On the Basis of Sex

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is absolutely a person who deserves a biopic made about her. I only wish that a slightly better one had been made. On the Basis of Sex isn’t bad, but it is so predictable. You know the beats the movie is going to hit pretty much as soon as it starts, not as a product of being familiar with history but because On the Basis of Sex’s beats are the same as any inspirational biopic. The initial hurdles, the successes and setbacks that all build up to a triumph where she realizes her ambitions; it has all been done before. Still, On the Basis of Sex is a fine movie about an important and heroic figure that never surprises or surpasses expectations.

On the Basis of Sex follows the future Supreme Court Justice from when she entered Harvard Law School to the early stages of her fight legal equality between women and men. The movie details her struggles in law school, with the inherent sexism of Harvard and its faculty and her husbands bought with cancer. It then follows her difficulty in finding employment as an attorney before settling in as a law professor and then finding the right case to pursue sex discrimination in the courts.

Everything is drawn somewhat broadly, as biopics often do. One encounter is there to stand in for a pattern of behavior, so that one encounter must hit all the points. Or the pattern is pointed out in dialogue. Sometimes these moments are worked smoothly into the course of the film, sometimes they fit in awkwardly. Some of the law school moments establish an effective pattern, Ginsburg explaining all of her bad interviews to an interviewer in what turns out to be another bad interview is a bit much.

Still, the movie hits the highlights of the story quite well. It tells its story just fine. The best part is its portrayal of the Ginsburg’s marriage. They are a fine partnership. A lot of that has to do with the performances of Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer. Jones infuses Ginsburg with this quiet fierceness, letting you see her sharp intellect and occasionally sharp tongue while still seeing how her struggles get to her. Then there is Hammer as her eternally supportive husband. A lot of his support comes merely from his recognizing her talents in a way others in their profession refuse to. The rest of the cast is filled with excellent players do the best with their small parts. The movie has a scene or two for Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston, Justin Theroux and Stephen Root. They all acquit themselves well in parts that don’t leave a lot of room for them to work.

As a current law student, the moot court practice gave me terrifying flashbacks. From the odd formal beginning to the pointed questions that seem to exist just to throw you off your game. A lot of the details of Ginsburg time in law school rang especially true, even though her time in law school was about fifty years ago.

On the Basis of Sex is fine. It is everything one would expect from a biopic and nothing else. It feels a little disappointing, but this is a year where Bohemian Rhapsody, which is outright bad outside of the music and a performance or two, got nominated for Best Picture. On the Basis of Sex could certainly have been worse.

***1/2

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Creed II

The first Creed was an excellent passing of the torch for the Rocky series. It kept the history of the long running series while opening up a lot of avenues for the future. It also helped that it was just a damn good sports movie, like the original Rocky, a movie were the sport is the focus, the heart of the movie is its characters. Adonis Creed was a nearly perfect new protagonist. As successful as the first movie was, a sequel was almost inevitable. While Creed II can’t match the first movie in any regard, it still manages to deliver a very entertaining movie that stands on its own.

The movie follows the very obvious next point for the son of Apollo Creed; it brings back the Rocky IV connection and has Adonis fight the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father. The plot pulls a lot of notes from the first three Rocky sequels, telling its own story of fathers and their children. Adonis reaches the top and has to find out if he has what it takes to stay there or if he even wants to. This movie revolves around father and child pairings. You have the relationship, or lack thereof, between Adonis and Apollo. You have the surrogate father son relationship between Rocky and Adonis. There is Rocky and his strained relationship his son. Then there is Adonis and his newborn child. Finally, there are the Dragos, who also have unique relationship.

I don’t know that it is breaking any new narrative ground, but the fathers here have to make decisions about what is important to them. It is a decision that Apollo made when he fought Ivan Drago way back in Rocky IV. Now the fathers here face similar choices. Drago is trying to find his lost glory by training his son to fight in his place. Rocky, beaten down by life can’t sit by while Adonis makes the same choices as his father and can’t bring himself to reach out to his own son.

Thing is, it is still a boxing movie. It opens with Adonis fighting for the title, and then falls into the familiar refrain of a new challenger arising and Adonis having to find new strength to take him on. The movie still centers on the relationship between Adonis and Bianca. They are well rounded characters and thanks in large to excellent performances by Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson, they feel like real people. Bianca does get a little lost this time, she has her moments but doesn’t get enough to do.

The movie does rely a little too much on the past of the series. This is as much a sequel to Rocky IV as it is to Creed. Rocky IV was the bombastic peak of the series, the movie that went the biggest and most ridiculous. This movie tries to bring that bombast back down to something human. It mostly works, but jumping to this story seems a bit much coming from the largely very grounded Creed. For most of the movie Ivan Drago is the same cartoon villain that he was before. The tone from Rocky IV is not a great fit here and while the movie does its best to avoid it some of that creeps in.

What the movie lacks is just the filmmaking audacity and excitement of Creed. It plays exactly like you’d expect it play. It hits the familiar beats and in the ways you’d expect. I don’t mean to say there isn’t anything unexpected in the plot, only that the pacing follows very familiar tone and structure. It isn’t bad, it just lacks the spark that made Creed feel so fresh and special. Basically what I am saying the movie misses the touch of Coogler.

Creed II is a slightly disappointing follow up to Creed, but it is a solid addition to the Rocky series. It lacks originality, but it makes up for by simply being an effective execution of a formula. At its best, Creed II can be marvelously affecting. The ending alone makes it worth seeing.

***1/2

The House With a Clock in its Walls

I know this movie is based on a book, but I am not familiar with that book. So fans forgive me when I say that The House with a Clock in its Walls is better than it has any right to be. The movie doesn’t really look like anything great; it mostly looks like a second rate Harry Potter knock-off. Luckily, watching it I realized that it is much more than that; The House with a Clock in its Walls feels like nothing less than an update on the Amblin movies of the 80’s and early 90’s that have been largely absent for the last decade and a half (I know Super 8 exists).

After the death of his parents, young Lewis Barnavelt has to move in with his eccentric uncle. His uncle soon reveals himself to be a warlock, or as Lewis repeatedly calls him a boy witch. By some accounts he is a good warlock, in the sense that he is not evil, though he is not particularly adept at magic. However, his neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, is a strong sorceress. Uncle Jonathan starts to teach the awkward Lewis to do magic, while searching his odd house for the clock the previous owner left there somewhere that is counting down to something ominous. Soon, Lewis joins the efforts to stop the clock from triggering its cataclysmic countdown.

The performances are kind of uneven. Cate Blanchett is delightful as Mrs. Zimmerman, though way overqualified for this movie. The same goes for Kyle MacLachlan, who is bother overqualified and underused as the undead villain. Jack Black is near perfect as Uncle Jonathan. He brings a sense of wonderfully playful weirdness; it makes him perfectly believable as the slightly incompetent Jonathan. Then there are the kids. I don’t want to crap on young actors, but Owen Vaccaro has some rough moments as Lewis. He’s not really bad, but he isn’t quite up to shouldering all that the movie puts on him. Sunny Suljic, playing his new friend Tarby, is likewise nothing more than fine. This is a movie where kids have to do a lot of the heavy lifting and the kid actors are merely adequate, especially compared to the adults.

The film isn’t perfect. While it does a lot of good work with practical effects, or at least digital effects good enough to appear to be practical, there are some really dodgy shots in the last act that seem out of place. Some of the character beats don’t quite land, and some seem like the meat of them got left on the cutting room floor.

Altogether, the movie is interesting. It is not afraid to leave the sadness and loss in there that a lot of children’s movies don’t really dwell on. Lewis has lost his parents and is having trouble dealing with that trauma. As well meaning as Uncle Jonathan is, he is still kind of bumbling and not really prepared to help this kid through his problems. Mrs. Zimmerman is similarly broken over the loss of her family. That loss plays into the the villain’s plan, whose losses in life have broken him and now he has embraced nihilism.

The House With a Clock in its Walls feels like a throwback to movies that came out when I was a youngster. Movies like The Goonies or Gremlins or *batteries not included. This isn’t quite as good as those movies, but it is certainly fine kids movie.

***1/2

Ocean’s 8 Review

Ocean’s 8 is the perfect summer movie; a spritely and buoyant delight that is fun throughout. It almost exactly, and certainly deliberately, follows in the footsteps of Ocean’s 11 and while at times it feels something like a pale imitation, it largely manages to carve out its own identity next to its classic sibling. While it doesn’t really break any new ground, it executes a fun formula well and lets a lot of fun performers show off.

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, who has just gotten out of prison and has an idea for a heist, as the Oceans tend to do, and maybe for revenge on the man who set her up and sent her to jail. She meets up with the partner, in crime at the very least, Lou (Cate Blanchett) and goes about assembling her team to steal the Tousssiant, a diamond necklace worth 150 million dollars.

It mostly goes along the usual heist formula. It introduces all the players in their elaborate plot, giving each a chance to show off her skills. The plot mostly involves getting a celebrity to borrow the necklace to wear it to the Met Gala, where they can steal it. The biggest part of the plan involves recruiting fashion designer Rose Weil, who gets hired to design the dress for Anne Hathaway’s Daphne Kluger. Kluger is not in on the heist and her unwitting participation is one of the most delightful elements of the movie.

The other members are fun, if somewhat underutilized. Wanting to see more of Rihanna, Awkwafina, and Mindy Kaling makes the idea that this might be the start of a series a promising prospect. The most underused member of the cast is almost certainly Sarah Paulson as a fence who is also a suburban housewife with a shocking awway of skills. This crew deserves to push the series back up to 11.

Then there is the heist, which goes off without much of hitch, though it is still tense and delightful watching it all play out. As these things do, the movie keeps certain elements of the plot from the viewers until they happen, letting it be a surprise as it all comes together. Sometimes these late coming twists can sour the experience, but here each works perfectly. I don’t want to spoil the best ones.

It isn’t quite as good as last year’s Logan Lucky, but it still completely fun and enjoyable. It has a great cast and a glitzy look and keeps the action moving. It is a little derivative and familiar, but Ocean’s 8 is also so much fun.

****1/2

Game Night

At first glance, Game Night looks like any number of middling comedies that have come out over the last decade. It takes a good high concept and throws together a group entertaining performers in hopes of making something resembling a movie. Game Night, though, actually is really good. It isn’t perfect, but it has some really great performers, a twisty, funny script and it is shot with more care than is usual for comedies.

Game Night stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, who are both a lot of fun, as married couple Max and Annie. Bateman excels at playing the put upon voice of reason and that is mostly where he is here. Here he is competent, but also over competitive. McAdams as great as his similar wife. They play off of each other well. There are joined on their game night by their dimwitted buddy Ryan, his intelligent date, married childhood sweethearts Kevin and Michelle. Those four have their moments, feeling like at least conceivable friends. They are joined by Max’s successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who tries to spice things up. Left out of game night is Max and Annie’s neighbor, the recently divorced Gary, played by Jesse Plemons. Brook’s invites the group to his house, where he has hired actors for a fake kidnapping mystery game. Unbeknownst to the group, that is interrupted by an actual kidnapping. The couples go their separate ways to solve things.

It works surprisingly well. At first they all think it is a game, but eventually they start to realize that things are more real than they thought. The movie does a great job of keeping the viewer in their toes as well, as what seems real might not be as real as they seem or make fake parts aren’t as fake as they seem. All the players do their part, though Bateman’s deadpan and McAdams enthusiasm do a lot of the work in getting jokes across. The best part is Jesse Plemons, who underplays everything as Gary. He come across as genuinely creepy. It is hard to tell if he is just depressed because of his divorce or planning something sinister. It all pays off in the best way.

I’m not an expert on shooting movies, but even I can tell the difference between the usual comedy and what is seen in Game Night. Maybe it’s bad that the movie has shots that stand out, but they stood out to me in a good way, enhancing my enjoyment of the movie. There are a handful of distant establishing shots that almost look like models, like they are all pieces on a gameboard, before the camera zooms in on the action. There is also a chase scene through a mansion that at least looks like an impressive long take as the various characters run up and down stairways. The movie really looks good.

I wouldn’t call Game Night great. There is a decent chance I won’t remember I saw it come the end of the year. But it is better than even my somewhat high hopes had expected. It it definitely worth hitting a matinee for or grabbing from the Redbox in few months.

***1/2

Battle of the Sexes

I don’t know that I expected to like Battle of the Sexes more than I did, but I certainly hoped I would. It is okay, but I thought maybe it could be really good.  Battle of the Sexes is about the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but it is also about Billie Jean’s personal life, the founding of what would become the WTA and a little about Bobby Riggs. These are all worthwhile stories, but the movie spreads itself a little thin trying to tell all of them and ends up not really telling them all that well.

The Bobby Riggs part of the movie is pretty stunted.  Steve Carell does a great job, playing a fading gambling addict who is just trying to maintain some relevance in a world that is leaving him behind.  There is something irrepressibly comical about him, both when he is being disgustingly sexist and when he is playing games in the living room with his son.  While he is a player in this story, this movie is not his story and it probably shouldn’t be.  But the movie gives just enough of a look into him to leave you wanting more, in a bad way.  After that scene of him playing with his son, we don’t see that son again.  We do meet another, older son who gets a little bit of a story, but he never really amounts to anything as a character.

The movie opens with Billie Jean and Gladys Heldman arranging a boycott of a tennis tournament that pays the male winners 12 times what the female winners get.  They, along with a handful of other women player’s, start what in a few years would become the WTA.  That in itself is likely enough to sustain a movie, but it just sort of happens over the first twenty minutes or so of this movie.  It opens a lot of interesting avenues and leaves them completely unexplored.

The main thrust of the movie, before the central tennis match actually starts to happen, is Billie Jean’s unexpected romance with her hairdresser. It is very unexpected because she is happily married.  That gets the bulk of the movie’s time and is a story worth telling. But unless I am misreading, it is also the subplot that is least on theme. Her husband is possibly the only male figure in this movie that isn’t awful.  He is supportive of King and his interactions with Marilyn, her lover, are more about warning her off to prevent her from disrupting King’s focus, noting that for their mutual love tennis comes first. It other than giving King something else to worry about, it doesn’t really play into the match from which this movie gets its name.

Battle of the Sexes is definitely worth seeing. Emma Stone is excellent as King and Carell is good as Riggs.  The movie is just overwhelmingly pleasant.  It is fun to watch, even as the issues it deals with remain issues 40 years later.  But this movie feels a little like a missed opportunity, like it was close to being just a little bit better and truly memorable.

***1/2

The Dark Tower Review

I am disappointed on all fronts with The Dark Tower, as much because it is not especially bad as I am because it is not good.  I am not one, generally, to root against a movie.  I didn’t want The Dark Tower to be bad, but as its release neared and possibility that it would be good seemed ever more remote, I had hoped that it would be truly, spectacularly awful. At least that would have been interesting.  The Dark Tower can’t even manage that. It bungles everything just enough to blandly pointless, not to be terrible enough to get any ironic enjoyment out of it.

Idris Elba, who is awesome as usual, plays Roland, the last of the gunslingers.  I start with him, even though he is not the lead.  That is the young Tom Taylor who plays Jake Chambers, a young boy who has visions of the alternate reality where Roland and his enemy, the Man in Black, live.  The movie follows his story, not Roland’s, for almost the entire first half and the second half is at best even between the two.

Fans of the book will recognize many elements of the movie, but many of them who have been rearranged into new forms. I don’t want to give much away, because spotting call backs to the books is one of the chief pleasures anyone watching this movie will glean from it.

It starts with Jake having visions of the Man in Black and his attacks on the Tower.  The people around Jake think he is crazy, including his step-dad, who wants to send him to some kind of sanitarium.  Just as he is to be sent upstate to visit this facility, which he already knows is connected to the Man in Black and his evil allies.

From there, it is mostly a collection of disinterested clichés.  Roland has given up on his gunslinger calling, but Jake attempts to inspire him to be better while learning about the relationship between various alternate realities.  Idris Elba is really good, but the movie can’t maintain any moment or generate any really interest outside of a few isolated scenes, which leaves him with nothing to do most of the time.

I’ll repeat that it isn’t a disaster.  It feels like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, which ended up sanding off anything interesting.  It makes sense from a scene to scene basis, though it never really takes the time to explain itself.  It feels less propulsive and more like the connections were edited out. Still, there is hint of something good here that just couldn’t find its way out.

I’m not really a fan of The Dark Tower books. I was at one time, but I really didn’t care for much in the last two books and found the ending somewhat insulting.  I haven’t read the books at all since I finished the 7th just a few days after I got it for Christmas the year if its release.  Watching this movie reminded me of what I once liked about this series, even if it actually delivers very little of that enjoyment.

**1/2

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets is not a movie for everybody. No movie is, but reactions to Luc Besson’s latest science fiction adventure seem to be especially divided.  It does just so happen to be a movie for me.  I loved every insane second of this glorious mess.

The complaints about this, upon reflection, are valid.  The two leads aren’t great.  I think Cara Delevingne does a pretty good job as Laureline, though she is given too little to do.  Dane Dehaan seems completely miscast as Valerian, who from his dialogue appears to be intended to be a seasoned soldier and adventurer while Dehaan looks like a teenager even though he is more than 30.  It seems slightly incongruous, and the awkward dialogue doesn’t help.  The dialogue feels like direct translations of lines written in another language.  Knowing that the movie is an adaptation of a French comic from a screenplay written by its French director leads me to believe that this is the case.  That is no excuse for a movie to sound awkward and stilted in the language all the characters are speaking.  Honestly, it rarely bothered me. Aside from some awkward phrasing, it mostly just added to the otherworldliness of it all.

There are also complaints about the plot, which fills some gaps with cliche and leaves a few other holes open, but it is mostly a straight line mystery that doesn’t do enough to disguise its obvious twists. It isn’t bad so much as episodic, with one set piece leading to another set piece, but not having those connect all that well.

I’ve laid out a pretty good explanation, I think, for why some people didn’t like this movie. Not a one of them bothered me while I was on this rollercoaster.  It starts with a mostly silent scene where a space station becomes a place for the meetings of different cultures, from various Earth based societies to eventually humans meeting alien lifeforms.  Each one builds its own addition to the space station, until it is big enough to disrupt Earth and is shot across the galaxy to find a new home.  It then cuts to an alien world, where we a given a brief look at the life of an alien society for tragedy strikes their planet.  Both of these sequences are wonderful. One is mostly just people shaking hands, but it lays across what is meant by the title so quickly and cleanly.  The other is its own mini-tragedy that is crushing yet visually amazing.

Then we finally get to our protagonists, and some leaden banter, before they go on another visually amazing adventure into another dimensional marketplace to retrieve stolen government property.  This movie runs more than 2 hours, and throughout its runtime it doesn’t go more than 15 minutes without introducing some crazy new thing.  Once they reach Alpha, the space station, Valerian and Laureline jump from section to section so fast it is hard to catch your breath.  The mystery unfolds, but it is pretty obvious who the the villain is from the moment he appears.  The only question is can our two heroes figure things out in time to prevent an inevitable tragedy.  Once the action was rolling, Dehaan’s youthful looks were not a distraction and he and Delevingne proved to be solid real elements to meet the nonsense that the movie threw at them.

There is such a sense of fun here that I was enthralled.  I wanted to see what new madness each segment of this movie could show me. It wasn’t all new, but it was all spectacular.  While it shares a lot in common with Besson’s own The Fifth Element, I also saw shades of John Carter and Flash Gordon.  Not all viewers will take those comparisons as positive things, but I think John Carter is one of the most underrated movies of the last decade and rank Flash Gordon was one of my personal favorite films.  To say that this movie reminded me of them is high praise.  This is almost exactly the kind of movie I want for Summer popcorn fare.  I loved every nonsensical second of it.

****1/2

Spider-Man Homecoming

This is going to end up being a fairly negative sounding review. I know that as I start to write it, because while I came out of Spider-Man Homecoming having enjoyed it the more I thought about it as started to write this review the more it seemed to fall apart.  Spider-Man Homecoming is not a bad film.  It has that slickly produced Disney/Marvel sheen, solid performances from its starring trio and a lot of good ideas in its foundation.  The movie also fails to build up to anything or follow through on any of its thematic ideas.

It starts with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes having his clean up job taken by company owned by Stark in the wake of the first Avenger’s movie.  Upset about losing his job to the person who made the mess, Toomes and his employees keep some of the alien salvage they already had and try to figure out how it works. Starting with this is a smart move, doing for an origin story for the villain rather than the hero.  We don’t need to Spider-Man’s origin again.  Unfortunately, after the set up the movie gives the viewer precious little about Toomes, who becomes the Vulture. It makes him rather sympathetic, except when he suddenly decided he’s okay with killing people.

After the opening the film focuses on Peter and his desire, after helping out in Civil War, to join the Avengers.  He uses the supersuit that Iron Man gave him and solves local crimes while being ignored by Iron Man, who has pawned him off on Happy Hogan who also ignores him. I don’t really get the arc they were trying to give Peter in this movie. The lesson, I guess, is that he needs to focus more on living his life than joining the Avengers, but his actions in the movie don’t reflect him ever learning that lesson.  He does the same thing the whole time and other than this movie making him shitty at being a superhero he seems to be trying to do the right thing.  His experiences don’t lead up to any change, though the movie makes one happen at the end anyway.

That is my big problem with the movie.  It starts with some good ideas and ends in places those ideas could have lead, but the movie in between doesn’t actually connect them.  This is in spite of solid performances by Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland.  It is fun to spend time with these characters, I just wish I could do so in a better movie.  Peter fails as a hero, but suffers no consequence and learns no lessons.  Iron Man, and/trough Happy, tells him stay small and close to home while focusing on his schooling, but the movie doesn’t show him do that.  He bails on his class mates and they aren’t particularly bothered by it.  And the action scene escalate while Spider-Man does a better job handling them.  He succeeds at what he was told not to do and that somehow teaches him not to do it.

The school stuff is fun, but it is also very undercooked.  The videos of the school news team and Captain America PSA’s are the best part of the movie, hands down.  While it sets up some John Hughes like high school drama, the movie never really does anything with it.  It is a good idea that is handled in an unsatisfying way.  The worst part is a stupid line at the end for one of the characters that left me flabbergasted at what they were going for.

Spider-Man Homecoming is pleasant to watch. That is more than enough to buoy the viewer while watching it.  Upon reflection it is a jumble of ideas that don’t coalesce into a real story and the spectacle is never really that spectacular, though that last part might be the fault of the too dark theater I saw it in.  I liked the movie. It is easily the better than the two Amazing Spider-Man movies.  Unfortunately for Homecoming, this year has been a very good year for superhero movies and with Logan and Wonder Woman in recent memory, it is hard to get excited for a film that is merely okay.

***1/2

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review

This has become a surprisingly hard review to write.  I can’t think if a time when my personal opinion of a film was more divergent from relatively object measures of its quality.  Because I kind of loved King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but I also think it is mostly a bad movie.  It has proven somewhat difficult to untangle my feelings toward.  

This is not a case like John Carter or Guy Ritchie’s previous movie, The Man from UNCLE; those were movies that, though they bombed, I thought and still think are excellent films.  King Arthur is undeniably kind of a mess.  Its different parts don’t mix together well and some of its biggest moments fall completely flat.  But I still greatly enjoyed watching.

Charlie Hunnam stars as Arthur, who grew up in a brothel after his uncle, King Vortigern, overthrew and killed his father using black magic.  Growing up in the brothel, Arthur has become a streetwise hustler and grifter.  He learned to fight thanks to the local, Medieval Londinium Kung Fu master and he knows which wheels to grease to keep things running smoothly.  That is until the sword in the stone is found and the prophecy of the born king triggers unrest in the kingdom.  Arthur is forced to take up the sword and fulfill his destiny as King.

There are two movies at war in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  There is a ponderous fantasy epic in the vein of Willow or Hercules or, if you squint, Lord of the Rings.  Then there is the Guy Ritchie crime movie, him doing his low level criminals getting in over their heads sort of movie like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  These two separate kinds of movies never successfully combine. Neither one subsumes the other, either.  When Jude Law is the focus, it is the most serious sort of fantasy movie.  When it turns to Hunnam and his ragtag knights, it goes full Ritchie.  I like both kinds of movies here, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition. There are a few scenes that mix the two, the highlight being a quest to the completely undefined “dark realm” that is done almost entirely to loud music and quick cuts.  It is barely comprehensible, but that is the point. It is a strange, revelatory adventure in an unknown place.  It is purposefully disorienting. And since there is little drama in wondering if the title character will survive a mid-movie adventure, it is gotten through with quickly.  Unfortunately, the two different movies can’t be bridged at the end, when it should all come together.

The best parts are the one that lean into Ritchie’s filmmaking idiosyncrasies.  The bits with Arthur telling a story or laying a plan that are accompanied by shots of how things are exactly like he says/are the exact opposite of how he says. It is the same kind of fun stuff that made Snatch such a delight.  It is hard to ramp that up to a more traditional epic showdown, which this movie has and it is a big letdown.  

As much as I enjoyed this movie, which was a lot, I could never shake the feeling that things just weren’t working.  The movie skips over things, sometimes to streamline not particularly interesting yet necessary plot points, sometimes it makes things appear to happen out of nowhere.  The situation that leads to Arthur’s rise is never really shown, just assumed.

In the end, what matters to me is that I enjoyed this movie. I caters directly to my tastes.  I enjoy every ingredient found in this movie’s recipe, even if the end result is less than the sum of its parts.

***1/2