Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Could it possibly be civilized to destroy the thing I love?

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. 

Occasional drowsiness.

Kentucky Fried Movie - 1/5
God bless the visionaries who gave these guys jobs after this. I can see the seeds of all the later movies I like and love, but I wouldn’t have given them a second chance. Shows what I know.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Philadelphia’ll do.

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

The knife before Christmas.

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. 

They choose wrong.

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.

Mother nature is a serial killer.

World War Z - 2/5
It’s the Da Vinci Code with zombies. Go here, go here, go here. It’s the American Airlines detective story. No use for characters when you're always just movin' around.

Games of love and chance.

Bob le Flambeur - 3/5 
It’s got a great mood but it feels like an hour and a half just to lead up to a gag.

You’re a frog. You’re supposed to have cold feet.

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. 

I was just reading emails.

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. 

A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.

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.

Why you pursue something is as important as what you pursue.

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. 

You say you can charm beasts?

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.

That’s marriage.

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.