The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a quirky New Zealand film, sort of Disneyesque, but a little too weird for Disney. There was a ridiculous car chase and the psychology of the characters was simplistically rendered, but its off--beat charm kept me engaged. 75/100 stars
Rotten Tomatoes plot summary:
Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family. Equal parts road comedy and rousing adventure story, director Taika Waititi
I liked the The Innocents for its moral and emotional complexity, though the ending was too tidy for my tastes. 85/100 A joint French-Polish production, in French with subtitles.
Rotten Tomatoes plot summary:
Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and Mathilde is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic one night begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters' fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the new anti-Catholic Communist government, and facing an unprecedented crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their belief and traditions clash with harsh realities.
Then there is Captain Fantastic, a study of paranoia-tinged, narcissistic parenting. Excellent most of the way through, but it deteriorated, reaching ridiculous implausibility in the later part of the film. Sometimes the implausible is fine, but in this case it wasn't fine. Nonetheless, I recommend it. 80/100. (Rated R, for language, frank discussion of sex and some nudity that was, IMO, essential to the film)
Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, isolated from society, a devoted father (Viggo Mortensen) dedicates his life to transforming his six young children into extraordinary adults. But when a tragedy strikes the family, they are forced to leave this self-created paradise and begin a journey into the outside world that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent and brings into question everything he's taught them.
Last up is an Indian production, Sultan. Why in God's name did we see this?! I'll tell you why. It had high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (the ratings have fallen since we saw it), and this particular film was supposed to be a cut above typical Bollywood fare. The plot summary at Rotten Tomatoes turned me off, but the positive reviews made me think I should give it a chance.
I gave it a chance, and then I opened a Rotten Tomatoes account just too express my displeasure. Here's what I wrote over there:
The director needed 2 hours and 50 minutes to pack every sentimental Hollywood trope from the 1940s to 2000 into one dramatically overwrought, formulaic film. The production values were high and the acting wasn't bad, but this is not a film for a thoughtful person who enjoys a sophisticated plot and nuanced character development. One troubling aspect of this film was the disturbing appearance of oblivious racism. I realize that the film was produced in India, so racial sensibilities may be different from what is typically acceptable in the U.S, but there were descriptions of black fighters by the announcers during the MMA fight scenes that drew gasps from our Chicago audience. I won't quote because it was so racist and so offensive that I don't want to upset anyone who happens to read this review, but be forewarned.
For my readers: Black MMA fighters, and only the black fighters, were described as fighting like apes and gorillas. Aside from that, the film made an effort to challenge what I imagine to be prevailing Indian gender norms, but many Americans would find it a condescending effort that left the shallow, central female character ultimately conceding to tradition. All of the characters are one-dimensional, so I had no feelings about any of them, other than mild annoyance with the vacuity of the two lead characters. To my surprise, one part of the film that I didn't find off-putting was the inclusion of the mandatory Bollywood song-and-dance scenes. They went on for too long, and I'd hate them as a steady diet, but I can see why Indian movie-goers like them. I score Sultan 25/100. Hindi language or a Hindi dialect with some English code-switching thrown into the mix (to make a point about social class) and English subtitles throughout, even when the characters speak English.
Here's the Rotten Tomatoes plot summary:
Sultan is a story of Sultan Ali Khan - a local wrestling champion with the world at his feet as he dreams of representing India at the Olympics. It's a story of Afra - a feisty young girl from the same small town as Sultan with her own set of dreams. When the 2 local wrestling legends lock horns, romance blossoms and their dreams and aspirations become intertwined and aligned. However, the path to glory is a rocky one and one must fall several times before one stands victorious - More often than not, this journey can take a lifetime. Sultan is a classic underdog tale about a wrestler's journey, looking for a comeback by defeating all odds staked up against him. But when he has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this fight for his life match... Sultan must literally fight for his life. Sultan believes he's got what it takes... but this time, it's gonna take everything he's got. "wrestling is not a sport it's about fighting what lies within."