Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stuff I Watched January Edition

The stuff I watched mostly in January.  I'm again going to try to keep these short.  Try being the operative word.

American Ultra:  Slacker version of The Bourne Identity that ends up dragging at the end.  (2.5/5)  (Fun fact:  The movie is set in the town of Liman, WV.  The director of The Bourne Identity was Doug Liman.  Coincidence?  Probably.)
The Avengers:  No, not the Marvel ones.  This is the 90s adaptation of the old British TV show, which is full of corny jokes (like the bad guy and his henchmen all meeting in teddy bear costumes) and almost nonstop bad puns.  Didn't Uma Thurman learn anything from Batman & Robin? Guess not. (1/5)
The Best That Never Was: ESPN documentary on Marcus Dupree, a highly-sought player in the early 80s who played 1 1/2 unhappy seasons at Oklahoma before going to the USFL and blowing out his knee.  Thus he never realized the potential he showed in high school.  An all-too-common story really. (2.5/5)
Born Into This:  Documentary on the life of Charles Bukowski, who wrote tons of poetry and novels like Post Office and Ham on Rye.  Doesn't tell you a lot you couldn't get from a Wikipedia page but then the dude has been dead since 1994. He's one of my literary heroes so it was interesting.  Sean Penn and Bono make appearances among others. (3/5)
Broke:  ESPN documentary on the plague of athletes going broke.  It's such a shitstorm for a lot of these guys that you have to wonder if they would be better off never making the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. My own situation parallels a lot of these guys after they retire, when you go from having money to having nothing.  Of course I never got to "make it rain" or buy a Ferrari or anything.  Anyway, this was interesting even if not particularly insightful. (2.5/5)
Chasing Tyson:  ESPN documentary on Evander "The Real Deal"' Holyfield's rise to heavyweight champion in the early 90s.  Unfortunately for him it was when Mike Tyson's life was imploding and thus Holyfield was seen as a paper champion more than a real one.  And when they did finally fight the results were not that satisfying, especially the second time around when Tyson bit Holyfield's ear--twice! But now it's all good; Tyson has a cartoon on Adult Swim and Holyfield is pitching for Hardee's/Carl's Jr. (3/5)
Cougars Inc.:  Boring movie where the pale kid from the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot breaks bad and starts an escort service for local "cougars" in order to pay his boarding school tuition.  Far less skin and laughs than you'd expect from an R-rated sex comedy. (2/5)
Cyborg 2:  The secret origin of Angelina Jolie!  She plays the cyborg who is created by an evil corporation to blow up another evil corporation.  Mayhem ensues but I slept through most of it. (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  Like Kickboxer 2 this was the sequel to a movie originally starring Jean-Claude van Damme, though he only appears in archival footage.)
The Death of Superman Lives:  This documentary talks about the failed attempt to make a Superman movie in 1997-98 that would have been directed by Tim Burton and starring Nicolas Cage. About 3/4 of it involves talking about all the various concept art, which gets to be a bit tedious.  I think the problem is no one really wants to badmouth anyone and risk being blackballed from the industry, so it's kind of tepid, though you really get the sense than everyone hated producer Jon Peters.  (With good cause.)  As for why the movie failed, basically Warner Bros had a string of failures and didn't want to risk it.  Instead they passed the money to Wild, Wild West--because that was a surefire hit.  Not. (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  Tony Laplume would enjoy the cameo by comic book writer Grant Morrison, despite that Morrison had absolutely nothing to do with the project.  It would have been cool if he would have narrated the whole film with his Scottish accent.)
The Double:  It's like a mix of Terry Gilliam's Zero Theorem and the Jake Gyllanhaal movie Enemy.  Jesse Eisenberg meets his exact double except this one isn't a weird stalker.  He tries to use the double as his Cyrano but it doesn't work.  Slow and kind of weird. (2/5)
Dying of the Light:  Competent Nic Cage thriller about a CIA agent with early stage dementia who searches for an ailing terrorist with the help of Chekov from the Star Trek reboot.  Not really a lot of twists, but it's decent for what it is. (2.5/5)
Embryo:  I saw this on late-night TV.  It's an old 70s movie that's kind of a take on Frankenstein.  A scientist finds a way to grow an embryo out of the womb.  He starts with a dog that after it's born ages rapidly and gets super-smart.  Then he does on a miscarried girl only about 15 weeks in.  The girl grows until she's about 25, though she's kind of like a jungle girl needing to learn to talk and stuff.  And then after a while she starts rapidly aging again.  The only cure:  sucking stuff out of fetuses.  Most of it's OK but it's not really a horror movie. (2/5)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:  Documentary that depicts the fall of Enron in 2001.  It's not "fair and balanced" but why should it be?  Ironically this was made in 2005, just a few short years before even bigger corporate scandals proved no one on Wall Street learned anything from this. (3/5)
Formula 51:  Sam Jackson makes a new drug and takes it to Liverpool, where rival factions try to capture him.  Mostly fun imitation of Guy Ritchie's early work. (2.5/5)
Going Clear:  Documentary tracing the history of Scientology from a self-help book to a wacky cult to a "church" to a sort of fascist state.  Tom Cruise and John Travolta only appear in archival footage but Oscar-winner Paul Haggis and others talk candidly about their involvement with the pseudo-religion and why they got out.  Scary stuff. (4/5)
Hostage:  Bruce Wills fucks up a hostage situation in LA and goes to a small town to work as a local cop there, but of course there has to be a hostage situation to put him back into the game.  The most amusing part was the little kid running around the oversized air ducts like a pint-sized John McClane.  Otherwise it kind of drags on too long. (2/5)
Howard the Duck:  I watched this probably 30 years ago but didn't remember a lot about it.  Which was for the best.  With corny jokes, lame effects, and bad 80s style, this is as bad as everyone says.  (1/5) (Fun Fact: Since he appeared in a cookie scene at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, Howard the Duck is part of the MCU!)
Hollywood Homicide:  Speaking of bad movies...Actually this wasn't bad so much as boring.  Basically two Hollywood detectives who give zero fucks about their day job have to solve the murder of a rap group.  Harrison Ford moonlights as a realty agent and Josh Hartnett moonlights as a yoga teacher and wanna-be actor--insert your own joke. Like I said, it's pretty boring, capped off by a chase scene that goes much too long. (2/5)
Jackie Brown:  Bloated Quentin Tarantino thriller based on an Elmore Leonard novel. (2/5)
Pay the Ghost:  Has elements of Poltergeist, Halloween III, and The Lovely Bones as Nicolas Cage's son is abducted by a vengeful Celtic spirit on Halloween and taken to "the other side."  A year later he has to venture over to save the kid, which is kind of easy really.  Not a great movie by any stretch but not terrible. (2/5)
St. Vincent:  Bill Murray is a crusty old man who starts to take care of a kid who moves in.  The movie can't decide whether it should be a heartwarming family story or a raunchy comedy and so kind of does both not all that successfully. (2.5/5)
Small Potatoes:  An ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the rise and fall of the USFL, a football league in the mid-80s that briefly challenged the NFL's dominance.  They even won a court case declaring the NFL an illegal monopoly.   The jury awarded them a whopping $3.  (Seriously, the filmmaker has the check.)  BTW, if you're planning to vote for Trump, realize that his involvement couldn't make this league great; it actually had the opposite effect.  Burt Reynolds and others have some pretty choice words about him while he petulantly walks out of the interview for the film.  Classy. (3/5)
Ted 2:  The first one was OK but this just felt so goddamned lazy.  Most of it is recycled Family Guy jokes and celebrity cameos.  Mark Wahlberg was the star of the last one but this time he's just the sidekick to Seth MacFarlane's talking teddy bear, which is not for the best.  Really hoping it didn't make enough for a Ted 3. (1/5)
Tell:  At first it seems like it'll be one of those Tarantino/Guy Ritchie rip-offs but then it shows some heart near the end as the eponymous character steals a million dollars but has to survive cops, his brother-in-law, and manipulative ex-wife who are all trying to get it from him. (3/5)
Toys:  It manages to be even dumber and more annoying than the previews were. Though it kind of predicts the drones the military uses. (1/5)
Trapped in Paradise:  Three dumb robbers, rob a bank in a small town on XMas Eve.  But when their car runs off the road in a blizzard, they're trapped in the town and hilarity is supposed to ensue.  Middling 90s comedy overall. (2/5)
Uncanny:  In one of those weird Hollywood coincidences, this movie is largely the same as Ex-Machina and was made at pretty much the same time.  Only in this case the robot is male and the nerd brought in to test it is female. And then robot and creator are competing for the woman, kind of like Frankenstein if Victor and the monster had wanted the same woman.  There's a twist at the end that wasn't completely unexpected.  It was not quite as good as Ex-Machina, with less style, less acting talent, and less naked Swedish and Asian chicks.  Still it's decent and just different enough to stand on its own. (3/5)
The Water Diviner:  Russell Crowe is an Australian widower whose sons are missing and presumed dead in WWI, so he goes to Turkey to search for them.  And in the process finds love and stuff. (2.5/5)
What We Do in the Shadows:  Mockumentary that follows four old school vampires living in a house in New Zealand.  It's a pretty funny send-up of vampires, werewolves, and other ghouls. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  I just heard a sequel has been greenlit.)
Wild Card:  Jason Statham does Jason Statham stuff in Las Vegas. (2.5/5)
Where the Truth Lies:  Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth are a 50s comedy duo whose act dissolved after a young woman died in their hotel room.  A reporter searches for the truth 15 years later.  To save you trouble:  the butler did it.  Seriously. (2/5)

BTW, I know best of 2015 lists are passe by February but I got to thinking of all the movies I saw in the theater last year and how I'd rank them:
  1. Star Wars
  2. The Martian
  3. Ex-Machina
  4. Birdman
  5. Ant-Man
  6. Jurassic World
  7. Avengers 2
  8. Fantastic 4

I didn't think any of those were really bad--even Fantastic 4..  I never walked out thinking I got cheated, so it was just a matter of some being not quite as good as others.


  1. Holy crap. You watched all of this and edited my entire manuscript in one month? *thud. I'm in awe.

  2. Have to agree with Star Wars being in first place.



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