Lately, I have been finding that my limited time to write full, long reviews is not quite keeping up with my desire to watch more movies and expand my cinematic universe. Thus, I am going to try keeping a movie blog diary with short reviews of movies that I have seen in the past week. I may write full reviews for select titles but I would like to express my thoughts on the movies I watch in short form. So here are the movies that I saw this past week:
This documentary set in the Atecama Desert in Chile is one of the most mesmerizing films that I have seen in recent years. In this desert, astronomers search the skies for clues about the origins of life while a group of women who search the grounds for remains of their loved ones killed under Pinochet’s regime. Both groups are looking for signs of life from the past and they both hold out hope that they will find them. Patricio Guzman’s film is a wholly ambitious and symbolically complex rumination on how the vastness and mysteriousness of the universe can bring some comfort to the victims of a vast and mysterious evil.
There are many who, having only seen the Twilight films, still harbor doubts that Kristen Stewart is an actress of considerable depth. However, Stewart has been building a steady career out of independent films and Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper is a fine showcase for her ability to essay fascinating characters out of small, not grandstanding gestures. On the surface, the movie could be described as a ghost story set in the Paris fashion underworld. However, it is at its core a study of grief centering around a character who, carrying an illness that may take her life at an early age and having lost her twin brother, ruminates on the dividing line between this world and the next. Some of the plot elements like a murder mystery don’t quite come together but you won’t be able to take your eyes off Stewart who is in every scene.
A biopic about the religious conversion of Lee Strobel who started out as an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune and, after his wife became a Christian, went on to become a prominent Christian author of many books including the source novel for this film. Even as a Christian myself, I have found most Christian-themed movies to be overly preachy. However, this film by director Jon Gunn smartly structures the story as a piece of investigative journalism that reasonably and historically argues the case for Christianity. The drama is solid, even if I wished some elements including Strobel’s back story with his father were better fleshed out. However, this is one of the rare movies that I would recommend as accessible to curious people outside the Christian audience.
Michael Bay tries to show that he can make a serious issue-oriented movie about warfare rather than the merely bombastic portrayal of the military he most often displays. He partly succeeds, thanks to a solid turn by John Krasinski and battle scenes that are far more coherent than his usual, visually chaotic action (which honestly, physically give me a headache). The story centers on the Benghazi conflict where a group of six ex-military contractors try to protect a CIA base from a group of locals who attack the compound. Bay, however, does not provide enough context for the political complexities in Libya and, while he nobly portrays the contractors who risked their lives, the supporting characters are portrayed thinly as naysayers who impede on the central characters. A decent effort by Bay standards, but not up to the standard of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down.