For the most part, it’s an understated and masterfully crafted thriller; with gorgeous nature shots and slick guitar-led score in tow, the pre-event procedural plays out each scene to slow-burn perfection, with the uneasy aftermath adding further sweaty tension. It’s the character writing that has a few missteps; namely, the film showing’s awkward attempt at explaining their motivations when the plan was already in place, and more significantly, the extreme climax of Josh’s arc in the third act.
A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. (IMDb)
Keep it about Rick’s friendship with Cliff and him battling insecurity while trying to recharge his career and this would’ve been great; the leading men are excellent and the movie set scenes are engaging. Unfortunately this compelling arc is smothered by endless drawn-out scenes that do nothing but unload historical references (the pointless narration near the end is painful) and show off impressive production design. And so even the wild climax felt empty because nothing built up to it.
SECOND WATCH (12/02/19):
On first blush it’s nicely crafted but its one compelling arc (Rick’s disillusionment/friendship with Cliff) is squashed by a bevy of boring referential scenes disconnected from the shocking but empty climax. Upon closer inspection, many delightful details emerge to reveal a fascinating web of narratives meta-commenting on storytelling and identity–yet they also make plain the film’s ugly misogyny, misguided revisionism, and gross glorification of cowboy violence, especially in the climax.
As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival. (IMDb)
There are some great set pieces and special effects here that combine with consistently tense action and adventure–spiked with just the right amount of chilling horror–to keep you entertained despite a script that continually raises questions (why didn’t Ray immediately go back to his children when things started happening? Why was Robbie so insistent upon fighting the aliens–and how did he get back?) and disappoints (the neglectful Dad sub-plot doesn’t come to any kind of climax or resolve).
A grown-up woman, who kept her childish instincts and behavior, starts working as a nanny of a 8-year-old girl, who actually acts like an adult. But in the end everything turns to its right places. (IMDb)
Great characters elevate a slight story here: Murphy’s dorky and dramatic Molly, and Fanning’s hilariously uptight old soul 8 year old Ray, intriguingly connected by similar tragic pasts. Their relationship is entertaining even if it does follow a predictable trajectory, and while their respective character development is rushed, it’s captured by two compelling visuals (the tea-cup ride; the guitar ballet), still tugs on the heartstrings, and in Molly’s case, is refreshingly light on romance.