Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.4
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Nikita (1990) — 7/10
Nikita is a street thug with some fighting skills. She’s part of a gang that tries to rob a jewelry store and it goes completely tits-up, leaving only Nikita alive. She shoots the cop who finds her at the scene in the face.
She’s sentenced to prison where her captors fake her death in order to enter her into a shadowy government organization to first hone, then use her native but nascent skills on missions. Her first missions, the one that she has to pass in order to “graduate” from the program and start real missions is to kill a diplomat. She’s given very clear instructions, but the mission ends up being completely different and goes tits-up. She masters the situation and gets out anyway, graduating the program.
She is given various missions, with a major one in Venice, where she is on vacation with her boyfriend. Her cover is almost blown during her mission, but she manages to cover it up. Her final mission in the film again goes sideways, but she escapes with her life, abandoning both the agency and her boyfriend.
Watched it in the original French, with English subtitles.
- Comedians in Cars getting Coffee S10 (2018) — 6/10
Jerry Seinfeld has been interviewing comedians for ten seasons now. The show format hasn’t changed at all: he picks a car he deems appropriate to the comedian he’s going to interview; he calls the comedian and picks them up; they go out for coffee. No-one drives the car but Seinfeld.
Seinfeld is decent, but it’s hard for him to shake the veneer of comfortable, rich, older guy. Still, there were a few good interviews in this season: Zach Galifianikis and Dana Carvey stood out. Others were more of a dud than expected, like Dave Chappelle, where the conversation didn’t really go anywhere.
- Kaya Yanar: Made in Germany (2008) — 8/10
- This is one of Yanar’s first specials and his machine-gun mouth serves him well through a longish special, almost 90 minutes. He covers growing up in Germany, growing up Turkish in Germany, going to gymnasium, dealing with parents of varied provenance. Watched it in German. Recommended.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) — 9/10
After having seen the trailer for the remake The Hustle, starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway in the roles played by Steve Martin and Michael Caine in the original.
Caine is a very well-established con-man on the French Riviera with a gorgeous house and a very successful “practice”. Steve Martin is the brash, young American with raw skills but no style. Caine takes him under his wing and trains him for a big sting: they will compete for Caine’s territory by both trying to con an heiress (Glenne Headly) out of her newly acquired fortune.
They all play wonderfully and the script is great—there’s a lovely twist at the end. Highly recommended.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine S06 (2018–2019) — 9/10
- In season 6, the action picks up and everyone is very comfortable in their roles. The characters grow and the plots are pretty interesting. I gave it an extra point because this season was much better than 4 or 5.
- The Kominsky Method (2018) — 10/10
Michael Douglas and Allan Arkin are Sandy Kominsky, acting coach and his agent, Norman Newlander. The show starts with a farewell: Norman’s wife Eileen (Susan Sullivan) has late-stage cancer and dies in the first episode. She remains in the show as an imaginary sparring partner for Norman.
Sandy’s daughter Mindy (the wonderful Sarah Baker) works with him. Norman’s daughter Phoebe (Lisa Edelstein) is a drug addict who bounces from clinic to clinic, wasting money and everyone’s patience.
Throughout the season, Sandy and Norman grow grudgingly closer while Sandy gets closer to Lisa (an excellent Nancy Travis), a student of his.
The dialogue and pacing is pitch-perfect. Douglas is fantastic and very much in the mode of the jovial Jack from Romancing with the Stone rather than his creepier roles, like in Fatal Attraction. I’m really looking forward to season 2.
- Sex Education (2019) — 10/10
This is a British show about a young man Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) going through puberty, along with the rest of his school. His mother (the delightful Gillian Anderson) is a sex counselor with her practice in her home. Otis has only incidental contact with her estranged husband (and fellow counselor), Remi, played by James Purefoy.
His best friend is Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and he makes an acquaintance of Maeve (the also-excellent Emma Mackey), who’s highly intelligent but is poor with a shady family and an attitude problem. She detects a latent talent in Otis: he seems to have a good bedside manner for dishing out sex advice—just like his mother.
He starts counseling the other students, with varied success, but he and Maeve are making money. Maeve starts dating the school swim-star but slowly starts to fall for Otis. Otis is deeply in love with Maeve but slowly falls for Ola Nyman—whose father is a handyman falling for Otis’s mom (who reciprocates).
Season one ends nicely, setting up and interesting season two, filled with so-far interesting, funny and non-preachy characters. Highly recommended.
- Heavy Metal (1981) — 4/10
- I first saw this movie while in college, where I remember it being much better than it was on a second viewing. In the early 90s, the graphics were amazing—now they’re a bit dated and the movie has to survive on other merits, like the plot. The plot seems to have been written by a horny 15-year–old. Most of the skits are relatively primitive, if at-times amusing. There is some nudity, but it’s pretty tame, overall. The story follows an evil, glowing ball that takes its victims by convincing them to do stupid, life-threatening things. It’s unclear what its agenda is: it seems all-powerful but its aims seem petty.
- Eighth Grade (2018) — 4/10
This is a 90-minute movie about a modern, eighth-grade girl’s life. We spend most of our time watching her in close-up, bathed in the glow of either a laptop or her phone. Her father features occasionally as a milquetoast whom she abuses. He apologizes constantly to her for making her feel that she has to abuse him. She uses Instagram primarily, as do her friends. This movie could have been an advertisement for that service.
What else does she do? Does she play an instrument? Does she read? Go outside? Play a sport? Ride a bike? No to all. The weather is always lovely, but she’s never outside. She doesn’t seem to have any interest outside of chatting with friends. She doesn’t seem particularly clever or interesting.
She meets some older kids, who treat her like a goddess, which is refreshing since you expect the complete opposite. On the other hand, there is literally nothing that we’ve learned of her that justifies this near-worship by the older kids.
She makes videos and posts them online. They are short and mostly incoherent, full of platitudes about being your best self and being confident. The plot is nearly nonexistent. She likes a boy. She has a time capsule project that she at-first hates, then regrets having made her father burn for her. She makes a new time capsule.
She tells off a mean girl who doesn’t seem to even understand what’s happening. The vindictive moment seems to only happen for her. No-one else sees it.
The end. Not recommended.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) — 8/10
This movie turned out better than expected. Alden Ehrenreich is quite good as a young Han Solo. We learn about Solo’s rise from his home planet to becoming a smuggler. We knew a bunch of this backstory already, but the film fills in a lot of interesting detail. The story is about the Kessel Run.
Solo teams up with Beckett, another smuggler played by Woody Harrelson. Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra, a young lady in whom Solo is enamored, but who doesn’t make it off the planet with him. She shows up again later, though.
Donald Glover is also very good as a young Lando Calrissian. Paul Bettany and Thandie Newton are also good. I was surprised to find myself having enjoyed a Ron Howard vehicle so much. It’s pretty decent, the script set up a sequel in a non-pandering manner (that is, the story for this movie was solid in its own right, but the characters and storyline were nicely lined up for more).