Overlord

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The type of movie where the protagonist consistently makes dumb decisions, and the script is too stubborn to let him pay the consequences of his actions.

C-

Tragedy Girls

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It’s been a while since I was baffled as to a movie’s purpose. Is this satire? Horror? A teen drama? The premise is too stupid to work as a straight faced drama, but the violence is so gruesome and on the nose that it cannot be labeled comedic either. That leaves us with the horror option. But this is not particularly scary. Maybe it could work as a slasher? Those are typically dumb.

What strikes me about Tragedy Girls is how it flirts with tantalizing ideas about teenagers growing up in the Age of Social Media and perpetual victimhood. There’s brief commentary on how evil goes beyond the boundaries of race and socio-economic status, but it never goes anywhere. It’s a weird movie that fails to use its weirdness to make a statement about how we got here, or where we’re going, and instead is content with being edgy for its own sake.

Ford v Ferrari

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A few days ago I watched Matt Damon play the pathetic and deceitful Mark Whitacre in The Informant!It was a very good performance, Damon never over acting either of his phases: the noble informant, nor the sleazy scam artist. The transformation occurs very slowly, but when it happens you realize Damon had provided subtle hints all along.

He outshines that performance in Ford V Ferrari, a sports movie that follows the template set by every other sports movie ever. It feels like a 90s film, perhaps the definition of what old people mean when they say “they don’t make them like they used to”. I’m indifferent towards it, but Matt Damon’s performance is really, really good.

B

The Informant

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Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite filmmakers. I haven’t fallen in love with any of his material the way I have other directors, but I really admire his ability to take any story, whether intimate or vast in scope, and consistently make it entertaining. There’s a joyful quality to his work, and one cannot help but laugh at the way his characters behave, or the predicaments they find themselves in.

The Informant! is a super breezy and funny story about an awful guy. Had this been helmed by another director, it might have emphasized suspense above all else, or really milked that twist near the end. But Soderbergh just plays it straight. It makes for easier connection with the main character, as he’s taken not as some sort of American hero befelled by greed, but as just another average joe who can’t say no to temptation.

B+

On Chesil Beach

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If cinema works primarily as escapism, then sad endings are a horrible idea. Entertainment is meant to take your mind off things, to unburden your heart for a minute, to tickle your desires. Indeed, blockbusters are primarily entertainment.

If, on the other hand, cinema functions primarily as an art form, then endings that shatter your heart are not only appropriate, but vital. We relate to art by what it brings to the world, but also by what it takes from it. The experiences that lead artists to create are full of sorrow and regret. We appreciate art for the beauty it’s able to bring in the midst of an ugly world. It’s a deliciously ironic juxtaposition: true beauty is forged in the fires of the nastiest misery. Sad endings are completely logical here.

On Chesil Beach is a slow moving picture. At times, it feels like reading a novel. But this approach is effective in its own right, as when the emotionally devastating climax arrives, you have no idea when you got there. You just wish everybody could turn back time and make different choices. Some that wouldn’t condemn them to their miserable fates.

B

Motherless Brooklyn

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Were it not for the gorgeous photography, Motherless Brooklyn would just be another detective story aiming for resonance that gets lost in its own yarn. Actually, the photography here is so striking-there’s even a shot of wheat a la Malick!-that it hurts the picture. It sets such a delicate canvas that the movie’s story cannot possibly color appropriately, hence giving the impression that it fails on more levels than it really does.

B

Insomnia

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It’s always a welcome surprise when a talented performer appears in something you had no idea they were in. Such is the case with Hillary Swank in Insomnia. She plays detective Ellie, and the movie would not work as well as it does without her. The role she plays is a staple in procedurals: the rookie but determined cop that serves as a foil to veteran detective Dormer (Al Pacino). But she brings such a wide eyed wonder to her character, injects it with such genuineness, that it’s hard not to feel engaged.

By the time the climax arrives, that engagement pays off in spades.

A- 

The Laundromat

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On October 17, 2019, the Pew Research Center released an update on America’s changing religious landscape. Since 2009, the last year the Center surveyed Americans, there’s been a sharp decrease in people who consider themselves Christians. At the same time, the number of those who claim to believe in no higher power has risen dramatically. At the current rate, it will only take two more decades for the number of Christians to be actually less than those who don’t believe in God.

These findings are aligned with the reality of our world. It’s not that people don’t believe in God anymore; adherence to an invisible Lord has been deemed foolish from the start. It’s that everybody is now aware that they have very good reasons not to. The rise of digital technology has brought people closer than ever before, and in so doing they have realized how deep and pervasive injustices run.

The Laundromat is a crash course on how the evil have no incentive at all to reform. It is technically a comedy, because if it weren’t it would be too depressive to watch. It is required viewing for everybody, not because of it’s quality, but for the urgency of its content. This is a movie that demands the viewer to be angry. It is a manifesto against unfettered greed and corruption, a call to arms in the name of a better planet. It might also serve as evidence by those who don’t believe in God. “Look at what goes on in our world”, they can say. “Why would an all-good, all-loving God allow such evil to thrive, and many more to suffer?”

I am not surprised Christianity is declining in America. It will continue to do so. But sadly, things won’t get any better. Eat the elites, destroy all the billionaires and millionaires, weed out corruption. In the end you’ll end up in the same place. Because it’s not a matter of a political or economic system, it’s not a game of culture or ethics. We are all flesh and bone, with indwelling sin. And as long as that sin is alive, we will be it’s slaves. Somebody mentions how society is now a slave to the wealthy and we don’t even know it. I say society is a slave to sin, and we don’t even know it. That’s why I pray I keep having the strength to trust and love God. Would it be nice if the good Lord descended and solved financial inequality? Absolutely. But money in my pocket will not really fix my sin. Only His love will.

B+