This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month of January. Please feel free to post them as you see them, or if you prefer post a summary of all films at the end of the month. Also you can comment and discuss freely as others talk about films they've seen.
I think I agree with the consensus that the first one was quite a bit better, but this one is still enjoyable enough. There is not really a lot of dragon-training going on, but lots of dragon activity.
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
BANKSY DOES NEW YORK
Watched this, an interesting HBO documentary about renowned (yet anonymous) British graffiti artist Banksy. In October 2013 he did one new piece a day for every day of the month; not all were graffiti, one hilarious installation featured the Grim Reaper in a bumper car while "Don't Fear the Reaper"* blared over a loudspeaker. Banksy of course does NOT appear. One of the interesting things was the varied reactions to Banksy's works. Some were whitewashed within a couple of hours, others were taken away and offered for sale by locals.
Interesting, I enjoyed it.
*Doubly appropriate since Blue Oyster Cult is a New York band...
Kind of in the vein of "Taken" or "Three Days To Kill", "November Man" is the story of a retired spy pulled back into the world which he had left. To this film's credit, the retired CIA spy is a former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan. After a teaser of one of his last missions, we find him in Switzerland, where his former boss (apparently) appears to get him to extract an agent (Natalia) from Moscow. She has information to disgrace Arkady Federov, the soon to be elected president of Russia, and a large swath of agents with other information against the president are being assassinated.
We see Natalia photographing some photos from Federov's safe and the chase is on. Brosnan rescues her, and we learn that she is the mother of Brosnan's daughter, just before she is killed by a CIA sniper. This turns Brosnan into a rogue, trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
My wife thought the movie was "weird", and had trouble following the story for quite a while. I thought the various threads were brought together reasonably well, though there was enough duplicity and changed allegiances to be a little confusing. I did think it was better than its mediocre reviews.
I should have known and in fact, I expected trash. At least I didn't spend any money on this mess.
I have a soft spot for the Turtles movie from the early 90s. It was the first VHS I owned and although I wouldn't call it a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it was entertaining and at the very least didn't piss me off - something the new movie managed to accomplish in no time. There's not one single character in this movie that is not annoying let alone is interesting. The plot is non-existant. The action scenes are repetitive and boring.
Seriously, Michael Bay should just stop producing/directing mvoies. He being involved is a sure recipe for disaster.
Exactly what you'd think it would be. Nothing too heavy, more of the same characters as in the first. My husband rewatched Red right before we watched Red 2 and was a little disappointed at the comparison liking the first one better, but then that's sequels for you.
My wife and I went out and saw Inherent Vice last night. I had heard good things and was looking forward to an entertaining, drug addled, 70s era ensemble piece. While the cast was excellent, I found the proceedings to be fairly tedious. I love a good film noir and I'm all for gonzo odysseys, but everything in this film felt half-hearted to me. There's no real mystery, it's not that weird, and the comedy fell pretty flat. The nearly complete reliance on close up and medium shots might convey the paranoia and tunnel vision of the protagonist, but you rarely get to step back and take in 1970 Los Angeles.
It's too bad. I like this kind of story and I would love to see it done well. I don't need my movies to make a ton of sense, but I do need to give a crap about what's happening.
I think I saw this around New Year's? Really, really powerful film for me. I knew, seeing the trailers, that it was gonna be a sucker-punch in the emotions. I cried more than once. Christopher Nolan got his level-up movie, and he's finally figured out how to devastate heartstrings.
It was also awe-inspiring to watch the spectacles unfolding onscreen; this is definitely a movie you want to see in theaters. There's moments where you just get a sense of the sheer vastness of the universe, where the spaceship is a tiny dot against a huge planetscape. The music is incredible, too--Hans Zimmer found some amazing new inspiration, and showed us the majesty of the organ as a musical instrument.
The plot? Well, the resolution feels a little out-of-nowhere if you were expecting a completely hard sci-fi movie, but it's not dissimilar to what 2001: A Space Odyssey pulls in terms of genre tweaking. If you're open to genre-tweaking, it's pretty straightforward to spot the foreshadowing of the end. So it was fun to play "spot the plot clues and figure out the ending" in between crying and marvelling. I'd put it just like Howard Tayler did: "But if you’re going to invoke magic, you can’t do it much more beautifully than Interstellar did."
The characters are strong, with the exception of a couple members of the crew who get little more than a token bit of development. There's a mid-movie character twist that works incredibly well, however, because the actor sells it so convincingly--and because it's a situation that makes perfect sense.
Finally? This is a movie which understands humanity. It's a movie about connection, isolation, and separation. It's a movie about devotion and stubborn hope. It's also the movie where Nolan breaks out of his "obsessive man slowly succumbing to his own mind" theme, and turns it on its head.
So, this is a movie where I fully see its flaws, agree that they're negatives, and then love it anyway, because I'm willing to endure the flaws for the sake of the simultaneous grandeur and intimacy of the film.
Another gangster comedy from Edward G. Robinson. I think it is not as good as "Brother Orchid" or "Slight Case of Murder", but still enjoyable.
The movie opens with Broderick Crawford on the mound, pitching in a prison baseball game. After the first pitch, Robinson is revealed to be the catcher. To me, Crawford is always the hard-boiled detective on the 50s TV series "Highway Patrol", so seeing him in a role that today might be played by Randy Quaid or someone like that is kind of jarring to me. Anthony Quinn tries to recruit the smart Robinson into a scheme to rob a bank after they get out. Robinson turns him down, planning to go straight.
But when Robinson and Crawford get out soon after, they discover that they cannot get a loan for the business Robinson wants to start without collateral. So they buy a cheap luggage business next door and plan to dig into the bank. The rest of the movie is essentially like Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks" (Which is to say that Allen's 2000 movie is much like this 1942 film). Jayne Wyman is along as a girl that sees Robinson as a father figure and Jack Carson as the luggage salesman that falls for her.
The Satin Slipper - Manoel de Oliviera - 1985 A near 7 hour epic adaptation of a play of the same name. The whole piece is filmed as if it were a play: the actors face towards the camera at all times, camera movement is limited to panning and zooming, the backdrops are hand-painted, the sets makeshift. The story follows a Spanish nobleman and his doomed love with a married Doña. From here, the themes and narrative explode outwards into perhaps the largest scope attempted in cinema; individual relationships are explored intimately before ruminating on the abstract idea of love, national identity is picked apart, whole country's exploits are painted in broad strokes, religion and its interactions with the rest of the themes is delved into, and a whole lot more.
One of the best films I've ever seen. The dialogue is poetic, the sets beautiful, the style virtuosic, the content impossibly deep and the talent on show astounding.
The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears - Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani - 2013
The second feature-length by the directors of the similar Amer, which is one of my favourite films. I was apprehensive about watching this, as I was sure they couldn't live up to the originality of their first feature. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.
I truly believe that Cattet and Forzani have the best understanding of film of any film-makers currently working. The editing, cinematography and sound design all work together in the most incredible way to communicate ideas and create a kaleidoscope of sensuality and death.
Don't watch this if you want an interesting narrative to follow, but if you want to see an example of experimental cinema at it's most expressive and technically astounding, give this a try.
Last night I was looking to see if Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was available for free on one of the 1/2 dozen streaming video services I'm subscribed to. It's not, but Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is on Netflix. This Herzog documentary was actually screened at the theater down the road from me and I remember wanting to see it, but my wife wasn't on board.
I really enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of watching nature documentaries as a kid. The scenes of the Siberian Wilderness are very compelling and I found myself marveling at the villagers ability to actually make boats and skis by hand. It would have been better at the theater but it holds up pretty well on the small screen, too.
Despite being a fan of the Avengers, and several of the individual movies, when Guardians was released I was in two minds whether to see it or not and in the end I missed the opportunity. The fact that it featured a talking racoon and a tree-man, and seemed to be much more of a quirky comedic film than the other Marvel universe movies put me off, but because it tied in with the other movies, I decided I needed to see it when the bluray release came out.
I have to say I did enjoy Guardians... it's definitely much more quirky than the other Marvel movies.. with some incredibly oddball characters... still not sure about the talking racoon, but Groot was a fun character, and I rather liked Drax and his use of language. All the characters were really well developed, I thought, even Groot whose vocabulary was so limited.
Although it had lots to tie it to the other movies.. including Thanos, The collector and the Infinity Stone, I did feel it didn't quite fit with the feel and tone of the other movies, but clearly that's what made it such a funny and highly praised movie. As a comedic space opera, it was very good.
I still think I preferred Winter Soldier of the Marvel movies released in 2014... but this was very enjoyable all the same.
This is classic (and early) Hitchcock, before he came to America, but I don't think it is quite as polished as his later Hollywood films. One year after the original version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much", with much of the Hitchcock trademarks in place, including the cameo, the blonde (who bears an amazing resemblance to a later favorite, Kim Novak), and the innocent man. There are lots of crappy transfers of this around, as it fell into public domain for a very long time. We watched the Criterion collection BluRay and it was of fine quality. There is lots of good 30s-style banter, but I didn't really find the story compelling, though it was entertaining. Robert Donat, who apparently was a known star at the time (at least in England), is essentially picked up by an attractive woman, who invites herself over to his place and reveals herself to be a spy and tells him a little of her mission. In the middle of the night she stumbles into his room with a knife in her back and a map in her hand. He takes the map and tries to go off to complete her mission. It is not clear why he thinks he has enough information or how he manages to find the right people, but that is what happens. I am glad to have watched it for its place in history, but I certainly will not be buying it or hunting it out again any time soon.
Having seen the stage play more than once I was a little reluctant to see a Disney-fied version of Into the Woods. It can be a pretty dark tale, so I wasn't sure how they would bring it down to a straight PG rating. Luckily, it didn't feel like they scaled back too much on the tone of the movie. I did miss the elements and characters they decided to cut, but I think I understand why they removed what they did (more on that later.) The best thing about this film was the cast. I thought James Corden was remarkable as the Baker, Anna Kendrick was perfect as a conflicted Cinderella, Meryl Streep was exactly what you'd expect, etc. Even the kids they cast for Jack and Red were quite good. Also the entire cast sang beautifully, no complaints at all from me on that count. The biggest point of contention for most people seems to be the Johnny Depp scene. Honestly, I'm surprised it created such an uproar since he's not in the film for very long. I do think he could have used some better makeup/costuming to make him appear more wolf-like but his performance was totally fine. It seems that people have just reached the point of Depp fatigue, so they'll complain about anything he does.
My biggest complaint about Into the Woods is that I think they sacrificed some of the moral lesson from the stage play in order to tell a good story in 2 hours. There's a pretty strong theme Sondheim built into the musical about happily-ever-after not being a reality. Into the Woods tells the tale of 10 or more people who get exactly what they dream of by the end of act one. The trick is that act two is all about the fact that we live in a real world and finding a husband, having a baby, or becoming rich won't solve all your problems. It's a pretty deep musical actually, because it challenges the viewers to think "when I feed my kids these fantasies are they prepared for the harsh realities of life." However in this movie we are not ushered into act two until the film is almost three quarters done. This, I think, is where Disney really became involved. They don't want to downplay the magic of fairy tales too much, because it is their stock in trade, so they just ease off the moral underpinnings of the story. Into the Woods is still a fractured fairy tale, because it doesn't end on the typical happily ever after, it just lacked some of the darkness and depth of the original musical.
In another recent review I mentioned that I don't do documentaries, and that remains the case for Life Itself. While I find this kind of biography about someone whose life I was interested in to be more engaging than other documentaries, I must admit I get bored after awhile. The best moments of Life Itself are when they talk about Ebert's time on At the Movies with Gene Siskel. Since that's the time I was most familiar with Roger Ebert and his work, naturally I'm more engaged finding out what was going on behind the scenes. In fact I really got that sense of nostalgia when they showed some actual clips from the show, and I found myself wishing they would just play more of the episodes so I could remember how much fun it was to watch these guys break down a movie. The present-day stuff that dealt with the final days of his life were hard to watch, but I was touched by the love you could feel between Roger and his wife Chaz. If you are a fan of film criticism, if you grew up watching At the Movies, or you like a good biopic, then I'd highly recommend Life Itself. While my childlike mind did wander occasionally, I still think it was a well-constructed film.
When I first heard of this movie, it was getting heralded by at least one critic, as a young adult series that could rival The Hunger Games. That critic was way off.
If there's anything that would keep you through the movie, is the mystery of why are the kids in the middle of a maze, plus a myriad of other lesser questions. That's what drives the movie. Unfortunately, it ends with a set-up for a sequel, answering nothing, banking that whatever you experienced was enough to get you hooked for the next one. It wasn't.
I hope the book series it is based off has more depth and less glaring maybe-plot holes (since we don't know anything really), because what was showcased, did not make my girlfriend or me, interested in pursuing this franchise any further.
I give it a 5 out of 10, because the concept is somewhat cool and the grievers (mecha-spiders that function as guardians of the maze) were menacing enough, for a teenager movie.
For a moment, I did wonder if it was because I hadn't read the books and if this is what Hunger Games non-readers would have felt, but the comparison is not valid, because the plot of the Hunger Games does not resolve on one big secret, so the cliff-hangers only leave you with an incomplete story, not with an incomplete mess. Plus, The Hunger Games are done exceptionally well sans the first movie's handy-cam. This one was done with a smaller budget and a weaker cast.
I liked Divergent better and for mazes, I'd rather watch Labyrinth again.
An epic hero takes on an epic villain who is seeking some sort of epic power source that has been hidden in some sort of epic but not really way and for a really epic long period of time and can only really be harnessed in the most epic way once in an epic of most epic time frames. This has been the one Marvel movie where it just felt like they went:
I liked the film, but this was very much on the decent side. Marvel's strength in their movies has been the use of charm, and this was lacking in that department. Thor was borderline boring while the side characters were the ones picking up the slack. Kind of a shame Kat Dennings isn't used more or have a part in the Marvel universe that allows that. I'm still not sure how much I like how Loki is used in the movies. He seems to be used properly showing why he can be a powerful villain and sometimes it's like, "Puny God."
Wow, Requiem for a Dream is so dark and depressing. It is easily one of the most detailed looks into how drug abuse can destroy your life. Aronofsky uses every trick in the director's playbook to give the audience the sensation of being affected by the addictions of the main characters. There is shaky camera work, there are dramatic focus shifts. Even the music is used to create an unsettling atmosphere. It puts you on edge as a viewer, and makes it utterly impossible to relax while watching the movie. Perhaps the most amazing thing to me was that the actors actually managed to make their characters sympathetic to me. There were moments where I actually wanted them to have a successful sale in order to dig themselves out of the pit they had fallen into. Typically it's hard for me to identify with a movie character who continues to make the wrong decisions, but some magical combination of the script and the acting had me rooting for these people.
One of the most effective techniques that Aronofsky used in this film are the repetitive smash-cut montages of each step that goes into taking drugs. It made for a really artistic way of showing how the drug abuse had become routine to the characters, and it also offered a great contrast when later Ellen Burstyn's character became addicted to her own drug of choice. I also enjoyed what this film had to say about people who struggle with a less toxic, but perhaps just as damaging, addiction like television. It makes you question your own life and look to see what you have grown overly attached to that might be getting in the way of more important things. The one thing about Requiem for a Dream that kind of holds me back from absolutely falling in love with it is that this film is exceedingly hard to watch. In fact I can't picture subjecting myself to it again, at least not for a really long time. While I do think it is amazingly well-constructed, and startlingly realistic, there's nothing that would prompt me to want to go through that again.
With all the hoopla over this failing to get a Best Animated Movie Oscar nomination, I thought it was time to finally watch the copy my daughter had won at an Angels game last summer. She didn't want it, so gave it to me, and my wife had no interest either (though I might try to get her to watch it eventually).
I think I agree that it is better than the two big-budget animated movies that DID get nominations ( Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2 ). The lego animation was good and entertaining in itself, especially the lego smoke, fire and water.