Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Movie Round-Up or I Watched These Movies In the Last Month and You Should Watch Some of Them Too and Some You Shouldn't, So Read This Entry to Find Out Which is Which!

Last month's post's comments were generally, "Wow you watch a lot of movies."  Which is true.  But that was also most of the movies I'd watched since like February.  So this entry won't be as long...probably.

Crave:  a movie I have no idea how it got on my queue.  It sounds like a good zombie movie title, or something about drug addiction, but does not involve either one.  It's kind of like that Walter Mitty movie only the main character is a crime scene photographer who envisions himself saving damsels in distress or killing people who piss him off--in one case with a chain saw.  Fantasy starts bleeding into reality when he finds a gun at the scene of a robbery and pockets it.  It's kind of slow, but most of us introverts have probably felt like this guy, only maybe not the part about cutting Edward Furlong in half with a chainsaw.  (2.5/5)

The Toxic Avenger:  I'd heard OF this movie, but never actually watched it.  Then late one night I did and soon wished I'd put on something a little better like "Galaxy of Dinosaurs"--see last month's post.  Basically a skinny guy who looks like he could be Jon Heder's dad falls from a window at a health club into a barrel of toxic waste.  (Because the truck company doesn't bother to put lids on barrels of deadly radioactive toxic waste.  Well I guess it was the Reagan era.)  Then for whatever reason he starts beating up bad guys.  There was really no aspect of this movie that was well done:  used car dealer commercial-level acting, a horribly cheesy 80s workout theme song that we get treated to during the opening AND closing credits, the way the Toxic Avenger's voice is clearly dubbed, even the nudity because the women who get naked really needed to work on their tan lines.  It's hard to believe there are at least 3 sequels.  Having watched part of the other three (before I fell asleep) I guess the only reason to watch is for the cartoonishly inventive ways he kills and/or mutilates bad guys like crushing a guy into a ball and playing basketball with him.  (0/5)

Blue Jasmine:  I haven't loved Woody Allen movies all that much, but I guess since Netflix kept advertising this on the disc envelopes I decided to put it in my queue.  It was pretty bad.  Not in the same way as the Toxic Avenger, which is just bad bad.  This was more pointless bad.  Basically Cate Blanchett is the wife of Alec Baldwin, who's like a Bernie Madoff-type con man.  After he gets busted she goes to San Francisco to stay with her lower-class sister.  What I could never figure out is if we're supposed to be glad the snooty Jasmine is getting her comeuppance or if we're supposed to hope she gets her shit together.  And it's one of those where at the end we're pretty much little farther along than the beginning, so thanks for wasting 98 minutes of my life, Woody Allen.  Also I really hated that awful torch singing or whatever that stuff from like the 20s was that he used for the soundtrack.  Basically I could sum it up by saying that an hour in I checked the time and saw there was still half-hour left and thought, "Oh God, there's really that much time left?" Really you should just watch/read "A Streetcar Named Desire" which this is pretty much borrowing from, though Bobby Cannavale is no young Marlon Brando to be sure.  (1/5)

Gravity:  I know I already reviewed it earlier.  I just wanted to note I liked it as much on the small screen as on the fake IMAX screen in 3D.  It probably is the best disaster movie I've seen. It did occur to me watching it again that a disaster movie is what this movie is at its heart, which if the Academy had thought way maybe they'd given it some more Oscar love.  (5/5)

Sex Sells:  Have you ever wanted to know how a porno is made?  That's the subject of this mockumentary involving a veteran porno maker who's making one last film featuring film's largest orgy scene.  The heart of the movie though involves the relationship between the veteran porno actress and a new girl with a secret and the documentary filmmaker who comes between them.  For a low budget movie it's surprisingly entertaining. (4/5)

DCU:  Son of Batman:  This is a loose adaptation of the 2000s comics by Grant Morrison where it's revealed Batman has a son with the evil Talia al Guhl.  The son named Damian comes to Gotham after Deathstroke nearly wipes out the League of Assassins.  Eventually Damian becomes Robin, which Batman hopes will help rein in some of that assassin training.  It was OK but I never got that much into it.  BTW, at the moment Damian is dead in the comic book universe; I'm not sure if they have plans to adapt that. (3/5)

Funny People:  Sometimes you know a movie is going to suck--and then you're completely not surprised when it does in fact suck.  It starts out all right as Adam Sandler basically plays Adam Sandler:  an aging comedian who's gotten rich via a bunch of terrible movies.  Or similarly he's like Krusty the Clown in the Simpsons.  Then he's diagnosed with a rare disease and the movie gets all maudlin for the next 90 minutes.  At about 2 1/2 hours this is much, much too long and not nearly funny enoughAbout the only good thing to come from this was it finally slowed the Apatow train down; it was really annoying that every comedy was advertised as "by the guys who brought you Knocked Up!"  Unfortunately Apatow learned nothing from this movie as his next movie "This is 40" was just as bloated and similarly he uses his entire family in major roles.  There needs to be an intervention against people like this in Hollywood who keep shoving their kids into major parts--I see you, Will Smith!  Anyway, life imitated art as after this dud Sandler went back to making crappy movies like "Jack & Jill." (1/5)

Her:  I liked the core concept but at 126 minutes it's really slow.  A lot of times it felt like I was watching an Apple commercial, one of those "What's your verse?" ones with all the montages to dreamy indie music, which I guess makes sense since Arcade Fire did the music.  As much as I want to rip on the dude for falling in love with a computer, it's really the ideal scenario for me, so I hope Apple or Google makes it happen soon.  Come on a Russian computer just passed the "Turing Test" so let's get cracking on this!  This does suffer from a couple of typical movie problems.  First, for a guy who has a nothing job like writing fake letters, he lives in an apartment that probably costs over $2000 a month and he has all these fancy gizmos.  Similarly Amy Adams is a terrible documentary filmmaker and she is also living high off the hog.  In LA?  Yeah, right.  Second at one point the computer sends his letters off to a publisher and of course they decide to publish them as a book.  Come on, unless you're a celebrity you haven't been able to just mail in a book and get it published in probably 40 years!  A movie  has to be slow to really pay attention to that stuff. (3/5)

Pompeii:  The pitch meeting must have gone like this:  "It's Gladiator meets Volcano!"  "Genius!"  Most of this does pretty shamelessly rip off Gladiator, like when he teaches them how to use a shield and fight together and then rides a horse around the arena.  They even use the same joke when the battle reenactment goes awry.  Then finally the volcano erupts and it becomes a disaster movie.  Which really I thought the eruption happened so fast that people were actually frozen by the ash having dinner and so forth.  The whole thing was lame and cliche, which is to be expected from Paul WS Anderson; he's not Uwe Boll but pretty close.  Poor Jon Snow (who I thought in the commercials was Orlando Bloom) is probably doomed to be typecast in sword-and-sandal type movies. (1/5)

Batman Mask of the Phantasm:  This was from the mid-90s based on the animated series of the time but I'd never gotten around to watching it.  It was really good, more aimed at adults than kids really.  It presents yet another Batman origin only in this case he adopts the Batman disguise because of a broken heart.  Awwww.  The identity of "the Phantasm" was pretty easy to figure out, but really there were only 2 possibilities I suppose. (5/5)

Unknown:  Liam Neeson punches his way through Berlin on a quest to figure out why his identity has been stolen.  It was fine except then the big twist near the end is a ripoff of "The Long Kiss Goodnight" or maybe "Total Recall" with maybe a little "Bourne Identity" thrown in.  So that was kind of lame.  He doesn't kill as many people as the "Taken" movies, which is a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view. (2.5/5)

The Time Being:  It probably would have helped to read the description before putting this on.  I mean at first when the old guy (Frank Langella) has the young painter (Wes Bentley, the creepy kid from "American Beauty" all growed up now) film kids on a playground and stuff you think he's going to escalate his weird demands into filming a murder or kinky sex or something terrible.  But actually this is a heartwarming story about art, artists, and family.  Kind of like "Finding Forrester"--only with painting!  It's a little slow but really enjoyable. (4.5/5)

Don Jon:  I'm not sure there's much more uncomfortable for straight guys than listening to a dude talk about how many times he jacks it.  Which is mostly what this is about.  Joseph Gordon-Leavitt writes, directs, and stars in this movie about a Jersey Shore type guy who despite nailing lots of hot chicks still jerks it to porn about 5 times a day, even when he's nailing Scarlett Johannson.  Really I think if you jerk it 35 times in a week you'd have serious chafing issues.  So um I guess it's a PSA about porn addiction?  Gross. But there are plenty of beefcake shots for those who aren't straight guys. (1/5)

Nurse:  A movie about a sexy nurse who also murders people seemed like right up my alley for late night watching.  Basically this nurse works in a hospital where they still wear those old school sexy nurse outfits because I guess they never heard of scrubs.  And the one named Abby likes to go out and murder cheating men.  Then a new really dumb blonde nurse shows up and Abby becomes fixated on her.  Mayhem ensues.  As I said the blonde was so dumb that she can't see the obvious going on right in front of her.  And the evil nurse really needed some makeup to hide the bags under her eyes. (2/5)

3 Days to Kill:  One side-effect of "Man of Steel"'s success is that it reminded people Kevin Costner still exists.  So this was the second of 3 Costner movies released this year and I think it did the best of the three.  Basically he plays the Liam Neeson role in another reliable action movie from the Luc Besson factory.  Costner is a CIA agent in Paris who is dying and has (you guessed it) 3 days to find and kill some bad guy known as "the Wolf" and also to bond with his estranged daughter.  There are some kind of corny situations as he teaches his daughter how to ride a bike and dance intermingled with numerous gun fights, elevator fu, subway car fu, and the mandatory car chase.  Overall it's OK, but not as good as "True Lies" for instance. (2.5/5)

Jobs:  The problem with biopics is that people are complicated and thus it can be hard to paint a full picture.  (Or some like "The Social Network" just throw out most of the facts to make reality fit their hackneyed script.)  I think the one thing this does right is depict the contradictions of Steve Jobs.  On one hand he was visionary and he could really motivate engineers to create great products.  On the other hand he was a prick.  Most of his old friends who helped him build the company he cut out of it once they made it big.  For years he refused to his see his illegitimate daughter.  Most of the movie is dedicated to the creation of the company and the dirty corporate politics of the mid-80s and mid-90s.  It would have been nice to get a little more of the personal stuff.  I mean like when they show him in bed with some woman and I think, "Who the hell is that?"  And while it's nice they didn't gloss over all the bad stuff, I still can't wish they had a better actor than Ashton Kutcher.  It'll be interesting to see what the more official Jobs biopic looks like. (3/5)

(And I also wonder if at this point Apple isn't back to the late 80s after they pushed Jobs out, when it became far more corporate, which led to stagnation and then falling market share.  If so they're in trouble, unless they find a way to reanimate Jobs's corpse.)

Bonus:  TV I watched:

Fargo:  I could never remember when this was on FX so I just watched it On Demand.  Which I think worked better since each episode on TV was 90-120 minutes whereas On Demand it was 60-70 minutes, so do the math to see how many commercials they jam in there.  Anyway, this isn't exactly like the 1996 movie but there are certain elements that are similar.  The female deputy is brought into it when a car goes off a road in a snowy field in Minnesota.  Who was in the car and left to freeze to death soon is revealed and is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  It also involves a crime concerning a mild-mannered middle-aged guy and his wife, though it's not a kidnapping gone wrong.

This manages to replicate the feel of a Coen Brothers movie with the mixture of graphic violence and deadpan humor.  While there are a number of characters and plots I find every scene not involving Billy Bob Thornton's diabolical hitman Malvo to be largely a waste of time.  I'm sure at some point someone will count just how many people he kills in the course of the 10-episode season.  At one point he kills about two-dozen in one fell swoop.

One thing I really didn't like was in the middle of 8/10 episodes they suddenly jump a year.  So here we are like 4/5 of the way through the season and all the sudden have to adapt to another reality.  It is a bit confusing to say the least.  I'm not sure why it was necessary, though maybe it's because it's "based on a true story."  Well that's what they say and then Oliver Platt finds the money Steve Buscemi hid in the movie and I start to wonder just how much poetic license they're taking.

The final episode was pretty disappointing at the end because the female deputy who was to that point the only one to really know what was going on isn't involved in the captures of the two bad guys at all.  Her husband, a mailman who before the one year jump had been a cop who let Malvo go, doesn't exactly tell her "No, this is man's work" but pretty close to it.  It's like, you're going to put up with that and just stay behind barefoot and pregnant?  Really?  Frances McDormand wouldn't have taken that crap; she was right there at the end when Steve Buscemi got fed to the wood chipper!  So I guess the whole thing was really about Colin Hanks getting his balls back by taking down Malvo.  Who knew?  (3/5)


  1. I watched Batman Mask of the Phantasm in theaters. It was great because on Batman: The Animated Series no one ever dies. This was the first time someone is actually killed. Of course having the ending with the Joker laughing hysterically in the middle of the climactic explosion was too awesome.

  2. Now that's a review list. Man, even I wasn't sure what to make of Toxic Avenger when I was a kid. Glad you liked Gravity as much as I did. And yes, Mask of the Phantasm for the win! :)

  3. I watched part of Toxic Avenger years ago and regretted every minute of it. I guess it's just not my type of movie. Gravity is one of the best disaster movies indeed and while Her was really slow I'd probably enjoy it. Phantasm added a really tragic element to the back story and explained why he became a playboy.

  4. Funny People is awesome. I assume Blue Jasmine is, too.

  5. I need to remember to rent Son of Batman.

  6. I liked Gravity. The whole movie is a metaphor for Sandra Bullock's character's personal life. I didn't realize that on my own, I watched the special features. Definitely has some amazing fx.



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