Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Movies of 2016 (thus far, of course)

After some Storms of LifeTM, things are back to glorious mundanity, thankfully. 

I've been writing a lot of posts in the last few months, which of course you haven't seen because they were so damned dark.  Re-reading them made me worry about the guy.  My gosh.  Since there is no cause for concern, they will remain in the unpublished folder.

So here we are, bracing for another school year, one's in her second year of college and the other is entering the gauntlet of middle school (Jr. High for we old farts - I still prefer that designation, it has dignity and intent). 

I'm at the tail-end of a much needed vacation after my first year or so of a new job, which has turned out to be a great place to work.  If your current job leaves you wondering why every day feels like a kick in the crotch, get another one, stat. Yes, even in this economy; we're gonna have this one for a while. My brother made the same jump for pretty much the same reasons, and he too is much happier. We have lived through the bleak reality of William Gibson's wise words: "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."  I can't put it any better than that.

It's also the end of the summer movie season (or close enough), so here're some of my thoughts.  Since I haven't posted in practically a YEAR (shame on me, see paragraph 2 above), I'll also catch up a bit on those. No spoilers unless otherwise indicated.

What I've seen:

The Nice Guys - Love Shane Black (dir, writer) and the previews made me giggle.  I enjoyed the movie while I was there, but it didn't stay with me.  I think it's worth your time on DVD, just because the script has some interesting turns, like Black's always do.  I still love Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the most; make sure you see that if you haven't.

X-Men: Apocalypse - I saw this one only because my eldest daughter pushed me to (she's crushing on the actor who plays Quicksilver: Evan Peters), and it was pretty much what I feared: dull and pretty much a retread. Like the last one, the Quicksilver set piece was the only truly enjoyable part. It indulged in a narrative trope I'm beginning to hate: as the movie begins, we sit through a bunch of disjointed scenes that are the threads that eventually lead to the plot.  I've seen this so much lately.  This movie even made it worse by having most of those scenes set in other countries so the first half hour or more is in freakin' subtitles. Every time I saw another country or time period announced on the screen, I considered turning it off. If you're going to force me to read my movie, you'd better throw in a graphic sex scene that makes me uncomfortable like the Europeans do. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - If this movie were 20% shorter and 30% less full of itself, it might have been fun.  As it played, I mentally started bookmarking the scenes I would cut if I edited it.  (The idea of Topher Grace's fan edit of the eppies 1 - 3 of Star Wars has infected me mightily.  I keep thinking of editing The Dark Knight down to essentially the Batman and Joker story, just for grins.) I'm one of those weirdos who really likes Ben Affleck's acting.  I liked his Batman.  (Fun trivia: Affleck is one of the few actors who's now played 3 major super heroes: Batman, Daredevil, and Superman.) My one take-away is I now want to see the Wonder Woman movie. The preview looks good.

Captain America: Civil War - This committed most of the sins that the X-Men did, and it had waaaaay too much swat-fu.  After people have punched each other for 5 solid minutes, I mean c'mon, do something else.  The center set-piece where everyone finally squares off is damn good, though.  This one could benefit from a fan edit that trims it to a solid 90 minutes.

Zootopia - While this is a well-done movie, and is actually good - my kid loved it - I have grown so weary of Identity Politics that seeing it in a kids movie filled me with ennui. As a father, I've told my daughters they can be whatever they want to be, with the caveat of realistic goals, in that being a linebacker for the Denver Broncos is probably not something to shoot for.  In one of the spiked posts I've written, I ranted about how Identity Politics has completely broken out of the collegiate ghetto where it belongs and has infected way too much "journalism," but it was a dull read, and I've noted others grousing about this, too, and better, so I leave it to them. Suffice to say that I found the idea in the movie that all the carnivores in the world had become vegans to be unpalatable. Well, there's this too: when the bunny told another character that only other bunnies can call her cute, I think I scoffed out loud, which I apologize for.  I don't want to live in Zootopia. 

Ghostbusters - Not the travesty that everyone feared.  It was a fun popcorn movie.  Sure, it didn't have the charm and surprise of the original, but I laughed and had fun.  See it on DVD.  BTW, many of the haters have bashed on the director, Paul Feig, which he brought on himself somewhat, latching on to the criticism being largely about sexism (of which there was some, but it wasn't the primary complaint), but it's unfair.  He's actually a good director.  His Spy with Melissa McCarthy was fantastic; it was a better spy movie than the last James Bond, so make sure you see it.

The Witch - Sometimes things don't just come out of left field, they fly in from another stadium and land in your beer.  I no longer watch horror films as a rule because they finally rose to the criticism that they're not scary by becoming extremely so (thank you Japan), such that they reduce me to a 5-year-old at night, clutching my blanket in sweaty terror as I glance about the room at the shadows the night-light casts, practically fouling myself at unexpected noises.  I just don't need that shit, especially since I now spend half my week alone when my daughter is at her mother's.  Even my college-age daughter had a month of sleepless nights and nightmares after a movie about demonic possession, and she still likes horror movies.  Nonetheless, something convinced me to watch this one, and even watch it after dark (it's one of those where so many scenes are dark, you can't watch it in a sunlit room). While technically a horror movie, it's so much more.  The language, settings, and costumes are fantastically authentic to 1630s New England.  For once, not everyone's filthy and greasy, like most historical films these days mistakenly portray, but neither are they false and laundered.  You can smell the hay.  There's mud in places.  You are there.  Some people have to turn on the closed captioning to understand what they're saying, but I gave it a go without, and found I could follow it (probably thanks to my lit degree and having to read literature from that time).  I also expected to be bored, because a lot of historical stuff feels it needs to be stately or paced for the PBS set.  This one pops along like a movie should.  I never had a guess as to where it was going until the very end.  This movie is an achievement.  Do see it.

10 Cloverfield Lane - Meh.  I'll see anything Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in, for reasons, and this was getting good word of mouth.  I've seen enough survivalist tropes in other movies that this mostly bored me.  My favorite survivalist flick is Blast from the Past, with Brendan Fraser and Christopher Walken.

Star Trek Beyond - After the misstep of "The Wrath of Kahn - the retread" (aka Star Trek Into Darkness), with the eyeroll inducing cartoon sequence where everyone hops from speeding platform to speeding ship to speeding platform to (you get the gist), this movie brings Star Trek back where it needs to be. It did feel like an expensive version of a TV episode, but it was still a blast.  Highlights were Bones and Spock being Bones and Spock, and finally a space movie where gravity is not taken for granted.

The BFG - To me, a lot of Roald Dahl's oeuvre is puzzling, because it's for kids, but does things to kids that are appalling, and as a parent I've wondered if I should prevent exposure to it.  However, I've now seen enough that I realize he tapped into how kids sometimes view adults: scary, mean, unpredictable louts who sometimes turn out to be OK after all.  Having been through the book and disastrous animated versions, I was gob-smacked at how charming, moving, and fun this flick was.  Spielberg has his kid mojo back, and CGI has finally made odd character faces so believable that we've reached the other side, the good side, of the uncanny valley.  Great flick.  Watch it with the kids. 

Suicide Squad - I flat-out liked this movie.  I'm legitimately puzzled as to why critics hate this movie.  Like Kevin Smith says, though (I'm watching the Kevin Smith review as I write this - I love that guy), it's critic-proof. Critical response has kept folks out of the theater, but I think word-of-mouth will drive them back there.  Whenever Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), and  Viola Davis (Amanda Waller) have the screen, the movie rocks. The plot is a bit predictable, though no space ships show up and save the day, for once.  Great popcorn flick.  Catch it in the theaters if you can.  

These I did not see:

Finding Dory - Didn't like the first one (did everyone need to be handicapped?), and my daugher's mom took her, saving me the voyage.

Independence Day: Resurgence - I'll see this on DVD, if only for Jeff Goldblum and to see how they work in that Brent Spiner's scientist mannequin is gay.

Swiss Army Man - Tried to catch this in the theater, but it farted out of release so quickly I couldn't.  Can't wait to see it on DVD.  Looks like my kind of sick humor.

The Jungle Book - I heard this was great from everyone who saw it, but I really am losing the desire to see any remakes, no matter how much praise they get.  (Not counting Star Trek; I'll always come back to you, my love.)

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates - Might still catch this on the big screen, but am happy to wait for the DVD.  Another kinda larf I think I'll like.

Sausage Party - Can't wait.

A Hologram for the King - I liked the preview, and I like the premise of middle-aged man marooned in this stage of life where fate just wants to see if it can make you fold, but then there's hope.  There are plenty of flicks like this about middle-age women who need their groove back and want to eat pray fuck their way around the world (I liked that movie, btw), but most movies about middle-age men end in mid-air like About Schmidt with him driving off into loneliness or staring down an empty road.   

Keanu - I was a late-comer to the genius of Key & Peele, and can't wait to see what they do about a lost cat.

Not released yet:

War Dogs - Yes!
Yoga Hosers - Kevin Smith! Fuck yes!
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Couldn't get into the book, but loved the idea.  Happy they filmed it for me.
The Edge of Seventeen - This preview is hilarious.  Expecting the next Easy A or Juno.
Rogue One - Wow. I have never been less excited for a Star Wars movie.  I loved the last one (see below), so I should be stoked.  Yet, I find myself looking forward more to the next micro-brew I'll try than this.  I'll go, sure.  But, when they showed Darth Vader scuba-breathing in the last shot of the preview, I just sighed. 

Catch up - the ones I saw while writing bad posts you'll never read, lucky you:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Oh Yissss.  This is what I'd been waiting to see.  Sure, it was practically a remake of the very first one, but damn it was it fun.  Adam Driver blew me away. Kylo Ren's snit fits were perfect and hilarious.

Jurassic World - Wat?  Really.  Wat?  Just stop it you guys.

The Hateful Eight - The first Tarantino I left thinking, glad that's over.  Too long.  I popped for the super-duper wide-screen print only to sit through a one-set stage play.  It was lovely seeing Kurt Russell again, and being reminded how awesome Jennifer Jason Leigh is (please, much more of her), but the rest was tedious.

Deadpool - Loved it.  The opening credits were brilliant, and the movie just kept delivering.  Best movie on this list, probably.

The Martian - Well, wait, this one was as good as Deadpool.  After the abortion (quite literally) of Prometheus, I couldn't believe how right-on The Martian was in tone, pacing, and story.  Wow.  It holds up on second viewing, even though the plot is kinda a one trick pony.  Matt Damon is such a good actor.  

The odd-ball documentary I must mention:

Jodorowsky's Dune - This is the latest entry in movies/documentaries all self-respecting film buffs must see.  There are about 3 different threads in this flick that just getcha:  1) The tragedy of Jodorowsky's son who gave up years of his life to star in this movie (the bitterness on his face...), 2) how in producing a book for the studios to prove the movie was feasible at the time, including the special effects, led to the biggest blatant theft of ideas ever (Ridley Scott's Alien, chief among them), 3) what a Svengali Jodorowsky was/is; I hope I never meet that brilliant son-of-a-bitch.  On a DVD near you, as this is the kind of thing libraries like to have around. 

And there you have it.

I have some other stuff I'm working on, so see you soon.


Whisky Prajer said...

The Witch is high on my list of "haven't seen/need to see" movies. Close second: The Green Room, wif P-Stew and the late Anton Yelchin. Probably not recommended as a one-two evening, I'm thinking.

Wondering: have you seen Sicario? Large portions of it were incredibly clunky, but the stuff that wasn't was really unnerving. Kinda stuck to the brainpan (well ... mine, anyway).

Yahmdallah Bjorknickerfod said...

I purposely did not see Sicario, because the subject matter is something that not only doesn't interest me, as someone who has always disapproved of the drug wars, I find I've never enjoyed any movie about it. And, as you mentioned, in the previews, it looked clunky.

However, I'm always open to having my mind changed, so please do talk about what was unnerving, that might be fun.

Also, The Green Room never made it to my radar. I'll watch your blog to see if you say anything about it. If not, let me know here. (I also have trouble with neo-nazi stuff - I never saw the Ed Norton flick where he stomps on someone's head.)

BTW, I've really been enjoying your blog lately.

Whisky Prajer said...

Yeah, "TWOD" and neo-Nazi stuff is just so freakin' ugly it can't help but rattle a person's cage. And Breaking Bad just had to conflate them both in the final season. Sheesh...

I queued up Sicario for a third time a couple of months ago, and just kept to the good stuff: roughly the first 35 minutes of the movie, and the "enter the tunnel" scene near the end. Both, in their way, emphasized a harrowing quality to groups engaged in violence that reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan - which is the sort of thing that's either remarkably good or very, very bad, depending on the viewer.