Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
Manhunter - 3/5
Man, Michael Mann was really good at creating a certain mood. His movies look like how Tangerine Dream sounds. He makes very long music videos where the chords of a song create an emotional cue moreso than the look on someone’s face. Everything’s a shade of blue and played in stereo.
Frank - 3/5
I always feel like mental illness is a cop out in movies. I think that’s my failing. It always feels like a bad mystery movie. Why is this person this way? “Oh, just look at this x-ray.” Broken at birth, rather than broken for reasons we can relate to. It’s hard to understand – and so I suppose it’s why the main character found it hard to understand. omg I’m just like the main character!!! The movie is about my journey, not his!!! Well, then, all I’m left with is: the movie is at times a joy to watch and Fassbender is great and I’m not sure what its larger purpose is. Let things be what they are? Okay, I’ll buy it.
Steel Magnolias - 3/5
Three out of the six womens are wonderful and I’d like to see them every week on my local NBC affiliate. Unfortunately, the movie is centered around the one person we care least about. The Lance Bass. The Howie Dorough. The Julia Roberts. The Boring One. There’s a very emotional and impassioned speech at the end. Good go, Sally Fields.
Monsters University - 3/5
Unnecessary and very, very likeable. More so than its predecessor. I think it was wise to take the weight off of John Goodman’s confident and boring character and replace it with Billy Crystal’s neuroses. More words more words more words more words.
Nymphomaniac (Director’s Cut) - 4/5
It’s a very quiet and deliberate movie where two very different people trade stories that alternate between graphic sex and read-alongs of Wikipedia entries. It’s surprising in how casual it tells its tale – there’s no rush to a conclusion, it never gets beyond a certain pace. The bodies feel factual more than erotic. It gets graphic – very graphic – but I think for a reason: to convince us she’s evil. In this, I think the movie acts as a bit of a cultural prudish-ness test – oh, you can handle this? Well, what if we took it a little further… Trying to force you to find something to be offended by. But it’s not evil. The bodies aren’t evil, the sex isn’t evil – love is the evil thing. Sex is natural while “love distorts things.” Love takes people away. She’s proud of what she does, but not what it leads to. So she becomes in the end an addict in reverse – someone who doesn’t demand to have, but who demands not to have.
Ghost - 3.5/5
I meant to write a lot of stuff after I watched this that talked about how Patrick Swayze was the birth of the feminine male that masculine males admired – he was not a man who dances, but a dancer – but I forgot most of my talking points. Anywayze, Swayze rules. This movie also makes me understand Demi Moore’s appeal in the opposite – the masculine female that other females admire. Strong-willed but always on the verge of tears. They’re both great identities, and I’m not sure their place has been taken by someone since.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - 3/5
I haven’t seen a great number of Woody Allen movies, but there’s a clear line that you can draw through this, ‘Annie Hall,’ and ‘Manhattan’ – the ‘popular ones.’ I don’t know if he makes the same movies over and over, but the theme that people seem to respond to is the ‘chronic dissatisfaction,’ as this movie puts it, of… anyone? Lovers? New Yorkers? Woody Allen? I don’t know. The erotification of ‘the other’ – other women or men, typically, but another locale and temperament in this case. Always wanting more than what you have. ‘Demanding more from the sunset,’ as ‘Nymphomaniac’ puts it. Demanding what? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Dear White People - 3.5/5
I admire that they’ve created a TBS New Classic version of ‘Do The Right Thing.’ A movie legitimately about race – how are you supposed to be when everyone’s telling you how you’re supposed to be? – that has the same watchability as ‘She’s All That.’ Easy, accessible, and difficult (though not in the way that ‘Do The Right Thing’ is difficult, mind). I like the idea that someone can accidentally sit down to watch an uninvolved teen movie and be drawn into an exploration of race politics. I am enchanted by that idea.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Thief and the Cobbler - 1.5/5
This is the movie that was taken from its creator and remade, with words put where words were not intended to go and such and such and such an obvious bastardization is all it ends up being.
Spice World - 3/5
I get why they were big. They had personality, beyond the names. They were a certain amount of fearless, without aiming for fearlessness. Not-give-a-fuck-itude. They don’t feel programmed, though I’m sure they were tuned to just the right degree. They feel like very real fake people, I suppose I’m saying. The greatest trick the devil ever played, etc.
Interstellar - 3/5
I think it’s funny, I think it’s interesting, I think it’s weird that the man accused (by me) of being incapable of joy makes a movie where love is the central macguffin. I appreciate him taking a stab at emotion, but he pokes a hole right through the thing. He carries the weight of a feeling like an exposition drop. Love as a non-sequitir that must be explained. He treats emotion like science. And it’s cheesy, but it’s not the worst. The worst is that there are too many other ideas at play – relativity (which could actually use an exposition drop), leaving, fathers and daughters, the one versus the many. There’s just too much. It’s ambitious (it reaches for the stars lol). But it’s broken (more like ‘Not So Stellar’ lol).
Inherent Vice - 3/5
To quote another reviewer – this movie doesn’t give a shit about you. It’s certainly an experience to sit down and watch it. It’s nearly always compelling. But I don’t think it’s possible to make sense of it unless you sat down with Paul Thomas Anderson as he held your hand through each choice. It’s all in his head, and there’s not that one line, that “this is something that happens” that ties the whole room together. It’s the height of self-indulgence. A movie made only for him. But dude is talent, so I’m reluctant to tell him to stop. He can keep going as long as that obfuscation leads to an occasional transcendance. I just might not be as excited to rush in headlong anymore.
She Done Him Wrong - 2.5/5
Cary Grant has always been Cary Grant. He arrived fully formed. No warm-ups, no practice runs. Sigh. Mae West was also good in this. Her lines were better than that other movie I watched, but she’d rather say a good line than tell a good story. Her movies are more like comedy routines that way; more meant to create a favorite bit.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Los Angeles Plays Itself – 3/5
Does a city lose its soul when it’s used as surrogate for hundreds of other cities? Can a city’s character survive tourist directors who think they can define the city better than those who live there? Does Los Angeles have an identity? It takes a shitload of time and one of the least arresting voiceovers imaginable to answer the question you’ve never asked, but boy howdy does it make its point.
Anastasia - 3.5/5
Feels like a 1950s musical drama. A loose charm floats through it (Meg Ryan was the bomb, yo) before hitting a hard wall made of sudden realizations of affection. Like Maria and the Captain, they are two people better at sparring than being in love. They know how to do one, don’t know how to do the other, and so they stiffen up. It becomes very functional at the end because it needs to wrap up this love story that had previously been an identity story. Rasputin, the villain feels distant and afterthought-y throughout but he and his mouse bat are wonderful scenery and I really liked that evil song of theirs.
Chronicle - 3.5/5
You know how sometimes short stories are just excuses to throw a good idea out there without necessarily having to do the work of writing enough words to make it an entire book? This feels like that. An interesting idea, extended out. It didn’t necessarily get deeper – just longer. But man, what fun. The found footage-ness sometimes ends up focusing too much attention on the camera, but it adds to the tension and the visceral thrill of it all so I’ll call it even.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Enemy - 3.5/5
If the whole movie exists for that final image, then brav-fucking-o. Genuinely frightening in that, and genuinely creepy for the rest of it. One review describe the look of the film as ‘urine-soaked.’ Yes. It strikes me as a movie worth revisiting – worth figuring out. But I’m lazy, so.
Posted by not eb at 4:49 PM
Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, January 5, 2015
Godzilla - 2.5/5
Aaron Taylor-Johnson vs. Godzilla. The movie’s just stuck on this miracle dude who this force of nature cares naught about. He is our feet on the ground, eyes to the sky, I get that, but we don’t need him, we just need eeeeeeyes. Here’s my simple fix: we’re not following one dude, but a collection of dudes and dudettes. Each reacting to this thing in their own way, discovering its relative humanity vs. these Mutos as destruction surrounds them. An anthology of reactions to this beast from 20,000 fathoms. In this way, he is not just the titular tidal wave, but the star.
Super - 2.5/5
It’s a surprisingly un-cynical movie, for as dark as it sells itself. If anything, it’s a bit too maudlin with its final message of hope. I think James Gunn’s strength as a director is how casual he is. He’s not afraid to just throw something out to see if it works. He’s just having a good time, my man. He’s like one of those stand-ups that laugh at their own jokes, and you laugh at them laughing more than you might laugh at the joke. Or something like that.
Captain Phillips - 2.5/5
Paul Greengrass likes to direct the moment. Not the before, not the after, just what’s happening as it’s happening. No real context, even when context would make a rounder story. It’s interesting, but less so with real stories – this and ‘United 93.’ Stories in which we know the ending. It’s hard to get invested in the moment when you know the inevitable. But Tom Hanks crying at the end was all right, boss. I’d like to have felt more of that.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
The Monuments Men - 2/5.
The question it asks, repeatedly, is whether the greatest works of art are worth a single human life. The answer, repeatedly, is yes, but it never answers with enough emotion. It builds up the men (somewhat) but it doesn’t build up the art. It shows us paintings and statues and assumes we know its inherent value. It never says why art is beautiful, why art is worthwhile. That should have been easy, I’d imagine. That, and it could have probably dropped a character or two. If you’re already playing fast and loose with history, you might as well abuse it to tell a better story.
They Came Together - 2.5/5
You know what, it’s a bit lazy. It’s only a half step away from those ‘Not Another… ‘ movies – a stock plot as an excuse for occasional absurdity and funny faces. And Paul Rudd makes the funniest faces, guys. He’s so entirely self-aware of how his body/face moves and it’s glorious and hard to replicate by most everyone else in the cast. Beyond the very controlled anarchy of he, I don’t think the filmmakers give themselves enough leeway to go completely off the rails. It’s stuck to this linear storyline which is the least important thing about it. I’d rather have all the funniest parts from this and the deleted scenes made into as much of a single entity as possible. As is, it feels more like ‘The Baxter’ than ‘Wet Hot American Summer.’
Friday, January 2, 2015
Merantau - 2.5/5
Iko Uwais looks like a hero so he plays a hero. Yayan Ruhian looks like a villain so he plays a villain. The action is great but I think the movie as a whole is a first pass at defining the characters that will make these guys more interesting beyond how they appear – Iko becomes more of a Jackie Chan with a bubbling anger instead of humor. Yayan becomes a weirder and weirder (redeemable) villain in each new movie. The action’s great but it’s more interesting to see the start of something that will become wonderful.
Big Hero 6 - 3/5
I don’t think it understands its own origin story. This movie has a genuine heroic figure in Tadashi – a good, noble person who just wants to help people. And his lil’ bro learns from that but… doesn’t really. At the end of the movie, he’s still a botfighter and the lesson of Tadashi wasn’t that the world needs more fighting robots; it needs more heroes that hug you when you feel bad. It needs more nurses. During the end montage, you don’t see them being heroes, fighting villains – you see them rollerskating on top of subways. That’s not helping, that’s indulging.