45. The Post
Like La La Land last year, this was a movie I was probably more or less always going to like, since I’m a pretty big fan of these sorts of behind-the-scenes journalism movies, like All The President’s Men and Spotlight. But I’ll confess that this movie disappointed me a little. Honestly, I was expecting something more like AtPM or Spotlight, showcase the way that this story developed and grew and the hard work of the reporters behind it and etc etc and to some degree I did get that… but the movie also ended up focusing far too much on the business and the politics and the big glorifying ‘freedoms of the press’ moments, a lot of which felt a bit too heavy-handed and unsubtle and which not only undercut the journalistic work involved but left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously for freedom of the press and in some cases hitting your audience over the head with the message can indeed be a positive (hell, Orwell’s 1984 is unsubtle as fuck and all the better for it). But something about this just didn’t work for me. I mean, compare to Spotlight which to some extent praised its titular heroes too. But Spotlight balanced that praise by pointing out the flaws in how so many people knew or were told about the church scandals but chose to either ignore the reports/witnesses or decided just to not rock the boat. And I felt that really balanced the whole thing and made it feel a lot more human. This, on the other hand, is clearly just glorifying the press and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also very unsubtle and un-nuanced about what its doing and just doesn’t carry that same emotional resonance as something like Spotlight does.
So yeah, honestly, The Post is still a fairly decent film and I did enjoy it (despite me complaining about it for most of this summary), but it’s no Spotlight. But hey, Spielberg has Ready Player One coming up next and from everything I’ve heard from people who have read the book, the movie should certainly be….. Well, it’ll exist, I’ll give it that.
44. War for the Planet of the Apes
You know, I never thought ‘Not Holocaust-y enough’ would ever be my main criticism of a film, but here we are.
Okay, I suppose a bit of context for that remark would be useful. Honestly, the recent Planet of the Apes films have always flown strangely under the radar for me. Which is especially odd since they’re probably one of the most weirdly and unexpectedly good blockbuster trilogies in recent years. I liked Rise just fine and really enjoyed Dawn a lot, but they’ve never had that big an impact on me. And that goes more or less the same for War as well. It’s a pretty good movie, not perfect, but pretty good.
Honestly, what I loved most about War was its first half, which felt like an old gritty Western, with its strong atmosphere and exploration of themes of grief and vengeance. If I was just judging this on its first half, it’d probably be right up there with the best of the year for me, but the second half, where the Apes were in the prison camp, is where it starts to lose its lustre for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I get what they were trying to go with there, the holocaust-esque imagery of the prison camps isn’t exactly subtle, but they quite frankly didn’t go far enough. I don’t know if it was the PG rating or what, but they never quite captured that same sense of cruelty and fear and the possibility of death at any moment that other movies like Schindler’s List manage to achieve and thus the entire segment comes off as kind of a lukewarm bore. It’s not harsh enough to emotionally effecting and it’s too dark and depressing to be enjoyed otherwise. And don’t get me wrong, while I applaud the filmmakers for exploring this side of war, the entire segment just ends up letting the movie down.
Which is a shame because, as mentioned, there is a lot to like about this movie. The first half is genuinely effective as far as mood and atmosphere goes and do I even need to talk about how good Andy Serkis is in this role? It’s genuinely a travesty that he gets so little recognition come awards time for these sorts of roles. But that second half weighs the movie down like a chain around its neck and drags into the levels of the decent, rather than the great.
43. Darkest Hour
You know, one of the most common threads I heard from other people while going into this movie was that the movie itself, as far as story, pacing, etc etc was rather blah, but the movie as a whole was elevated by Gary Oldman’s fantastic performance. Whiiiich is why it’s kinda weird that I personally enjoyed the film itself plenty, but thought Oldman’s performance was honestly one of its weaker aspects. It was far too phlegmy and blustery and over-the-top for the relatively solemn mood and tone the rest of the movie lay out. Hell, I think Oldman’s make-up department is far more worthy of the praise and accolades than he is
Anyway, as mentioned, I actually did kinda like the movie itself. It does a decent job of establishing the mood and atmosphere of a war that is slowly being lost and you do kinda sympathise with the main antagonists, Halifax and Chamberlain, who are merely trying to preserve as much of the country as they can in the face of a situation that feels unwinnable. The hard decisions feel hard and there are genuine stakes at play for each one made. It was far too easy to go the propaganda route and simply portray Churchill as 100% unshakable in the face of Hitler’s tyranny, but the movie introduces realistic moments of doubt and a situation where, were you in the same position, you might question what you would do as well (albeit without the preknowledge of what exactly the Nazi’s were doing, mind).
So yeah, I think the movie is getting a bit of an unfair rap. I don’t know whether I’d necessarily call it good enough for a Best Picture nominee, but there’s a fair amount to like. Even if you’re like me and think the central performance is really kinda overrated.
42. Annabelle Creation
‘s a solid haunted house flick. I have kind of a soft spot for them. What more do you want?
Ah, the number 3 in the trifecta of ‘Genre Movies that People went Gaga over this year that I thought were just okay.’ Feel free to take your place with Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049. Honestly, despite me ranking this the highest, in some ways the fanboy reaction to this bugs me way more than the other two. With Blade Runner 2049 I can at least appreciate the story strengths and why people definitely would like it and I’ve had more than enough time to get used to Nolan movies being overrated. But with this movie, I keep hearing comments on here about how it ‘transcends the genre’ and that ‘Anyone who thinks WW/TR/GOTGv2/etc is better than it is clearly out of their minds’ such and such when… honestly… thematically and character-wise I think it’s really kind of a mess?
I mean, here’s a good example for you. Explain to me Logan’s character arc through this movie. And I don’t mean give me a vague platitude like ‘He learns to appreciate life’ or ‘gains a family’ or whatever, I mean really think about it. Because it never really comes together. Is he supposed to be learning to appreciate life? Well, he fucking sacrifices himself at the end. Was he supposed to be learning to accept death? Well, he was planning on shooting himself after Xavier died, so not much accepting needed there. Was it about finding a family? Because he already kinda had one with Xavier and Caliban and he barely knows most of those kids. Was it about accepting Laura? Then where does his death fit into that emotional arc? It just doesn’t come together, which is irritating because it’s theoretically set-up as the backbone of the movie. And it’s really not the only example. A lot of character arcs, ideas and themes just plain aren’t developed or get a competent conclusion and that really undermines a lot of the most interesting ideas and character moments that it brings up.
Honestly, I think far too many people were just too enamoured with the idea of this ‘adult and mature’ R-Rated superhero flick, that handles adult and mature stuff like Prof X having a degenerative brain disease or a super murder child, etc etc, that they fail to notice all the ragged edges and how the movie doesn’t really go all the way with most of its subtextual ideas. (It’s also especially hilarious when people act flabbergasted about others preferring Wonder Woman considering that movie is almost pitch perfect when it comes to developing a character arc and an emotional/thematic throughline, but I’ll save that till later.) As much as people may think TDK gets overpraised, thematically, that movie is tight as shit. This one is not.
That said, there is a lot to like about this movie. And I mean a lot. I may have spent most of this review bitching about it, but that has more to do with how much it’s overpraised than any real sense that the movie is awful. There’s genuinely a lot to like about it, from its action, to the excellent acting across to the board, to its solid sense of mood and so and so forth. Honestly, I’d even go so far as to say that, even if I don’t necessarily like it as much as other people, I still genuinely appreciate this movie’s existence for helping to expand the CBM to wider potential fields and providing a serious example of a successful R-Rated comic book movie going forward. Which is a definite positive. I just don’t think it’s nearly as good as other people do.