Tuesday, December 30, 2014
would be to indulge in a version of the Laingian fallacy—that because a destructive society drives people crazy, there is something dishonorable about managing to stay sane.
Monday, December 29, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Camelot - 4/5
To be fair, I am probably filling in a lot of the gaps with my own memory of the books in which it is based, but fuck it, motherfucker, I love King Arthur. There are changes from the books, of course, but it keeps the core sentiment alive: what do you do when you have to love an ideal more than you can love your friend or lover or self? You can’t save them all. For civilization’s sake. Vanessa Redgrave’s Guenevere isn’t the expected pure and chaste – she’s very much the free-spirited girl of the ‘60s, more in tune with the current old ways than the calmer, more refined future that Arthur is aiming for, but believing in him all the same. Lancelot is pure and egotistical, seeing no one better than him – except Arthur. They’re both in love around their love for their king. And what a good fucking dude. Richard Harris’ Arthur is dorky and confused and so obviously not-like-the-rest-of-them. A man forcing time to catch up to him and then caught up in the better world he’s created. He’s building morality upwards, brick by brick, and trapping himself inside it. Even in his pain, he sees their suffering. Such a good fucking dude. Such a terrible shame how it has to play out.
Zodiac - 2.5/5
For all the confusion, the movie’s not as confusing as it should be. The case that it builds over its duration is that information was so scattered, technology was so slow, and people were so paranoid that it’s no wonder the case hasn’t been solved. And so, at the end, the movie points its finger at one man. The movie’s flaw is that it chooses to have an ending. It’s at its best when it revolves around the pure desire of knowing a thing that can’t be known; of puzzle fans committing to a solve that may not actually be true. You’ve got enough consonants and vowels on the board to make a guess at the common phrase, but a letter or two may be off. So it just remains a really good guess. That was the good part.
Friday, November 14, 2014
My Little Chickadee - 1/5
Great trailer. A chore of a movie. I’ve never seen such an actualization of a caricature as I’ve seen in Mae West. You can’t go far enough without her going farther. But I understand the bleacher-seat appeal. She’s broad, she’s strong, she’s sexy, and she don’t need you. She’s drag, baby. She’s larger than life because she’s above being human. She’s Her Own Thing. But she, nor the movie, are as smart as they think they are. But that confidence, tho.
John Wick - 4/5
It defies all logic why this movie is good. First-time director. Ridiculous impetus to action. Corny dialogue. Generic badass. And yet. And yet. To be clear: this movie isn’t good because it’s bad. It’s good because it is pulled off miraculously well. It’s tense, it’s beautifully choreographed, it looks like it hurts, and Keanu – for all his woodenness, I don’t think you can say he doesn’t *believe* in his characters. He may play one note, but he plays the shit out of that note. And for as surface-level as the plot is, it’s just a rocket ship designed to blast off and explore this galaxy. The ‘Hit Man Hotel’ he visits is an entire universe I want to explore, and it’s the centerpiece of why this movie works: everything has a back story. Every one is a world unto themselves. The C-list actors who pepper the edges have their own lives, their own motives, and they’re not said outright, but the actors live inside them. It’s thought through.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Expendables 3 - 2/5
So here’s the thing, here’s the thing: Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson and Wesley Snipes put in their best performances in years. If the brief is ‘hey, come here and have fun being your action movie self,’ then 1) that is a great brief and 2) this should continue to be a franchise. Except its too concerned with making sure someone’s around for a sequel. One of the guys goes away at the beginning and comes back at the end because of filming overlap with their sitcom. Contractual obligations are as expendable as these guys come. But it’s only fun when they show up – it’s not fun when they come back. It keeps adding more and more and it really just needs to start killing people off, starting with the Stallone-sized dead weight at the center. This is the best in the series so far because it’s the closest to living up to the promise of ‘old guys having fun’ – shit, the best thing to come out of this is the hope against all hope that Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammar make an action movie team-up – but that betterment is measured in inches, not feet.
The Giver - 2/5
It feels like one of the lower episodes of The Twilight Zone. Or one of its lesser rip-off shows. TV-quality production. Stiff acting. The appearance of a respectable actor to give the episode an extra bump. Rushed conclusion. True to its world, there’s no passion in it, even when passion is introduced. It’d make a great CW show.
Muppet Treasure Island - 3.5/5
I’ve realized with this movie that the Muppets work best when they’re not treated like characters playing themselves, but as actors who are really bad at playing anyone but themselves. They’re like old movie stars in that way.
Don Jon - 3/5
JGL makes the totally forgivable sin of being a bit too stylish in his directorial debut – a little too ‘500 Days of Summer,’ nawmean? – and the totally forgivable sin of not nailing the ending to a really good theme. ‘Is porn better than sex?’ is the question the movie asks and it says ‘no, not if you’re doing it right.’ And that’s a totally fair and heartwarming answer which is at times correct. And at other times, porn is the bomb diggity. I think there’s a better movie in here if only because I think to make their point, they have to throw porn under the bang bus and, well, porn is already seen as shameful – I don’t want to see it as wrong, either. Don Jon’s problem isn’t porn. It’s the lessons he takes from it. It's the bro-tastic hegemony of relationships. At the end, he's more human not because he stops watching porn but because he starts talking to the person he's making love to.
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 4.5/5
Everyone in the movie is looking for their self worth in others. No wonder the main character is egotistical. It’s the only way to survive. If you need applause but aren’t given it, the only sane response is to keep telling yourself you’re above them anyway. The quote ‘a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing’ sits on Riggan’s mirror throughout the picture and it maybe presents the nail too obviously, but it hits it hard – if people keep telling you who you are or what you’re supposed to be, you either become it or you transcend it. Anywhere in between and you’re lost. It’s why dying’s easiest for actors – we don’t remember their faults, their infidelities, their shady dealings. We remember the role we liked best.
Nightcrawler - 3/5
I think it’s best to think of it as a horror movie with no real scares. Tense only because we’re unsure of how bad he is, how far he’s willing to go. Spoiler: He’s bad. He goes too far. He doesn’t change – he’s a character that confuses climbing a ladder with growth. Patrick Bateman with all of the ambition and none of the insecurities. But he gets them ratings, dog. As a movie, I don’t think it nails any particular point home. It takes a sociopath to succeed? Okay, I guess. I think it only really works as a hate letter to a profession that no one loves but will never die. Because that’s a helluva beautiful shot of a dead body.
The Thief and the Cobbler (Workprint) - 3/5
Taken as single frames, it’s not a beautiful film. It’s got this strange style about it – somewhere between Ralph Bakshi and Walt Disney. Everyone feels like a character from a different movie – no conformity of shape or design. Not pretty as single frames but taken together, as actual animation, it’s beautifully done. Clever, wild. As a series of sequences, it’s a great little movie. Overly done in part. More concerned with how things move than making you care about the characters or the plot. In that way, it’s closer to Looney Tunes. Here’s a sequence, watch it play out. Here’s a character, watch him go. It’s interesting but it’s also unfortunate because the backstory behind the movie is more interesting than the movie manages to be.
Gone Girl - 4/5
I think Ben Affleck was approximately perfect in his casting here. That ‘nice’ smile that comes to define him in the movie I think also defines him in real life. He is both likeable and don’t-wanna-like-him. So when the movie asks you to believe whatever they want you to believe about him, you’re ready to pull the trigger in whichever direction. He is just as likely a wife-murderer as he is not. Whichever way, he’s hiding something. It’s just in this case, he’s hiding how much he didn’t like his wife. How happy that she’s gone. And that was one of the best bits about the movie – when people chide you for not feeling how you’re ‘supposed’ to feel, but you don’t know how you’re supposed to feel because you don’t feel that way. So you have to pretend. Pretend to be happy, pretend to be in love, pretend to be sad. I do think the movie is a clever little analogue to marriage – the media circus just being the eyes that others put on your relationship, ready to judge you, ready to tell you you’re a bad husband or wife, or a failure. The investigation just being the way we manipulate the story to shine a better light on ourselves. And so it becomes easy to trap yourself in the pretend of it all because you don’t want to be hated. You want to come out on top. You’d rather lose yourself than lose.
Friday, September 5, 2014
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Hook - 2.5/5
You know how Disney rides feel like the fake, plastic version of the movie? This feels like a Disney ride. Nothing feels real. The whole movie is a collection of props and a previously-used wardrobe. I’m not surprised that Spielberg was behind it, because it has a sweetness to the very idea of it, but I’m surprised that he directed it, because it almost totally lacks imagination. And there’s this weird love triangle with a fairy and a daughter who sort of doesn’t matter, but those Dustin Hoffmans and Bob Hoskinses, they can sure sell it. There is a good idea here, though. There is that sweetness.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The Battered Bastards of Baseball - 4/5
It makes a great case that, for a couple of years there, there was an incredible amount of fun to be had with a Portland, Oregon independent baseball club. The fun we could have with baseball if baseball allowed itself to be fun. And then they get to the part where the Business of Baseball hates ‘em for what they’re doing and I’d have liked for them to say just a little bit more. It was about a beautiful little moment in time for one town, one club, but I think it could’ve become more about baseball, and what baseball has become, and how that mirrored what was happening in this one town, this one club. What we got was a ‘we had it and now it is gone.’ I’d have liked a ‘we had it, and we’d like to have it back, please.’
Guardians of the Galaxy - 4/5
It doesn’t invert cliches, like Whedon might – it just has fun with them. That ‘Cheers’ thing where Sam or Diane would say what they feel, allowing for levity, and then somebody makes a joke, making you not feel weird about sitcom characters feeling things. That’s the Marvel motto: you don’t have to be great; you just have to be fun. And they are, they are.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes - 2.5/5
There’s a surprising slowness in how the movie develops. It takes its time building a relationship between the occasionally beautiful Caesar and Occasional Good Actor James Franco. The owner of a pet becoming the unintentional owner of a very intelligent creature – and you could understand the anger that could come from that, of the pet who realizes he will always only ever be caged. And that anger gets larger in scope, but dissipates in intensity. And it jumps farther than a father/son, owner/pet movie and James Franco doesn’t really matter anymore. It becomes more of a general ‘freedom’ thing than a ‘rage at the oppressor’ thing that could be seen as frightening, but just. When James Franco chases him down to ‘let him go,’ it would have been nice if Caesar ripped his face off or something. It would have been a mission statement, at least.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Pain and Gain - 2.5/5
It’s got a good tone, but it’s not very funny? More than the explosions and the whiz-bang editing, I think Michael Bay’s great at capturing this tone, whatever it is. And he doesn’t know how to change it. Things don’t get sad or happy or angry, even when that’s the emotion on-screen. It’s this filmical anesthesia – it feels nice; it feels like nothing. A blankness. If you sit there and let it wash over you, you can match its steady heartbeat. Not raise it, not lower it, just match it, the whole way through.
Short Term 12 - 3.5/5
I am all up in Brie Larson’s shit. She’s wonderfully normal and broken and afraid to pass her broken-ness to those around her or those who come after her. The whole thing’s got this anger-at-being-yourself, or that fear of who you are, and all it takes is that one dude or dudette who accepts that very self-ness.
Boyhood - 4/5
It’s fascinating to watch. It is an artifact. Its problems are the statements of intent that it seems to want to stuff into the last fifteen minutes. “What was this about?” “I expected something more.” “Sometimes the moment seizes you.” As pieces of a life, pieced together, it is a museum-quality Thing To Behold. A much more bearable version of the “7 Up” series. It didn’t really need a reason why. We would have found our own meaning in it.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 - 3.5/5
I can only assume they’ve got a new art designer, because this is straight up one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen. It’s shackled to the designs of the predecessor which while not terrible, are a bit genericore – faceless enough to have come from any of the handful of failed CGI comedies from the past 10 years. Solution? Badass motherfucking masks. And clouds, and small subtleties of human emotion, and the two most beautiful dragons having a fight in slow-motion that only feels slow-motion because of how goddamned massive they are. And then there’s that sort of useless plot where everyone does things that authority figures tell them they shouldn’t do and those actions kind of lead to a lot of death. Oh, well! It tries to have a lesson learned, but it’s a shitty lesson, I think, and that lesson comes out of the back end of poor decisions. I think Hiccup learns he was right at the end, and that is wrong. Not that he is wrong in the whole, but wrong in the time it takes for his point to be true. People can change their minds… it’s just not always a matter of talking to them. “Hey, you shouldn’t do that.” “Okay.” He should’ve learned how to be a leader – not by violence or isolation but by attrition. Instead, he learns to follows his gut and everyone else is a drive-by victim of his beliefs. He is selfish, and being selfish for a good cause is still being selfish. ANYWAY, THO, IT IS FUNNY AT PARTS AND EXCITING AT OTHERS AND THEN IT IS SAD ALSO.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
Snowpiercer - 4/5
I miss comedic Chris Evans. That dude is the bomb. Even in Captain America, he’s still there beneath the stoicism; a beautiful naivete played for the occasional buffoonery. Here, he is just the super surrious parts and it’s a bit off-putting because, well, it’s not the strongest acting job, and it would threaten to weigh the movie down, except except except: that everything around him is so fucking weird. Tilda Swinton has the most possible fun of things and, from her appearance onwards, it’s this bizarro world placed next to this dude who does not smile and it works. It only works because he takes himself seriously, and so the division between the lower and upper carts is that much more night and DayGlo. It’s starting a war with a people who have no idea war was even an eventuality. You don’t believe you’re the bad guy because you don’t see the bad that you do. You can’t see what’s coming. That entire middle part is ‘The Raid’ by way of a circus train, but with a point!. And as much as a living metaphor the movie is, I don’t think it drives it hard enough. There are valuable points to be pushed – a need for a lower class, the unknowing blindness of the higher tiers, rising from below to above in order to help the below but enjoying the above way too much, the relative badness of the people at the bottom and the relative goodness of the people at top – and it just doesn’t press against them hard enough. It had the tone nailed enough to handle those questions in an interesting way, and so “start over” doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. That’s an easy answer to a very complex engine of history and human emotions. On the other hand: maybe I shouldn’t be looking for answers in a movie where a train never stops moving. I don’t know. It flew too close to the sun, so it makes me envious of what could be found there. IT FLEW TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN, BUT IT DID NOT MELT MY HEART. GUYS. GUYS. IS ANYONE HEARING THIS?
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Now You See Me - 2/5
National Treasure: Castle of Illusion! Magic doesn’t really work in movies so much. The whole idea of magic is ‘how da fuq?’ and, in movies, the answer is “movies.” It’s dumb and such an odd thing to have been made so seriously on such a large scale with such brand name people. How da fuq?
22 Jump Street - 4/5
It’s an almost completely unique movie. It walks along this thin line between outright parody and simply being a funny movie. It makes fun of the sequel/buddycomedy tropes and embraces them entirely and that doesn’t sound unusual in the least bit, but it is here because it creates this world where everyone is both stupid and smart, and you get to feel both stupid and smart. Stupidsmart™. It’s this very linear abstract thing and I love it to def.
A Million Ways To Die In The West - 2/5
I don’t hate Seth McFarlane. He has a heavily make-upped charm. A pleasant sheen. I don’t hate him. I just hate his humor. His delivery. Why tell a joke when you can say you’re going to tell a joke, tell it, then show it, then repeat it later? It’s blunt force comedy, designed for passive viewing – look up from your phone for a few seconds to catch one of the many iterations of the joke before returning to your Candy Crush. It’s surprising, actually, that the movie isn’t packed to the gills with jokey-jokes. It goes for character-building. Poor character building, but! There’s an attempt! I don’t hate Seth McFarlane. Just his total lack of… vulnerability? Humility? His complete surety in his person? I don’t know why I need my heroes to show a little crack, but I do; and I need him to. And he gets closer here than he did in any other thing. There is a learning here. This is better than ‘Ted,’ but it’s doing worse than ‘Ted,’ so I hope he keeps moving towards his neuroses, but I’m not sure that’s even a good lesson for him to learn if he wants to stay successful.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Sunday, June 22, 2014
X-Men: Days of Future Past - 3.5/5
There’s always been a cheapness to Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Bigness on a very small scale. The action scenes, despite cool uses of power and despite people dying and despite them being people that I have an immediate relation to (despite zero character development), feel television-sized. "A lot" does not equal "weight" and there is no density to them outside of “hey, I know him!” Fortunately (and surprisingly), then, that the majority of the movie focuses on a small handful of people. It manages to work all its flaws into a perfect plot for the person making the movie: a small battle wrapped up in a bigger one. Indeed, indeed, the true action scenes take place between Magneto and Mystique and Professor X not as they trade punches with Sentinels but as the two males try to talk their way into the girl’s heart. There’s a tenseness and, because of past entries and the unpredictability of a time travel movie, a genuine sense of not knowing what she will decide. Additionally, a lesson learned from ‘First Class’ (and the Marvel Studios movies) is that Bryan Singer’s X-Men can be serious without being dour. It’s free to be a comic book movie. There’s a fun-ness, even if all of the jokes aren’t exactly functional. Characters appear because they’d be a blast, not because they have any real bearing on the plot. Quicksilver is great, and then disappears. Wolverine, a plot instigator, is literally tossed aside at the end, a final realization of how unimportant he is. It’s not a tight movie and it’s a movie that can’t help winking at the audience, but when it focuses on the genuine battle of philosophical differences that can decide the fate of the world, it’s damn fine.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Obvious Child - 4.5/5
Jenny Slater’s got this beautiful, expressive face and physical body. She’s inviting. She welcomes you in. Which is good, you know, because it’s a movie about following through with your abortion plans. Despite its potential heaviness, it doesn’t really wave a flag or have a message except to say that people can handle a difficult situation with an appropriate amount of maturity and immaturity. Bad things can be both serious and a joke. It’s not pro or con, it just is, and that’s all it need be. Her opposite, her lover-man, threatens to be a nice guy, but he turns out to be a nice guy with jokes. A _____ with jokes will always be better than a _____, solo. He’s a nice guy, but also worthwhile. Jenny Slater does this wincing thing at the end when she holds his hand. It just about killed me.
Edge of Tomorrow - 4.5/5
It is a video game movies in all of the obvious ways, but also in the more subtle ways that you learn at 3am when trying to beat the final boss in Metal Gear: Solid. It’s fun, it’s repetitive, and it’s frustrating. So fucking frustrating. This movie is funny, interesting, and its repetitions rarely feel repititious, but more than anything, it captures that frustration of having to beat the game. You can’t go to sleep until you beat the game. You lose so many times but you just can’t not win. Beyond that, it does most everything else right. Tom Cruise’s relationship with Emily Blunt isn’t romantic, though she is beautiful and strong and worthy of some romance, but built on the bonds of fighting next to someone over and over and over and over again. Their one shared kiss isn’t even romantic; it’s more of respect and kinship. “Thank you for fighting next to me.” “Thank you for believing me.” A kiss of shared reality. And all of it rests extraordinarily well on Tom Cruise’s shoulders. He gets to be the coward, the hero, the pawn, the mastermind, the shat upon, and the shitter of upon. The ending has this extraordinarily large chance to turn cheesy, but Tom Cruise smiles this dumb-shit smile and all is forgiven. He’s a goddamned movie star. This is how they do, bay-bee. In terms of flaws – with a few lines and odd wardrobe choices, it make its secondary characters bigger than they ever needed to be, but it doesn’t follow through with giving all of them a moment to live or die. The biggest, though, is that fucking title. “All You Need Is Kill” is an all-time great name. I hope they retroactively go back and fix it.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
Black Dynamite - 4/5
It was funny. Not by being intentionally bad, which it may be sold as, but by being intentionally funny. I loved this shit, yo.
Eraserhead - 2/5
More than anything, I think David Lynch just has a bunch of thoughts. Pictures pop in his head and he wants to see them play out. Sometimes those pictures are whole stories. Sometimes they’re just vignettes that hope to be a whole story. This one’s like waking up with a vague memory of a dream but not being sure what it’s about and having forgotten how it ended. To his credit and discredit, I’m not so sure he cares if we see what he sees or saw. He’s unburdened by us. It’s less about our own enjoyment as it is about opening a window into his own head because he thinks it’s worth peeking inside. And he’s such a genuinely weird dude, I’d hate to ruin it by calling it self-indulgent. But it is a chore.
Neighbors - 2.5/5
The movie likes all of its characters too much to define any one person as the bad guy. The frat guys are too much fun. The parents are the least funny and perhaps most evil but they are the oppressed fighting back against the Youth Trend. This seems like it could have been handled with a deft ‘maybe we’re the bad guys…??’ but it instead just amps up the evil of the frat. So who do we root for? The fun evil guys or the less fun evil parents? They’re better together than fighting each other, so we just end up rooting for them to stop being idiots and just, you know, fucking hang out together. The movie seems like it could have had multiple feasible ‘abouts,’ but it would rather make a gross-out joke than string together a story logic. When jokes land, they land hard, but the story just kind of falls to the floor.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape - 2.5/5
Trapped in a small town-type shiz, except the trappings are “responsibility to others.” He’s got shit to do. Too much going on to risk running off. Can’t leave his fat mama or his skinny-brained brother. Gilbert wants to be a good person, but it comes at the cost of being himself. Like if Superman didn’t give himself permission to be Clark Kent. When you’re a good person, your choices are made for you – doing the right thing – and that’s the eventual problem with the movie: his mama dies, so he doesn’t have to deal with the heroic feat of making a choice for himself, of himself. The gates are open and he’s free to roam, but he didn’t have to pry them open. So that’s flat, much like Gilbert himself through the duration of the movie. It’s nice when he gets mad, because that’s a spark and there’s way too much of stamping out the flames. It’d be nice to see something burn.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - 3/5
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - 2.5/5
It’s that special breed of movie – the market research cool. Wisecracks without a smile and no visible weaknesses. Badassery as decided by a committee of teenage boys. A kiss-less make-out session on dirt bikes and a bungee-swinging kung-fu fight that almost so close has the potential to slip a booby. It’s weird and stupid and glorious. The second installment goes down a notch because it takes itself a pound-and-a-half more seriously. Did people say the first was too campy? We need more gritted teeth and shooting of the man you love? I don’t know. People, man.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 2.5/5
What a frustrating movie series. Its Spider-Man *looks* great, he *moves* great – but it’s all on the surface. He’s a superhero, but he’s not a very good person. Manipulative, flaky, a promise-breaker – those things he was supposed to fix after his Uncle Ben got shot, yo. He’s a borderline-abusive boyfriend, holding back a clearly better woman. (And I think there’s been an unfortunate byproduct of the end of ‘Batman Begins’ which implies that superheroes cause more trouble than they stop – “escalation” – which may be true, but it’s a dangerous line of thinking when the ultimate end result is to continue being that hero.) I think the recent trend in blockbuster movies is to use likability as a spackle to fill in holes in the story. ‘Say a funny joke’ replaces ‘fix inherent problem with story.’ It’s smart – it creates a sheen, a surface-level cleanliness. If you’re not trained in the art of writing increasingly long movie reviews on your personal blog, you may miss it. But still – there’s enough there within that likability to make me desperately want it to be good. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are so good. They should go off and make a million movies together. Her ending has meaning not because of the story, but because the one thing worth salvaging about this franchise is now dead.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Under The Skin - 3.5/5
The closest I can get to understanding: it’s the power and burden of pretty people. Scarlett Johannson drives around Scotland in a white van, picking up real people who didn’t know they were being filmed (GREAT), who jump at the prospect of a PYT giving them a ride (GREAT). Of course – had that been a 40-year old man picking up young women, it would have been creepy. And she is creepy; but she’s beautiful. That is her power: she can get away with it. And then, as the movie progresses, she wants more than to Be Seen, she wants to know herself and to perhaps Be Known, and she gets trouble for it. When she controls the object (her cooter), she has power. When she is objectified, she is helpless. She can get away with a lot, but she’s not seen for much. That theme runs through the outer edges of the movie, even. The lower classes (and me!) are enticed by the notion of seeing Scarlett's boobs, and then they see more boners-per-minute than most movies you can find in a mainstream movie theater. They expected skin, they got UNDER IT, GUYS. THEY GOT UNDER THE SKIN. I enjoy the idea of that and I enjoy what I see as the themes of this movie. But also, bros? This movie can be boring as shit. It’s repetitive, it’s long, and it’s intentionally obtuse. What it had to say – which I believe to be worthwhile – would have been worth more to more people had it just, you know, had someone slap it in the face and say ‘stop wasting my time.’ It’s a beautifully-made story, not a beautifully-told one.
Noah - 1.5/5
Who is this movie for? The religious shit does not appeal to me, the unaffiliated, while the giant mudrock angels very much appeal to me (even if they be looking dumb), though I find it hard to believe they’d be easily accepted by the god-fleshed ones. The fact that this movie was made in the way that it was made is astounding to me. It’s either incredibly courageous or incredibly stupid, and I honestly have no idea which it is. This movie so straddles the line between ‘we did it because of God’ and ‘we can rationalize anything if we think about it long enough’ (which is literally the final major dramatic beat of the movie) that I’m left with nothing but a big ‘what the fuck was that.’ The subject matter courts the Christian audience and then feeds them poo-crackers, and a big-named director courts the likely-not-religious audience while feeding them — what? A poor message? Doctrine? Again – who is this movie for? I’ll throw an answer into the dark void – it was made for its creator, to do with as he pleases. All praise Him.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Only Lovers Left Alive - 3/5
In the failure of all other Jim Jarmusch movies to match the joy of ‘Ghost Dog,’ I’ve decided to find my own meaning in his movies. Who knows! Maybe it was the meaning he intended for it??? Anyway, here’s some bullshit. If you love something, it can go a number of ways – specific to my point, two: you either decide to make it a part of you, turning it routine, or you get tired of it. This movie deals with both of those. The routine of a centuries-long love affair where they don’t need to be around each other to know they’re a part of each other’s lives (while at the same time, offering nothing revolutionary) and the general anhedonia of livin’, brah that is broken when you discover something new and wonderful. A whole life and this thing exists?? How did I not know?? Discovering punk rock when you’re 85, on your deathbed, and wanting nothing more than to keep living just to catch up on 40 years of history. It’s that feeling, wrapped in a movie about dour been-there vampires who just aren’t making out like they used to.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
Blue is the Warmest Color - 2.5/5
The one girl – Adèle – she’s beautiful. I can see how someone looks at her from thirty years on and calls her an icon. She easily inhabits the role of a teenager and an adult and of naiveté and of passion and of being in control and out of. One half of that is her acting. The other half is simply What Nature Made. God had his hands in making a thing we cannot touch. “There’s secrets behind those eyes.” The girl can’t help it. She bites her lip and we’re done for. The love story itself – it’s a story of boring love. Or at least how passion has only a window of time before fiery tempers are then tempered into something that is more steady and is given the outline of a shape but is a lot less interesting for it. And so it’s not that interesting. Passion, but no chemistry. They just don’t have anything to talk about when they’re not fucking. I get it, I think I do – but I didn’t enjoy it.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
The Raid 2: Berandal - 4/5
At somewhere around the two-hour mark, the movie introduces three new villains. Street Fighter super-villains. And it is fucking exciting, because that one dude has already fought all them other fuckers and now that one dude has to fight all them new fuckers even though he is tired and it is time you need be going to bed. I don’t mean to become a movie-poster movie critic (because I am simply a humble one-visit blogger.com movie critic), but I would like to use the word “relentless” to describe this movie. Well, let me take a step back. The first movie was relentless. Too much so, I think, because it didn’t have time to develop any sort of feelings about the people he was fighting. A lot of faceless… faces. Faceless feet? This movie shorthands that with the video game baddies and their ‘one thing they do well’ (hammers, baseball bat, round-y knife things), and it’s such a wonderful shortcut. They don’t have names, but You Know Them. Shortcuts and long stretches of tension between each fight serve to slow the movie down, which is important to what makes the movie work. It’s fight fight fight but with those long stretches of plot-stuff in between. Time to decompress, and to think about your life. Breathe, baby, breathe. So yes, relentless, but with little rest area stops. Barreling down the freeway with your Mountain Dew Livewire, but with scheduled pee-breaks. Unlike ‘The Winter Soldier,’ the fights don’t move the plot along – here, everything serves to let you observe the fight in its most pure form. They are not the ‘nice-to-haves’; they are the ‘reason for existing.’
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 4/5
So much kicking. You’ll have to forgive me for the delay but I am only just now realizing that action scenes at their best are the equivalent of musical numbers at their best. More than just ‘being good,’ they serve to further the plot – establishing setting, defining character motivation, pushing things forward. And man, ‘The Winter Soldier’ is the hetero-normative male version of ‘Frozen.’ It’s all punch-kick-joke-punch-kick-character motivation-punch-kick-reveal. It’s now become a hallmark of each of the Marvel movies and it’s important in this case 1) because it’s a long-ass movie with four main characters and three new villains and they’ve got a lot of shit to get to and 2) because it doesn’t get tiring. My problems with movies like ‘The Raid’ (and I hate to even say this, but my occasional tiredness at a Jackie Chan movie) are that it has the tendency to be ‘look what we can do with our legs!’ (Important to note: what they can do with their legs is asfbakdj;lsdjfasdlf). But that’s acrobatics; this is ballet. So yeah. There’s a lot of kicking (with purpose!). In terms of the actual, you know, plot: this is the first Marvel movie I can think of that is effectively *about* something (bigger than the oversized heroes, at least). It’s about happiness (or some similar word – peace?) only being possible when you’re completely open. No secrets. Individually, and on a corporate/political/global scale. That’s a great message and that part plays itself out character-wise most notably (and wonderfully) in The Black Widow, but it’s still a story that perfectly suits Steve Rogers. He wears a mask, but he is Known. He is the anti-secret. The world knows him, so he can’t be just anybody; he can only be himself. And that’s the story of Steve Rogers, Captain America. Dude is, at his core, a Good Dude. He only knows how to be that, without hesitation. Ignoring that lack of a secret identity and fact that he doesn’t seem to mind killing people, he is currently a better Superman than Superman. The one flaw: Bucky Barnes wasn’t effectively built up in the first movie, so The Reveal doesn’t seem as monumental. He’s just a surprisingly average-looking dude with oily hair that you may have seen earlier but can’t quite be sure. Considering the title of the film, he was the least successful thing the movie had going for it.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
A Moment of Innocence - 3.5/5
This is a pretty pretty interesting Iranian film from the same cinematic world as ‘After Life’ or ‘The Act Of Killing,’ both of which are as notable for the mechanism in which they told their story as much as what their story is about. That is to say: even if their stories weren’t good, how they told their stories would still make them worth watching. In this case, a former street yewth grows up, becomes a director, and finds the policeman he had stabbed. They then cast their younger selves, train them in the behavior of their own bodies, and, through recreation, try to understand each other in that moment. A part of the fascination is the policeman, who is so eager to be an actor that it’s hard to believe he’s not playing a part. I’m really not sure whether he’s acting the part of himself training his younger self. I have no idea. It being filmed so aesthetically humdrum turns those moments surreal, because you can’t tell what was purposeful. ‘Intentionally amateurish,’ perhaps; amateurish enough to get lost between reality and unreality. It feels like someone, from scratch, from nothing, creating something wholly strange. And strange, brothers? Strange is deserving of its own elemental symbol. It is far too rare to go unremarked.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel - 4/5
Of his movies, this one feels the most ‘influenced.’ Tarantino-esque in that way. I mean to say: a collection of ‘things I like’ put into a single pictchah. Sped-up film from silent movies, production design that wouldn’t be foreign to Georges Méliès, certain parts felt a bit Tim Burton in his heyday, and sight-gags straight out of Chuck Jones’ Bugs Bunny. When Wes Anderson leans towards fantasy, I like him best (except for ‘Darjeeling,’ which is also up there while being being the most grounded (haha, play on words)). And this felt like a pretty great cartoon (helped by a cast that played it big, with a special mention for Ralph Fiennes who really was excellent). Its only flaw, as I see it, is that all of this story-telling didn’t amount to a greater emotional moment in the closing. I cared enough about the characters; I’d like to have been walloped over the head with a good goodbye. But, you know, it was a fun chase. I forgive it. A good story, told well.
American Hustle - 3/5
There’s just too much going on that doesn’t have anything to do with what the movie states explicitly at the beginning and the end in regards to what the movie’s about. About about. “Survival.” They weren’t surviving, man, they were just… doing shit. It’s fun. I mean, it’s fun. But it says it’s about shit, and it ain’t. Just a bunch of characters. That’s fine, that’s a fine thing to be, but they end up getting lost in the plot (which the film pretends is still an issue). There are various sections that are interesting in different ways, but not in the way the bookends decides to sum it all up.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Frances Ha - 3/5
It’s pretty much ‘Girls’ with Greta Gerwig, who is infinitely more likeable. But it’s still ‘Girls,’ with people’s shitty problems. I like the part about her being (in essence) married to her friend and that friend having a much easier go of leaving than she herself does, being committed to the marriage and all. I think it came off as more selfish and use-y on the other person’s part (rather than it being a matter of simply growing up and having to move on with your life), so there was, you know, a disconnect a bit. Rather than Frances thinking she went snobby, she just kinda went snobby and Frances gets to call her out on it and we all get to agree with her. Frances the hero! Of course you could argue that this was her perspective but nah, brah. I think the general message of the film was “get over yourself”? Okay!
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Veronica Mars - 3/5
Veronica Mars isn’t a good person. Nor is this movie for anybody but her number of hardcore fans (of which I am counted). I’m glad to see the blonde bitch alive again (and alive is the word – Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars has chemistry with every-fucking-one. She crackles. Beastmode.) but it would have been nice if she could appeal to everyone. There’s no reason she couldn’t have been our very own Sweet Valley High James Bond. It’s appropriate, of course, this being funded by fans, that it spoke directly to them, but there was a hope there that she could be bigger than this small group. And so it’s unfortunate, really, that the movie’s big ending leaves her there, of her own doing, in that small town. Happily. And it exacerbates the first point: Veronica Mars is not a good person. She really isn’t. She uses people, manipulates them, hides things from those she loves (and who could help her). She’s t-r-o-u-b-l-e. The final voiceover has her realizing it – she’s an addict. Loves the D(rama). But with it comes a total lack of growth. She’s no longer just stuck in a small town; she keeps herself there. She hasn’t outgrown it; she’s grown into it. It’s admitted fan-service, but I think it speaks to the worst parts of fandom – we don’t want to see our heroes grow; we want the illusion of change while they very steadily keep running in place. But bros? A great character running in place? I’ll keep coming back to it every time.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The Spectacular Now - 3/5
I really don’t like this Shailene Woodley girl. She boring, yo. Miles Teller is full of life and their love is not real because, again, shall I remind you: she boring, yo. She’s with him because he’s interesting, he’s with her because it passes the time. It’s not like the movie doesn’t realize this – that they are not a good couple – but, at some point, Shailene goes from someone being used to someone he’s in love with and it’s just… not there. It’s fine, this should be a minor point, but she’s just in, like, every scene, dude. Go away, gnat-y girl. She becomes a boring rock interrupting the river’s flooooooooooow. And he needs that, yes, sure, but it doesn’t feel right. Sigh. I like the message of the movie, at least if only because it twists an old refrain – living in the now is great, except when it’s all you can do. Like a slingshot aimed at the ground; moving fast but not far. I like that part of the movie. Also, Brie Larson? I like that lady a lot.
Zoolander - 1/5
Haaaaaaaaated iiiiiiiiiiiiit. When you don’t like the thing that people love in droves, it really does feel like your reality has been upended. What you knew is not known. Two plus two equals bananas. I was raised wrong, in a parallel universe. Shit, motherfucker, I got to sit down, all this real talk making me dizzy.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Thor 2: The Dark World - 3/5
I left the first movie thinking ‘this has potential to be great.’ I left the second movie thinking ‘this has potential to be great.’ A mixed bag, TO BE SURE. What it fixes, it makes great – sets don’t look cheap, Jane Foster becomes a Viable Love Interest with the introduction of humor, and a final fight is fun fun fun. But the fixings get in the way of things that already worked. They made Jane interesting at the expense of Thor, who has learned way too many lessons on how to be serious since the first movie. It hasn’t yet found a balance between a Dumb-Dumb With A Hammer and Noble Guy Who Will Be King. The villain is boring (and it leads me to believe Marvel has something of a Villain Problem – they can’t all be charming sociopaths who we adore as much as our heroes, sure, but they can still be interesting), and so their final fight doesn’t feel important. And Anthony Hopkins needs to get his fucking head in the game. Let’s see some hustle, Hannibal. Jesus Christ. Anyway. A mixed bag, with different pieces falling out this time. Keep mixing that bag, bros, you’ll get it right.
Fire Walk With Me - 4/5
It’s the much darker portion of Twin Peaks. And sad. I think we’d gotten used to Laura Palmer as lost and broken, but I don’t know if I ever imagined her this lost or broken. Because of the series' tone. A little bit of humor, here and there. But the movie uses it’s R rating to paint a portrait of a girl who has tiptoed over the edge and is unwittingly dragging her friends down with her. Blinking lights and boobie shots. Sheryl Lee’s face can’t help but to beg for sympathy. She can never totally be the bad guy, because we don’t want her to be. A perfect manipulator, should she choose to be (and sometimes she did). If nothing else, David Lynch knows how to capture a mood. In Twin Peaks, the series, he made a show that managed to be every genre all at once. Here, just darkness and sadness.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - 1.5/5
I think it showcases the worst lessons from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ – the idea that momentum, and constantly rushing to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing makes a compelling movie. I mean, it does – but it doesn’t make a good movie. It’s just revelation after revelation, stuff stuff stuff, a constant swelling of music. Everything Is Important. And you don’t need me to tell you that’s not true. It doesn’t feel comfortable taking a moment to breathe – because, well, it’s not very good and it’s best to just sprint to the finish line, maybe. Also, that incest shit? It’s incest-y, dog. Yeah, that very real sexual tension between that brother and sister? That’s weird in a bad way.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 - 2.5/5
As you know, from following this blog, I loved the first one (and most everything these guys do). But not as much here. It’s fun, it’s cute, but it’s entirely inconsequential. Everything is essentially perfect at the beginning of the film, but problems are created and then uncreated in the course of the film. If the first one felt like Saturday Morning Cartoons at their best, this feels like it at their most trudging along – just some stuff that happens and everything resets to zero at the end. A mid-season episode that fails to further the plot. I like the characters a lot. I had fun. But nothing important happens here. It’s okay to forget it.
Valhalla Rising - 2/5
It’s an attempt at some ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ shit, but it’s not nearly as interesting as that thing was. Mads Mikkelsen, tho. Visually, it’s a far cry from the guy who made ‘Drive,’ and closer to somebody who makes metalcore videos. Emotionally, he’s in the same place, but he overdoes it elsewhere. That dude who made ‘Bronson,’ though? I want like a thousand of those dudes.
Lego movie - 4/5
It’s an amazing piece of advertising. It is entirely admirable how much brand synergy is fucking happening here. I think the guys who created this are very good at being told ‘you have to have six logos and say all of these product points.’ And where most people would say that’s too much for one thing, I give up, they go ‘okay’ – and we’re off and running. It’s something that should probably be offensive for how much advertising it is, if not for how goddamned entertaining it was. And it was, and it was. It’s strange, because it’s not in the writing – read the quotes, and it’s not necessarily funny – but it is when it’s performed. It’s all character-driven, and living in these guys’ heads (and then translated to screen) much moreso than on the page. That’s having a vision, motherfucker. As a movie, it does feel like a hodgepodge of all the great animated features of the past few years – it is Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and some other movie, I forget – Iron Giant? Yeah, Iron Giant. And it doesn’t necessarily do it as well as each of those movies, but it does it all. So quantity. It tries to fit in all of the product points and ‘how to play Lego properly’ and thus tells a story of following instructions except when you shouldn’t follow instructions except when you should follow instructions. It’s both subversively and overtly anti-pop and a model for ‘pop’s not such a bad thing, guys.’ Add Batman, and you’ve got a movie that has fucking everything and is for everyone. It's ADMIRABLE.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Inside Llewyn Davis - 4.5/5
Soulful. Like those old blues club types who ain’t much for talking, but they says it all when they sing. It all comes roaring out. Maybe not a roar here, but still; the same effect. It’s all in the title – wanting to be seen for what’s inside, but not being able to bring it out anywhere but in his songs. And even then… It’s the plight of the musician, the filmmaker, the writer, the whatever – “Look at what I made and you will know me.” But they never look at it right. They don’t see it, don’t like it for the right reasons – an entire audience looking back at you to say you’re not that good, you’re not that new, you’re not that different. It’s one of two tragedies – the tragedy of being good and unrecognized, or the tragedy of being not that good. Not as good as you want or need to be. Capturing that feeling – that’s what this movie does well.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Sign Painters - 1/5
This feels like some shitty kid's Kickstarter doc. An hour and a half discussing and memorializing sign painting! Rewards include punches in the nut instead of sitting through this un-insightful bullshit. It’s a short Vimeo doc, time-lapses and close-ups and focus pulls, spread out over a waste of a good naptime. It’s just a glimpse through a very narrow slit. All keyhole, no key.
That Awkward Moment - 3/5.
Charming and shallow dudez trying to find a little weight. I really like Movie Star Zac Efron, because he is effortless, and Miles Teller’s got a bit of that Vince Vaughn Before We Got Too Much Of Him. (Michael B. Jordan’s the Boring One!) It’s a movie fit for bros, though I doubt they’d see this on purpose. It’s very much of it’s time (that time being today) – fifty years ago, this movie would have been about getting up the nerve to say ‘I love you.’ Here, these fifty years later, all that emotional turbulence is used up just getting to the point where you’re okay with admitting that you’re dating. Not love, not marriage, not babies; just admitting to dating. In its way – in it’s shallow and charming way – this movie signals a cultural shift. It’s a curiosity in that way.
12 O’Clock Boys - 3.5/5
It’s another world inside our own, brothers. I’m not sure we necessarily get any psychology behind the 12 O’Clock Boys as a complete set but man-oh-man, is Pug a hell-of-an-interesting character to follow as he tries to enter that world. Charming, gifted, and OH YOU KNOW HE SO TROUBLED. It seems to be a world where, regardless of what you grasp on to, whatever you lose yourself to, you just need to lose it to something. Be it drugs, guns, sex, money, or riding four-wheelers in the street. Given all the choices, the latter’s not so bad. It’s a different way to die.
Nebraska - 2.5/5
Another movie that has fallen victim to my own expectations. It’s black and white without being beautiful. It’s sincere without irony. Outside of the locals (who are mostly great), it doesn’t feel like an Alexander Payne movie. It feels early ‘90s; something you’d catch on Sunday afternoon. Kevin Costner-type shit. It feels mediocre. Entirely middle-American. Somewhere around Omaha, maybe.
C.R.A.Z.Y. - 3.5/5
Like the director’s ‘Dallas Buyer’s Club,’ it occasionally threatens to overdose on sentimentality, but it never ends up crashing down into maudlin. It just rides at the crest. Right at the tip, baby. The movie follows the story of the second-youngest son, who is gay, and afraid, but it very subtly comes to encompass the whole family, with the father as its centerpiece – a man who wants his children to be different; to love music like him, to think like him, to want like him. To not be gay, to not be drug addicts. But they can’t, and that’s disappointing. But he loves them anyway. He has to; he can’t not. Because love is crazy, dog.
Monday, March 3, 2014
The Wind Also Rises - 2.5/5
I can make some allowances for this being a true story, as it does that thing that true stories do that I hate WHICH IS TO SAY it goes off for stretches into things that having nothing to do with what the film is about. I will then take back those allowances when TO MY SURPRISE I AM TO DISCOVER that they added some fictional shit in. Then why not just make that shit linear and tighter, Miyazaki-bro? Fuck that love story is what I’m trying to say. Well, too late now! It’s been committed to film! It’s hard to say it’s the central conceit of the film (because it goes elsewhere) but the most interesting question in the film is whether or not the protagonist (and we) want to live in a world without pyramids. WHICH IS TO SAY a world without beauty, but also a world that did not deliver a million-fold the pain that was involved in its creation. A million million. The search for such a beauty is Jiro’s journey, but he knows – he knows, he knows – that what he creates will be used to destroy. He is only so-so ambivalent about that. That is a problem? A storytelling problem, anyway. Jiro loves his craft so much and you want him to succeed, but you also want him to ask some goddamn questions of himself. Is art worth it when that art is dangerous. Can you condone it. Should you have your name attached to it. If someone else will do it, then let them have the credit. Maybe. The race towards the future is also a destruction of the present, because it leaves no place to look back to. It is neither right or wrong. But it’s right to at least ask the question.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Friday, January 24, 2014
is that if the thing’s real, it just kind of lives. All the success over it or the rejection, none of that really matters because in the end, the thing will survive or not survive on its merits. Immortality via art is no big deal. François Truffaut died. His films live on, but that’s not much help to François Truffaut. As I’ve said many times, rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I would rather live on in my apartment.
Posted by not eb at 3:43 PM
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Manhattan - 3.5/5
It's the vicious sandpaper circle jerk of people who don't want to BE in love, they want to FALL in love. And so they keep chasing something that isn't what they already have. It's the conqueror's version of love. It's all the better because they can't have it. It's somewhat infuriating and somewhat unfulfilling, but it touches a nerve.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire - 4.5/5
I am a populist motherfucker. This was great. It really was. It's most basic improvement is the introduction of character complexity (followed then by quality camera work). Peeta has a personality! He's the humanitarian to Gale's violent man. The movie succeeds in defining what his actual role is in this series: if Katniss inspires everyone, he's the one that inspires Katniss. THE STAR WHO SHINES ITS LIGHT ON THE STAR WHO SHINES ITS LIGHT ON US. You see. I think she is actually more of a manipulated-into-being hero that she's given discredit for. Resourceful, yes, but mostly just an instrument played by other people. Lucked into the role of a waving flag. But that's just, again, the introduction of complexity. Everyone around her can be shady because she has to be the symbol, pure. It feels bigger because you really don't know who to trust (which is appropriate for a movie where the goal is the death of everyone but you). To that end, it simplifies appropriately – everyone's given a badass moment or a signature 'thing.' As Katniss had her flaming dress. It's the easiest way to make us care about the various characters who may or may not die – make them do or be something cool. Whereas Pacific Rim took that same note and made it boring, 'Catching Fire' makes it better simply by doing it better. That's it. It's just a movie that is made well.
Sound of Music - 2.5/5
My god, it's so loooooooong. Maria is great, she's got speed in her, she zips along like the flibbertigibbet they say she is and the colonel or the general or whatever the stiff man is is defiantly "something to be fixed." And she fixes it by being pretty and flighty! Love makes him soft and it makes this whole movie just draaaag. There isn't even a fucking plot until the last 20 minutes. The Nazis are an undercurrent during the movie but it's just a backdrop to them falling in boring, painful love. The kind of love that makes you lose everything that makes you interesting because you lose yourself in the other person's eyes. And it comes so easy! It's unearned. I mean, it's easy to see why someone might love her – but him? And for him to change so quickly? Fuck that. That's lazy. I feel bad for the baroness. She wasn't even a bad guy until the movie realized they needed a bad guy. And then, so easily discarded. So easy. So unearned. But the songs are good, guys. Guys who are listening: the songs are good.
Friday, January 17, 2014
Wolf of Wall Street - 3/5
I enjoyed watching this. I think Leonardo Dicaprio disappears into the role (maybe because it's the closest to who he actually is??). I think Martin Scorsese remains an incredibly imaginative director. And I think this is a dangerous movie to have made. What Martin Scorsese does best is make great advertisements for being bad people and here lies a celebration of selfishness in pursuit of doing-whatever-the-fuck-we-want. That's what we want! We want to do whatever the fuck we want. And we want to get away with it. And if you follow these few simple steps… I felt like I was supposed to think these people are evil and instead I think "I wouldn't mind that. That'd be nice." Yes, the end of the movie turns its gaze at the moviegoer, the patsy, to say we're stupid for wanting this lifestyle. There aren't victims (we never see them), there're just rubes. It's our fault for wanting to be victimized. Nah, it's not my fault – it's yours; you made it look good. The movie troubles me. I'm not saying it shouldn't have been made. It's entertaining as shit, and that is the only law. I just think its lasting legacy will be inspiring the bad in people.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Frozen - 6.5/10
The movie simultaneously upends and upholds the stereotypical Disney behavior. She falls in love quickly, and she gets made fun of (for it being so quick). And then she falls in love again, with just an extra day or two tacked on (but that's fine). And then the final love isn't with either of them but with her sister. Some fine points and adjustments to the Disney mythos there. But weird, too, right? The humor in the movie is great, but it starts to feel like it's got too many interesting characters. I suppose there's a reason that Eric from 'The Little Mermaid' doesn't have a personality – there's not room for it. And in this movie's case, the least interesting personality responsibility happens to fall on its second lead – the Ice Queen. She's been locked up, and that has made her boring! And she can only show her true self… in song! It's the closest an animated Disney film has felt like a Broadway production. Big numbers, but not in that Disney way – ones designed to fill a playhouse. They feel… different. And the whole movie, it feels different. A last-minute (and, frankly, out of nowhere) villain turn only shows that the movie lacked an opponent. It's too abstract, almost. It's not about overcoming evil, it's about accepting differences. And, of course, I love that. But it makes the movie too complex and it can't handle the weight.
Gravity - 7.5/10
It's one of those Disney rides, with the film playing in front as you fly forward through Endor and the seat you're on lifts and shakes and pushes you to the side. It's the closest a flat pane has come to a full-on physically moving experience. It is supremely well-made and engrossing, until you see the celebrity. Sandra and George did a fine job (not the least of which is helping this movie reach a greater audience, and that's makes anything that comes after this sentence null and void) but, if the goal of a movie is to make you disappear inside of it, they keep reminding you that you're experiencing a thing, outside of it. George's Charm Ooze and Sandra's ever-so-slight plastic surger-ed face. But I will try my best to not let that stand in the way of wanting to puke in a theater.
Her - 7/10
I'm glad this movie isn't about how technology is bad and we should connect with people and nature and the sky and frogs and other such honeysuckle bullshit. If nothing else, I'm glad this movie makes a case for love being real, no matter who – or what – it's with. I'm also surprised at just exactly how 'sci-fi' this movie is; it creates a backdrop from which an incredibly humanist movie can operate. I just wish he wasn't such a sad fucking sack. There's a degree of relatability, but he is quiet, and he is boring. He's no one to fall in love with outside of what he says in the things he creates. And that's why she falls in love. And he falls in love with her because it's easier to talk to a stranger on a computer than it is to talk to someone you love. Hurt feelings, adverse desires get in the way. Available when you want, not the other way around. I think that's true, to a certain group of people who grew up on hardcore/metal messageboards anyway. And so when things get more serious, words don't come as easy. I think the movie is true to how love behaves. Unfortunately, it's a movie where they laugh at each other, but you don't really laugh with them. It's a vision of boring love. But still: it's fascinating. Also, Amy Adams? She's great. I like her a lot.
Saving Mr. Banks - 6/10
P.L. Travers is a terrible person, and so they made a movie about her. Her interference in the making of the movie is great – when it's about the creative process and the compromises (for good and ill) that go into letting go of your vision (and the manipulation that goes into letting certain things pass through), the movie hits a certain stride. But looking at it from her perspective doesn't do it justice – she reaches no epiphany of herself, in present day or flashback. Someone (Walt) has to look from the outside to outright speak things. It should've been told from his (or the other writers) perspectives all along, because that's the only time we get any real introspection (or any likable characters). How To Understand Someone You Cannot Possibly Know. She was a thing to be solved (and then they just ignored her anyway). It would have also served to make her more sympathetic, because let's be honest: she gets fucked over. There was a more interesting story to tell here, outside of the Disneyfication of things. SIDENOTE: For the first few flashbacks, I thought the movie was about what happened after Mary Poppins ended – a banker leaves his job to chase whimsy, only to become a hopeless drunk. Which was fun, to think that.
Meet Me In St. Louis - 3/10
This movie is better in the Today Show Christmas highlight reel it occupies (even though this shit shouldn't even count as a Christmas movie – it's a year-long movie, with drama changing with the seasons). And what little drama it is. The only thing moving this movie forward is the simple fact that the earth goes around the sun. Yes, those songs are pretty great; but my god, what a white, classist movie enabling white, classist people to be boring bad people. And what an awful advertisement for an awful, awful town. To be fair, it's possible that I'm simply against the very idea of the movie – that a place makes you happy, more than the people you're with. It's a sentiment that belongs in the year the movie was set. An appropriate bit of irony comes right at the end, when the little kid looks out and says, "They'll never tear it down, will they?" – that building gets demolished.
Lone Ranger - 7/10
I watched this because I'm home for Christmas and this is a week of willingly watching movies better suited to being forced on you in airplanes. And since this movie was universally reviled, I wanted to witness the cultural curiosity of it all. And it wasn't bad at all. I mean, it touches it. There's a piss-poor framing device that has no reason to exist other than to gloss over plot holes, it's long as shit, and the CGI was both unnecessary and atrocious... But there is drama! And humor! The people know what kind of movie they're making -- a pretty broad family-friendly comedy. And it deserves credit for creating a hero who is already heroic by his adherence to justice and refusing to kill outright, and giving him a reason to wear a mask. I most feel bad for Arnie Hammer, who shows himself as a burgeoning physical comedian who will likely never take a similar role. Johnny Depp isn't as good in the comedy department, but the movie gives him a pretty decent superheroic (or supervillain-esque) origin. I feel like people were most likely reacting to the 'summer bloat' of it all. It was expensive and feels the need to show off the money spent, and that creates situations of tediousness and tonal shifts which should have been edited right the fuck out. But, and I will fall on my increasingly dull sword for this -- it has interesting parts. And that makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Dallas Buyer's Club - 8/10
Matthew McConaughey doin' what he do, bros. In terms of his renaissance, it's his best yet and to be sure, fucking around with the natural proportions of his body probably helped push him over. It's not even that he's skinny – he's damn near bow-legged. His Ron Woodroff is a right scoundrel to boot. His story follows a pretty typical path of caring-only-for-the-self to unintentionally caring-for-all-the-others, but there's nothing wrong with a formula if it's administered right. Unlike '12 Years A Slave,' the movie doesn't try to make you, the viewer, feel with the main character; it makes the main character feel for another person. And he does, and he does. Jared Leto gets points for completing that pass. However: the movie's got an odd little footnote, which makes me reconsider the whole movie – Ron fights for the duration against a certain type of drug, only for the end card to tell us that that drug went on to help millions. So, though Ron was fighting for the right to treat himself, it was perhaps a fight for the right to be stubborn moreso than the right to be right. Anyway. Odd little footnote to just tack on at the end.
12 Years A Slave - 7/10
I like Steve McQueen, or at least I say I do. He clearly knows how to point a camera, he clearly knows how to attain a performance, but damn if I can't find the same thing I found missing in 'Hunger' – an emotional connection. And as he does in 'Hunger,' he doesn't judge – he just points a camera and says 'look at it.' It may be that movies have trained me to expect a punctuation point at the end – a line or two, a look, a something that says 'hey, if you missed it, this is what the movie was about.' And in this movie, it's in the title. He spends 12 years as a slave. It's a passage of time as a man is degraded and eventually degrades himself willingly to forgo the being degraded. Small but increasing decreases of your opinion of your moral self. And so he walks out of his ordeal apologetic, because he's been so totally trained to be wrong. And that's great, and I like the idea of it, but for some reason, I don't feel it. I don't know. I walked out of the theater thinking that slavery is bad. Not to be a dick or anything, but I already knew that. I don't know – writing this makes me think I might like it more on a second go.
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend - 8/10
Mike Birbiglia, as he does in 'Sleepwalk With Me,' crafts a beautiful ending by making you forget he's telling a linear story. Certain paragraphs get dropped in mid-sentence to go off on a tangent, but the unifying thread is never too far off from where he's guiding you. He zig zags through stories, but always comes back to the through-line. It's masterfully told, and when he arrives at the final point, it isn't dwelled upon because the long set-up did its job. This movie also does a pretty decent job of explaining why I decided to marry my wife.
Bling Ring - 7/10
It may be that I'm just fascinated by the real-life events – kids breaking into celebrities' homes to lift little trinkets that wouldn't be missed. What do you take from the person who has everything? The characters can be flat and one-dimensional, but they're also compelling with that I-know-they're-real-but-they-don't-live-next-to-me quality. Their distinct other-ness. I enjoyed looking at these people more than I enjoyed trying to understand them. And in that way, they're the offspring of the reality culture they're ripping off. None of those shows existed to make a point – they existed to have something to look at. And so these kids, they looked at them and they took their way of speaking and they took their style, and then they took their actual clothes. It's the logical extension. I feel like this movie will be remembered years from now inside the childhood superstructure that picks which things most accurately represented growing up in a certain time period, even if it only really applied to five people in Los Angeles. This is 'Clueless,' updated.
End of Watch - 8/10
I prefer to think of it as a spiritual sequel to 'Jarhead.' Where that Jake Gyllenhaal guy comes home and becomes this Jake Gyllenhaal guy along with the realization that the boredom he endured during the Iraq war was also where the real fun was. Jake and Michael Peña have great chemistry and seem to have formed a genuine bond that comes with being together forever. At the end, during the dramatic moment, the movie threatens to not come to an emotional crescendo but, right after, it does, it does. Sometimes the best way to show you miss someone is to say it outright.
Man of Steel - 2/10.
The thing about 'getting it right' is that everything's already there. It's not necessarily about fulfilling one person's interpretation so much as – Batman, Spider-Man, James Bond, Superman – all the elements of making a great story are right fucking there. Drama, fantasticism. Almost 100 years of character-building and story elements up for the grab. Of course I understand the divide between what's on the page and the construction of a multi-million dollar blockbuster that's been poked and prodded by dozens of people behind the scenes actually becoming a good movie in the end, but I also understand that, like the small number of scenes in Zach Snyder's 'Watchmen' prove, that if you just use what's there, then you can't really fuck it up. Of course, Zach Snyder proved through three-quarters of 'Watchmen' and the entirety of 'Man of Steel' that yes, yes you really can. Honestly: the trailer for this movie is the best Superhero movie I've seen. It's beautiful, it's well-constructed, it's 'Tree Of Life' by way of capes, and it almost perfectly encapsulates the core idea of any hero's journey: deciding what kind of person you want to be. And this version of Clark Kent almost never decides for himself. His father decides for him. His other father decides for him. Lois Lane decides for him. The US government decides for him. And, in the end, the villain decides how the play ends. In the course of deciding what kind of person Clark Kent want to be, this movie, simply put, is not the story of someone deciding to be a hero.
The Heat - 5/10
I like Sandra Bullock and I like Melissa McCarthy and, on paper, they have great chemistry together. Alas. There's a balance between their personalities, but the balance is on the extreme. Sandra is staid, uninteresting person, McCarthy is obnoxious and out there. A little more of one and a little less of the other would have suited me fine.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 3/10
I accidentally watched the director's cut which has 12 more minutes of footage, which I am assuming were an extra 12 minutes of glory footage of the Enterprise as Captain Kirk is ferried to it. Oh my god, the waiting and the plodding and the taxi-ing and the wistful stares and the waiting in this movie. It's a movie made for the people who liked the show, which is so odd, because this is a fairly large movie for what amounted (at the time) to a relatively small minority of people. It assumes a familiarity with all the characters, barely introducing them, hardly setting up their roles – meanwhile focusing on two people who no one cared about previously (and no one cares about during). There is a poppiness to everything which I enjoyed. The visual aesthetics are a hummable tune – Uhura's hair, Ilia's lack of, Shatner's way of speaking – but my god. As much as the new Star Treks are derided by old Star Trek fans (and none of them are really defending this movie, mind), they did a great job of defining who everybody was and having forward momentum.
Cinderella - 8/10
Little late, listeners, but this movie is fantastic. It's a short little ditty with a great villain who is not celebrated nearly enough, great songs, and the best best best thing is that neither Cinderella or Prince Charming are too defined of characters. Contrast that with, say, the fantastic 'The Little Mermaid' where a character full of joy and life falls in love with a cypher. Point being, here, they're both non-entities, and we mostly see them fall in love from afar and it's just beautifully put together. Their romance is like a ballet. Two beautiful people in love. A painting.
Pacific Rim - 7/10
It's really not the giant robot movie I was looking for. Guillermo del Toro is fantastic with visuals, I'll never deny, but he's just not very good at making people interesting. Sad Girl and Emotional Boy are not characters, no matter how much dye one puts in their hair. And that's the key to all of the characters in this movie – they're cartoons. They have a look – a goatee, a hair style, a way of walking, a costume – that they own and makes for great action figures, but they're not people. But I can ignore that, because giant robots fight giant creatures. Some of the time. The other problem is that the movie splits its time trying to figure out the 'science of things,' and that involves regular folk (like you or me!) who are not giant robots fighting each other. So, in all of these ways, the movie is both simplistic and overly complex. BUT STILL: giant robots, etc.
White House Down - 8/10
OH MY GOD, THIS WAS SO GOOD. It knows exactly what it is and Channing Tatum understands the persona of his we like best. It's the best movie of 1994. It feels like James Cameron and John McTiernan from way-back-when could have made this, because it is VERY WELL PUT TOGETHER. 'Die Hard in the White House' is a shorthand and simplistic view of the plot but imagine that same phrase with the great characterization of a leading man and enemies with personality that it should imply. It is absolutely 'Die Hard'; the best parts included.
Fruitvale Station - 6/10
You know, I was expecting to feel some amount of outrage and pursed lips and furrowed brow, but what I'm left with is this feeling that it was all just an unfortunate accident. Maybe that's the movie's point, I don't know, but with its incessant foreshadowing of a conclusion we know from when they show us the grainy cellphone footage at the beginning of a movie, I feel like it wants me to feel something. If anything, it feels manipulative, and to that end, I don't even feel manipulated into doing anything about anything.
The Act Of Killing - 7.5/10
The mechanics of the movie make it worth watching. The story of a war criminal tricked (?) into making a Hollywood movie about his crimes only to be confronted with the images he's helped create through the filter of a television screen is… very interesting, to say the least. The amount of delusion needed to get to that point – a whole country's delusion – is even more so. It takes Anwars Congo actually playing a victim in his movie to understand what it felt like to be a victim. Not the replaying of barbaric acts but in becoming an act-or, to actually pretend to feel their pain, is what it takes to finally feel their pain. It's a 'walk a mile in my shoes' that's delivered in a very roundabout way, but the filmmakers eventually lead them there. All that said, the film is missing something, and I could not define to you what it is.
You're Next - 6/10
'Home Alone with real criminals' sounds like a great movie. I hope to see that someday. The ten minutes or so of setting up the house to knock down the fools was fun, but it's a short ten minutes or so. It's a little middle-of-the-road, really.
Hated: G.G. Allin & The Murder Junkies - 7.5/10
I think I respect the movie more than I necessarily like it. It really is unafraid to get up close to a guy who shits himself on stage. I don't know if GG has any real depth to him other than a guy who enjoys suffering and making other suffer, but the movie sticks with him and doesn't seem to judge him. It just lets him be and I think maybe even enables him to go further, and I can't figure out whether that's good or bad. Good for art, I guess. Things like showing the open casket at the end – even that shit, it feels like a lack of judgment. That's just that world. I think, then, that it's a movie that befits its star. The final concert in the special features is worth watching for the pure visceral thrill of it all. Plus a random stranger sticks a finger up his butt, as if to calm him!
Moon - 7.5/10
I was worried that knowing The Secret would ruin the movie, but it's really treated less as a secret and more as The First Plot Development. And so what is not a tense nailbiter is instead two guys being weirded out by each other and their situation. Which I think makes it a much more interesting movie. Sci-fi just becomes backdrop to weirdo human drama, and Sam Rockwell plays the hell out of it. Something about it, though, maybe Sam Rockwell even, keeps the final denouement, haha I'm fancy, keeps the final denouement from being the emotional crescendo I want it to be.
Warm Bodies - 7/10
I don't know how to say it without it appearing to be a pun, but fuck you, dear reader – it's a very warm-hearted movie. It's strange to me because I'd like to be able to pinpoint that divide between sweetness and sentimentality and how it manages to stay on the former's side of the line. It's not an overly funny movie or even a particularly great one, but it floats in those same honeyed clouds shared with movies like 'Back To The Future' that make you just kind of want to like it.
The Great And Powerful Oz - 5.5/10
Oz is never really redeemed as a character. Neither is he well-performed. I typically like James Franco, but his usual half-hearted-ness is, uh, forgive me if this is stupid to say but – his performance is more modern than what seems to fit the movie? He's from the aughts, bros. And so that performance doesn't really work to make his Oz someone who can half-destroy a woman's life and come out the other side clean. He's a bad hero, and that's the point, but he needs to have lingering feelings of guilt or something, chola. Meanwhile, there are fun bits of Raimi-ness, but this half seems an attempt to do what modern Tim Burton is doing to mysteriously effective effect, and it lacks the same emotion that those movies fail to capture.
American Hardcore - 4/10
It's a quick rundown of every hardcore band of a specific period of time. It tells stories, but it by no means gives insight. It feels like one of those PBS 'Sounds of the 50's' infomercials that just gives you a bunch of names and snippets of songs you want to look up later.
Upstream Color - 7/10
I think to some degree the director's name and reclusiveness works against him, as in: I walked into this movie knowing I was solving a puzzle. And so it felt more like I was watching it a second time moreso than a first time. Intellectualizing it over internalizing it. And while I certainly couldn't put all the pieces together for you, it does make you feel something – an emotional logic that makes you care about people, even if you're not entirely sure what they're going through.
Dredd - 5.5/10
Based on the cultish uprising that seemed to be building around this movie since its release, I expected this to be good! And it really is just a generic action movie. If the short Judge Dredd comic documentary contained on the DVD is any indication, it seems like the serious-as-sin Dredd needs lively personalities to react off of and the movie doesn't give anything. He's a brick wall standing next to and fighting other walls of varied constructive material. And that's unfortunate because there are interesting things to play off of. The same level-by-level set-up as 'The Raid' is a concept that can be ripped off a thousand times and I'll not tire of it. The slow-mo drug is a fucking ingenious idea to take full advantage of ultra-violence, but it underuses both of its good ideas. And so you get serious on serious on serious, and I ain't care about nobody and violence ain't got meaning if I ain't got no one to care about. Motherfuckers, y'all got to make me care.
Spring Breakers - 8.5/10
I wholeheartedly hold this up to a place of pop art. And it's only pop because of the colors, my man. There's a genuinely interesting story and what I feel to be a genuinely interesting point to be made (though it isn't even necessarily the point of the movie to make it) – that Spring Break is an excuse to disappear and become a new person, finding your limits and stopping only after you've crossed them. And then you get to go back to the same life you had before. But can you really, bros? Can you really? (Yes.)
Iron Man 3 - 8.5/10
I just feel like Shane Black is toying with us with how good he is at writing movies. To wit: this is a movie where a 12-year old associate with a sentimental past is possibly the best thing about it. He wrote the hell out of this shit and it doesn't stop with the dialogue – he's a fantastic action director as well. The 30-second Superbowl teaser where he's catching people out of a falling airplane was fucking *tense* and it was just a straight lift from the movie. No need for editing and musical cues to make it exciting. And it's just as tense in full, and it's only a mid-level action sequence! Every bit of action – small, medium, and large – is well-thought out (to the eventual point of it being ballet) and more importantly, everything has that tension to it. The whole movie is approached in the same way as writing jokes – it's not just punch punch punch, it's set-up and punchline. And so it becomes impressive to watch along with being really fucking fun.
Wild Zero - 5/10
Occasional worthwhile pop nonsense, particularly some very interesting visuals and acting decisions. Something happens every five minutes to make you keep wanting to watch it.
The Great Gatsby - 6/10
I wanted spectacle, and there was indeed a certain amount of pizzazz, but it wasn't pizzazz-y enough. That's an expectation that Baz Luhrman (perhaps unfortunately) is saddled with, but it's what I look forward to in his movies. Here, there was only a little of the bombast, and so there was nothing sensational to look at in a storyline that I've never particularly enjoyed. As a sidenote, I thought his use of rap (more than Luhrman just being himself) was to the point of hip-hop excess being comparable to the lavishness of then. I thought that was something interesting.
Hercules - 6/10
James Wood is fantastic, spinning the movie around his little finger and it's a damn shame, a crying damn shame that the movie doesn't rise up to meet his villainy. Meg comes closest as a Disney princess who is Least Like The Others, but she'd have more interesting babies with Hades then the chump who rarely shows actual heroics.
The Iceman - 6/10
I go in understanding that there's a solemn hidden-ness to Richard Kuklinski, but it doesn't help. There's a scene halfway in with James Franco as he's given a certain amount of time to pray to god for help. If god shows his hand, he'll be saved. That's a great scene. Or rather, it should have been. The whole movie could have been built around that, but instead it just shows us what happened and what happened and what happened. It tries for depth, but it's only in everything around Kuklinski. Here is a man who's done a lot but has nothing interesting to say.