Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Movie Round-Up 1/14/14: The Interview, The Gambler, Life Itself, A Walk Among the Tombstones

If you want, after you read this entry, head over to the Indie Writers Monthly blog to read about my attempt at using draft2digital instead of Smashwords.  Is it better or worse?  Go there to find out!


The last couple of days I was at the Hampton in Midland, MI and I could actually hook my Roku up again, so I took advantage to catch up on some movies.


The Interview:  Like many people, I didn't really care much about this.  I mean I never paid to see Seth Rogen in a movie in a theater before.  Or I don't think on DVD either unless I got one from Redbox at some point.  But like many people after theaters turned to total pussies and didn't want to screen the movie, I wanted to stick it to North Korea by watching it.


I get why North Korea wouldn't want North Koreans seeing it.  From an article I read on Yahoo! the idea that Kim Jong-Un's people believe him to be a god is true, so he wouldn't want his people seeing a movie that portrays him crying to a Katy Perry song and crapping his pants.


Beyond that, the movie is OK but not great.  It's a little too long like many comedic movies these days.  As you would except from a Seth Rogen-James Flacco vehicle, it features a lot of dick and shit jokes, but there is at the core the truth about the North Korean situation. (2.5/5)


The Gambler:  I watched this in the theater while waiting to check in to the Hampton.  It was the only movie playing at 11:45 in Midland, plus I figured no one else would be there.  I was close; one other guy showed up.  Anyway, this is better than I thought it would be, but while it's billed as a thriller, I think the real focus of it is more of a drama.


For me, the film's ultimate message is that some people have to dig down all the way to the bedrock before they can force themselves to start climbing out of the hole.  Marky Mark Wahlberg's character is an English professor who had some falling out with his grandpa at the start of the movie and then goes into a spiral of losing money to gangsters.  At the start of the movie he loses a bunch of money to a Korean gangster and then goes out to the parking lot to borrow money from a black gangster, which he also loses.


What I didn't like is the guy seemed like a total idiot.  I mean every bet he makes is all-in.  If you win $160,000 or so, you should probably keep at least a reserve of $10,000 or so to start over again if you lose.  But as the movie unfolds you realize that he makes those bets because at the core he really wants to lose.  Even when his older ex-wife (Jessica Lange) gives him the money to pay off the gangsters, what does he do?  Blow it in an Indian casino.  Because only then could he hit absolute rock bottom and have nowhere to go but up.  Understanding that made me like the movie more than I would otherwise.
(3/5)


A Walk Among the Tombstones:  I read the book for this when I was gallivanting across the country.  Specifically it was the day I went from Seattle, to Cape Disappointment, then on to Portland.  I was going to see the movie when in Portland, but then a tooth broke and I never got back to it.  So finally I had to wait until it came out on digital download.


The book is part of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series.  Scudder is an ex-NYPD detective who retired after years of drinking led him to accidentally killing a little girl while trying to stop some thieves.  Or at least that's the movie version; I haven't read most of the Scudder series.  Since then, Scudder works as an unlicensed PI while dealing with his drinking issues at AA meetings.


Scudder appeared on the big screen before back in the 80s in "8 Million Ways to Die" starring Jeff Bridges and Bridges might have worked better than Liam Neeson as the gritty New York cop.  But whatever. 


The movie stays mostly faithful to the book, including the 90s setting.  I had been wondering about that since much of the book depended on 90s technology, including a couple of guys who hack into phone networks.  The criminals also depend on pay phones to make their calls, so how would that translate to 2013 when the movie was made?  The phone hackers weren't included in the movie but the payphone angle remained, which I suppose is why it was set in 1999 when payphones were still a thing.


The main plot of the movie (and book) is that a couple of crazy guys are going around abducting the wives of drug traffickers.  They get ransom money but kill the women and keep the money.  Scudder is drawn in by the alcoholic/druggie brother of a trafficker, but by then it's too late--at least until the next time the bad guys take someone, only in this case a Russian trafficker's daughter.


I suppose it is ironic then that the star of the movie is also the star of the "Taken" franchise, though the two are grossly different.  There are no car chases and there's no Neeson taking down a roomful of Albanians.  There are a couple of gunfights and some gore, but it doesn't have the frenetic pace of the "Taken" movies.


Overall I thought it was good.  I wish it had done better in the theaters because I'd like to see more Lawrence Block franchises on the big screen like gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenberr or neurotic, stamp-collecting hitman Keller.  In fact I'd like a whole Lawrence Block Cinematic Universe, but that ain't gonna happen.
(3/5)


Life Itself:  The irony of writing a movie review about a movie about a movie critic!  This aired on CNN a couple of weeks ago, though it had also played the indie theater circuit.  It's a documentary on the life of Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times critic who was half of the famous Siskel & Ebert. 


The documentary alternates between Ebert's past and his present in 2013 while recovering from a broken hip.  He had already lost the use of his mouth from cancer back in around 2007 and since then had been communicating mostly through the Internet, a laptop, or a notepad. 


The current parts were pretty heartbreaking to watch, especially knowing that soon after he was going to die.  The past was a lot more enjoyable.  I didn't know much about his life before he became a critic and while it doesn't go into tons of detail, it gives you enough detail to know he wasn't some stuck-up jerk, or at least he tried hard not to be.


When it got into his relationship with Gene Siskel was probably the most interesting part of the film.  Really I think there needs to be a biopic that focuses just on that because it's clear there's a lot of room for drama.  The two guys worked together but really didn't like each other for a long time and really it was only after Siskel's death in 1999 that Ebert's feelings about his partner could become more fully realized.


In the end it's a great documentary on one of the last great film critics.  We will never see another one like him.
(4/5)


Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas:  Basically the plot of this movie is Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro as Hunter S. Thompson and his lawyer "Gonzo" go to Vegas, get wasted, tear up a hotel room, leave, repeat twice more.  There was probably a point amongst all the tripping balls. (2/5)


Inspector Gadget 2:  A silly sequel to a pretty crappy original movie.  I watched it because Briane Pagel mentioned his son loved it and I remembered I had kind of wanted to see it at one point because I watched the TV show in the 80s.  It really is a movie aimed at 7-year-olds (or younger) but at least it gets some things right that the first crummy movie didn't, such as that you're not supposed to see Dr. Claw's face.  Really you're not supposed to see much more than his arm, but oh well.  In this movie Gadget gets a new female partner, something I thought would have been cool for the Robocop movies, like if Lewis had been shot and she became a Robocop too and then we could all have tried to imagine cyborg sex.  But obviously there's no cyborg sex (or even thoughts of it) in this.
(2.5/5)

3 comments:

  1. The Interview had my attention, till the studio pulled it.
    I always imagined Dr. Claw wearing a mask like the one on his ring.

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  2. I haven't wanted to see The Interview, even before I assumed the whole terrorist attack was a scam. Sweetie and I watched "A Walk Among The Tombstones," and like you, I enjoyed it. I thought at times the references to it being 1999 were almost a bit too pointed; sometimes when they make a 'period' piece, which I guess that would be, the go over the top. This wasn't that, but there were parts that I found annoying about it.

    I still have not watched all of "Inspector Gadget 2". Despite movies playing more or less continuously in our house, I only seem to see the same parts over and over. Right now, the boys watch "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid" on repeat. It seems better than Gadget.

    I did see an article about how there were continuity errors in "Inspector Gadget 2." I wonder about the kind of person who gets worked up over minor discrepancies from scene to scene in a movie, period, let alone "Inspector Gadget 2".

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  3. I figured Interview would be bad so I'm not surprised and Inspector Gadget was lame but French Stewart was 100,000,000 times funnier than Matthew Broderick.

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