A boy with a terminally ill mother encounters a story-telling tree monster.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson
Initial Review by Phil Crone
A Monster Calls should be commended for taking on a difficult subject with a more whimsical approach than we normally see, but confusing underlying decisions ultimately undermine what could have been one of the great movies of 2016. The story starts with a strong enough foundation. Conor is a young boy with a life no one wants: his mother is sick and presumably dying, he has no other significant support system to look to, and he is constantly bullied by another boy who may or may not actually be in love with him, but I digress. His life is almost comically terrible – why not just give him a physical deformity while we’re at it? Conor finds respite in his drawing, and these fantasies manifest themselves in the form of a tree monster who visits Conor with the promise of telling him three stories, after which Conor will reveal “his truth.” The structure is reminiscent of the 2006 modern classic Pan’s Labyrinth, but the similarities begin and end there.
Jimmy Carter's Crisis of Confidence speech holds a major piece of real estate in Mike Mills' semi-autobiographical film 20th Century Women. Derided at the time but seen as somewhat prescient decades later, Carter diagnosed the country's problems in a perilous economic time and recommended a series of solutions at the macro and micro level. He refused to coddle the country, saying that we all had a part to play in bringing things to their current state but that we also had the power, individually and communally, to improve things. One year later, Carter would be replaced by Ronald Reagan, a man who told the country flattering lies about itself and created a culture that would only exacerbate the problems Carter talked about, pulling the country further into selfishness and consumerism. In 20th Century Women, Reagan's so-called 'Morning in America' has not yet dawned, and the characters are all in various states of malaise. Like Carter, they prefer honesty and hard truths to hand-waving and pleasant lies. 20th Century Women isn't going for the big moment or the grand turning point, but does the hard work of small steps. It prefers low-key tragedies to grand victories, and defines aging as the world getting regretfully smaller but richer and deeper at the same time.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a terrible title. I always hated calling How I Met Your Mother HIMYM but then I typed it two three times so from here on I’ll refer to this movie as IDFAHITWA. Shit, that sucked too - “this movie” - Perfect!
This movie is about Ruth, a nursing assistant played by Melanie Lynskey who embarks on a vigilante mission with neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to find who broke into her home and stole her computer and grandma’s silverware. Ruth is introduced as a fairly depressing character without much going for her, crappy house, bad neighborhood, lonely, weird neighbors, etc. When she is robbed and police do nothing it is a breaking point for her to seek justice. Ruth describes her brand of justice as not wanting people to be assholes anymore. That’s a big ask but a noble one. Between plaster casting a footprint in the garden and using her find my laptop app she is able to eventually track down the perpetrators with the help of Tony who joined primarily it seemed because he was into the chance to bust out his weaponry towards the aim of moral justice.
I’m not a fan of the review style that breaks down scene by scene and retells the story so I’ll end by summarizing- a string of events featuring multiple laugh worthy gags and a few oh shit moments and one very predictable gun malfunction lead this movie to a satisfying conclusion.
Brilliantly weird, A-.
I’ll start with a question: what is the quintessential summer movie?
For me, two films come to mind—“Jurassic Park” which I saw when I was 12 and was one of those cinema experiences that make you fall in love with going to the movies. The second was “Speed,” which came out the next summer and which I think I saw at least three times in the theater and I definitely owned on VHS.
I start with this question because I first heard about “Train to Busan” about a year ago on NPR. They ran a story because “TtB” is, apparently, the quintessential Korean summer movie. It’s the highest grossing Korean film in that country’s history and, according to the NPR story a year ago, almost 1/5th of the whole South Korean population had seen the film, which is a pretty remarkable number. I was, at first, reluctant to pick another Korean film since we’ve already had “Okja” in our queue this round, but I really wanted to watch a summer movie, and so why not watch one of the most successful ones in recent years that so few in the US have seen?
A few rounds ago, my pick was the horrendous Escape From Tomorrow, a low-budget movie that was filmed using guerilla-style tactics at the Walt Disney World theme park; I was intrigued by this because the movie poster had a blood covered Mickey Mouse hand on the front. I decided to select another Disney-related film, Walt Before Mickey—a bio-drama about the struggles of Walt Disney before his creation of the Mouse. After viewing this film, I checked out the film’s Wikipedia page, where I noticed the word “guerilla” in its “Production” section. It reads “… Director Khoa Le talked about the challenges of the project, having been hired at the last minute to direct and having little familiarity with Disney himself. He mentioned, 'I came from a short film background, indie stuff, so I knew how to work efficiently. … For most scenes the actors got only two takes. I had to go back to my grassroots of guerrilla filmmaking.’” After this statement, the quality of the film makes more sense to me. However, the problems with this movie begin before you even consider the film’s production. Can I just mention how horrible the script was?
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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