Intersterllar is exactly the kind of movie I want there to be more of. It’s not a sequel or a prequel or a reboot or a remake or an adaptation of a book or a TV show or a video game or a board game. It’s science fiction. Fairly hard science fiction. But not bogged down in technical stuff, there’s an actual story. With production values. And impressive special effects. And good acting. Which is why I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t love it.
I liked it. But it never hooked me quite like most of Christopher Nolan’s movies. I’d probably put it ahead of Following and Insomnia and… that’s it. Comparing it to some of my favorite movies of the past 15 years is probably a little unfair, because it really is better than the vast majority of movies I see. Especially lately. It is a little too long, though.
Spoilers from here on out:
A slight detour from movies I thought might suck to check out one I knew would suck, 2004′s Catwoman, deserving of its own post because it sucks to an impressive level. Being one of the few superhero movies of the last 15 years I haven’t seen, and it’s one of my favorite characters in comics, I figured I’d just hate-watch it.
It’s about 20 minutes of romantic comedy before anything action-y happens. Halle Berry is Patience Phillips (not Selina Kyle), who wants to do fancy art but instead does graphic design for a cosmetics company. She has a meet-cute with Benjamin Bratt, and Alex Borstein and her sassy gay coworker get all excited about her date with this handsome cop. But she has a mean boss ad people treat her like a doormat!
It’s like the pilot to a 90s NBC sitcom, in the Suddenly Susan/Just Shoot Me mold up to this point. Except instead of her reaching her breaking point and putting her foot down and becoming determined to prove that a single girl really can make it in the big city, she stumbles onto an evil plot by her bosses and they try to kill her and a group of magical cats bring her back to life, giving her cat powers and newfound confidence.
Her near death fucked up her plans to have coffee with Benjamin Bratt, so she goes to apologize and meets him where he’s proving his good guy charm by talking to a bunch of at-risk kids at an inner city school. This leads to a painfully long scene in which they sort of play basketball and sort of dance. And she jumps over him without a running start and nobody seems to be particularly surprised by that.
Then her neighbors play their music too loud so she breaks their door down and destroys expensive speakers because that’s a totally appropriate response. She then puts on a leather outfit, steals a motorcycle, foils a jewelry store robbery in progress, but decides to rob it herself anyway.
She meets an old crazy cat lady, who turns out to know the secret of the magical cats, who have given these powers to Catwomen throughout history. And she gets a Catwoman mask out of the deal.
This for some reason inspires her to to put on a different leather outfit, this one with shredded pants and a top that’s basically a bra.
Over the course of being dated by and investigated by Benjamin Bratt, she writes “sorry” on things and he notices that the handwriting looks similar. So he goes to lab tech guys to see if the handwriting is a match. The forensic guy says “it’s not an exact science” but points out that the first sample is from someone who is lonely and insecure, while the second is “confident, almost angry.” Which first of all, determining personality by handwriting is not a science at all, and more importantly, he asked if the two things matched, not “is the person who wrote this lonely?”
I’d heard Missy Peregrym made an uncredited apperance, so I figured there’d at least be that. But she plays “horrible side effects of makeup the FDA should not have approved.” She’s a face on a screen covered in chemical burns. So that’s disappointing.
A few actual positive things to say about this:
- Halle Berry is hot
- They take an interesting approach to the superpowered action scenes. It’s very dynamic CG, like the Raimi Spider-Man swinging through the city. For the very first action scene, when she is fully covered in black leather, it works pretty well and creates a nice effect making her look very agile. Later, when she goes to the much skimpier costume, it looks horribly fake, because the CG just makes her skin look super shiny.
- Sharon Stone is appropriately cast as the fashion model who used to be hot and famous but now she’s over 40 and nobody cares.
But that’s really it. Terrible, terrible movie.
0. I think this may just leave the second Ghost Rider movie, Elektra, and the Tom Jane Punisher? At least for the high-ish profile ones. I even saw Jonah Hex and Punisher: War Zone I should probably see two of those (not the Ghost Rider one). They can’t be this bad, at least.
More random movies that I kinda expected to suck:
- Hyde Park on Hudson is about FDR’s supposedly romantic relationship with his 6th cousin. With Bill Murray as FDR and Laura Linney as the cousin. Who the hell knows who their 6th cousin is anyway? That’s like your grandparent’s 4th cousin’s grandkid. I had elderly relatives who were super into genealogy stuff, but I was never introduced to anyone who was more remote than a 2nd cousin once removed. I’m sure I’ve met a 6th cousin though, because much of my family is clustered together geographically, and if each person averaged 2 kids, which I suspect is a low estimate, you’d have 2048 of them, though some might be the same person. Which raises the question of… if your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother is the sister of your father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father, does that make you your own sixth cousin? This has nothing to do with the movie. They kinda lost me at Laura Linney giving FDR a really awkward handjob, and I just decided this movie wasn’t for me.
- Wreck-it Ralph is the Toy Story but with video game characters movie. Its not Pixar good but it’s still enjoyable. I want to say around Shrek 2 quality, which is a movie I remember enjoying somewhat, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened in the movie, so it couldn’t have been great. They got the rights to use some video game characters, which lead to some weird stuff. There’s a support group for villains, and they have a Diablo type character, M. Bison, Bowser, Clyde the Pac-Man ghost and for some reason Zangief? He’s not a bad guy is he? M. Bison, sure, and I figured all the NPCs like Balrog and Sagat would be villains, but not the playable ones. I’m sure some of the movie/tv adaptations turned him into a bad guy (I never even saw that one live action movie, or the Kristin Kreuk one), but he’s not a bad guy in the games. Is it just because he’s Russian? The cold war has been over for decades, I think we should be past the Russophobia by now.
- 47 Ronin takes the traditional Japanese story of 48 people killing themselves but eventually proving a point about corruption and honor, and turns it into the story of a half=white guy raised by demons who helps a bunch of samurai save the girl he loves from a bad guy who uses evil magic. About all that remains of the original story is the names of a few particulars, Asano’s seppuku, the resulting ronin wanting revenge, and being granted the dignity of suicide themselves after they get it. Rinko Kikuchi, it turns out, joins Ruth Wilson and Amy Acker in the “way hotter when crazy and evil” club, as she plays a witch of some sort. She’s got like lopsided hair and different colored eyes and dark lipstick and it is nice (pictured). But yeah the movie is pretty bad. I still watched it in its entirety, because I figured the monster fights were sometimes cool, and there might be more hot crazy Rinko Kikuchi at any moment.
- 42 is the Jackie Robinson biopic from a couple years back. It’s pretty hokey, and contains some weird bending of the truth. Most of them are just Hollywood-isms to make the story flow better or make it more emotional. But Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) is suspended in the movie because he has an affair with a married actress and the commissioner doesn’t want to upset the Catholics, when in reality (though he did bang and eventually marry that actress) he was suspended for associating with gamblers (which may not have been the case, the accusations spun out of a fight with the owner of the Yankees). And they changed the location of Dodgers’ spring training. For no reason whatsoever, as far as I can tell. Anyway aside from those complaints, and the CG ball they use which look fake as hell, it’s pretty ok. Harrison Ford gives an amusingly lousy performance as Branch Rickey, he’s basically playing generic crusty old man. And Chadwick Boseman is pretty good, I can totally see him as Marvel’s Black Panther.
- 2 Guns stars Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington and is based on a comic I read but forgot about. There’s a twist that was spoiled in the trailer that could have been interesting, but they didn’t really frame it in the movie to be a big surprise anyway. Paula Patton is in it and has a topless scene, which is pretty nice. But also when clothed she seemed like she had a lot more going on, which is I guess a testament to bra technology. The movie as a whole is just fine for what it is, a buddy action/comedy thing.
- Fruitvale Station is about Oscar Grant, a guy who got shot by police in Oakland in 2008. It pretty much only exists to humanize a guy who I’m sure was thought of as a thug by a lot of people who heard about the shooting. Which is kinda messed up when you think about it, because there was video of the shooting and it was really disturbing. Plot-wise it’s pretty boring, it’s just some guy who’s had a rough couple years trying to go out for New Year’s Eve. Michael B. Jordan is good in it, though.
- Nature Calls is the incredibly generic title for a comedy I’d never heard of starring Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle, and Maura Tierney. Which was enough to make me curious about it. I only made it 20 minutes in, it is horribly unfunny. Maura Tierney still looks good, though, despite being 47 when this was filmed and a cancer survivor. She put some weight back on after that show with Rob Morrow and grew her hair out some.
The Game is a new BBC America miniseries about MI5 in the 70s, cold war spy stuff.
I was slightly confused, since I thought MI5 was for domestic matters and MI6 for foreign. But apparently the distinction is more subtle. MI6 gathers foreign intelligence, while MI5′s primary responsibility is the protection of the UK, its people, and its interests. Which can include foreign intelligence operations. So that just seems like a recipe for jurisdictional disputes.
Unfortunately, I spent a good portion of the beginning of the episode researching this, and this is not the action kind of spy story. It’s the slow, methodical, you don’t know who to trust sort of thing. And those can get quite complicated, and are not the type of thing you should try to follow while reading wikipedia articles about intelligence services.
The main guy sorta looks like Cillian Murphy or Ben Whishaw. He has a potential defector who claims there’s some big Project Glass to do something really bad to the UK that involves activating KGB sleeper agents. He brings this back to MI5 and they set up a committee run by Brian Cox, including the gay probation worker guy from Misfits who is I think just a police detective. There are also flashbacks to the main guy’s previous mission which went pretty badly awry, but is full of mystery. Anyway, in the end, they conclude there might be a mole on the committee, so therein lies the “you don’t know who to trust” part.
I debated for a while but eventually decided not to follow this, even though it’s only a miniseries.
Getting a fancy new cable package along with the new DVR, I suddenly have access to lots of movies I haven’t seen before, many of which I knew would suck, but I was curious about anyway. And I didn’t really have anything else to do on my weekend, so here are some:
- After Earth stars Will and Jaden Smith as people in the distant future who have left Earth to live on some other planet because of monstrous aliens that are only able to detect people by smelling their fear pheremones, and Will Smith is Hal Jordan-like in his fearlessness which lets him be a badass soldier invisible to the enemy, while Jaden wants to be like him but is a total wuss. So they crash land on Earth, Will’s legs are broken or something, so Jaden sets out to save their asses while Will tries to give him Yoda advice on not being such a wuss. I made it 34 minutes in before finding it too boring to continue.
- Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks in the title role and Barkhad Abdi as the scariest looking Somali pirate dude ever in the true-ish story of that cargo ship being captured by pirates. Paul Greengrass is really good at what he does, and it’s a really tense, even though I already knew the outcome. I’m a little confused as to how a failed hijacking attempt could occur one day with Phillips’ ship basically outrunning them, but the same group attacked them again the next day. I guess they were following in a “mother ship” but it seems like they would have been so far behind after the aborted attempt that catching up would have been impossible. But whatever. It sounds like there’s a lot of debate about how accurate the story is, but it’s a pretty exciting movie.
- Epic is a CG animated thing about a girl who gets shrunk down to tiny and has to help a civilization of hummingbird riding tiny people save the forest from evil tiny people who want to… not save the forest, I guess. Evil for evilness’ sake. It actually has a lot going on for a 100 minute movie. Amanda Seyfried as the girl has an arc about discovering that her father isn’t a crackpot who imagined the presence of tiny people in the forest, Josh Hutcherson is the standard movie hero type with lots of potential but he’s a screw-up, Colin Farrel is the soldier who loved the queen (Beyonce) and she died and now he wants revenge or something, there’s a whole thing with bad guy Christoph Waltz’s son dying and now he’s extra mad, and there’s a bunch of comic relief characters, like Chris O’Dowd, Aziz Ansari, and for some reason Steven Tyler. The animation is pretty well done though, so not a bad way to waste 100 minutes.
- The Counselor is that movie where Javier Bardem has crazy hair and Michael Fassbender is a lawyer trying to get into drug trafficking. I think Fassbender’s trying for an American accent? Or something. He sounds weird. It’s a Ridley Scott movie and has a pretty impressive cast, but it’s actually kind of a generic crime movie. Fassbender gets in it for money but has a lady (Penelope Cruz) to worry about, he gets advice from a veteran criminal (Brad Pitt), and there’s weird people (Bardem) and sex (Cameron Diaz). Nothing about it felt particularly interesting or different until near the end when Natalie Dormer is in it for like 2 minutes. They should really do a better job of advertising any time she’s in a movie, because I think I would watch them all. I’m going to avoid looking at her imdb profile or I’ll end up watching a ton of crappy movies.
- Cloud Atlas is that movie where actors play a bunch of different characters in different eras, sometimes with white people putting on makeup to look Asian, which is creepy (Asian Hugo Weaving looks like a Vulcan). Although Halle Berry as Asian and Bae Doona and Zhou Xun as white and hispanic are creepy too. It’s confusing in that there are I think six storylines in different time periods and jumps between them, and that the individual stories aren’t entirely linear, and also that . It took about an hour before they offered even the slightest explanation for the different timelines and re-used actors. Which is about a third of the way into the movie, because it’s really, really long.
- The Lone Ranger was one of my favorite things as a little kid. Mask, white horse, silver bullets, for some reason I ate that shit up. I hate tapes of the radio serials and saw the ’81 movie in theaters (though I have zero recollection of it, since I was 3). But I really couldn’t get excited at all about this version, partly because of Johnny Depp white guy bird-on-head Tonto, partly because Armie Hammer just seems like a douchebag, partly because Ruth Wilson isn’t that hot when she’s not playing a psychopath, partly because I had grown quite tired of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and with Gore Verbinski directing/Bruckheimer producing/Depp starring it seemed like it was going to be more of the same slapstick action adventure. I made it an hour and a half in, thinking it would be over soon, only to discover there was a whole hour to go.
Mike Tyson Mysteries is a new Adult Swim show, where Mike Tyson (Tyson), the ghost of the Marquess of Queensbury (the Dean from Community), a talking pigeon (Norm MacDonald), and Tyson’s daughter who is for some reason an Asian girl (someone I’ve never heard of) drive around in a van and solve mysteries Scooby-Doo style. It’s mildly funny, and only 11 minutes long, so I guess I’ll keep watching.
The Spoils of Babylon is another IFC series, this one a spoof 70s TV miniseries, with a ridiculous cast (Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell, Tim Robbins, Jessica Alba, Haley Joel Osment, Val Kilmer, Michael Sheen, Carey Mulligan, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Toby Huss).
Ferrell, as an old drunk Orson Wells type, introduces each episode of the cut-down version of his 20+ hour miniseries from the 70s that he wrote, directed, produced, and financed on his own, that subsequently no network wanted to air. Tobey Maguire is apparently dying and narrating into a tape recorder his life story as the adopted son of a millionaire (Robbins) who wants to bang his adopted sister (Wiig), and then prime time soap drama happens, what with the money and family and forbidden love and stuff.
It’s peppered with not-very-funny jokes, intentionally bad acting, intentional continuity problems, occasional faux-Shakespearean monologues where normal American people start using overly complicated and sometimes gibberish words, cheap special effects (with visible strings attached to most miniatures), and all that sorta thing.
I found Will Ferrell’s parts funny (which is rare lately), so I watched all 6 episodes. Also there’s a sequence where Tobey Maguire is trying to take down a huge corporation by writing poetry, and they just have Jessica Alba prance around in the background in lingerie (pictured), so that was nice.
Benched is a new USA comedy starring Jo from Scrubs as a fancy corporate lawyer who quits spectacularly and ends up slumming it as a public defender. Better Off Ted‘s Ted, Oscar from The Office, and Maria Bamford (oddly, I only know the name of the least famous of them) are other public defenders.
It’s not great, but it’s entirely watchable. A reasonably interesting cast and legal premises usually make for easy plot generation.
The Birthday Boys is an IFC sketch show whose first season is on Netflix so I thought I’d give it a shot. Bob Odenkirk is an executive producer and shows up pretty frequently. The first episode has a couple parts that elicited a slight grin and “oh that’s a little clever,” but nothing approaching a laugh.
It’s weird to me that they’d have a sketch troupe in 2013 that’s all white guys. There’s 7 of them, all white and approximately the same age. Other than the fat guy, they’re all basically the same. It seems weirdly limiting. In the first episode, they play silicon valley pioneers and a group of young x-treme christians, perfectly appropriate situations for a group of white guys. But you’re basically stuck doing stuff like that.
Snowpiercer is about a train where the last remnants of humanity live during an ice age. Which is a really goofy premise, but you kinda end up buying into it pretty quickly. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, but it’s pretty good.
It’s a whole social commentary sorta thing, where the back of the train is inhabited by the dirty poor, while the front is douchey rich people. And of course the poor people in the back get pissed off and want to take over the train. Chris Evans is the leader of the poor people. Tilda Swinton is great but almost unrecognizable as the front-of-the-train person who disciplines the poor people. John Hurt, Jaime Bell, Ed Harris, and some Korean people I don’t know are also in it.
I never got any idea as to why they’d use a moving train at all. Briefly, I thought the train might go fast enough to chase the sun and stay in daylight all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s a train that runs at more or less regular train speed forever. But if they have an engine that is effectively a perpetual motion machine, it seems like it’d be much easier to turn that into a generator/heater for a stationary fortress than a moving train. But ultimately I think they just liked the train aesthetic and didn’t care that much for whether it made any sense.