I made a lot of treks to the theater in October, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts relatively brief here. (I’ve opted not to review a few of the films, just because I don’t have much to say about them.) Here are the modern (post-1970) films I watched last month!
The Birth of a Nation (2016) – I was hesitant to see this film due to the controversy surrounding its director/writer/star and his co-writer, but decided I couldn’t very well boycott it when I own several Woody Allen movies and consider alleged LSD pusher Cary Grant one of my favorite actors. People are messy, and if I can separate the art from the artist/actions/allegations in some cases, I can’t just selectively apply it elsewhere. My sister really wanted to see the film, having previously studied Nat Turner’s rebellion, so I agreed to watch it with her. With that long-winded ramble out of the way, my thoughts on the film as a film: I liked it more than I expected to, but don’t think it reaches the “most important film of the year” status it was obviously striving for. When viewed as a history of Nat Turner’s life and rebellion, its weaknesses are clear. It’s a prime example of hero worship and includes many a historical inaccuracy. However, the film also includes several emotionally-effective and beautifully-staged scenes, which don’t erase its problems but give it some merit as a drama.
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016) – When I heard that a new Bridget film was being made, I was skeptical. I love the original Bridget Jones’s Diary and didn’t think that magic could be re-created. While not quite the same level of lovable as that wonderful 2001 rom-com, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a very enjoyable film and far exceeded my expectations. Renee Zellweger doesn’t miss a beat at getting back into character, and her misadventures as a single career woman turned unexpected mom-to-be are a lot of fun to watch. The supporting cast is great, too, with all of Bridget’s old pals plus Emma Thompson, Patrick Dempsey, and Sarah Solemani. Will definitely be buying this one on DVD!
Dream Man (1995) – A weird straight-to-video thriller that I got sucked into on TV one Sunday afternoon. Patsy Kensit and Bruce Greenwood (rockin’ a great curly hair-do) are police force partners, with a catch: she has psychic abilities, which he isn’t sure he believes in. Andrew McCarthy plays a man suspected of murder, but the psychic detective is sure he’s innocent. Her partner begins to agree when several of her visions come true. The plot takes several turns that are more than a little bit ridiculous, though I appreciated the twist on the psychic’s character — her abilities are able to be manipulated by others, complicating her trust of McCarthy’s character. Good for a one-time, lazy weekend watch.
The Girl on the Train (2016) – The book version of this thriller sold big but was polarizing. I know a lot of readers didn’t like it, or compared it to the work of Gillian Flynn, saying that Flynn’s books (especially Gone Girl) are better. In my mind, it’s not a competition. There’s room for much more than just one writer of suspense-thrillers with flawed women as lead characters… and I happened to like The Girl on the Train quite a bit in book form. It did a pretty good job of keeping me guessing, and I liked the use of different character perspectives. It’s been a while since I read the book, but I think the film is a pretty close adaptation in terms of story trajectory, though the setting is moved from the UK to the US. I thought the preservation of the three different perspectives actually worked pretty well on screen, and the performances are good. The pace seemed a little slower than the book to me (perhaps because I read it while running on a treadmill, haha), but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all. If you didn’t like the book you won’t like the film, but if you did enjoy it, the adaptation is worth a look.
Hello, My Name is Doris (2016) – I love Sally Field and I wanted to love this film. Her performance in the role of Doris is fantastic, but the character is just exhausting to watch in her persistent, misguided pursuit of a co-worker’s affection. My issue is not with the fact that said co-worker is 40 years younger than her, but that she never seems to make any progress in realizing what she’s doing wrong. I just found the whole film frustrating as a result, as much as I thought Field did a great job of taking on the character. On a smaller, positive note, as a fan of the band Bleachers, I was amused by Jack Antonoff’s appearance.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) – I’m typically pretty picky about action movies, but I enjoyed the first Jack Reacher film enough that I left the theater thinking I wouldn’t mind watching it again. I wasn’t eagerly awaiting the sequel but decided to give it a shot, if for no other reason than to see if I’d like it as much as the first. No such luck. It isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen in theaters this year (or even this month), but I just didn’t find it in any way memorable.
Watched, but not reviewed: The Accountant (better than expected), Boo! A Madea Halloween (meh), Keeping Up with the Joneses, and Masterminds (a few laughs each).