Friday, March 17, 2017

More Stuff I Watched

Happy St. Me Day!  Instead of green beer and corned beef, here's some stuff I watched:

Doctor Strange:  This was the first Marvel movie I didn't watch in the theater because I just never got around to it.  It mostly follows the somewhat goofy origin story in the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics:  gifted surgeon gets in car wreck, damages hands, seeks out a guru known as "the Ancient One," and becomes the "Sorcerer Supreme."  The plot does largely follow the template set forth in Iron Man; really it's like if Tony Stark had found the Ancient One in the cave instead of stuff to build a suit of armor.  Instead of a mentor, the villain is another student of the Ancient One with a name I don't remember but who was played by that guy from that Hannibal TV show I never watched and Jyn Erso's father in Rogue One.  The less good part of the Marvel template is that most of their villains aren't really developed into real characters and this is no exception.  Basically the bad guy wants to turn over Earth to the evil Dorammu (or whatever it is) for...reasons.  And eventually Dr. Strange has to stop him with magic stuff--and quantum mechanics.  There are some nice Matrix/Inception visuals to liven things up.  As much as I've liked Tilda Swinton in other things, I don't think she was so awesome that it forgives using a white woman for the Ancient One, who in the comics was an Asian guy.  Mordo's villainous turn at the end was as slapdash and ill-conceived as Sinestro's in Green Lantern, which is obviously not a superhero movie you want to copy.  But otherwise it was another decent Marvel outing.  If nothing else, you have to admire the consistency. (3/5)

Spy Game:  This pairs Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, who I think of as the 90s-2000s version of Robert Redford, as CIA agents.  Pitt has been captured in China and in 24 hours is going to be killed.  Redford is his former handler who's being grilled by the government but manages to save his protege with some phone calls and well-placed bribes.  Um, yeah, about the least exciting way to rescue a secret agent ever.  So the payoff is pretty weak and most of Pitt's scenes are in the flashbacks to various missions they went on in the 70s and 80s; he and Redford have no contact in whatever the movie's present day is. (2/5)

Open Grave:  Sharlto Copley (District 9, Powers, etc) wakes up in an open grave and is rescued by a mute Asian woman.  He's taken to a house where no one (including him) remembers who they are or why they're there.  Gradually it becomes clear that there are zombies on the loose and the place they ended up was experimenting with a cure that happens to cause temporary memory loss.  Interesting but a little slow. (2.5/5)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen:  A Yemeni shiekh has an interest in fly fishing and wants to bring the sport to his home country.  His assistant (Emily Blunt) contacts a British scientist (Ewan McGregor) to get his help.  He thinks the project is mad but political pressure is applied by Kristin Scott Thomas and so they end up building a dam and rounding up a bunch of salmon from hatcheries to dump them in a river.  In the process there's a love story and also political realities involved as some of the locals are not thrilled by the project.  Overall a decent light drama. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  This was directed by Lasse Hallstrom who also directed decent dramas like The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News, etc.)

Behaving Badly:  Three couples (two straight and one lesbian) and their various infidelity issues are featured.  Not really all that steamy or funny with a small budget and no-name cast.  There's really not much to recommend it.  I feel kind of misled by the cover picture on Amazon showing a couple of lesbians making out; it made me think it'd be sexier than it was. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  The movie was I guess shot in 2006 and released in 2009 but all the phones and stuff look about 2001 vintage.)

Blood: The Last Vampire:  Centuries ago a young Asian girl became a vampire (somehow) and fights the demons who killed her family.  Like Blade she isn't a traditional vampire in that she can go outside and stuff.  In 1970 she goes undercover on a US air force base, where she and a general's daughter find the demon she's been looking for.  The story was decent but really bad CGI effects mar the production. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  The girl's handler is played by Liam Cunningham, who is a regular on Game of Thrones.  That's the only name I recognized.)

Devil in a Blue Dress:  In LA in 1948, Denzel Washington is an unemployed guy who gets paid by a mob thug to look for a white girl.  Naturally things take a turn and soon the girl's friend is dead, followed by a couple of other people, and the corrupt cops are looking to pin it on Denzel, because when in doubt, just point to the nearest black guy.  Soon he realizes that all of this is mixed up in the city's mayoral election.  It was a good movie, though not quite as good as LA Confidential, which dates from near the same time in both setting and release date.  (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  One of the corrupt cops is played by Beau Starr, who played a not-corrupt cop in Halloween 4 & 5 and the CBS/CTV series Due South.)

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome:  The plot of this movie made almost no sense.  It starts with Max having his team of camels stolen by a little kid and his father in an airplane.  Max tracks them to the outpost of Bartertown, where he's recruited by Aunty (Tina Turner) to kill the minion of some dwarf who manages the pig farm that runs the town with methane gas.  But Max can't go through with it when he sees the minion is mentally handicapped, so he's exiled to the desert, but his pet monkey brings him water so he can make it to some Neverland-type place populated by a bunch of Lost Boy-looking kids (Peter Pan Lost Boys, not the vampire movie).  Then for...reasons they go back to Bartertown and break the dwarf out on some kind of train, which thankfully in this post-apocalyptic world railroad tracks no one has used in decades are still fully operational.  There's a big car chase and Max helps the kids escape to the ruins of Sydney but is at the mercy of Aunty and her henchmen...who just let him go.  So the big chase all seemed kinda pointless.  The whole thing just seemed pretty goofy.  But it did have a decent theme song:

Overall I'd give it a 2/5

Phantom of the Opera:  This was a version from the 50s or so starring Claude Rains.  It was on one of those late-night local TV shows that shows old horror movies.  Except this isn't really much of a horror movie.  It's pretty tame and boring, with far too much singing.  I mean come on, who watches horror movies for singing?  Not me. (1/5)  (Fun Fact:  The actress who played Christine once turned down a role that went to a then-unknown Elizabeth Taylor because there wasn't enough singing in the movie.  Ha.)

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