Annihilation (Alex Garland – 2018) A

I want more movies like this. It is not perfect but it’s a movie that gets under the skin. It is wrapped in a Sci-fi shell but it is more about loss, grief and self destruction. When the “shimmer” shows up next to the beach somewhere seemingly after a comet crash, the area starts changing and expanding. Several expeditions of military personnel are sent in to investigate the phenomena and none come out. Enter Lena played by Natalie Portman who is a scientist whose husband (Oscar Isaac) was on one of those lost expeditions. Then he shows up at home, then he is horribly sick. When he is taken to a secret military station right outside the shimmer, Lena meets the next group who will be going in lead by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She joins up. This time the expedition is all women. Each one of them has some sort of tragedy in the background…why else would anyone volunteer to go on mission like this? This is all in the first maybe 20 minutes. Then they enter the area and Garland creates a world of amazing beauty, horror and haunting images and sounds. It’s  a film that surely pays to re-watch and I will be doing that soon.

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A Cure for Wellness (Gore Verbinsky – 2017) B+

It has it’s flaws. Our protagonist wanders into too many hallways of the creepy sanitarium in Switzerland, late at night, finding things out, not getting caught…way too many times. The plot is a bit silly I suppose. Maybe it is a bit too long. Yet, yet this is a glorious film to watch. It sucked me in with amazingly beautiful cinematography, set designs, surreal settings and a mesmerizing mix of horror and beauty. I cannot stop thinking about it and for that it wins in my book. So many water shots here I did not even know water can look so interesting, crystal clear, black mirror, mirror like, sloshing, calm, murky and steamy…weird thing to highlight but it really is beautifully done.

I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie – 2017) B+

I love it when a movie about a story I really would never have thought I wanted to see pleasantly surprises me. As the title suggests the focus here is on Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), her perspective, her upbringing, the family and cultural background that led to the infamous “incident”. The performances here are really good. A personal favorite is the character of Shawn played by Paul Walter Hauser and is just so damn funny and sad at the same time.

The Florida Project (Sean Baker – 2017) B+

Right next to Walt Disney World, right next door, close enough to see and hear helicopters fly in and out of there shuttling the more fortunate people, there is a stretch of low-end motels. Single moms, single dads, single grandparents,…you get the idea, occupy the rooms in those motels. We meet Moonee, living with her mom Halley in one of those places. It is shaped and painted to look like a castle with turrets and everything. The film basically follows her as she spends time with her friends. They play, get in trouble, harass tourists and beg for free ice cream. The realistic acting that Baker manages to get from these kids is really amazing. They dominate a good 50% of the movie and they never feel like they are forcing a performance. The other 50% is the life of the adults, Moonee’s mom is clearly not the mom of the year but we have no idea how she ended up in this situation. She tries to get money by dancing, selling cheap perfume to tourists next door and worse. Willem DaFoe plays Bobby, the motel manager. He is a good guy, feels responsible for people like Moonee and her mom but is really helpless to do that much to take them out of this situation. When the final act rolls around, still in the shadow of the “Happiest Place on Earth”, it is inevitable but very depressing none the less.

Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh – 2017) B

A fun and well made heist movie set in West Virginia and North Carolina. The characters are all mostly interesting, it moves at a fast clip and stays ahead of us most of the time. That’s a good thing. It is a perfect lazy Saturday movie from Amazon Prime.

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo – 2018) B+

This is a sprawling non-stop action movie that starts the conclusion of the Marvel 10-year -20-movie saga. Needless to say it would be useless to review this as a stand alone movie. It would, especially this one, absolutely make no sense to watch it without the context of the rest of the films. It starts in the middle (or maybe the end) of a battle where Thanos (Josh Brolin doing a great job under all the CGI) and his goons are destroying Thor’s ship (see Thor: Ragnarok) and people. Thanos is trying to get all 6 infinity stones so that he can snap his fingers and destroy half the universe to bring balance to it….well if you do not know what the deal is by now it does not matter. It’s amazing that Marvel got to this point with so many characters that we care about in so many movies. This one moves at a fast pace and ends with quiet a twist that I did not see coming. It was pretty shocking. In a superhero summer blockbuster flick this is a pretty amazing feat.

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola – 2017) C+

I saw it a while back and kind of forgot about it. What i remember is the general ambiance of the film. It’s set in a country house (or maybe school) for girls in the south during the civil war. They seem to keep to themselves and are left alone. The girls are managed by the strong Miss Martha played by Nicole Kidman. They do chores, collect mushrooms, cook, pray and generally keep safe. It’s a delicately balanced, if maybe dull, existence in that time of turmoil. The catalyst for change occurs when one of the younger ladies stumbles on an injured Yankee soldier (Colin Farrell) in the woods and brings him to the farmhouse. The film deals with the dynamic disruption to the lives of these ladies. It’s a nicely layered movie that looks great, has a subtle undercurrent of menace and tension throughout and leads to some horrific results.