, if nothing else, Jennifer Lawrence is always worth a $5 Tuesday night viewing. Plus I'm pretty sure I'm the only fan of 'Joy', which most people saw as an average movie and performance for Lawrence. I can't let her down now.
Just saw Red Sparrow tonight and it's a smart, interesting thriller for adults. I recommend checking it out.Delete
Also, I'm a Joy fan.
After I saw Red Sparrow with JB, Jan and Rob I said to them "I'm just happy I saw something that felt like a movie." In the days of so many streaming options, Red Sparrow is appealingly retro to me.Delete
Good way to put it! Right after Sparrow I went to see Gringo and left halfway through because it was not a movie at all. Not even close.Delete
My ranking is exactly the same. I liked them all except Death Wish, which I hated. Annihilation is really something special.ReplyDelete
I kept wanting the radio hosts to be somehow involved in Death Wish. Like there's a big shootout and Sway has to take a stand to help Bruce Willis.Delete
Oh my god the radio hosts! I keep thinking about your "gripehouse" when things become a media frenzy. haha This was one of the worst examples I've seen of that.Delete