Thursday, July 3, 2014

Movie Round-Up 7/3/14: Revenge of the Has-Beens

I decided that doing mini movie reviews monthly might create entries that are too daunting for some people.  Plus I end up talking about like 30 movies and people will only comment about one or two and so it seems like kind of a waste.  So I'm just going to do it every Friday.  Though with the holiday this week it's on Thursday.  So there.

We Are the Night:  I probably wouldn't have rented this if I'd known it was in German.  I swear the preview I saw was in English.  Not that I'm opposed to watching movies with subtitles.  I've watched movies in Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese, Swedish, and Danish, but still it's nice to know that ahead of time.  Anyway it starts out like "The Craft" only with vampires as a group of vampire chicks in Berlin (hence all the German) adopt an urchin named Lena.  While soaking in a tub after being bitten Lena magically transforms from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo into German Kate Mara, which was an upgrade in my book.  At first it's kind of cool being a vampire because they have a lot of money after centuries and they drive around Lamborghinis and the like at breakneck speed because they're already undead.  But then of course she gets up to the part that sucks--literally and figuratively.  Some mayhem ensues.  It was decent for a vampire movie, though I would have preferred a little more skin. (2.5/5)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit:  If you don't know, Jack Ryan is the guy from the series of Tom Clancy books that began with The Hunt for Red October, when he was a nerdy CIA analyst who convinces American officials a Soviet sub is trying to defect.  Later he went on to be president or something.  In the movies he was played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and then Ben Affleck.  This movie is a reboot of all that and who better for Paramount to star in it than Chris Pine, the star of their Star Trek reboot, right?  In a couple early scenes we see Jack Ryan drops out of school after 9/11, joins the Marines, gets shot down and badly wounded, meets his future girlfriend Cathy at Walter Reed, and then is recruited by Kevin Costner of the CIA.  That's all a prologue to 10 years later when he has to prevent an evil Russian scheme dreamed up by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs.  It was surprising how few real surprises there were in this.  (The biggest for me was the woman who looks like Keira Knightley actually is Keira Knightley!)  I mean there's no real attempt at a big twist.  You think maybe Kevin Costner will be evil (he did play a turncoat Russian agent in No Way Out) or maybe Cathy will be a turncoat like Total Recall or something.  Nah.  It's all pretty straightforward.  I suppose a warning flag was when a movie with known actors like this was released in January, the typical cesspool for Hollywood movies.  (2/5)

The Art of the Steal:  This movie reminds us that Kurt Russell still exists.  he plays a has-been Evel Kineval type who on the side steals art until his weasel brother Matt Dillon (who also still exists) turns him in and he does 5 1/2 years in a Polish jail.  When he gets out his brother seems to have one big score for him involving a book called the Gospel According to James.  The scam in part reminds me of a Lawrence Block book I read recently.  But like Matchstick Men there's a scam within the scam.  All-in-all it was decent with a twist you don't really see coming. (3/5)

Wrecked:  Also, Adrien Brody still exists.  (There's kind of a theme to these last 3.) Remember when he won that Oscar?  And then like 10 years later he was doing razor commercials and straight-to-video crap.  This was probably straight-to-video but it wasn't crap.  About half the movie is him trying to get out of an old crappy Chevy that's wrecked in the British Columbia forest.  When he does get out then the latter half of the movie is pretty much him crawling around the forest while he's haunted by Caroline Dhavernas, who is...what?  Actually we never do really find out how she's related to him.  It gets a little boring at times, but there was a great surprise twist at the end. (3/5)

Joe:  Hey speaking of former Oscar winners who are now down to making straight-to-video crap, this is yet another Nicolas Cage movie.  He plays the titular character who lives way in the Deep South or somewhere and runs a crew of guys who illegally poison trees so they can later be cut down.  Then he meets a 15-year-old named Gary who has an old drunk father that can't keep a job.  Then it becomes kind of complicated as Joe is not exactly Mr. Nice Guy.  I mean at one point he goes all Michael Vick and sics his American bulldog on another dog that hates him--I can't imagine why a dog would hate him!  But he also helps out the kid and other poor people.  There's also a mortal enemy (for some reason that isn't really explained) who at one point shoots Joe in the shoulder but this being a movie Joe can patch it up himself and in a couple days be right as rain.  Overall it's kind of slow, though I suppose it's good in a way that it doesn't try to paint Joe one way or another because life is complicated. (2.5/5)

The Lego Movie:  I finally got around to watching this.  It was as fun as advertised.  There are enough references to other stuff in it to keep older viewers like me entertained while it's not so adult that the kids can't watch it.  And there's a great message about creativity and also for those nerds who glue Legos together and only build stuff to specifications.  Alas I wish there hadn't been so much Will Farrell in it. (4/5)

In Her Skin:  This is one of those "based on a true story" movies.  It took place in Australia in 1999 so I have no idea how true it actually is.  A 15-year-old girl goes missing and her distraught parents search for her and attempt to get the police off their asses to do something.  (Sadly no one says, "A dingo ate your baby!")  Then we jump to the woman who abducted the girl in a scheme that doesn't make much sense; I suspect it made more sense to her.  A random thought is that it must be nice for Guy Pearce to do a movie in Australia where he doesn't have to fake an American accent.  I'm sure it's the same for Brits when they can play Brits.  It's probably like a kind of vacation. (2/5)


  1. I actually enjoyed Farrell in the LEGO movie. The "Twist" ending with him was a nice touch.

  2. "We Are the Night" sounds like another overdone vampire movie. My friend said "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" ties in really well to "Hunt for Red October" so I'll be watching it. "The Lego Movie'' really is awesome. I, like David, enjoyed the twist ending.

    1. I liked the twist ending, but I have a natural aversion to Will Farrell, especially in the flesh. I think it came from watching "Anchorman."

  3. In only going to comment on one movie. Shadow Recruit was very uninspired. It's not often I'm so bored in a big time action movie. Branagh can do better. I didn't know he directed.



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