Thursday, December 19, 2013

December Movie Roundup

With the holidays this month I'm not going to do a recap post, so here are some mini reviews of movies I've watched recently:

Thor 2 The Dark World:  I thought this was slightly better than the first one, though still not among my favorite Marvel movies.  Despite that it's Thor's series it's still Loki who really makes these movies by injecting some fun into them.  Though really the "twist" involving him was pretty obvious and stolen straight out of the crappy GI JOE movie.  It should make for some interesting plots down the road.  It was good at the end they did find something for Natalie Portman to do besides sit and lie around.  Not that I really understood how all that stuff at the end worked.  I ain't no scientist.  (3/5)

Mud:  This is kind of like "Stand By Me" with a little "Winter's Bone."  Two plucky young boys go out to an island where they find a boat caught in a tree.  Living in the boat is a bum who calls himself Mud.  He starts asking the boys to run some errands for him, telling them he has to meet his girlfriend and escape with her from some guys.  It takes the boys a while to realize that Mud is largely full of shit.  Yet some of it is true.  Anyway, it was a decent movie, if a little on the long side.  I was actually surprised when I realized this was taking place in present day, though it's in the Deep South so they still don't have things like cell phones or computers, so it might as well have been the 60s or 70s. (3/5)

Stand Up Guys:  Like the more popular "Last Vegas" and upcoming "Grudge Match" there is something a little depressing about all these old stars getting together.  In this case it's Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin.  Pacino is released from prison after serving 28 years thanks to being a "stand up guy" and not squealing on his associates--the other two old guys.  After an extended Viagra joke, we learn there's a countdown ticking before Walken has to kill Pacino for killing some mob boss's son in the crime that landed him in prison.  So most of the movie is the old guys enjoying one last night on the town, which involves stealing a car, getting in a chase with the cops, beating up some mob goons, and burying a dead body.  The end is one of those where we don't know who exactly lives or dies, which is kind of annoying.  Anyway, I really enjoyed it as a movie about death that doesn't get too weepy or sentimental about it. (3.5/5)

The Great Gatsby (2013):  I had read this book in high school, which was a long time ago, so I didn't remember it too well, especially the end.  Anyway, my foremost thought about this movie was that it was really loud.  Most everything was so bright sometimes it almost hurt my eyes.   And then there was the music, much of which was modern stuff by Jay-Z and the like, which really made no sense but this is Baz Luhrman we're talking about, the guy who previously cast Leo DiCaprio as Romeo in a modern-day Romeo + Juliet.  Anyway, if you never read the book most of this is a soap opera of the 1% involving a lot of rich people who are all having affairs and such.  Despite how much Tobey Maguire as Nick tries to convince us how great Gatsby was with his hope and such, I just found him to be a rich douche, the kind who thinks he can do whatever he wants because he's rich, but as so often in movies we're supposed to feel sorry because he can't have the one thing he wants.  (This was essentially the point of Citizen Kane.)  Poor little rich boy.  Someone should count how many times he says "old sport;" it gets really obnoxious after a while. (2/5)

Frozen Ground:  It was appropriate I watched this the same day as star athlete Jameis Winston wasn't charged with rape in a disgusting laugh-filled press conference by the DA.  It's appropriate because the opening act of this movie involves Anchorage police who refuse to take a prostitute's story of being raped and held hostage seriously.  All except one cop who sends evidence to the state troopers, where it comes to Nic Cage's attention.  As he begins to investigate he starts connecting the dots between the girl's story and what's happened to many women who've gone missing from 1971-1983.  Much of the movie then has the prostitute running away time and again and Nic Cage having to find her and keep her dumb ass alive.  The ending is a little too formulaic but this is based on true events. (3/5)

World War Z:  I wasn't all that interested when I was watching this, but later it occurred to me that I should have given it props for not following the standard zombie movie plot.  Pretty Much Every Zombie Movie Ever is a bunch of ragtag survivors lock themselves in a house, mall, prison, etc. and then turn on each other because live humans are worse than undead ones.  Instead this has Brad Pitt running around from Newark to South Korea to Jerusalem to Wales to find a cure for the zombie outbreak.  Along the way he dodges zombies in a bunch of rather lame setpieces.  I mean there's no way anyone could make human ladders like they do without a CGI assist and then he just walks away from a plane crash.  Plus I just plain don't like Brad Pitt; he's such a douche.  I mean I know he does charity work and adopts orphans with Anjelina Jolie, but then there's this:

BTW, for Dr. Who fans the next Doctor has a small role near the end of the movie where he does important things like open a door and use a computer.  So there's that. I was happy they were smart enough to think the same way I have in moving a bunch of survivors onto hospital ships and the like.  I mean duh, you're a lot safer from the zombies on the boat than in a house.  I really need to get my "Love Boat With Zombies" show together.  (2/5)

Before Sunset:  Since "Before Midnight," the third in this series, came out this year I decided for the hell of it--and lack of better things to watch--to put all three movies on my queue.  I already watched "Before Sunrise" which was a pretty good romantic movie about two young people who spend a night together in Vienna.  "Before Sunset" picks up 9 years later when they meet again in Paris.  Ethan Hawke has written a book about that night in Vienna and Julie Delpy decides to visit him in the bookstore where he's dodging questions about the validity of the book and expounding on terrible ideas for books.  The first hour or so is them walking around Paris and sitting in a cafe and talking about this or that.  The last twenty minutes or so it finally gets down to brass tacks but then ends unsatisfactorily.  The good thing nowadays is you don't have to wait 9 years to know what happens next.  Anyway, it was really a pale imitation of the original where it seemed they did a lot more in their walking around. (2/5)

Before Midnight:  Spoiler alert!  So I guess what happened after the last one is Ethan Hawke knocked her up--with twins!  So they decide to live in sin in Paris.  Picking up 9 years later, this movie finds them on vacation in southern Greece.  As with the other two it's divided into segments of them standing or sitting around talking:  at the airport, in the car, at dinner with friends, walking into a Greek town, and then comes a massive argument that goes on much too long in a hotel room when they're supposed to be having sort of a honeymoon.  A lot of the tension is brought on because Ethan Hawke wants to see his son from his former marriage more often and even though he moved to Paris for Julie Delpy, gawd forbid she do him the same favor. Anyway, the way it ends again leaves things unsettled, at least until 2022, right?  Anyway, this was sort of like "This is 40" only mercifully 20 minutes or so shorter and a more exotic setting.  Neither of the last two entries really lives up to the first one but I suppose young romance is a lot better than middle age. So it goes.  (2.5/5)

On a side note, I do like the concept of making a new movie every 9 years to check up on the characters.  It's like what John Updike did with his Rabbit Angstrom books where every 10 years or so there would be a new one to chronicle the next stage in his life from his late teens to middle age.  It's better in a way than standalone movies because the characters have a lot more history and you can literally see how they've changed with each film.  When you watch them back-to-back-to-back you essentially get a microcosm of adult life.  It would be nice, though, if a little bit more happened besides them walking and talking.

Pain & Gain:  Kind of funny Michael Bay's idea of a prestige movie is a bloodsoaked crime dramedy.  It's very, very loosely based on a true story of three bodybuilders who kidnap a rich guy and get him to sign over all his stuff to them.  I think it was Maurice Mitchell who mentioned how much this movie differs from reality.  You get a glimpse of that at the end when they put the pictures of the real people next to the actors and you can see how completely different everyone looks.   Besides this lazy inattention to detail the movie is marred by an over 2-hour running time and not one, not two, not three, but SIX different voiceover narrators.  I mean we probably spend half the movie listening to voiceover.  Yeesh.  If you ignore those problems it's a fun crime caper through the first kidnapping but then starts to lose steam after that when they foolishly stick around to play with the rich man's toys and fritter his money away.  I'm thinking Bay should stick with giant robots blowing shit up. (2.5/5)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:  This was an incredible flop at the box office back in March but it's not a terrible movie.  It's a largely predictable movie about the eponymous magician who gets his comeuppance after a falling out with his partner.  When he gets a job at a nursing home and meets his hero, he starts to get his mojo back, but first he must defeat a rival "magician" in Jim Carrey who pulls all sorts of masochistic stunts a la David Blaine.  A lot of those stunts are pretty gross.  Anyway, the trick they make up at the end is clever but kind of lame.  I would agree with the movie that the David Blaine types aren't real magicians.  I mean hanging upside-down over Times Square for a week or whatever isn't "magic" in any sense; it's just a test of physical endurance.  Anyway, if you want a largely safe and predictable comedy this isn't bad. (3/5)

The World's End:  This is probably my least favorite Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg collaboration, but that's only because "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" were so good.  In a way this combines elements of both films with the small English town setting and the creatures running amok.  Only instead of zombies we have alien replicants from beyond the moon!  I was surprised to see this was only 1 hr 49 minutes because it felt longer, especially the end, which seemed to drag a bit.  It was the kind of ending where I think, "Didn't we already end the movie 10 minutes ago?"  I think the movie have been better without the replicants really.  Some more normal hijinks might have worked better.  As it is, once the replicants show up things just seem to go off the rails and keep going right on into the sunset.  But it wasn't terrible either. (2.5/5)

Only God Forgives:  This is the perfect Tony Laplume movie:  slow, violent, lots of artsy-seeming stuff, and hardly anyone seems to like it.  For non-contrarians, this is an almost incomprehensible crime drama set in Thailand, where Ryan Gosling sets out on a circuitous quest for vengeance for his brother, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old prostitute and was then murdered by the girl's father at the behest of a cop who likes to sing karaoke and chop people up with a sword he carries on his back.  Giving Ryan Gosling some incentive is his evil drug-dealing mother.  She's so evil she compares her son's dick sizes at dinner to Ryan Gosling's Thai girlfriend.  And then shit happens. I was bored and confused and "Almost Human" was coming on so I started to fast forward.  (1/5)

And since it's near the end of the year and everyone loves lists, I'll rank the movies I saw in the theater this year:
  1. Pacific Rim
  2. Gravity
  3. Thor 2
  4. Iron Man 3
  5. Man of Steel
  6. 2 Guns
  7. Runner, Runner
  8. Dead Man Down
  9. Die Hard 5

Tomorrow the final round of Box Office Blitz Season 2 begins!


  1. Ryan Gosling would not star in a perfect Tony Laplume movie. I protest!!!

  2. It's been an interesting year for movies Pat. I like that Pacific Rim is number 1 and I'm surprised that Die Hard is number 9.

  3. The Worlds End was my fav movie if the year. But different strokes and all that...

    And I don't thinlk there are any scientists that can explain what happened at the end of Thor 2 either, so don't fret over that one.

    And I saw several of the movies here. Don't recall much about Pain and gain except that the more you know about the real crimes they're based on the more inappropriate the movie seems to be.

  4. I don't know what it is I've been doing but I haven't seen any of the movies on your list. Maybe after Christmas I'll have more time.

  5. After Peter Capaldi was cast as the next Doctor some Whovians started freaking out because he played a “W.H.O. Doctor” World Health Organization. I love Simon Pegg so I like Worlds End, also doesn't hurt that it is British.

  6. I haven't seen any of these, however...I want to see Thor 2 and Iron Man 3.

  7. I love the character of Loki, and Tom Hiddleston really does a good job of the role. I agree that WWZ was less than stellar, but still worth watching. I'm behind on my movie watching.




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