Welcome back to my Home Movies! This week, we have a massive blockbuster sequel and an old-fashioned war drama going head to head. Yes, today is a battle between Avatar: The Way of Water and Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. Which film emerged victorious? Read on to find out…
Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron is not one to bet against. After Avatar defied all of the odds (again) for the filmmaker, the sequel did the same. Avatar: The Way of Water is bigger and arguably better than the last installment, genuinely providing excitement for the next adventure on Pandora. In my review of the movie (here), I had this to say:
For a now franchise that seemed to get dunked on ever since its box office shattering beginning, Avatar, and by extension, James Cameron, projects immense confidence. While some snickered at Cameron planning a whole host of Avatar sequels, he and his team plugged away, knowing what they had. Well, when Avatar: The Way of Water finally screened last week, it probably shouldn’t have come as a shock that the film largely blew everyone away. After all, the first one showed audiences things they’d never seen before, while Cameron is one of the masters when it comes to epic spectacle. So, even if I went into this movie without much in the way of expectations, I left it wit my mouth agape. This is an improvement over the already solid first one in every manner.
Avatar: The Way of Water is proof that you should never bet against Cameron. Not only is it visually a huge step forward and likely the best we’ll ever see 3D utilized (until Avatar 3?), it raises the emotional stakes and does a better job investing you in the characters. Both flicks are essentially theme park rides, but this time, you care about who you’re going on the ride with. Combine that with it being one of the best looking films ever made and you have a recipe for success.
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant
Jake Gyllenhaal is no stranger to war films, so it wasn’t going to be just any project he signed on to. Lo and behold, it’s the most stripped down movie that Guy Ritchie has made in years that did it. Aside from the title, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is substance over style, showing the director in a whole new mode. My review (here) includes the following bit:
When you think of Guy Ritchie, you think (most likely) of style and a modern sense of filmmaking. You wouldn’t expect a film, let alone one with his name in the title, to be a meat and potatoes war drama. Then again, you also wouldn’t necessarily expect for it to wind up being his most effective and successful movie in years. Here we are though, with Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant being his best work in some time. Ritchie opts to tell a simple story and tell it well, thrilling and visceral, but without any unneeded bells and whistles.
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is a pulse-pounding war picture with stakes and an old-fashioned sense of duty. There’s a western vibe at play in the need to hold up one’s end of the bargain. Set during a modern conflict only makes those themes play out in an even starker manner. It all adds up to a flick that seems to have Ritchie more engaged than he’s been in a long while.
Criminal Minds Evolution: The Complete First Season (TV)
Medicine for Melancholy
From The Criterion Collection: “Barry Jenkins’s captivating debut feature, Medicine for Melancholy, is a lo-fi romance that unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco. There, a one-night stand between two young bohemians, Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo’ (Tracey Heggins), spins off into a woozy daylong affair marked by moments of tenderness, friction, joy, and intellectual sparring as they explore their relationships to each other, the city, and their own Blackness. Shooting on desaturated video, Jenkins crafts an intimate exploration of alienation and connection graced with the evocative visual palette and empathetic emotional charge that have come to define his work.”
From The Criterion Collection: “The prolific, ever-provocative Joseph Losey, blacklisted from Hollywood and living in England, delivered a coolly modernist shock to the system of that nation’s cinema with this mesmerizing dissection of class, sexuality, and power. A dissolute scion of the upper crust (James Fox) finds the seemingly perfect manservant (a diabolical Dirk Bogarde, during his transition from matinee idol to art-house icon) to oversee his new London town house. But not all is as it seems, as traditional social hierarchies are gradually, disturbingly destabilized. Lustrously disorienting cinematography and a masterful script by playwright Harold Pinter merge in The Servant, a tour de force of mounting psychosexual menace.”