Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts – 2016) B

Monster movie with a fun cast, crazy fight scenes, insane huge “monsters”, good sound track, some good cheesy dialogue AND it looks great? check check and check. This was a fun movie that knows exactly what it is and does not take itself seriously at all. It works splendidly.

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Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi – 2016) B

I’ve said it before, watching a story about individuals being the best they can be at something and accomplishing great tasks is always awesome. If those individuals are a trio of black ladies working for NASA in the early 60s with all the challenges they had to deal with on top of trying to get a man in space (and back down) all the better. The acting is good and movie is very interesting. Good to see stories about those who made space travel possible, especially those not in the spotlight.

Mother (Joon-ho Bong – 2009) B+

When Yoon Do-Joon, a mentally challenged teenager, is arrested for the horrible murder of a girl his mother does not believe it. She will stop at nothing to prove that her baby boy did not do this and that the cops and the community are framing him and taking advantage of his disability. The cops are well-meaning but are ready to close the case since he “confessed”. The lawyer is a slime ball who advises her to take the plea deal. We follow Mother as she starts her own investigation complete with evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, deputizing one of her son’s friends and not giving a crap about anything other than getting her kid out of jail. The performance of Kim in the role of Mother (the film does not even give her a name…she is just mother) is fantastic. She goes all over the place. She can be tender, devious, loving, doting and even violent. This is ultimately about two people who are so dependent on each other that they cannot tolerate the idea of separating. When a crime, society and the law threatens this order they will fight back.

Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi – 2017) A-

Damn that was good. Taika Waititi has not made a bad movie yet and this one is no different. This was a fun, funny and awesome romp in the Marvel universe that is a great mashup in tone of Guardians of The Galaxy, 80’s sci-fi fantasy flicks and Waititi’s brand of humor. Everyone here is having a blast it seems and the movie is better for it. It moves at a good clip and the action looks great and makes sense. At over 2 hours this could have been one hell of a slog but I barely felt it. It works as a comedy disguised as a super hero movie really.

While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach – 2014) A

From the opening shot when I met Cornelia and Josh and their old friends who just became new parents I was hooked on this little movie. It’s a wonderful drama about growing old, friendship and appreciating your stage in life whatever that maybe. These characters feel real and though we might not know people exactly like them, we just feel like we know them and their flaws. It’s not a film with a lot of answers. Instead, it raises a lot of interesting questions after the artsy duo of Cornelia and Josh meet the younger far artsier and maybe cooler Jamie and Darby. They have it figured out…they are free and live in the moment and say fuck you to each other, but in a playful lovable way. She makes vegan ice cream and he makes documentaries. They are the ultimate hipsters who the older couple feels they missed out on being. Is there ever a good time to have a baby? Am I too old to wear a hipstery hat (probably)? Are these young 20-somethings so much cooler than I am? Or are they just as clueless but in a different way? The best stories are those that deal with all the grey areas in life. There rarely is any black and white.

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (Michael Haneke – 1994) B

It lacks the focus of Code Unknown even though it shares some of its aspects. It’s intentionally too fragmented I suppose and as such looses a lot of impact. Like the name suggests we get 71 short scenes of various individuals in Austria who are all impacted in one way or another by a senseless shooting at a bank. We get commentary about current world affairs, class struggles, family relationships and immigration. Haneke seems to have figured out how to do a significantly better and more effective film using similar topics a few years later with Code Unknown.

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve – 2017) A

Remarkable sequel to the 1982 film. It picks up 30 years later where we meet K, a blade runner replicant hunting versions of his own kind who are in hiding. He makes a discovery at one such site that could change everything in the human/replicant relationship. The movie proceeds from that point with a look, feel and pace very much in line with the original. The art direction again is stellar as we get enveloped in the same world of gloomy exteriors, huge holograms and awesome technology. From one scene to the next this is a world that feels lived-in and real. After loving Arrival and Sicario, I knew that Villeneuve would do this right and he did not dissapoint.