Detroit

Detroit (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: C
Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time: 143 minutes

I reached the theater 10 minutes before the movie start-time and assumed that the theater would be packed. There were people, just a handful, mostly who munched on the popcorn through the quiet scenes and put their shoes on the seats in front of them.

I had decent expectations for the movie directed by my fav – Kathryn Bigelow whose Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty were impressive cinema. This powerful story of racism, which no one wants to voluntarily think or talk about, went mostly downhill for me after the initial impressive animated montage lesson of the history of blacks moving to the north for factory jobs.

The shaky camera is impressive in small doses but it just took away from the story in a major way for me. It was relentless just like the pain inflicted on fellow humans in the movie. The tone of the film color does take one back to the late 60s, but that also made it guilty of pushing an unwelcome caricature of complex themes and human nature.

Depicting racism through a white-colored prism is a painful balance and it simply failed here. I would have settled for neutrality.

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Get Out

Get out (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: R
Running Time: 103 minutes

If you have already gotten out, you have been treated to a modern classic. If not, get out this weekend to see “Get Out”.
 
What seems to be a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” remake is a well-done horror movie with many doses of comic relief. Daniel Kaluya plays the black boyfriend of a white woman played by Allison Williams. They are both going to meet her parents for the weekend. But the turn for horror takes place soon after they reach her secluded home.

 
 
The beauty of the movie is how the scares are put in real and believable context, while you are simply thrust into rooting for the central good guy and other players start showing their bad side to the audience.
This is a gem of a debut from the director Jordan Peele and would like to see more from him. I hope he does not follow M. Night Shyamalan’s path, although I will publicly confess that I liked most of the movies MNS made after Sixth Sense.
 
Some believe that the movie had racial tones and references to recent incidents, but Peele has little intention of pointing out the obvious as he never gets sentimental, and instead lets the audience squirm in deciding what to do – snicker, laugh or contemplate.

Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (2011)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time: 158 minutes

Well, I wish I could say better things about the English version of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.   If you have seen the Swedish version like I have, I give the movie a C+, else it is a B.  The reason for the above conditional (if-then-else) grading is that there is no suspense left after you have seen the foreign version.

20girl-span-jumbo

Anders Linden/Columbia Pictures

The movie does not soften the Swedish version in any way, and that may be disturbing to the puritanical lives we portray to the outside world.  David Fincher’s uncompromising style is present throughout the film, although it gets drably in the middle of the almost 3-hour saga (160 minutes).    The sound quality and the fake accents with constant mumbling make you play annoyingly-close attention to the words – I am waiting for “Mission Impossible 4” where I will cover my ears.  I was hoping that somewhere I could push a button for subtitles. Or, do I need to get my ears checked because of my old age.  But the clear diction of Christopher Plummer and Joely Richardson convinced me otherwise.

Now the good stuff – the cinematography and the music are well done.   In that respect, I have not seen a wintery movie like this since Fargo (1996).  Rooney Mara is a transformed actress and she may be an Oscar contender.  She gives the character of Lisbeth credence in some ways Noomi Rapace could not or did not.  Mara’s portrayal of compartmentalization of life’s needs was even scarier than that of real-life Bill Clinton’s.  Pay close attention to her compartmentalized focus in the scene where she retrieves her stolen bag.  I am hoping that Mara does not follow Marisa Tomei where she has to get naked in every other movie to prove her acting chops or to pay her rent.

Daniel Craig is his expected usual self and I cannot wait for the next five Bond movies (the introductory credits in the movie seemed to be an homage to the Bond movies) he plans to make (but he will be forced to go on a diet/exercise regimen as they refused to show his paunch for more than a second in the film).

Bottom line – go see it if you have not seen the original; if you have seen the original, you can wait for the DVD; if you have Netflix, it may be time to see the Swedish version again.

Based on my review, my daughter made a comment – why did they have to do Swedish accents and base it in Sweden – they could have changed locations and had American accents like they did in the well-done English version of “Let the Right One In”.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Reviewer: Autar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 131 minutes

Ya, the summer session is over and I have become a somewhat lenient grader. That is not true. I was just leaning toward an A-.

Tom Cruise makes 55-year-olds like me look like a mission possible. He is helping us relive the good old and sorely missed James Bond style action with a flair for stunts that are only semi-CGI and seat-edge worthy.

Two hours fly by nicely after 20 minutes of commercials which I do not mind. Some good thoughtful movies (think Oscar) are coming in October.

There is the usual comic relief from Simon Pegg with a dose of Alec Baldwin and Jeremy Renner two liners to keep the movie in Cruise control, while disabling the control during a motorcycle chase, airplane hanging, water hole jumping, and a knife fight. Who can forget to mention the grumpy Ving Rhames acting just like as if he is in the ADT commercials.

Rebecca Ferguson is the female lead who holds her own in acting chops (is that a pre-requisite), plot twists and screentime, and the directors were sensible in her having the last word in a well-choreographed knife fight.