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Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 8

This week’s picks include classics and cult faves. There’s only one foreign film in the bunch for a change of pace. Two of the films come from the same director, though one is a frightening drama and the other is a sci-fi. There’s a screwball detective comedy and a Spanish psychopath on the Amazon drama. It’s heavy on the 30s and the 70s.

 

The films are: Aguirre Wrath of God, It Happened One Night, Don’t Look Now, Notorious, Fight Club, The Thin Man, The Man Who Fell to Earth

 

Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I wish I could say I was a ‘Tarantino fan’. But sadly, I am not. Mostly because I’m generally squeamish when it comes to violence, and decidedly traditional when it comes to story structure. So imagine my surprise at finding several things to genuinely like (or at least, appreciate) in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, even though it doesn’t have much by way of story and does indeed take a bloody turn, albeit toward the very end of a decently-paced 2 hour, 40 minute epic. Quentin Tarantino films (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, etc.) are still very much an acquired taste, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood goes down somewhat easier for the non-fan, thanks to the stellar performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. They are a joy to watch as fading television western star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), two guys struggling to adapt to changing times in “Hollywood” – the place, and the industry – in the summer of 1969.

Allied

Allied is a good ol’ fashioned romantic thriller starring Brad Pitt and Academy-Award winning actress Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose) as Max and Marianne, a Canadian intelligence officer and French resistance fighter who are thrown together for a dangerous, top-secret mission behind enemy lines in 1942 North Africa. They fall in love awfully fast, but it seems real enough. They get married. Start a family. Gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes. Until one day, Max is told that Marion is actually a German spy, and if the proof is substantiated, he must kill her. Ouch.

The Big Short

I’m behind on my Oscar nominees viewing, but I finally caught this one. I’d expected it to be more like Margin Call, but thankfully, though its subject matter is kind of similar, it is by turns funny and horrifying. Adapted from Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” it tells the story of how a small group of money men saw what was happening in the housing market in 2005 and set about shorting the market and making a killing. Along the way, they tried to wake banking regulators and the wider market to their realization that it was all about to go bust, but were totally ignored by those who were making money hand over fist on bad loans. It is a morality tale, very well told.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is a film based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free middle class black musician who lived in upstate New York in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is the nightmare tale of his abduction and sale into slavery, and his 12-year fight to survive and rejoin his family. The film is filled with ugly brutality and Northup, who is forced by the slave traders to go by another name, is systematically dehumanized and has to hide his true educated self, since that could mean a death sentence for him. A lot of it is hard to watch, but the violence is integral to the story, and it is definitely graphic but never gratuitous.

The Counselor

I almost didn’t bother writing this up at all. But then I felt an obligation to alert the Chickflix readers… that I really hated it. The fact that it features an A-list cast makes The Counselor all the more disappointing. I’d love to be able to encapsulate the plot, but I really don’t have a clue. All I know is that Michael Fassbender plays a lawyer who’s mixed up in some underworld drug dealings that begin to take a heavy toll on his personal and professional life. His girlfriend (Penelope Cruz) is blissfully unaware. His “friends” (Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt) don’t exactly have his best interests at heart. And I don’t know what Cameron Diaz is supposed to be playing. Whatever it is… it’s creepy, and gross. If you haven’t already heard about her display of ‘auto erotica’, count your blessings.

World War Z

I’m no expert on movies featuring the undead. But I seriously doubt that World War Z will rank among the best zombie movies ever – despite a budget exceeding 200 million dollars. 200 million dollars! I think I’m more horrified by the pricetag than the notion of a zombie pandemic jeopardizing all of humanity (i.e. the premise of WWZ). Not that this particular disaster movie is a total disaster. Far from it. I was genuinely surprised how much I didn’t hate it. And that’s mostly because of how much I liked Brad Pitt. He plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who’s given up his globetrotting ways to spend more time with the wife and kids in Philadelphia. He’s an intelligent, MacGyver-esque action hero type, called back into service to save the world – and thus, his own family too- from a growing army of zombies. Yeah, it sounds preposterous. But substitute “killer germs” for zombies, and the movie is basically Contagion or Outbreak with a contemporary sci-fi twist.

Moneyball

Moneyball is a slam dunk – oh wait, make that a grand slam – for baseball buffs. For those who don’t particularly care for the business of baseball, the movie can feel a bit draggy at times, but it’s generally worth the price of admission. It works for two reasons: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. So it’s gotta be good, right? Well…

Megamind

Megamind is megafun – for both kids and adults. I took my “seven-year-old excuse to go see animated movies” and both he and I laughed out loud at parts. He was so enthusiastic that before we even left the theater he asked when it was coming out on DVD.