High Flying Bird

RATING: [C|👎]

“We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country”

[Tommie Smith]

With Soderbergh comes the anticipation and the disappointment. Tackling the script of Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (who wrote Moonlight and seemingly little else since then), Soderbergh returns to his lazy filming using the iPhone (Unsane) and still-shots taken from his awkward vantage points. Whatever can be said about the filming, it is reminiscent of Soderbergh before Traffic, still trying with reckless abandonment to make relevant films without a working creative engine.

That said, the script had its moments. With the show Ballers moving into its fifth season with Dwayne Johnson going after the great white whale that is the NCAA. So, too, in High Flying Bird, we have a parallel struggle against the forces that be in the NBA and the commodification of athletes. Taken from them their image, the film seeks to find an alternative path for young black athletes in an effort to reclaim their name from what the film constantly refers to as “old white men.” As the lockout rolls on, the Players Association and the team owners seem unable to bridge the divide that becomes a  disproportionate burden on some of the players. That is until they find a way to remind the owners that their worth and image can be redeemed and marketed with a simple click of a mouse.

For what it’s worth, the film is short and tackles an immensely important topic of the value of an athlete and the “enslavement” of their image towards corporate greed. With the advent of the Colin Kaepernick controversy, questions of ownership and the expectation of compliance through systematic behavior modification and monetary penalties is rich with plenty of nuance for this movie to be extended into a larger project.

RATING: C

Unsane

RATING: [C|👎]

“Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then.”

[Philip K. Dick]

 

A psychological thriller about a self-admittment of Claire Foy in a clinic where her supposed stalker has utilized an insurance scam to keep her compliant. A pugnacious human being who foists herself into a week-long stint through a failure to read, a failure to articulate the situation, or simply walk out of the front door when her mother comes to visit. Instead, Foy concocts a plan with an absurd requirement for violence, trite thriller tropes that mirror back to more able works, poor writing intended to invoke as humor,  and stalker with a penchant for expedited clotting and a proficiency in playing hide-and-seek. In the end, the film jettisons the only interesting elements of insurance fraud and euthanizes itself by taking The Departed option and just killing everyone. Michael O’Sullivan (Washington Post) does not pull any punches: “a lazy, B-movie horror flick inexplicably full of A-listers.”

Like so many things Steven Soderbergh, he takes a single interesting premise, converts it into a tantalizing promotional campaign, and then delivers a disappointment that lacks the completeness and originality that was originally promised. I’ve been managing my expectations for a long time because this patter has become all too familiar (e.g. Logan Lucky, Haywire, Contagion – that said, Side Effects & Behind the Candelabra was good). The gimmick in this film is that it was entirely shot on an iPhone 7 Plus; which is perfect, since we need more citizen moviemakers turning their Apple products into an opportunity for self-promotion at the expense of able content and truth.

unsane filming

What does not disappoint is Claire Foy — playing an unyielding “young American woman with a dirty modern mouth and a mind unschooled in regal stoicism” — her post-traumatic stress disorder leaves only bodies in her wake regardless if she finds them on Tinder or through other self-destructive devices. After The Crown, Foy is poised to have a big 2018 with her parts in Damien Chazelle’s First Man and The Girl in the Spider’s Web. What remains to be seen is whether she follows in the path of Rooney Mara or Saoirse Ronan in choosing to play those roles that highlight her acting or those roles that highlight her celebrity. I hope it’s the former.

Anthony Lane (New Yorker) gets this one right:

a serious movie about mental disorder and the insurance business would be ten times clammier and more disturbing than “Unsane.”

In the proverbial words of George Costanza, Soderbergh does it again: “not showing off, not falling behind.”

RATING: C

Ocean’s 8

RATING: [F|👎]

This one has been so hard for me to even get started writing, let me begin by apologizing to the people who went and saw it without first reading this review. In short, I could have used one more boesky, a jim brown, a miss daisy, two jethros and a leon spinks, not to mention the biggest ella fitzgerald ever.

Let me start with the girls. The girls themselves did not do bad. The dichotomy between Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett was playful and sort of witty. Rihanna did very well, and my girl Dakota (Man on Fire) even showed up! The wittiness, or lack thereof, was more of a problem with the writing, which I will discuss later. Anne Hathaway was the worst of the bunch, trying to be cool and play her little double agent part, but that’s as far as it got . . . trying.

The writing was the worst I have seen in a while, lacking the cleverness of the Oceans trilogy from Soderbergh and weaving through the storyline like some sophomore vocals. One can only guess how two weeks ago on IMDb News, this movie ranked in some of the best films of 2018 so far (a hum! Pandering). Can the non-pandering critic, please stand up?

The viewer will get a little comic relief in the last 15 minutes (odd coming from a comedy) with James Corden, but that is all. There are movies we tell you to go see, and there are movies we tell you to wait for the DVD, and this one is neither. This one makes our “must miss” list.

RATING: F

 

Mosaic

RATING: [B-|🍅]

Steven Soderbergh has been a favorite of mine for a long time (admittedly my love for him began with his Ocean trilogy), but has of late failed to produce the same quality film he used to. He has developed an incredible knack for taking good stories and essentially created movies that leave you unsatisfied. I was not expecting much from Mosaic, but found myself pleased with the end result.

Olivia Lake who is played by Sharon Stone (Casino: best actress in leading role) is a well to do artist of a picture book that is a big deal around the circles that surround her in Summit Utah. She has a poor taste in men and seems to attract trouble at all angles, and winds up missing after a New Years party.

The series has typical feel and what ensues is a crime story that leaves the viewer with fragmented pieces that you will not be able to put together. Soderbergh released Mosaic as an app in 2017, but can more recently be viewed as a 6 part miniseries (about 6 hours) on HBO.

You will be guessing to the very end who was involved in the disappearance of Olivia Lake, and many viewers have even found that by the end they were disappointed with the answer, or lack thereof. The final episode on IMDb is the lowest rated of the entire series at a 6.9 because of this. I disagree with IMDb and think the story resolves itself by the end and would actually rate the final episode among the top 3 of the entire series.

Stellar performances by Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound) and Devin Ratray (Nebraska and Buzz from Home Alone!) along with the writing and cinematography place this series among some of the greats. Although True Detective (HBO) and Happy Valley (Netflix) are better crime series, I think this one was underrated on the whole.

The Review from The Atlantic sums it up like this:

“At any given time, it’s both a dazzlingly experimental work and a totally conventional murder mystery. It’s frank and secretive, flooding viewers with information without giving them the tools to make sense of it. The story has multiple different paths to follow, but they all end up in the same place. Less a show than a television experience, it’s brilliant and exasperating.”

Take some time and watch, and I believe you will not be disappointed.

RATING: B-