Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Movie Catchup

In case you don't remember, I watch a lot of movies.  Yet like books even though I've read a lot of books compared to the average American there are still plenty I haven't read and someone on Twitter will always mention some author I've never even heard of like that person is a bigshot, which then makes me feel dumb.  Anyway, I reviewed a couple of movies I watched already but here are some others:

Elysium:  The message is as subtle as a two-by-four to the head and it's ironic you have a bunch of multi-millionaires saying rich people are bad.  But the robot suits are pretty neat.  After this and "District 9" I'd have rather had Neil Blomkamp doing the new Star Wars than JJ Abrams, but whatever. (3/5)

Ender's Game:  Action-wise it's OK but drags a little.  I read the book like 13 years ago so I don't remember how well it compares, though I think the character of Bean was almost all wrong.  And Harrison Ford cashes another paycheck.  I guess that alimony must be expensive. (2.5/5)

The Heat:  This was supposed to be a buddy cop movie only with two women instead of two dudes.  It dragged on soooo looooong that it became annoying.  Seriously, comedies should be around 90 minutes, not over 2 freaking hours. (2/5)

White House Down:  Basically "Olympus Has Fallen" with more humor and a slightly more plausible takeover of the White House.  Again a little too long. (2.5/5)

Getaway:  Ethan Hawke is an American in Bulgaria (WTF?) who has to drive around reenacting "Speed" in a new Mustang.  They even reuse the bit from "Speed" where they loop video in the car to fool the bad guy.  Oy vey. (1.5/5)

Escape Plan:  Sly Stallone and Ahh-nold Schwarzenegger cash paychecks as two old criminals trying to escape from a weird prison on a boat run by the guy who played Jesus in "Passion of the Christ."  Mayhem ensues. (2.5/5)

The Family:  What I learned: peanut butter is hard to find in France  (Buy it off Amazon, geniuses.) and Michelle Pfeiffer is still alive.  Robert de Niro cashes a paycheck playing a caricature of every gangster role he's done and Tommy Lee Jones plays a caricature of his "The Fugitive" role.  Much yawning ensues. (1/5)

Wreck-It Ralph:  I don't usually watch animated kid's movies but when I do they reference old video games.  I would have liked more references and less time spent in Candy Crush Land. But still it was a lot of fun. (5/5)

Blue is the Warmest Color:  It's French and it's 3 hours long, but it's about hot lesbians and features a lot of graphic sex, so time flies.  But like my book "Where You Belong" it illustrates that yes gay people have the same relationship problems as straight people. (5/5)

Cloud Atlas:  I'd probably need to watch this a few times to figure it out, but at over 3 hours I'm not going to.  It's creepy and kind of racist I suppose when white actors like Tom Hanks or Hugo Weaving play future Asian versions of themselves or whatever.  Anyway, I'm sure the book would make more sense. (2.5/5)

Contraband:  Marky Mark Wahlberg is going straight but of course there's one last job to lure him back into smuggling stuff in a container ship.  Mayhem ensues. (2.5/5)

42:  The Jackie Robinson story reminding you that racism was around before Donald Sterling and his girlfriend.  Still it's probably the best baseball movie not involving Kevin Costner in decades. (5/5)

Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones:  Argh this was sooooo boring.  And I was perpetually distracted by the main girl's bushy black eyebrows with dark red hair.  Really big time Hollywood make-up artist, you couldn't do anything about that?  Other than that it's like every YA paranormal cliche strung together. (0/5)

Nebraska:  A delusional old guy goes on the road with his son to cash what he thinks is a winning lottery ticket.  It gets stuck a little too long in one town where the old guy grew up, but otherwise a lot of this felt very close to home. (5/5)

Justice League War:  It's basically a retelling of the first volume of New 52 Justice League comics, only poor Aquaman is replaced by Captain Marvel or Shazam.  Darkseid shows up and Earth's Mightiest Heroes (DC Version) get together to stop him.  Mayhem ensues. (3/5)

Oldboy:  Spike Lee cashes a paycheck remaking a Korean thriller about a guy (Josh Brolin) who's abducted and locked away in a prison that looks like a Motel 6 room for 20 years.  Then he's mysteriously released to track down who put him there.  Some creepy Game of Thrones-type shit ensues.  Or if you're familiar with Oedipus it's sorta like that.  Weird and too long.  Maybe the Korean version is better? It'd have to be. (1/5)

The Counselor:  You'd think when you team up Pulitzer-winning Cormac McCarthy with Ridley Scott and cast the likes of Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem you'd get a really good movie.  You'd be wrong.  McCarthy's dialog was so pathetic, full of stupid philosophizing that never sounds real at all.  The only cool thing was this machine they have that you put around someone's neck and it slowly cuts their head off.  No matter how you fight against it, you can't stop it because the line is made of diamond or adamantium or vibranium or something.  It would have been awesome on "Breaking Bad." In this, not so much. (0.5/5)

12 Years a Slave:  A free black man in the 1840s or so makes the mistake of going with some white guys to DC.  He's sold as a slave for you guessed it--12 years.  I guess there was already an 80s version starring Avery "Captain Benjamin Sisko" Brooks, which might be interesting to watch to compare.  For Michael Offutt, basically what happens to the guy is like what happens to Theon Greyjoy only without the gelding.  Anyway, slavery is bad in case you didn't realize that. (4/5)

Prisoners:  Someone kidnaps Wolverine's daughter but unfortunately Hugh Jackman doesn't have Wolverine's keen smelling abilities or this movie would mercifully have been much shorter.  It's not as stupid as "The Lovely Bones" but it's close. (2/5)

Saving Mr. Banks:  Andrew Leon said this originally was not a Disney project and I wish they hadn't assimilated it because then it might have had a little more edge.  There's a nice moral but it's all too nice and well-mannered really.  Only Colin Farrell as the lady's father gets close to doing anything PG-13 rated.  I'm sure another studio wouldn't have homogenized it to the point of blandness. (3.5/5)

Closed Circuit:  Two English lawyers (who aren't really English, at least Eric Bana is Australian) get involved in a case about a terrorist.  Britain has some weird legal thing where the male lawyer is supposed to represent the guy in a public trial and his former lover represents the guy in a secret trial.  Or that's what's supposed to happen but doesn't so the whole thing is as pointless as those stupid old-timey costumes they wear in court. (2/5)

Carrie:  Did you see the original from the '70s?  Good then you don't need to see this as it's almost a shot-for-shot remake.  Other than a new soundtrack about the only new thing added was putting the "plug it up" incident on YouTube.  And appreciate the irony of poor defenseless Carrie being played by the girl who was previously Hit Girl in the Kick-Ass movies. (0/5)

Captain Phillips:  It takes a little while to get going, but the ending is really taut and fraught with tension.  Even though you know Phillips gets rescued (oh, spoiler alert, he doesn't die) I still couldn't feel like anyone was safe.  I thought Tom Hanks really nailed Phillips' attitude after he's rescued, the way he's all freaked out and disoriented yet still trying to be polite and somewhat normal.    How awesome are Navy SEALs, though?  They save Captain Phillips and kill bin Laden.  Suck it Delta Force and Green Berets.  (4.5/5)

Philomena:  It's a little uneven, sometimes veering to comedy in how the old Irish lady (Judi Dench) is so clueless about the modern world while other times veering into drama with the plight of the "Magdalene Girls" who were essentially enslaved to nuns in Ireland.  There's an older movie I think called "Magdalene Girls" if you want more of a focus on what actually went on in those concentration camps, er, abbeys.  (4/5)

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher:  The Punisher kills a bunch of bad guys SHIELD was going after, so he's forced into helping Black Widow find some intel on some gang making super soldiers.  There were some times it wore on a little too long, like when Black Widow and this bad guy she used to date spend like 10 minutes saying how much they loved each other--we get it already, you loved each other!  Iron Man, the Hulk, and Captain Marvel (Marvel version) get cameos. (2.5/5)

Out of the Furnace:  A much-too-long drama in rural Pennsylvania where the former Batman (Christian Bale) and the future Batman's brother (Casey Affleck) are brothers until Affleck gets himself killed after some illegal bare-knuckle fighting in the redneck part of Jersey.  (There's a redneck part of Jersey?  I thought they were all like the Jersey Shore people.)  And then very slowly Batman takes revenge on Woody Harrellson.  (You know if they want another Joker, Woody Harrellson would probably be good at it.  I'm just saying.)  For some reason Forest Whittaker as the police chief talks in a growly Mr. T voice.  And Zoe Saldana cashes a paycheck as the woman, because we need a woman even if she contributes absolutely nothing to the plot. (2.5)

American Hustle:  I thought of seeing this in the theater but never got the chance.  I wasn't disappointed.  I might have given this the Best Picture Oscar as entertainment-wise it's better than 12 Years A Slave, though social message-wise not as much.  The former Batman (again Christian Bale), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and sometimes Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) try to ensnare Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in a bribery scandal that soon spins out of their control.  Robert de Niro makes an uncredited appearance as yet another gangster character.  In the credits they refer to "Mr. Tellegio's dresser" and such as if we don't know who Robert de Niro is, because we haven't watched movies in 40 fucking years.  Anyway it was a lot of fun as con artist capers usually are--or should be. (5/5)

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier:  The only one of these I've watched in a theater.  I thought in some ways it was better than "The Avengers" because it actually has more of a story.  I'm sure you've all seen it so I'll just say I really liked it and hope for more. (5/5)

X:  This had everything I wanted in a late Saturday night movie:  violence and gratuitous nudity.  It was a surprisingly decent thriller about two Australian hookers in Sydney.  One is a hot blond who's been in the business for a while and is taking one last job before she goes off to Paris.  For this job she needs a brunette so when she runs into a young girl who's come to the big city to make some money selling her body, it seems like a perfect match.  Except the job ends with the john being murdered by a dirty cop and then the hookers are on the run.  I suppose part of the reason I liked it was I kept thinking the brunette would make a perfect Stacey Chance.  I wonder what her agent's number is?  (3/5)

(Incidentally it's really dumb to use only a single letter for your title.  I mean let's say one of you wants to actually watch this movie; there's no way in Hell you can find it because you type "X" into a search box and you'll get thousands of results.  The only way I found it was scrolling through the newly added movies on Amazon Instant Video.  This is why I caution authors about using one-word titles, which seems the in thing to do thanks to Twilight and the like.

Apparently they realized this as looking it up on IMDB via one of the actresses' names they tacked on the subtitle "Night of Vengeance" which made it a little easier to find on Amazon.)

Student Bodies:  Another late Saturday night selection that disappointingly did not feature gratuitous nudity but feature some violence.  It's a 1981 horror movie spoof where a would-be Michael Myers known as "The Breather" stalks high school kids having sex and murders them.  Then he calls the school, talking through a rubber chicken.  Um, yeah.  It's amusing, though not really as good as a Mel Brooks movie. (2.5/5)  Though it's funny that apparently in 1981 a single f-bomb got you an R-rating.  Nowadays that's only true for dramas; action and horror movies would only get a PG-13 rating.

Rush:  This was better than I thought it might be.  Though I'm not sure who they thought would actually be interested in this movie.  If it hadn't been Ron Howard and Brian Glazer at the helm it probably never would have been made.  I mean if a nobody like me were pitching this movie it'd be like:

Me:  So it's this movie about 2 race car drivers...
Exec:  NASCAR?  Because that's big.
Me:  No, Formula One (aka the European version of Indy Car)
Exec:  Um, OK and these two drivers, is one a woman or something?  Cuz I got Katherine Heigl's agent on speed dial here...
Me:  No, it's two guys.  One's British and one's Austrian...
Exec:  Austrian?  Like Schwarzenegger?  So it's an action movie?
Me:  Well, sort of.  But really it's about the complex relationship between these two rivals...
Exec:  I don't see any money in this.  What else you got?

I think I'm only exaggerating that a little bit. It's another example of prior success giving you carte blanche to make movies about early 60s folksingers or mid-70s Formula 1 drivers or other stuff no one really gives a shit about.  (3/5)

The Fifth Estate:  It's funny that this movie co-stars Daniel Bruhl, who was the Austrian driver in Rush and I inadvertently got them at the same time.  Anyway, this movie was slow and there's really not much drama to drive it.  They gamely try by focusing on a rift that grows between Assange and his right-hand-man Daniel Berg as well as later Dr. Bashir as a Libyan scientist who faces death when Wikilinks outs him.  But the end hardly bothers to deal with Assange's tryst in Sweden that led to a warrant for his arrest and flight from the authorities, relegating it to a word card and reenacted interview footage.  Um, maybe that was sort of important?  A movie about journalism really shouldn't bury a lead.  (2/5)  (BTW for David Walston the new Doctor has a minor role as a UK newspaper editor!  So there's that.)

The Guest House:  An Avril Lavigne-type kid (spoiled suburban girl who tries to act all Goth to piss off Daddy but then sings shitty Disney Channel pop) is home alone one weekend until an older girl shows up to stay in the guest house for the summer.  They start hanging out and blah blah blah finally kiss and then fuck.  To get all pervy on this, the cliche ridden script and wooden acting would have been tolerable if there had been some decent nudity but when they fuck the camera gets all shy and they keep their bras on.  It's like come on, I can see more watching Game of Thrones, consarnit.  What, you think you're making an "art" film here?  Anyway there's some message about following your dreams and stuff but if my dream ends up with me playing crappy Disney Channel pop in a shithole nightclub in San Francisco then maybe it's time for a new dream. (1/5)

Riddick:  Whenever Vin Diesel's popularity ticks back up we get another Riddick movie.  I haven't actually watched the first two, though I watched parts of the second one--enough to realize it sucked.  Through some overly complicated means Riddick ends up stranded on a harsh planet where he has to fight a bunch of weird creatures and ends up domesticating a jackal-type thing.  Then he finds a mercenary rest stop and sends out a distress call, which brings a bunch of people who want to kill him.  But when the planet starts trying to kill everyone, they have to work together.  I'm never sure if Riddick is supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy.  It is the kind of movie where you have no idea who to root for.  Really this wants to be one of the Alien movies but fails miserably.  The overly complicated flashback to get Riddick to the planet could have been shortened Alien 3-style to where he crashes on the planet and of course is the lone survivor.  But at least we get some gratuitous nudity out of the flashback.  (More than the movie above.)  Anyway, this might be one of the most pointless "trilogies" ever, along with "The Hangover" movies. But if you watched the Battlestar Galactica reboot and wanted to see Starbucks's boobs, there's that.  (I didn't so I didn't but whatever.)  (1/5)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:  According to Andrew Leon this varies wildly from the short story by James Thurber.  Anyway, this is probably Ben Stiller's most serious movie (as a director at least) since Reality Bites like 20 years ago.  He plays the titular character who works for Life magazine and has to find an old school photographer to get a photo for the last issue.  To do this he goes to Iceland, Greeland, and Afghanistan.  As much as it seems to say you should go see the world, the movie seems to delight in making the rest of the world look as provincial as possible.  Apparently we could win the war in Afghanistan if we mailed them over some clementine cake instead of bullets.  While Stiller is trying to think some big thoughts here it really does just fall back on that hackneyed "follow your dreams" stuff.  Not to say it's not entertaining, just not a great film.  (2.5/5)

Dallas Buyer's Club:  From the title I thought this was about prostitution or something.  Actually it's about a guy (Oscar winner Matthew McConaghuey) with AIDS who starts a "club" for fellow AIDS patients to buy vitamins and drugs they need to deal with their symptoms.  This brings trouble with the FDA, who are in the pockets of Big Pharma, who are pushing AZT, designed in the 60s as a cancer drug.  The problem with AZT is by itself in large doses it fries a person's innards.  I think since the 80s they've learned better how to use AZT in treatments, in part thanks to people who took on the FDA.  I was relieved this didn't turn into a courtroom drama and overall it was entertaining.  And the way he's diagnosed with AIDS was similar to how Frost's roommate Pete finds out in Where You Belong.  (4/5)

Homefront:  It's pretty much what you'd expect from a movie starring Jason Statham and written by Sly Stallone.  Statham is inexplicably a British guy who was in the DEA but then moves with his young daughter to the backcountry of Louisiana, where he runs afoul of an unrecognizable Kate Bosworth, whose brother James Franco is a local meth kingpin.  A lot of improbable white guy kung-fu fights and gun battles ensue.  (2.5/5)

47 Ronin:  This story was a lot simpler when an old French guy told it to Robert de Niro in "Ronin."  Basically the master of 47 samurai is killed so they become masterless warriors known as Ronin and then go take vengeance.  In this movie it's like they mixed that original story with "The Princess Bride" as the seemingly dead heroes have to go rescue the princess before she marries an evil jerk.  Briane Pagel would not like this movie because of the scene featuring a creepy purple spider.  Though if having one brown eye and one blue gives you magic powers that might explain how Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer won the Cy Young last year. (2/5)

A Dominatrix Story:  This is one of those titles like "Snakes on a Plane" or "Sharknado" that scrolling through movies late at night it's hard to pass up.  But I wish I had because it was really, really BORING.  Most of it is some frumpy middle-aged chick hooking up with some lame mediocre painter.  There's very little dominatrixing involved except she uses it on a couple of dudes who maybe helped kill her father or adopted father or something.  There's a tacked-on car chase and gun battle but by then it's much too late for me to care. It makes sense why the original title was apparently "Justify."  I suppose some marketing genius changed it after the fact, but if you're going to use a provocative title like that the movie behind it has to deliver the goods.  (0/5)

Galaxy of Dinosaurs:  In the early 90s "Lance Randas" and a group of terrible "actors" in the wilds of Ohio spent $1500 making a movie that makes Ed Wood look like a genius.  They literally splice together footage of the people in Ohio with 50s-vintage claymation dinosaur footage.  It results in possibly unintentional hilarity like when one guy backs into what's clearly a branch that becomes a triceratops horn.  Later someone else throws what's clearly a stick that becomes a spear.  The Ohio terrain and the mountainous background of the dinosaurs clearly don't match.  And the "story" makes very little sense.  Really I think this is so bad not even MST3K would touch it. (5/5 on the cheesiness scale)

I, Frankenstein:  On a list of known actors, Aaron Eckhart would be pretty far down there on my choice to play the Frankenstein monster.  Really I think you need someone big and musclebound like the Rock or Vin Diesel or some WWE wrestler.  Maybe they were busy.  Anyway the Frankenstein monster is still around in the 21st Century and is recruited by gargoyles to kill demons, who want to use Frankenstein's technique to reanimate corpses for a demon army.  Mayhem ensues. (2/5)

The Book Thief:  Sometimes I wonder if the world needs yet another movie about Nazi atrocities, but then you hear how growing numbers of people don't believe the Holocaust happened or have no idea what World War II was.  So I guess we need to keep pounding the message home.  This doesn't actually focus on the Holocaust, but rather an orphaned girl in Germany who at first is pretty much illiterate but with some help from her foster father (Geoffrey Rusch) she learns to read and then starts to "borrow" books from the burgermeister's wife.  At one point the family hides a Jewish guy in their basement.  I suppose there haven't been all that many movies focusing on the German homefront, which between the brutal Nazi policies, rationing, and Allied bombing was anything but a picnic.  I thought from the title she'd steal more books from the book burnings, but she only takes one after a bunch of books have been burned.  Overall it's kind of slow and the idea of DEATH narrating was pretty lame, especially since I kept thinking he sounded like Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards" though it was someone else's voice.  But I guess if you're one of those who can't be bothered to watch older movies like "Schindler's List" then you might find this fresh. (3/5)

Bonus:  TV shows I've watched:

Parks & Recreation:  I really enjoyed this show, though the first season of six episodes isn't as great.  It seems after that season they decided to dial down Leslie Knope's stupidity and make her more naive instead of dumb, which really works better.  Though my favorite character is Ron Swanson; I would seriously have a Claymore mine at my desk if I could find one.  It's not the best show ever, but it's usually pretty funny.  (4/5)

Star Wars The Clone Wars:  They added this to Netflix (along with an exclusive 6th season) so since I didn't have anything else to watch I started watching it.  Some of the first episodes aren't great but eventually it starts to get better.  I like how even though the clones are all based on the same person they find ways to make them different and give them different names and personalities so they aren't just cannon fodder.  Actually some of the best episodes revolve around the clones becoming more human, like the one where scouts Waxer and Boil find a little girl on the Twi'lek planet Ryloth and she helps them save the planet.  Or the one where Captain Rex runs into a deserter who's started a whole family with a Twi'lek chick on an Outer Rim world.  Unfortunately there's still Jar-Jar (who manages to be more annoying) but like the last two movies he's sparingly used, and there's still occasionally the Viceroy, and the droids who seem like they were programmed by the Marx brothers.  But Anakin is less of a whiny bitch and Obi-Wan is still the best Jedi character.  Though it's animated and aired on the Cartoon Network, it's not really for kids what with all the violence, clone troopers dying left and right and such.  Really though I think this show manages to be better than its source material at times--probably because it's not written or directed by George Lucas.  (3/5)

I also watched the Clone Wars movie that led into the show.  They just kind of throw you into it, expecting you to already know who Ventress is and stuff like that.  It felt a little on the long side, but it was Jar-Jar free so it's got that going for it. (2.5/5)


  1. Man, you have watched a lot of movies. I'll have to catch up, but Ender's Game is in my queue.

  2. Wreck-It Ralph is one I watched with my kids that I think I liked better for the references.

  3. I have so much to say but it's 10 p.m. and I'm exhausted. I'll be brief:

    Is "dominatrixing" a verb? It should be.

    Re: your "follow your dreams" attitude: Why aren't YOU giving high school commencement speeches? And why is it suddenly being called "commencement" and not simply "graduation"?

    RE: Prisoners. I liked it. I thought it had a bit of heft to it in the way the two guys decided they'd fall into torture. And some good twists.

    "Parks & Rec" used to be one of my favorite shows. An interesting take on it: Leslie is all heart and cares about the world, and in doing so frequently uses/stomps on her friends and pays no attention to their needs. Ron is all reserve and hates the world -- but protects his friends. The two of them perfectly complement each other as caricatures of conservatives and liberals.

    I watched the finale this year, and didn't care for it all that much.

    That's all I've got now. You watch a LOT of movies.

  4. Hey! You're blogging again. And I'm the one guy who couldn't figure it out, apparently.

    Love Parks and Rec. Really love Ron Swanson.

    And you've seen a lot of movies.



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