Welcome back to Sinekdoks and to the long-hibernated summary post, Monthly Roundup: January 2019. In this roundup, I will personally discuss all new movies I watched during January 2019, be it in cinema or streaming platform (in this case, Netflix) to compensate the tardiness and the lack of blog posts aside from the Best of 2018 appreciation post.
So, here’s the recap.
Green Book and the Road Trip to the Oscars
Despite all the controversies and backlash, Green Book (★★★ ½) really is Oscars’ front-runner. Peter Farrelly’s approach to this based-on-true-event road movie is surprisingly good. Trust me, it works better as a mere fiction than a faithful biopic; at least, the message is crystal clear and the movie delivers it profoundly—thanks to the subtle chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
The only thing that might tackle Green Book’s ascension at Oscars is the favor that follows Black Panther (★★★ ½) after the triumph at SAG Awards or the sudden rises of ROMA (★★★★) that might make history once and for all. Even Sinekdoks’ Best of 2018 #1, The Favourite (★★★★)¸ wouldn’t last a chance in Oscars race.
Good Closure, Bad Closure for Good Trilogies
It was only the beginning of the year, but we have seen closures of two trilogies. Dreamworks’ finest entry, How to Train Your Dragon, wrapped first with The Hidden World (★★★), the only installment with sub-title. Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan’s surprising ‘Eastrail 177’ trilogy found a closure in Glass (★★½).
Dean DeBlois returned to helm his third ride to Berks with Hiccup and the ever-loving Toothless. While the movie is exceptionally excellent—in terms of animation and emotion delivery, The Hidden World is a closure that plays overly safe for a saga that has grown greater over time. So, good closure, bad closure?
Shyamalan’s ambitious trilogy is more of an anti-climactic one. Upon release, Split caught audiences off-guard with the post-credit scene (that directly ties it up to Unbreakable, another masterpiece with 16-year gap) which has pumped up people’s expectation ever since. Immediately after the movie’s surprising success (it was two in a row for Shyamalan, following The Visit, after a series of unfortunate attempts), the director boasts an idea of a sequel/closure, Glass. While not a necessarily bad movie, Glass clearly could not live up to the expectation. It fell short when trying to be a sequel and a closure at once. I have strong belief that this movie might work better as a sequel and if Shyamalan saves another slot for the real closure. So, good closure, bad closure?
In Indonesia, Visinema Rules
Visinema, an Indonesian production house, sent a bold message with two similarly financial & critical successes, Keluarga Cemara (★★★) and Terlalu Tampan (★★★). The former is an adaptation of an acclaimed television drama from the 1990s; meanwhile, the latter a WebToon phenomenon. Both are helmed by young directors (known for their works in web-series) in their full-length feature directorial debuts.
Yandi Laurens surprisingly crafts Keluarga Cemara as a grounded family drama that low-key reminds me of Hirozaku Koreeda’s works; meanwhile, Sabrina Rochelle Kalangie’s Terlalu Tampan is an absurd, oddball comedy that over-exaggerates everything in good ways.
January has also become the month for family movies. Three financially acclaimed Indonesian movies are centered on being in the family. Keluarga Cemara definitely is one of them; the other two are Ody C. Harahap’s Orang Kaya Baru (★★★) a.k.a. New Money and Aris Nugraha’s Preman Pensiun (★★½). Penned by versatile Indonesian director, Joko Anwar, Orang Kaya Baru is a fantasy family dramedy that gives the dreamy joyride of being rich out of sudden. Preman Pensiun is a spin-off of a sensational television soap opera that uses a darker twist and unique visual style to compensate the lack of substance.
From Hollywood, Sean Anders directs Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in an earnest family dramedy centered on adoption process in Instant Family (★★★). Clint Eastwood also marks his directorial return with an old man’s reflection of having a family in The Mule (★★★). While the story is about drug smuggling, the core of his new movie is the soul of a lonely old man (excellently portrayed by himself) desiring for the love of a real family.
Other Movies in January
From Thailand, App War (★★½)from Yanyong Kuruaungkoul presents a rom-com—set in the midst of digital startup culture and toxic working culture—that cannot maintain its focus from the middle towards the end. Remake of Intouchables by Neil Burger, The Upside (★★½), drowns in the similar focus issue. Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston had too much fun that it somehow neglects the real message of the French dramedy. However, it was Kimo Stamboel’s DreadOut (★★½) which suffers most from the focus problem. With ill-conceived script (despite the technical prowess), Kimo’s debut outside The Mo Brothers fell into the pit of ill-fated video game adaptation.
As uplifting as it can be, Swing Kids (★★★) by Kang Hyoung-chul sends an anti-war message by dabbling into a very merry jingle-jangle of tap dance before closing it with a heartbreaking ending. Joe Cornish follows up his exhilarating Attack the Block by incorporating similar formula to a modern iteration of King Arthur in The Kid Who Would Be King (★★★).
Adam Robitel slowly leaves horror behind as he moved on with Escape Room (★★½), a puzzle-thriller that often alienates the audiences. And yet, Robitel still shows his prowess in staging suspenseful scenes. Robitel isn’t the only one making come-back with a thriller. Karyn Kusama is also making one with Destroyer (★★½)in which she directs Nicole Kidman to be a vindictive cop who seeks for vengeance in the midst of rift between her and her daughter.
Last, but not least
Don’t forget to check out Sinekdoks’ Best of 2018.