Friday, July 18, 2014

Movie Round-Up 7/18/14

And here's what I watched in the last week:

Snowpiercer:  Michael Offutt reviewed this and then I saw a Comcast commercial saying you could get it On Demand while it's still in theaters, so why not pay $1-$2 more than a matinee to be able to watch it in your home without annoying other people or obscene movie theater snack prices?  Anyway, as I Tweeted to Mr. Offutt, it's very strange, but mostly in a good way.  Like "Elysium" last year, this is a fairly obvious attempt at depicting class struggle.  Basically the Earth has frozen thanks to a chemical that stopped global warming a little too well and the only people left are on this big train called the Rattling Ark, which was intended by its John Galt-ish designer as a luxury train that would circle the world indefinitely.  So that's what it's been doing for almost 18 years now.  Curtis Everett (Chris Evans, ie Captain America) is one of the steerage passengers in the back of the train, eking out an existence eating protein Jell-O made from something really gross.  But Curtis has a plan for revolution--and this time it'll work!  So much of the movie is them trying to move from car-to-car, battling the evil goons, including this chunky balding guy who had a Michael Myers-ish quality of hardly saying anything and not dying.  The leader of the goons is a woman played by Tilda Swinton, who seems under the impression she's still in a Wes Anderson movie, which I found a little too hammy.  Along the way there are some surreal moments as they go through the upscale cars of the first class passengers.  There's a car with sea life inside and one with gardens and one with saunas.  The most surreal part is when they enter the schoolhouse car, where a teacher is indoctrinating young children on how awesome the train is.  I could share Curtis's look of WTF is this shit!?  Eventually you start to realize this is a lot like the second Matrix movie, only the video game-ish organization (find this guy, get this thing, go here, etc) seems far less artificial given the environment.  Overall it's a sometimes wacky and sometimes poignant concoction that is kind of that old school apocalyptic sci-fi like Planet of the Apes (the original) or Logan's Run, etc.  It's the kind of movie I'd probably like to watch again just to see if I get more out of it a second time. (4/5)

Grand Budapest Hotel:  I'd been wanting to see this for a while, but never got around to seeing it in theaters.  Anyway, it's probably Wes Anderson's best movie in years.  Not that I didn't like his last couple, but they were more YA-flavored, whereas this is a movie for grown-ups.  It starts off with essentially 3 framing elements:  a girl going to the grave of an author who wrote a book about the hotel; that author doing a TV interview in 1985; and then when he visits the hotel in 1968 and meets the owner.  Then we get to the actual story in 1932 where the concierge of the hotel M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is breaking in a new lobby boy named Zero.  And then one of his elderly lovers (Tilda Swinton, who this time is actually in a Wes Anderson movie) dies and he goes to her funeral.  There he finds out he's to inherit a valuable painting and when her son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) disputes this, Gustave steals the painting.  Mayhem ensues!  I'm sure for a lot of people they either really like Anderson's movies or they really hate them.  Obviously I've been in the former for a few years since I started watching them.  What's always great is that while on the surface they can seem silly or goofy or perhaps too precious from the brightly colored sets, the deliberately unspecial effects, the way none of the actors try to conceal their various accents so you have Americans, Brits, Irish, etc. all inhabiting what's supposed to be an Eastern European country, this is only a surface coating over serious issues.  In this case it's the start of WWII and the oppression that followed as well as really Gustave is kind of a pathetic figure, even if on the surface he seems so grand as the practically omniscient concierge; we see that he lives in a tiny room and hooks up only with old ladies to get their money.  So while it's a charming movie, it's also got a brain. (5/5)

Free Ride:  The title sounds like a road trip movie and while there's a road trip involved it's not that kind of movie.  In 1977 an abused wife (Anna Paquin) goes to Florida thinking a friend got her a job cleaning houses.  Except the job is really as a drug smuggler.  Breaking bad ensues.  It's a little uneven in that she claims to love her daughters so much and freaks out when the younger one gets attacked by ants, but she lets them live on a farm being used for storing pot and parties with some druggy friends while her kids are sleeping, so it's a little hard to feel sympathetic for her plight. (2.5/5)

Flyboys:  It took me four tries to actually get through this thanks to my crappy Internet connection.  Anyway, it was OK.  Basically in 1917-ish a group of Americans join a French unit of fighter pilots.  You had to pretty much be nuts back then since planes were pretty much balsa wood and canvas, you didn't have an ejector seat or even a parachute, and there weren't any goodies like radar.  If your plane caught on fire your best option was to shoot yourself in the head because it was that, dive out of it to plummet to your death, or burn up.  The movie was pretty predictable.  I mean you know what's going to happen to the evil Black Falcon guy so that wasn't a surprise.  It's a little depressing when at the end it gets to the text of what happened to people afterwards.  The one black guy in the unit joined the US forces when they entered the war but of course they wouldn't let a black guy fly even if he'd already been doing that and had several kills to his credit.  And the James Franco character apparently never flew again after the war.  Yeah, I can see why. (2.5/5)

Legion:  I put this in my queue after Michael Offutt mentioned the Syfy show based on this and I remember this existed.  It was sort of like the Terminator/Terminator 2 only with angels and no time travel.  Paul Bettany is the good Terminator/Kyle Reese who has to find Sarah Connor carrying the leader of the future.  Unfortunately she's in a crappy little diner at the edge of the Mojave desert, where the occupants barricade themselves to fend off the invasion.  It was OK, but apparently there's no way to kill an angel except for another angel, which led to like 3 different characters heroically sacrificing themselves for no reason. (2/5)

JLA:  Adventures in Time:  This was apparently not one of those intended for grown-ups.  It was basically a retread of an old Superfriends episode where the Legion of Doom goes back in time to prevent Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman existing.  Only in this Lex Luthor thanks to "the Time Trapper" (nice name...not) has his minions stop Superman from existing.  No thought is given to what happens to anyone else.  Pretty sad when Superfriends does it better in like 1978.  There was a neat Easter egg where they show Wendy, Marvin, and their dog from the first two seasons of Superfriends walking down the street. (1.5/5)

A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy:  During the opening credits I realized that I would not want to see any of these people in an orgy setting.  I mean seriously I never want to see Jason Sudekis, Nick Kroll, and Tyler Labine naked.  Ever.  So it's good it was boring and I fell asleep like 1/3 of the way through.  From what I gathered, those immature 30-somethings were bummed their Hamptons hangout was about to be sold and they'd have nowhere to go.  Boo hoo.  (Inc.)

8MM 2:  Was there anyone in the known universe who thought, "We really need a sequel to 8MM!"  But if they had waited they could have gotten Nic Cage back to star in it.  Anyway, there was a decent manage au trois at the beginning.  Though it was not interesting enough to keep me awake long after. (Inc.)

8 comments:

  1. I've heard Snowpiercer was good. But I'll wait until it's cheaper before I watch. You know, netflix or HBO or something.

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  2. Snowpiercer sounds dumb. The whole set-up bugs me: Why a train circling the world forever? Where does the power come from? Why is that better than, say, a giant skyscraper or dome? Why are the poor brought along? It sounds less possible than "The Hunger Games."

    I want to see Budapest.

    Why didn't they call that movie "16mm"?

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    Replies
    1. There's some sciencey explanation for how the train keeps running. And then it also involves some ugly truth that I don't want to spoil. You really have to suspend disbelief about the train concept. Really, why not go underground before the earth froze? But I forgot to mention above that what it really reminds me of is "Wool" by Hugh Howey in how everyone's all packed together with different strata.

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  3. I saw Snowpiercer and enjoyed it visually, and the ending. I just thought the train would be longer. The JLA movie was a kids movie.

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  4. I want to see Grand Budapest Hotel. I'll have to track it down and watch it. Thanks for the reminder (and the shout out!)

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  5. I quit Flyboys right in the middle of it. I just didn't like it, which is weird. I love war movies. Especially plane ones.

    Grand Budapest Hotel sounds pretty good. I will check it out.

    And Legion was ok. I did think it was cool how Michael's wings could cut your head off.

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  6. Snowpiercer sounds more surreal than the book, but it's good to know his vision came through. I don't normally watch sex comedies and "Orgy" sounds dreadful.

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