Home Video Round-Up: 2/23/2019

Apostle(2/5/2019)

 

I had meant to watch this around Halloween but having just gone through 31 days of horror movies and I needed a break from that genre.  I have caught up with it now and it’s certainly a film that has its moments.  The film was directed by Gareth Evans, the British director who achieved great success making the The Raid films in Indonesia but is now working in the English language for the first time with his horror film Apostle.  The film is in some ways a riff on The Wicker Man as it focuses in on a pagan cult in the British Isles but the cult here is a lot more serious and less hippie-like.  When the movie gets going there are definitely some scenes that stand out and it has a good eye for creepy and memorable imagery.  However, I don’t know that I ever really connected with the main character who’s going through all this craziness and while the cult is intimidating at times I wouldn’t say it ever quite left the impression it was meant to.

***1/2 out of Five

The Old Man and the Gun(2/9/2019)

The Old Man and the Gun is a movie that is often talked about less on its own terms and more for the fact that it’s the final film (assuming the retirement announcement holds) for the legendary actor Robert Redford.  Normally I’d say that was unfair, but in many ways the film almost seems to be kind of resigned to the fact that it’s going to exist as a sort of footnote to a career, kind of like how The Shootist exists to be a swan song for John Wayne or On Golden Pond was built to say farewell to Henry Fonda.  In fact the movie is something of a meta-commentary on aging professionals sticking to their field of choice for sheer love of it, in this case bank robbing instead of acting.  Though the film is a swan song, the goal here seem less to challenge Redford into really flexing his acting ability and more to have him end his career in the way he spent most of it, by being a sort of likable movie star presence.  The film was directed by David Lowery, who has made more interesting movies before and will hopefully make more interesting films in the future, but here he’s content to simply make a no-frills little drama that tells its story without a lot of flash and gets the job done.  This is a decent movie to catch on Netflix or HBO sometime or another but I don’t think it’s anything to go out of your way for

*** out of Five

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2/14/2019)

Hale County This Morning, This Evening has been something of a critical darling all year and has been held up as one of the most artistic documentaries of the year and even earned a Oscar nomination despite not really being the kind of non-fiction they usually go for.  Having finally seen it I’ve got to say… I kind of don’t get it.  The film is sort of meant to be an examination of the black community within the titular Hale County in Alabama and eventually focuses on a couple of families, but it discards any kind of narration and goes for a sort of goes for this ethereal and vaguely Malick-esque format which did not really connect with me at all.  I’m generally not one to dismiss movies as “pretentious” but I’m a little tempted with this one.  I’m willing to admit that I might not have watched it as closely as I needed to in my rush to cross it off the list leading up to Oscar night and I might have missed something.

** out of Five

Of Fathers and Sons (2/17/2019)

Of Fathers and Sons is another documentary I watched in a last minute run through the Oscar nominated documentaries and I’m glad I did catch it because it is indeed a pretty interesting piece of work.  The film was made by a guy who immigrated to Germany from Syria as a child and in the film he is traveling back to Syria to infiltrate an Al-Qaeda affiliated family.  Much of the rest of the film consists of observations of this family, the way the father of the family thinks (the mother is nowhere to be seen), and how he’s raising his sons (including one named after Osama Bin Laden) to essentially become full on terrorists.  Watching them is kind of reminiscent of seeing the white supremacist family from this year’s nominated short film “Skin” in that they generally seem like humans but they seem to have more or less disgarded their humanity and let hate consume them.  At the back of your mind the whole time is the question “if a drone dropped a bomb on this family, would the world be better off?”  In the wrong hands this movie could be an effective means of generating more hate rather than more understanding, but this is reality and there is a benefit in getting the truth out there.

***1/2 out of Five

Quincy(2/23/2019)

After finishing up on the last couple of capsule reviews it became apparent to me that I was one film short of a final Home Video Round-Up for the year, so I turned on Netflix and did a search for one last 2018 documentary and turned on this documentary directed by Rashida Jones about her father, the legendary music figure Quincy Jones.  You pretty much know already what format this will take: it’s the standard bio-doc which follows an old person around with cameras for a few weeks and then intercuts that with biographical details about their glory days.  If you watch a lot of feature length docs you will have seen this format over and over again and it’s getting pretty tired, and yet it’s hard to get too mad at any one movie for employing it given that it is nothing if not efficient.  Jones is a pretty impressive person, so if you need an overview of his life and career, this will get the job done.  I might have liked a closer examination of his music, but whatever works.

*** out of Five

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