Alright, we’ve done books and TV, now let’s dive into this random assortment of movies; there’s no rhyme or reason to this selection, other than it focuses on (mostly) recent films, so without further ado, here’s what I watched this summer:

The duds

Baywatch

I don’t know what drove me to watch this one – call it nostalgia, or just blame it on the fact that I’d watch Dwayne Johnson in pretty much anything. Whatever the case, it was an utterly ridiculous movie. But damn if it wasn’t fun to watch. I was half-expecting it to be the beach version of 21 Jump Street, but unfortunately it was neither as funny, nor meta enough, despite the (mostly sad) cameos by Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff.

The CGI was laughable, the plot was just silly, and what it lacks in funny dialogue it makes up for in crude jokes and half-decent physical comedy. The Rock is one charismatic hunk of a man, but even he wasn’t enough to carry this thing. Oh, and Zac Effron is ripped now, so there’s that.

Berlin Syndrome

This one came highly rated, but simply left me cold. The plot wasn’t anything groundbreaking: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a psychopath who locks her up in his apartment.
Not only was it incredibly slow, but the heroine’s actions were simply infuriating, to the point that instead of feeling sorry for her ordeals, I just wanted to slap her across the face. She squandered so many chances to escape, and when [spoiler alert] she finally does, it mostly happens off screen. Meh.

 


The ‘meh’

Hounds of Love

Not as bad as Berlin Syndrome, this australian flick follows a similar motif: a horrible couple abduct a teenage girl and lock her up in their rundown home in some backwoods australian town. What’s interesting here is the dynamic between the girl and her captors, particularly the woman, who seemed gung-ho in following the plan out of desperate love for this godawful man who rapes and kills girls for sport.

Her co-dependency is shaken when she starts getting jealous of the young girl, and she starts questioning her man’s actions, enough for the girl to exploit this rift to her advantage. While well shot, the misery depicted in the movie, combined with the very slow pace, makes it an uncomfortable viewing experience – which I guess was the point. So it wasn’t a bad film; it wasn’t wasn’t fun to watch.

The Two Faces of January

Let’s be honest: the only reason I even watched this one was because it was shot in Athens. And despite doing a decent job depicting Greece in the 60’s, it just felt like a missed opportunity in terms of making the setting work to its advantage.

The movie itself wasn’t bad – and who doesn’t love Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst? Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, it had an interesting premise and, although slow to build up the tension, it actually picked up the pace along the way. I was disappointed that the bulk of the action took place in remote places in Crete that did nothing to show off the island’s beauty, and then continued in Instabul. Still, kudos on decidedly non-greek Oscar Isaac’s command of the greek language in the film.

A Walk Among The Tombstones

Here we have Liam Neeson banking on the success of the Taken franchise, playing the exact same role once again. Not that that’s a bad thing – he’s pretty good at it, after all. I just wish he weren’t typecast as this older dude who can kick ass and deliver ominous lines like a pro.

Instead of looking for his daughter, this time he’s hired by a drug kingpin (played by an unrecognizable Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and killed his wife. It’s fast-paced and action-packed and an overall fun film to watch.

Escape Plan

Who’d have thought I would enjoy a Stallone-Schwarzenegger movie shot in this decade? Not me, but that’s exactly what happened with Escape Plan. The plot is an interesting take on the prison break theme, and watching Sly and Arnold play off each other was incredibly fun, if only because of the nostalgia factor.

The action was pretty cool, and even in their 60’s the two action heroes manage to look believable as they kick ass together. Jim Caviezel was surprisingly believable as a villain, and the set pieces were pretty cool, even though the CGI was severely lacking.

The Whole Truth

I must admit, I expected more from this one, simply because I adore courtroom dramas. Alas, as much as I love Keanu (and I do – a lot. Whatever the guy lacks in acting chops he more than makes up for in simply being, by all acounts, an amazing human being), he just isn’t convincing as a defense attorney.

His slow, deliberate delivery doesn’t exactly scream ‘trial lawyer’ and is much better suited for strong-and-silent John Wick-type roles. Still, the movie was decent enough: an interesting case, a semi-surprising twist at the end, you could do a lot worse than The Whole Truth if legal thrillers are your thing.

Devil’s Knot

On with the legal thriller theme, this one seems to have completely flown under the radar, despite having Atom Egoyan at the helm. Based on a true story, it focuses on a gruesome triple murder of 3 young kids, and the teenagers charged and tried for the crime.

Although it had definite potential, in the end it just felt lacking. There are so many suspect and person of interest names to contend with right from the get go, it just becomes confusing. Add to that the infuriatingly lackluster job done by the police and the prejudiced prosecutors, judge and entire community, and the result is a very frustrating story – half of which is told via text at the end.

Presumed Innocent

This one’s a blast from the past but I had to include it in this list because I re-watched it after reading the titular book it was based on. Just like the novel, it didn’t disappoint, even though it lacked some of the nuances that made the Scot Turow book such an interesting read.

I would have liked a deeper look into Rusty’s wife’s eccentricities, or Sandy Stern’s unique character traits, but there’s only so much you can accomplish in adapting a book to film. My one gripe, however, was the not-so-subtle reveal towards the end, simply because it was handled with so much more subtlety in the original novel. Even though the movie doesn’t really hold up, it was a decent enough courtroom drama back in the early 90’s.

Enemy

The only reason this is in the ‘meh’ category and not the straight-up dud pile is because I actually appreciated Denis Villeneuve’s efforts with this one, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance was excellent as usual. However, I struggle to understand why, exactly, this movie comes so highly recommended.

For one thing, it’s not a thriller, psychological or otherwise. There’s nothing remotely scary about the entire film, and only if you buy into the whole allegorical premise from the beginning do you have an actual reason to keep on watching what is otherwise an excruciatingly slow movie. Each character’s reaction to what little is happening throughout the film is confusing at best, downright off-putting at worst; the sparingly planted hints as to what’s really going on are frustrating, and the whole experience was incredibly underwhelming, considering the hype around the movie’s “ingenious” approach to a character coming to terms with his inner wants and demons. Meh.

The Good

The Choice

Let’s start with the odd one out of the bunch. I’m not too big on romance/dramas (or movies based on Nicholas Sparks books, for that matter), but this one was actually pretty good. Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker share some impressive, albeit unlikely, on-screen chemistry, and the funny moments in the movie were actually hilarious.

The movie suddenly turns from super fun to watch to dark and depressing, at which point it starts to lag. Still, the slowing down serves its purpose well, and ultimately gets paid off handsomely, so I can’t really fault this movie at all.

Cold In July

Back to the crime/thriller genre with this one: can I just say how hilarious it was to sit through a Michael C. Hall performance as basically the exact opposite of his signature Dexter character? The awful 80’s ‘do and mustache don’t do the poor guy any favors, but he does an excellent job of portraying the jittery family man who defends his home against an invader and proceeds to get sucked into a whirlwind of deception and violence.

Sam Shepard is excellent and Don Johnson is super fun to watch in his cowboy getup and Texas drawl, and, despite a couple of glaring plot holes – we never find out who the intruder actually was, for instance – it was a nice little crime thriller with plenty of humor and good action sequences.

Hush

A little reminiscent of Don’t Breathe (which is never a bad thing – that was one edge-of-your-seat intense thriller right there), Hush focuses on a deaf and mute heroine rather than a blind anti-hero/villain, who is stalked by a psychotic killer in her secluded house.

Aside from a glaring plot hole right in the beginning, which sort of dulled my overall enjoyment of the movie (your iphone is 4G, woman! You don’t need wifi to facetime someone for help!), it was pretty scary, and the lack of dialogue made the whole experience even creepier.

The Girl With All The Gifts

The only actual horror flick in the bunch, this was so much better than I expected. I can totally forgive the bizarre ending because everything that precedes it is so damn well done and fun to watch.

The little girl in the lead role is phenomenal as Melanie, the movie’s take on zombie lore is actually refreshing, and there’s not one boring scene in the whole film. I especially liked the beginning, which basically contained zero horror elements, simply because it set up the rest of the story so brilliantly.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Any More

While Baywatch wasn’t as funny as I wanted it to be, this little indie gem pleasantly surprised me. I’ve always loved Elijah Woods (plus he seems like such a cool dude) and, although some of his latest choices in picking roles have been a bit perplexing, I actually loved this one and his quirky, over the top character.

Melanie Lynskie was brilliant in her portrayal of Ruth. There was dark humor as well as straight-up slapstick comedy (plus a fair bit of gore), it had an interesting premise and a unique outlook, and the result was a pretty damn enjoyable film.

Baby Driver

Now we’re talking. There’s very little I can add to the overall rave reviews Edgar’s Wrights more recent film has elicited since its release. It was the most fun couple of hours I’ve spent in front of a screen all summer, and everything about it was not just thoroughly enjoyable, but also incredibly well crafted: from the impeccably choreographed action sequences and the amazing music selection, to some of the best damn stunt driving I’ve seen in a movie, down to the hilarious supporting characters and Ansel Elgort’s wonderful performance as Baby. Two huge thumbs up.


Aaand that’s about it for the most part. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few movies here and there, but if they didn’t stick in my mind enough to make it on the list, they probably weren’t good (or bad!) enough to write home about.

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