Seen any good movies, lately?

I have been seeing a lot of movies over the last couple of months. I haven’t written reviews for any of them. (Admittedly, after the election I didn’t feel up to writing anything….) So herewith are my reviews, even though a couple of them (Dr. Strange and Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)  have left theaters.

First up… Dr. Strange.

Dr. Strange is the first  movie  I have ever seen (and yes, am including the other Marvel Universe movies) where seeing it in 3D is almost imperative. The acting ranges from good to great, and the movie is thought-provoking and the fight scenes are jaw-dropping. (The streets of London and New York are folded like origami creatures.)  You can watch it when it hits Netflix, but I wouldn’t unless you had a very large screen television. Tilda Swinton’t Ancient One poses problems — a clear case of whitewashing, yet the director said he was trying to avoid the ethnic stereotypes of the original material. I wasn’t terribly troubled, but then again I am not of Asian descent.

Next….Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Meh. Not a waste of ten bucks, but certainly not something I would see a second time. Eddie Redmayne is both a good actor and reasonably pleasant to look at, but the whole thing dragged. That the studio and J.K. Rowling think they can make this into a five movie series boggles my mind, and not in a good way. Watching it on Netflix might be a waste of time, simply because Netflix carries so many other better films, albeit few in this exact genre.

Next… Moana.

Sigh. Moana captured my heart, so much so that I’ve seen it three  four times. I often see movies more than once (as I did Dr. Strange), but rarely over and over and over again. I have a separate entry I am working on in which I talk about the film. One tidbit: many of the songs (especially the ones I most love) were written by my current pop culture crush, Lin Manuel Miranda.

Next… La La Land.

I very badly wanted to love this movie, and I didn’t. Live action Hollywood movie musicals don’t pop up very often these days, especially ones as well-reviewed as La La Land.

On the good side, it was clearly a movie musical, not a stage musical transferred to the screen. The director made wonderful use of the the exterior and interiors available to him. (The number on the street when Emma Stone’s character is looking for her car, is really memorable.) The songs evoke the best movie musicals, such as Gigi, while still sounding fresh. The ending avoided cliches.

And yet… as good actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are, and as wonderful the chemistry between them is, in my opinion their voices just are not up to the task. I found Stone’s husky, breathy tone particularly irritating. I kept thinking what Emily Blunt — who really can sing — would do with the role. The disappointment! So frustrating.

Finally, the two best movies I’ve seen this winter. Both have strong women at their center. They are so different, one science fiction and the other historical fact, but both are great.

First up: Hidden Figures.

Some stories have gone too long without being told. This is one of those stories: how three black women (and others) were instrumental to the U.S. in the early days of the space race. If Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Olivia Spencer are not nominated for Oscars, there is no justice. (I’m still annoyed about Selma being snubbed.)

Women played pivotal roles in the development of technology, being the early “computers” and programmers, yet they have been erased from the narrative. This wonderful movie, which also focuses the difficulties the women experienced on account of their race, will hopefully be the first of several to tell that history. (The next one I want to see made would be about the Mercury 13.)

Finally: Rogue One.

I loved this movie. Although it bothered me at first, the film’s emotional darkness (and it is dark), is both compelling and oddly inspirational. It’s important to fight on, even when the fight may seem impossible to win. (I can’t say more without giving away the ending.) You never know when you may succeed against the odds, even if you have to sacrifice a great deal in the process. A good lesson for the next four years.

So, anyone else see any good movies?

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