On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 19, 2017

Wonder Woman is quality popcorn entertainment with ambition. It is not the exception to the rule and it certainly has its issues, namely with pacing and its generic and derivative climactic battle, but much of this is easy to forgive due to that ambition; due to the fact it is earnestly trying to be more than it has to be. It has been a rather long time coming, but the day is finally here that we have a big screen, feature-length version of Diana Prince’s origin story. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) has crafted a magnificently mounted piece of filmmaking that feels as grand and majestic as a Wonder Woman movie should. It also doesn’t hurt that the casting of our titular heroine couldn’t feel more right and kudos to Zack Snyder for trusting his instincts on such a decision despite the initial backlash the casting and costume of Gal Gadot received. As Prince, Gadot is endearing from the moment we see her desire to uphold the legacy of her people. This initial gracing comes as she trains for an ever-impending battle that threatens to destroy her hidden island of Themyscira and the fellow Amazons that live there with her. Though unfamiliar with the comic books or even the seventies TV show starring Lynda Carter I’ve always assigned Wonder Woman to be this kind of beacon of purity in the super hero universe. Besides this though, I wasn’t sure what, as a hero, she stood for or what her motivations were or what her history entailed that might have made her so driven to defend the world from the bad guys. Turns out, Wonder Woman is more or less a God the same way Hercules was. Maybe even more so; is Hippolyta (played here by Connie Nielsen) more God-like than Alcmene? I have to imagine so. While Jenkins’ Wonder Woman provides enough of the backstory and origin details to answer many questions that might pop up throughout what is most impressive about this latest DC Extended Universe film is that it keeps to the virtues of that character throughout in the way people fondly remember. Jenkins and scribe Allan Heinberg have actively kept Wonder Woman’s optimism and slight naivety intact while placing her in a world and time that is tangible and rather terrible, not to mention under-represented on film. Such is a testament to how well Wonder Woman finds the right avenues to take in order to balance the many ambitions it hopes to accomplish. Even if some of these aspirations don’t quite reach the heights as successfully as was hoped for it is that balance that is key as there is so much to admire and enjoy about Wonder Woman that it not only remains memorable, but affecting. Full review here. Video review here. B+

I love movies about stand-up comedians. There is something to the art form that I, personally, don’t believe I’d ever be able to successfully master and that is the factor of succeeding in such a fashion where it outwardly seems like one is struggling without actually struggling at all. Stand-up is very much an art that requires one to put their whole selves on the line and bank on the fact their personality is endearing enough for the majority of the audience to find appealing and latch onto. To do this one has to express a large amount of humility while simultaneously sparking a small amount of jealousy-jealousy in the way that the audience wishes they could channel and overcome their own life’s obstacles in the same way a given comedian seems to be doing by discussing them in front of a crowded room. One can’t succeed at the job too effortlessly or they lack credibility yet if the routine doesn’t come with a certain amount of effortlessness they seemingly lack the natural “it’ factor it takes to thrive; to stand out among a sea of other would-be storytellers. It’s a fine line one must walk in order to be able to pull off a certain kind of aura and it no doubt comes down to knowing one’s self better than others might ever care to get to know themselves i.e. exposing or opening one’s self up to their own shortcomings, faults, disadvantages-whatever it may be that people believe takes them down a few pegs from the pedestal they constantly hope to achieve as a person. By all accounts, Kumail Nanjiani is a fine stand-up comedian though I’d be lying if I said I’d listened to any of his sets prior to seeing his feature writing debut in The Big Sick (and no, I haven’t seen Silicon Valley either). This is brought up for the reason that those strengths Nanjiani plays toward as a stand-up have clearly crossed over to his screenwriting process as not only have he and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, crafted a heartfelt and rather eye-opening story around cultural differences in relationships, but they have done so by telling their story and to do this in an effective manner one certainly has to know themselves and be honest about themselves with themselves if that story is truly going to resonate. Needless to say, The Big Sick accomplishes as much rather well and, not coincidentally, does so with just the right amount of effortlessness so as to be both endearing to audiences in its quest and enviable to fellow artists in its craft. Full review here. B

Certain Women is my introduction to the much celebrated writer/director Kelly Reichardt who has crafted such films as Wendy and Lucy and Night Moves. Reichardt is said to craft these methodically paced character studies that exist more for their introspective takes on the lives of their characters than anything resembling plot. Minimalist, if you will. Reichardt seemingly adapts many of her films from short stories or collections of short stories. And while I've yet to see any previous films from the filmmaker including her much heralded 2010 feature Meek's Cutoff I don't know that her latest necessarily urges me to go back and see what all the fuss is about. That said, Certain Women is certainly intriguing though the reasons for such interest fall more on the befuddling side of things rather than the promising. It is easy to sell the minimal approach as being more insightful and more telling simply out of the convenience of letting the audience do more of the heavy lifting, but some of the time keeping in line with the minimal approach is simply a substitute for there not being much to say in the first place. It's not hard to appreciate that Reichardt has approached these tales of three individual women in three different stages of their lives that only overlap in the most subtle of ways in an even more subtler fashion, but it is only by virtue of the focus shifting from one story to the next that the film doesn't become a complete and utter bore. And it would were it left in the hands of certain characters and beside the fact this is the point of those certain characters' profiles-documenting the monotony and lack of anything spectacular or interesting occurring in their lives-the film isn't ever able to come up with anything new or profound enough to say about the mundanity of daily life or the foibles that eventually bring us all around to the same level playing field as human beings to be noteworthy in its own right. I can understand and again even appreciate that this is very much a film that speaks to the complex and misunderstood experiences of the female in our male-driven society, but as a product that is intended to convince me of the discrepancies and double standards females deal with on a daily basis that males might not even consider I took away very little by way of enlightenment. There is a fine line between being understated and simply being uninteresting and unfortunately Certain Women skirts that line too often to fall on that minimal, but effective side of things. Full review here. C-

Jason Mamoa, Suki Waterhouse, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi, and Keanu Reeves star in writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour's follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in The Bad Batch. A love story set in a community of cannibals in a future dystopia the film takes place specifically in a desert wasteland in Texas,where a muscled cannibal breaks one important rule: don't play with your food. This thing sounds appropriately demented and apparently features Jim Carrey in a non-speaking, almost unrecognizable role as a hermit so, needless to say, I'm in.

Sam Elliot stars as Lee Hayden, a veteran actor of Westerns, whose career's best years are behind him in The Hero. Scraping by on voice over for commercials, Lee learns that he has a terminal prognosis of pancreatic cancer. Unable to bring himself to tell anyone about it, especially his estranged family, Lee can only brood alone as troubling, yet inspiring, dreams haunt him. Things change when he meets Charlotte Dylan (Laura Prepon), a stand-up comedian who becomes a lover who inadvertently jump-starts his public profile. Now, facing a profound emotional conflict of having a potential career comeback even as his imminent death is staring him in the face, Lee must finally come to terms with both realities when he finally confesses his situation to the one person he can. My mom saw this and it very clearly wasn't what she expected it to be and my mom loves Sam Elliott, so make of that what you will.

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