Friday, September 7, 2018

"Searching" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the thriller "Searching" as well as DVDs "Show Dogs" and "2:22."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Docks of New York."]



Searching


After a young girl goes missing, her father uses social media and the Internet to find her.

And not only does the father use social media and the Internet, so does this film.  In fact, this film is brilliant and original and totally of the moment in its exclusive use of technology to tell the story.  From FaceTime to texting to YouTube, the audience is privy to the private world of this father and daughter as his search for her plays out solely on the computer screen in real time.  

Exposition is always difficult to deal with in films without narration or someone telling the story, but here, through pictures and videos on a computer, as well as emails and texts, we learn about Pam (Sara Sohn) and David's (Jon Cho) early marriage and the birth of their daughter, Margot (Michelle La);we see each of Margot's milestones as she grew; Pam teaching Margot to play the piano and then we learn that Pam had cancer and died.  In only a few minutes we are brought up to date.  

Margot is now a teenager and she and David are on their own living in San Jose, California, the technology capital of the world, a fitting location for this film, and both father and daughter are dealing with the loss of Pam in their own way. Now it's the present day, an ordinary day, with David FaceTiming Margot reminding her that she didn't take out the garbage again. Margot tells him she is pulling an all-nighter with her biology study group. But when David wakes up the next morning, he discovers that Margot had called him three times during the night, but he had slept through the calls and, through the course of the day, he slowly realizes that Margot had not come home last night and that she is missing.

Thus begins a harrowing and literal search on David's part.  

He joins forces with Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) and the two try to find Margot with the search unfolding via the Internet, videos, emails, texts and Facebook.  We see how David is able to get into Margot's laptop, checks her Facebook account and contacts her friends. 

All of this plays out with a sense of growing urgency as David discovers some disturbing information about Margot's life.  He realizes he didn't know his daughter at all.  After a couple of red herrings, we eventually discover what happened to Margot.

After seeing Jon Cho's performance in this taut thriller, it's hard to believe he was ever one half of that silly but funny duo in the Harold and Kumar comedies.  There are moments of over-acting but in general he pulls it off.  Debra Messing seemed stiff to me but it's good to see her in a dramatic role but it's Michelle La in her feature film debut who is certainly a young actress to watch.

Written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian and directed by Chaganty, I also couldn't help but feel good seeing yet another film about an Asian family on the heels of "Crazy Rich Asians."  We need more mainstream films like this to be commonplace and represent our world's diversity. 

And of course, this film makes a strong statement about what a huge role technology now plays in all of our lives, and though we can easily communicate with each other on our phones and sitting at our computers and have what seem like intimate encounters with people, living behind our computer screens may actually be isolating us from each other.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a fast-paced and original thriller not to be missed.



***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


On DVD




Show Dogs (2018)


Max, a Rottweiler police dog, goes undercover at a dog show to find some bad guys.

I actually thought I would really like this film.  I mean, I love dogs (these are real dogs in the movie, not animated ones) and talking dogs are funny, right? And people obsessed with showing dogs can also be funny, right?  Remember Christopher Guest's "Best in Show?" Well, sadly this is no "Best in Show."

Max (voice of Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) works for the NYPD and suspects that the dog show is a front for animal smuggling. A cuddly little panda has already gone missing so Max goes undercover at the dog show as a show dog to try to collar (sorry) the bad guys.

"How hard can dog shows be?" Max asks.

Well, Max, you will soon find out as you are made show dog ready.  Ready to have your butt waxed, Max?  The plan here is that Max will be gussied up so much that he will win the show thus becoming "The Most Valuable Dog in the World," which in turn will entice the kidnappers to kidnap him and then Max will get the bad guys.  However, Max's love interest, Daisy (voice of Jordin Sparks), wins instead so now Max needs to change course and protect her from the bad guys.

Speaking of getting Max show dog ready, there was a controversy surrounding the film when it was released when some parents complained that the movie somehow promoted unwanted touching which would be bad for the kiddies, so some scenes were cut after release. Not sure if I saw the uncut version but there certainly was a lot of licking of you know whats which I would think would also upset those sensitive parents.

Max is dogged (sorry) by Frank (Will Arnett), an FBI agent, who has an uneasy relationship with Max.  Max also joins forces with Phillippe (voice of Stanley Tucci), a world weary papillon who has won the dog show so many times he is jaded.  RuPaul also gets to promote himself as Persephone, a dog who gets to "sashay away (you have to be a fan of "RuPaul's Drag Race" to get that reference)."  In fact, it's an all-star cast of voices with all kinds of doggie references and homage paid to the films "Lady and the Tramp" and "Turner and Hooch."

Written by Max Botkin and Marc Hyman and directed by Raja Gosnell, whose earlier directorial claims to fame were "Scooby Doo" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," this is a live action cartoon where real live dogs run around - never seen so many dogs without leashes in my life - and talk to each other.  It's all pretty dumb. Not even sure who this film was really aimed at because I don't think little kids would get it.

Where "Best in Show" spoofed the handlers and their obsessive behavior, this film spoofs show dogs: If show dogs could talk, what would they say?

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, I love dogs and talking dogs are funny, but overall this was kind of a mess.




2:22 (2017)


A man is haunted by ominous events that repeat themselves every day at exactly 2:22.

I fall for it every time - a trailer that looks really exciting only for me to find out the trailer has all the best bits of the film and the movie never gets any better than that. But I am such a sucker.
I see that tantalizing trailer, it looks really good so I add it to my Netflix queue and then find myself on a Saturday night watching a film that was practically indecipherable with Hubby sound asleep next to me with his mouth agape.  That's my punishment for being stupid.  I do this over and over again and never learn.  Sort of like this film which is a sort of "Ground Hog Day" for time travelers.  Or I think that's what it's about.

But never again.  As God is my witness, I will never add a film to my Netflix queue based on a trailer again!

But what's done is done, so let's get to my review so I can save you from my fate.

Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman) is an air traffic controller who notices many patterns in life.  He also has a certain arrogance about having the power of life and death in his hands as an air traffic controller.  However, one day he screws up and almost causes a midair collision at exactly 2:22.  He is understandably freaked out by that and understandably suspended from his job.  Later, he meets Sarah (Teresa Palmer) at a ballet performance and their connection is immediate. They discover that Sarah was on one of those flights that almost crashed.


"I almost killed you."


"No, you saved me."


Awww. They also discover they have the exact same birth dates.  OK, this seems interesting. Two beautiful people falling in love with some strange stuff going on. Where is this going?  


Then we discover that their birthdays also strangely coincide with a double murder at Grand Central Station some years before and that's when I discovered where this film was going.  It went right off the cliff! 

Naturally a romance ensues between these two and we learn more about each of the two characters. Then Dylan starts noticing strange patterns repeating themselves and that damn 2:22 showing up all over the place.  The movie becomes a sort of "Groundhog Day" for time travel and space hopping and reincarnation?  Not sure.  I gave up after the first hour.

I think I was drawn to this film because of Michiel Huisman who I first noticed in "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. "  He is one handsome dude but even that can't save this film which is murky to say the least.


Rosy the Reviewer says...I hereby vow to never again order a DVD from Netflix based on the trailer alone. You have my word on that.  In the meantime, you can skip this film.




***My 1001 Movie I Must See Before I Die Project***


127 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





The Docks of New York (1928)


When a stoker on a big ship saves a woman from suicide his life changes.

Rough and tumble stoker (those are the guys who stoked the fires on the big freighters back when they needed stoking), Bill Roberts (George Bancroft), has shore leave and is not above getting into a bit of trouble. He is described by another worker as "the most even tempered guy I ever met - always sore." But when he sees a woman jump over a dock railing into the water, he rushes to save her.  Mae (Betty Compson) is a bleach bottle blonde and world weary dance hall girl, and after he saves her life, I guess she decides suicide wasn't such a good idea after all.  The two head to a bar where they make the spur-of-the-moment decision to get married, a euphemism back in the day so that Bill can have sex with Mae.  Bill is a bit of a cad but falls hard for her, and though the love story is not without the usual boy gets girl, boy leaves girl, boy sees the error of his ways and returns to girl, it's an original take on that old cliche mostly because the actors are convincing and interesting.

Directed by Josef von Sternberg, the black and white cinematography by Harold Rosson (he also shot "The Wizard of Oz") is beautiful and evocative of the fog-shrouded docks, the set design by Hans Dreier, who later did "Sunset Boulevard," is expressionistic and the two love birds are raw and sexy.  Movies were actually quite risque in the early days of filmmaking with prostitutes, sex, drugs, one-night stands, etc. something that the Hays Code put a stop to in 1930.  After that even married people slept in twin beds!

For a silent film, this movie holds up quite well reminding me once again what movies are all about.  Little dialogue is needed to tell a story.  Moving pictures are worth a thousand words.

Why it's a Must See: "...[This] is a film of consummate economy and refinement.  The plot is minimal and the characters few, leaving more room for the film's maximal elaboration of atmosphere and gesture...The restraint and care of the performances...maintain a constant rippling well of speculation over the main characters' inner thoughts and feelings.  Sternberg...created several of the cinema's most moving testaments to the power of love..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a film from the silent era that holds up surprisingly well today.




Thanks for reading!



See you soon.


I will be taking a short break for one of life's great stresses - moving!

Will be back in a week or two!

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