Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on January 5, 2018

Some reddit thread says Brawl in Cell Block 99 was on Amazon Prime and really good, so I checked it out. Vince Vaughn plays a guy who they want us to root for who has a bad run of luck and out of desperation takes a gig smuggling drugs, ends up in prison, and then beats the shit out of a lot of people. It spends a lot of time setting up that Vaughn’s character is honorable and the people that fuck with him are not, and then eventually there’s just some brutal violence. I guess if that’s your thing, it could be really good, but I honestly didn’t get much out of it.

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Posted in movies by Bill on January 1, 2018

As usual, saw some movies over Christmas, mostly Oscar-bait:

  • Darkest Hour sees Gary Oldman in another role where he’s totally unrecognizable, this one as Winston Churchill. It really only covers about a month, between him becoming Prime Minister early in the war, and when the Dunkirk thing happened and he wins the support of Parliament for the war effort.
  • Mudbound is a Netflix original about two families: poor white landowners in Mississippi and a black family of sharecroppers on the white family’s land. It’s slow and intentionally somewhat predictable, but pretty decent. Mary J. Blige turns out to be a decent actor, and somewhat thanks to Bojack Horseman, after not paying attention to the credits I spent the whole movie wondering if I was watching Carey Mulligan or Emily Mortimer (it was the former).
  • All the Money in the World is about the J.P. Getty kidnapping, and not knowing anything about it beforehand, it was a really compelling story with an excellent villain. It seems that they may have stretched the truth in quite a few places to make some characters more sympathetic than others. Which is a little bit disappointing, but it did make for a great story. At least based on the finished product, it makes sense that they were able to reshoot the J.P. scenes to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer, because his scenes were generally pretty separate from the rest of the action. Had Marky Mark or Michelle Williams been a secret sexual predator, I don’t think they could have replaced them on short notice.
  • Molly’s Game is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, but more in line with the Social Network’s dark tone than his more happy/jokey TV work. Not to say that it didn’t have some amusing moments, but there wasn’t a ton of the snappy, witty back and forth that I’ve come to associate with Sorkin. It was an interesting enough story (and apparently Tobey Maguire is a real dick), though with kind of a hokey ending. Jessica Chastain’s cleavage was in top form throughout, though.

Posted in movies by Bill on December 26, 2017

Bright is supposedly Netflix’s foray into blockbuster moviemaking, which for some reason they decided to start by reuniting the Suicide Squad director with a lot of the cast of Suicide Squad, and that was not a very good movie. And when the critic embargo was lifted the other day, the response was abysmal. But I figured I’d watch it anyway, because it’s a big budget, speculative fiction thing that’s not a superhero or YA book adaptation or a sequel, and how often does that even happen?

It’s a nice enough high concept, with fantasy races and magic in modern day LA, and Will Smith is trying to deal with having the first Orc officer as his partner, who no one in LAPD likes because Orcs are a metaphor for black people in this (kind of, it never really goes anywhere). There are a lot of little nitpicky things I could complain about, but I guess the bigger problem is that I can’t think of anything complimentary to say about it beyond the concept. The actors are fine and the whole thing is professionally done. But there were no characters I particularly liked, no plot element I was drawn to, no clever dialogue, and I thought they half-assed the world building. It felt like they took stock characters and fantasy tropes and hoped that Will Smith, a modern-day setting, and leaning heavily on the soundtrack (just like Suicide Squad) would make it feel fresh.

Posted in movies by Bill on December 22, 2017

The Big Sick is Kumail Nanjiani’s movie based on the real experience with his future wife’s coma. It’s produced by Judd Apatow and has the usual characteristics of movies he’s involved in. Start with the funny, introduce a love interest, everything’s great, then things go bad and we get serious for a while, and the whole thing is about 15 minutes too long. But like pretty much all the rest of them, ultimately it’s good. Sadly, one great joke that they showed on a talk show was by far the best joke in the whole thing, but it was still good.

Posted in movies by Bill on December 17, 2017

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is another very good entry in the Star Wars canon, this one written and directed by Rian (apparently pronounced like Ryan) Johnson, who did Brick and Looper and directed a few¬†Breaking Bad episodes and one of Terriers (as an aside, I think it’s no coincidence that Disney looked to directors with TV experience to take on the Star Wars saga, since I think though it’s a much bigger undertaking, the job is more closely matched to TV directing… you’re in charge of one episode in a larger story, will be asked to defer to executives if something in your episode would mess up plans for a future installment, and you can’t divert much from the previously established visual style).

The Last Jedi, like its predecessor, drew a lot from previous Star Wars movies, but where I had concerns about The Force Awakens hitting a lot of the notes from A New Hope and almost becoming a remake, The Last Jedi pulls from all over the original trilogy, mixing up story elements, and subverting expectations. Just when you think “oh this is just like that thing from Return of the Jedi” the story takes it in a totally unexpected direction, and it felt as fresh and surprising as the setups felt familiar. Where The Force Awakens was almost a remake, The Last Jedi is almost a remix. Which I find to be a more positive way to approach storytelling in a universe that is so familiar to all of us.

Plus some of the visuals were pretty striking. I rarely remember hearing a theater more quiet than in one scene, and the final battle is in an inspired location for things to just look really cool.

There were a couple points at which I was seriously worried about the direction of the movie, but in both cases it was to set up surprise when the story went a different away. Spoiler-based thoughts to follow:

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Posted in movies by Bill on November 27, 2017

I had seen the original film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express as a kid, but I didn’t remember anything except who did it. So seeing the remake, I still found it interesting seeing the why and the how play out, even if I already knew the who.

I had my mother in town, and she is punctual and hates having her time wasted, so after sitting through 15 minutes of previews for Three Billboards, she insisted we arrive at the theater 10 minutes after the listed showtime. And I also had my Aunt in town, and she is not at all punctual and doesn’t care about being late for things. Or about strolling into the concession line when we’re already pressed for time, and asking me for help carrying her stuff so I got stuck in line too, and ordering the stupidest crap that takes a long time to prepare. So I missed the first few minutes, which had me in a sour mood.

But anyway, the movie was pretty solid. I’d say it’d be very good if you didn’t already know who did it. An all-star cast, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, one of the Hamilton guys I think, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, and whoever the hell Lucy Boynton is but she’s cute. Kenneth Branagh really goes all out on the Poirot thing, with an elaborate mustache and kinda hamming it up in an entertaining way.

Posted in movies by Bill on November 25, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the latest film from Martin McDonagh, who previously did In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. This one stars Frances McDormand as a mother whose daughter died in a horrific crime who takes out billboards to question why the local police haven’t solved the crime, Woody Harrelson as the sheriff and target of her ire, and Sam Rockwell as an idiot cop in Harrelson’s department. It’s very, very good. The story goes to some interesting places, the main cast is excellent (and probably Sam Rockwell’s best performance in a career full of performances I’ve liked a lot), and despite being a lot more serious than McDonagh’s other work, it’s still darkly funny throughout.

Posted in movies by Bill on November 23, 2017

Justice League is better than Batman v Superman, but not by enough to get anyone excited about the DC movie universe. Steppenwolf is a garbage villain, who they chose over dozens of villains that ordinary people might actually have heard of and hundreds that I’d heard of. He wants to destroy the earth, for no real reason other than that him wanting to destroy the earth gives the heroes something to stop. He also is all CGI and fairly goofy looking, when they probably could have done a person in makeup and have it look less weird.

The heroes themselves are mostly fine, though Cyborg’s voice is weird (it sounds like he’s recorded after the fact, while the other characters are actually speaking while being filmed), Flash’s jokes are often forced, Batman drinks too much, Henry Cavill’s CG mustache-erasure looked weird, and the Whedon jokes are nice but feel out of place given that these are the same people who were all humorless in Batman v Superman (amusingly the imdb trivia is all “Whedon is writing in the style of Zack Snyder’s other movies so nobody will notice the difference” which 100% not true). But Wonder Woman is still a solid character, the Flash/Cyborg friendship did ok, and the Affleck/Jeremy Irons Batman/Alfred dynamic still works.

Posted in movies by Bill on November 19, 2017

Get Out is really good. I’m not a horror person, but it works just as well as a cringe comedy turned suspense movie with racial commentary, and Alison Williams is, somewhat to my surprise, incredibly good in it (although LilRel Howery actually steals the show as the comic relief character). Bradley Whitford early on is the perfect personification of every bad instinct you can have as a white person to try to let a person of color know you’re “one of the good ones.”

Posted in movies by Bill on November 15, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie includes some quality jokes about Batman’s history on screen and the presence of some actually obscure Batman villains^1, but while it was on the whole enjoyable, there was something underwhelming about it. Perhaps the predictable story, or that the protagonist is a parody of himself so trying to give him emotional resonance doesn’t really work, or maybe just because Catwoman gets reduced to a cat-themed villain that talks like Henrietta Pussycat from Mr. Rogers. Entirely worth watching, but kind of a let down after the much smarter Lego Movie.

 

1. Orca is perhaps the dumbest villain in Batman history, as it has neither the excuse of being from a time when the comics were campy (Kite Man), nor that it’s intentionally dumb (Condiment King)… Orca’s just a whale woman from the 1990s, and I never expected her to be in a movie ever.