It was the baby-monitor jump-scare that lost me. Intriguing backstory open before the movie changes directions, centering on Amy Adams (far less electric here than in Arrival, and given much less to do) reading the rape-murder-revenge novel written by her ex Jake Gyllenhaal, visualizing it starring him with Michael Shannon as a dying cop who doesn’t play by the rules. I suppose the ending should be cynically satisfying, as Adams becomes obsessed with the novel, contacts Jake to meet him and talk about it, and gets stood up. By that point though, who could care about Amy and Jake’s old relationship problems (she got an abortion without telling him, and dumped him for Armie Hammer) or his elaborate literature-based revenge plot, when the bulk of the movie has become the novel itself, a grimy, joyless, desert desperation story? And who can say why Adams gets so sucked in, to the point where she starts seeing jump-scare monsters inside her assistant’s baby monitor, a moment that felt so outrageously cheap that I optimistically figured it would be justified later, or at least be the beginning of a series of visions?
Also it opens with naked fat women dancing in slow-motion. And hey, here’s Love star Karl Glusman and Donnie Darko‘s Jena Malone, both of them returning from another 2016 movie I found ugly and misguided. Standard dialogue scenes were filmed in a flat and boring manner (and the movie is mostly standard dialogue scenes). Diana Dabrowska in Cinema Scope and David Ehrlich on Letterboxd both compliment the camerawork, so maybe I missed something there. At least Jake G. is very good in his role, and Shannon is always pleasant to watch.
Saw this right after rewatching Kubo and the Two Strings over Thanksgiving, noticed how they both refer to a person’s life “story,” then realized this was based on a book called Story of Your Life. So the two movies go together nicely is what I’m saying.
Amy Adams is a linguist and Jeremy Renner a physicist who are recruited by Forest Whitaker to communicate with the aliens whose giant ships have appeared across the planet. We see Adams do lots of linguistics but don’t see Renner doing any physics, and I think Adams’ final language-comprehension-enabled time-reading abilities break some movie paradox laws (she can learn from her future self), but the whole thing is so beautifully done I could care less. Also interesting that the emotional resonance of world peace is much less than the story of Adams’ own doomed marriage and child.
Dennis Villeneuve makes beautiful images, perhaps tending to exploit shallow focus a little TOO much, but in doing so he uses it in unexpected ways, sometimes throwing the whole subject of the shot into an artful blur.
Damn this movie being great, because now I have to care about Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel. An Advanced Movie, it relies on our knowledge of flashback rules in order to trick us by breaking them. Waited in my seat until the music credit came up. I liked the Jóhann Jóhannsson score but I guess I really noticed the bookending Max Richter piece. This was the academy’s exact justification for excluding Jóhannsson from award consideration, somewhat unfairly.
Total acting showcase, starring two oscar winners and three multiple-nominees. So who do you get for the sixth-billed slot? Louis C.K., hell yes!
Scammer Christian Bale attracts scammer Amy Adams, who both attract the attention of overeager federal agent Bradley Cooper, who wants to go big with the scams and nab charismatic mayor Jeremy Renner. Also Bale is married to Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to have been pried into the movie. Also Robert DeNiro plays a scary gangster, and the scammers screw over the agent (and, reluctantly, the mayor) at the end.
Large-faced actor Jason Segal had a dream to resurrect the Muppets on the big screen, full of celeb cameos and musical numbers so he called up Flight of the Conchords (not Jemaine – he must’ve been busy on Men In Black 3). Proven cutey musical lead Amy “Enchanted” Adams is a love interest, Chris Cooper a villain, and Jack Black an unwilling celebrity guest.
And it worked! Good movie, full of the same self-referential humor and silliness as the originals. Plot revolves around Segal’s friend (brother?) Walter, who is a muppet, idolizes the 1970’s Muppets and convinces them to reunite to hold a fundraiser to save their old studio from an evil oil baron. Two of the voice actors/puppeteers are from the original Muppet Show (and Fraggle Rock too) – including Gonzo. So why is Gonzo barely in the movie? (edit: oh it’s because of Muppets From Space) This one was Kermit and Fozzie-heavy, so maybe they’re saving the others for the next movie.
My favorite bit from the IMDB trivia: “Bret McKenzie taught Chris Cooper how to rap.”