The Mountain Between Us
The Mountain Between Us (2017): Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness.
Geez that is quite the IMDB description. This film....is not great. It has two lovely leads, and that's about it. Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are charming together, and the scenes of them on the mountain are somewhat enjoyable, if not solely because you get to watch these two great stars on scene together. But that's alllllll this movie has going for it. Initially, this film was over-the-top in an enjoyable sort of way. While these two are out in the elements trying to survive, I had some fun laughing at things like their dog surviving on two pieces of meat, or their fire never going out in any situation ever, or the fact that it was NEVER dark. In the world of The Mountain Between Us, it's bright in Idaho 24/7. Did you know that? Those moments were fun. Uninteresting, but fun, and Elba/Winslet were still charming together so it kept me invested. But then there's a 25 minute epilogue that is absolutely TERRIBLE. I'll spoil it for you, because this film plays out exactly how you'd expect: they're rescued. (WHOA, I know right?) But I think some execs decided that the film couldn't end with them being rescued and decided they needed to add a whole post-rescue sequence that is rushed, half-baked, and SELF-SERIOUS. This film nosedived into the mountains (was that forced? I don't think that was forced) with a ridiculous "Will they or won't they?" sequence that was completely unnecessary and totally boring, and threw this film off a cliff. That said, this movie isn't the worst way to spend a Friday night, with a few caveats. Redbox it with some friends and some alcohol, (maybe more than "some") and bask in all its stereotypical glory. And in Idris Elba/Kate Winslet. But don't expect anything else.
My Number: 4/10
November Criminals (2017): A teenager takes on his own investigation of a murder in Washington D.C.
GEEZ WHAT HAPPENED HERE? This movie sucks! It's low budget, yes, but it features two great stars in Chloe Grace Moretz and Ansel Elgort. But my GOD are they both TERRIBLE. They have absolutely no chemistry, and they honestly look like they're just reading off a script off-screen. I don't know if these two were just too busy to care about this small indie film, but they sure don't look like they give a flying F in this thing. They're also reading some of the most painful dialogue I have ever heard in a movie. This script is SO BAD. The film opens with one of the most uncomfortable sequences I have ever seen between these two and features Chloe Grace Moretz deciding to have sex with Elgort with some logic that would even make even a porno go "nah man, that's too ridiculous for us." This sequence is just awful all around and is amplified in today's #MeToo era, and this movie has the nerve to lead off with it to establish a romance between these two. That's not how any of this works! I'm not going to lie: I didn't even bother to finish this trainwreck. I made it halfway through before another uncomfortable "romantic" sequence between these two made me throw up my hands and say "DONE!" OH YA. And this film has stereotypes-a-plenty! Don't you worry, because if you wanted to add racial stereotypes on top of an impractical and borderline disgusting romance, you can with November Criminals! Like I said, I didn't finish it, so I don't know what happens. But you know what? I don't care. About halfway through I realized that my time would be better off spent on other things. Take this as a warning: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. You can thank me later on in life for NEVER seeing this. Why was this ever approved to go to production?
My Number: 1/10 (As Matt Atchity from Rotten Tomatoes would say....it gets a 1 because at least it's in focus)
The Foreigner (2017): A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers' identities.
This film is ok. I must say: it's lovely to see Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan again, and it's nice to see Pierce Brosnan playing a character with less-than-stellar intentions at heart. (For once) Even if his Irish accent is hilariously terrible. Unfortunately, though, this film lives in a world already occupied by films like The Equalizer and John Wick, and it was impossible to watch this one without also thinking of those (better) action movies. The story here is....muddy, to say the least. There were several characters that had important roles in the second half of the film that were seemingly introduced out of the clear blue sky. I had no idea where some of these people came from or why they were doing what they were doing. The whole thing felt rushed, to the point that it was easy to miss the fact that Jackie Chan isn't even in his own movie for, like, a solid 30-45 minutes. I'm not really sure why director Martin Campbell choose to introduce new characters and focus on the terrorist group versus Jackie Chan's inner struggle to balance being a good man and wanting to find revenge for his daughter's death, but he did. There's an interesting story to be had here, but the decision to put Jackie Chan in the backseat of his own movie and focus on something far less interesting was killer. It's an average action movie, with some enjoyable fighting scenes and intrigue between Pierce Brosnan (and his ridiculous Irish accent) and Jackie Chan, but that's about it. And you're going to have to sit throw a massive second act you care nothing about.
My Number: 5/10
Victoria & Abdul
Victoria & Abdul (2017): Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.
This movie is superficially charming. There could not be a better way to sum up this film in a single sentence than that. Yes, I laughed quite a few times. There's some old school comedy in this film. Judi Dench is lovely as Queen Victoria, and Ali Fazal is charming as Abdul Karim. When it's just the two of them, I had quite a bit of fun. But, whenever I was starting to have fun, this film would do something rather despicable that would take me out of the moment. Mostly, it was trying to be funny with the blatant racism surrounding the two main characters. Oh, look! Lady Churchill hates Abdul simply because he's from India! Ha! Haha! Funny, right? I'm laughing so hard! There WAS some great humor scattered about but it was almost exclusively involving Abdul and the Queen. Too many times did this film try and make a joke out of racial biases, so then when the racism is painted in a negative light towards the end of the film, it felt horribly superficial to me. That said! The main characters of this film are fantastic, like an island in a sea of misery. (And blatant racism....funny guys!) And I really did enjoy a lot of this film as the dynamic of the two main characters was interesting. Even though Abdul did some less-than-questionable things at times that the movie tried to glance over. (What about Mohammed, the other person that came to Britain from India with Abdul??) The film also covers nearly 15 years in the blink of an eye, all while deciding to waste precious screen time on a useless plot to remove Abdul concocted by the Prince of Wales and the rest of Victoria's household. I wish director Stephen Frears had chosen his screen time better. But, there was enough here for me to have some fun watching this, and the costumes and makeup are excellent. Just....prepare yourself for being expected to laugh at racism. (Maybe just watch Get Out again instead)
My Number: 4.5/10
The Big Sick
The Big Sick (2017): Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.
Or, instead of watching Victoria & Abdul, watch The Big Sick! (Again, if you've already seen it) I saw this lovely little film earlier this year and was surprised to see I hadn't written a review for it, so here it goes: this movie is GREAT. It's funny, emotional, and compassionate. It tackles racism in a modern setting in a far better way than Victoria & Abdul ever could. It does show some uncomfortable truths that come with being a Pakistani in modern America, instead of taking the "Oh! Look at how funny these racist people are!" route Victoria & Abdul decided to take. Kumail Nanjiana is great, as is Zoe Kazan. (Even though she's in a coma for most of the movie, you still feel like she's a hovering presence throughout) Also outstanding here is Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, in a couple role taken straight out of the early 2000s. Bad jokes aside, everyone in this movie is fantastic, and this story is NUTS. It would have been so easy for this film to be a tonal mess, but it's not. It manages to balance some very serious themes around a comedy and it handles its difficult tonal shifts with wonderful grace. It's not perfect, though. This movie clocks in at 120 minutes, and it's DEFINITELY too long. The third act gets a little muddy as the film doesn't really know what to do with itself, and I do think 15-20 minutes could've been cut to make it feel a bit more crisp and polished. But this is a relatively minor complaint. The Big Sick is a fantastic little indie movie with an unbelievable story and wonderfully important themes, and I am SO GLAD it managed to net itself a surprising screenplay nomination. Well done to the Academy there. If you haven't seen this yet, do make an effort to change that! It's worth it!
My Number: 8/10
Marshall (2017): About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.
This film came out at the wrong time. I really like what it is going for: it is well executed, full of good intentions, and MASTERFULLY acted by Chadwick Boseman, but.....it's tough for me to get on board with a movie who's entire premise is built around a woman lying about being raped. Not only that, but this film makes the poor decision to show "flashbacks" of the incident from both the alleged victim and the accused, which show the rape of a woman which, according to the end result of the trial, did not happen. I will not lie: in 2016, I would have had a blast watching this film. From start to finish. There is so much to like here, and I never would've thought twice about the importance of a woman falsely (according to the end result of the trial) accusing someone of rape. But the #MeToo movement has played a pivotal role in opening my eyes to sexual harassment in the workplace, and while I do not believe this film had ill-intentions at heart, it doesn't change the fact that in this day and age.....it is uncomfortable to watch this movie without tying it to current events. That said, if you remove the (what I believe to be accidental) ties, you are left with an outstanding and gripping courtroom drama. While the castings felt a bit off, (it was tough to take Josh Gad seriously, and Kate Hudson felt miscast) and the score felt out-of-place, the drama this story tells beautifully mashes an intimate courtroom drama with something as grand as the civil rights movement, all tied together by a performance that (almost) should have netted Chadwick Boseman an Oscar nomination. Seriously: this dude is a terrific actor, and this is one of his best roles. (Oh, and freaking Sterling K. Brown is awesome, as usual here). Unfortunately, this film came out in 2017, and in light of recent events, I can't find it to be a decent movie. Check it out if you're a fan of Chadwick Boseman, but otherwise there are better courtroom dramas out there that won't make you feel as uncomfortable as this one does.
My Number: 5.5/10