East Side Sushi

Equal parts charming and clumsy. It felt like a senior project, and the script had all the usual characters, as if cut from film school cardboard. But there is heart, and… Oakland.

The Florida Project

An oddly engaging movie. There is nothing that a synopsis might tell you that would indicate the level of engagement that this story engenders. It may be in part the fact that we see most of the movie from the point of view of the children, who, however mischievous they may be, remind us always that what they represent is hope and possibility, for all of us. Disneyland may be an overt symbol of the fantasy life we all desire, but these kids show us that real life can be full of joy as well.

Definitely Maybe

Disappointing to the point where not even Ryan Reynolds’ charms could revive it. Not even Rachel Weisz as a love interest could save it. There is too much script here. You can just see the writers piling it on. One more wrinkle, another complication, the expected unexpected. And back around to the beginning. Cute by a little too much.

Wilson

Started out pretty strong, then quickly devolved into cliché. Woody Harrelson is a good choice for this role, and he makes the film watchable, even when the script gets lazy and offers up the most predictable situations. A pretty good way to kill time on a plane, but otherwise…

The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix can do no wrong, it seems. This is a film that, on the surface, I wouldn’t expect to enjoy so much. The cast is not one that I have much interest in. But I’ve never liked Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller so much as I did here. They are both excellent, good enough to keep up with Dustin Hoffman, with no-one outshining the others.

Ah, the writer/director is Noah Baumbach… That goes a long way in explaining the quality on hand.

Get Out

I don’t watch a lot of “horror” films, because they are almost always too predictable and clichéd. This one is anything but. It is very good at making the viewer feel a little bit uncomfortable, and then very slowly ratcheting that up. Until all hell breaks loose.

I did not see that ending coming…

Manchester by the Sea

I was told this was slow-moving. It was. And yet it never lagged. It’s a simple story, told without any flourishes. Straightforward cinematography, lighting, wardrobe, shot on location. I expected more yelling and screaming, more crying…

But it’s all about the dialogue and the acting. This is an example of ‘simple is best.’ Or almost best. I’m still glad that an equally quiet and straightforward film, Moonlight, won the Oscar for best picture this year. And Casey Affleck? He may have been the most deserving of the nominees, but I still think that Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes should have been jointly awarded Best Actor for their work as Chiron in Moonlight

Closet Monster

Feels like a teen angst movie from the ’80s, if John Hughes had made films about a closeted gay guy in the ’90s, with a Canadian accent and a good deal of blood.

I didn’t realize that Isabella Rossellini was the voice of the pet hamster… that makes it all the better.

Moonlight

The most quietly powerful film you are likely to see this year. Very, very well done. There is nothing fancy here, and the director has restrained himself at all the right times. And yet this movie sears itself into your memory.

The three actors who play Chiron at various ages need to be jointly nominated for Best Actor, and this film is my choice for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year…

The Invitation

This tried to be a slow-burn mind-fuck, rather than a crazy slasher film, for the first 3/4, and basically it succeeded. I like when it’s a cast of unknowns, except for maybe one (John Carroll Lynch), who do a respectable job. But then of course it went a bit off the rails, and I found myself yelling at the screen, as usual.

Still, watchable, for sure.