21st Century Treasure Quest #18
Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 10 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a further introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)
1 chest: Definitely worth missing
2 chests: Okay to kill some time
3 chests: Not a complete success, but rewarding
4 chests: Well-crafted, creative and memorable
5 chests: A real treasure, deep, profound and original
Avengers: Infinity War (2018—Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo)
The Russo directing brothers along with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely piece together an overwhelming superhero ensemble extravaganza. The story’s astonishing finale nearly counterbalances its unremarkable first two acts. No one should be surprised if upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe entries dampen the ending’s ultimate impact.
The Endless (2018—Director: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead)
Aaron Moorhead and writer Justin Benson co-direct and star together in this modest but unique sci-fi horror infusion memorable for its bizarre subject matter inspired by the Heaven’s Gate UFO cult. Such a display of grounded filmmaking makes one wonder what more ambitious stories Benson and Moorhead could realize with a larger budget at their disposal.
I Feel Pretty (2018—Director: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein)
How to Be Single co-writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein fail to recapture lightning in a bottle as they take on directing duties for this latest Amy Schumer vehicle. Kohn and Silverstein’s scattershot script tries too hard to generate laughs and fails to commit to one of the many storylines it samples. Thus, the narrative's noble message concerning body positivity and self-confidence is neutralized of substance.
Isle of Dogs (2018—Director: Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson returns to the stop-motion animation medium with this Japanese-slanted ode to man’s best friend. The Akira Kurosawa-inspired visuals and references unite with an ingenious handling of language barriers to produce a meticulously crafted big screen delight.
Lean on Pete (2018—Director: Andrew Haigh)
The 400 Blows meets Paris, Texas in writer-director Andrew Haigh’s adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s 2011 novel. Actor Charlie Plummer captivates as a teenager motivated by the eponymous fading racehorse to transcend his prescribed living circumstances. Though the two-hour film may seem longer, invested viewers will feel emotionally drained but rewarded.
A Quiet Place (2018—Director: John Krasinski)
Director John Krasinski stars alongside his wife Emily Blunt, rising talent Noah Jupe and hearing-impaired actress Millicent Simmonds in this tight and novel horror gem. The filmmakers' impressive handling of sound (and lack thereof) and minimal use of dialogue both hearken back to the best of silent cinema and blaze an ideal trail for future big screen horror to pursue.
Rampage (2018—Director: Brad Peyton)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan relishes his screen time, Naomie Harris builds her mainstream credibility and Dwayne Johnson further cements himself as the go-to impervious action star in this thrilling sci-fi monster spectacle. The undeniably predictable, cliched and loose adaptation of the similarly-titled video game franchise does, however, tick most, if not all, of the boxes required for a rollicking blockbuster experience.
Tully (2018—Director: Jason Reitman)
Charlize Theron commands the screen in her second collaboration with writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. Though the story and its metaphorical imagery could have melded together more securely, this tribute to motherhood in all of its trials and triumphs manages to elevate director Reitman from an otherwise undistinguished career slump.
Where is Kyra? (2018—Director: Andrew Dosunmu)
Michelle Pfeiffer continues her autumn renaissance by giving a year-defining (not to mention career-defining) performance as a middle-aged woman sinking towards financial ruin after the death of her mother. Cinematographer Bradford Young magnetizes each dark and tightly composed shot in a way that would have pleased The Godfather cinematographer Gordon Willis (a.k.a. “The Prince of Darkness”).
You Were Never Really Here (2018—Director: Lynne Ramsay)
Joaquin Phoenix sets the standard for male lead turns in 2018 with his role as a quiet but vicious hitman in writer-director Lynne Ramsay’s take on Jonathan Ames’ 2013 novella. The sound department led by Drew Kunin, Andrew Stirk and frequent Ramsay collaborator Paul Davies, cacophonously reflect the PTSD of Phoenix’s character, complemented by the pulsing electronic score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood.