Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on May 2, 2021

tenetTenet is Christopher Nolan’s scifi espionage movie that’s finally on the HBO Max, and… it’s pretty disappointing. It wasn’t a waste of time, just because of the high production values, a few moments that worked, and the kind of scifi that gets my imagination working, but the mechanics of what they were doing felt like obstacles to storytelling. 

Like Inception, huge portions of the movie are dedicated just to explaining the concept and making sure we understand it. But unlike Inception, the there’s not that much of a payoff for the understanding. The audience gets a few “eureka” moments getting to piece together events we didn’t understand initially, but even the fancy visuals are just things going backwards, and that’s nothing new.

I’d heard the sound mix wasn’t great, and that was definitely the case. I needed subtitles. Supposedly Nolan mixes the sound with top-of-the-line theater sound systems in mind, which I think is the same argument the Game of Thrones people made with why that one episode wasn’t too dark. If people can’t see shit on the TVs they have, and if people can’t hear shit on the audio systems they have, then you have made a TV show that looks like shit and a movie that sounds like shit.

Posted in movies by Bill on May 1, 2021

mitchels-vs-machinesThe Mitchells vs. The Machines is Netflix’s new computer animated family adventure comedy sci-fi action road trip movie about a girl’s awkward relationship with her father and about robots turning evil and taking over the world. I think it would have been better if it was a touch shorter. The animation style is pretty hyper and starts to get old after a while. But it was still pretty good. It’s from some Gravity Falls writers, so… about what you’d expect from that.

Posted in movies by Bill on May 1, 2021

withoutremorseWithout Remorse is Amazon’s original movie based on a Tom Clancy book starring Michael B. Jordan. It’s no surprise that it’s violent, but since it takes serious interest in people’s motivations and the idea of right and wrong, it surprised me that it seemed to make a hero out of its protagonist who came off reckless to me. Supposedly there was a sequel movie planned from the start, but after this I don’t know if I’ll be watching it.

Michael B. Jordan is good in it, but there are some odd casting choices. A couple of not-insignificant actors just immediately die, and they hired an oddball comedy actor to play a villain.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 26, 2021

stowawayStowaway is Netflix’s movie about a mission to Mars with an unexpected extra passenger, and the challenges they run into as a result. Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, Anna Kendrick, and a Canadian guy who’s been on a ton of sci fi shows but didn’t make enough of an impression for me to remember.

It might have been better suited as like an anthology episode. I’m not sure the story merits just shy of two hours, but it’s pretty decent.

It reminded me a bit of Away, the Hillary Swank series that got axed after a season, but without the back home aspect. I am kind of a sucker for the ship environment as a setting for drama. Extremely competent people trapped in a claustrophobic space where small problems can easily turn catastrophic? Good stuff.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 18, 2021

Nobody applies the John Wick formula to Bob Odenkirk as a seemingly dull suburban husband and father, resulting in a perfectly entertaining movie that nonetheless fails to capture the magic of John Wick. It doesn’t feel unfair to make the comparison, since it’s written by John Wick‘s writer and has such a similar concept. 

Odenkirk is joined by Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, and an old-looking Michael Ironside that makes for a pretty good cast. The soundtrack is a nice selection of familiar but not too familiar (more chase scenes should have Pat Benatar songs). 

I liked the movie, but it lacked the mythology that left me wanting to know more about the world of John Wick. I’m not particularly interested in a Nobody 2

Posted in movies by Bill on March 8, 2021

Coming 2 America is Amazon’s sequel to Coming to America with Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, and the guy from Superior Donuts, that perfectly captures the spirit of making a sequel 30 years later for no real reason other than nostalgia. Basically everyone who’s still alive from the first one appears, even if it’s for no good reason. There’s a bunch of cameos, callbacks, way too many dance numbers, and by about 1/3 of the way in it’s incredibly clear exactly how the plot will go.

It was directed by the director of Hustle and Flow and Dolemite Is My Name, which made sense to get a prominent black director to helm this movie with an almost entirely Black cast… except it turns out Hustle and Flow and Dolemite Is My Name were directed by a white guy, which is quite surprising to me.

Posted in movies, tv by Bill on December 27, 2020

Media over Christmas.

  • Collateral is a British miniseries with Carey Mulligan, the guy from Life on Mars, and Billie Piper, about a murder investigation, but not so much a mystery as it is murder as a backdrop for social commentary on British xenophobia after Brexit. It’s better than it sounds, although not great. Also, I’m not sure I knew Carey Mulligan was British?
  • Mank is about the writer of Citizen Kane, his time with William Randolph Hearst, and his collaboration with Orson Welles. Gary Oldman’s good as usual, and it’s hard to believe it was a Trent Reznor score since it was jazzy, period-appropriate stuff, but I guess at this point he does all of David Fincher’s movies. Pretty good, but I think I didn’t know enough about Hearst or the politics of the day (Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California?) to appreciate all of it.
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as the blues legend, and has Chadwick Boseman’s last performance. There’s a reasonable chance he gets a posthumous oscar, what with his death and the subject matter and it’s a meaty part and he’s good in it. I dug the music, but the story itself kind of dragged in places. I do find it weird that a bunch of Netflix people are presumably making money off of this, since white exploitation of Black entertainers is a theme. But hopefully the Black people involved in the production had better deals than Black musicians 100 years ago.
  • The Theory of Everything is that Stephen Hawking movie from a few years back. I knew most of the general stuff of the story, and it’s presented here in a manipulative heartstring-pulling way, but the performances were good (Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for it, but I thought Felicity Jones carried it… pretending to have ALS is, predictably, more of an Oscar-winning move). Decent overall.
  • Wonder Woman 1984 is too long, a little light on action, kind of corny, and thematically messy, and by fast forwarding many decades from the first one, pretty much the entire cast of the first movie is dead, which makes it weird from a franchise point of view. Not that they necessarily should have set it in the 1920s, but it seems like doing sequels, you’d want to build a cast of familiar faces… and by skipping only to 1984, they’ve now introduced characters who will be in their ~70s in the “present” of the DC movie universe, which will probably mean a further absence of familiar faces. But it was also kind of ok. Not great, but DC has done much worse.
  • Death to 2020 is Charlie Brooker’s (Black Mirror) year in review thing, basically exactly what he’s done in Brtain with annual Wipe specials (many of which can be found on YouTube… here’s 2016), except with bigger celebrities and instead of Brooker narrating from a desk, Laurence Fishburne narrates. And they get the same lady, but probably for legal reasons can’t name her Philomena Cunk, which is one of my favorite silly made-up names ever, so it’s tragic to not have it appearing on the screen. It was funny, Hugh Grant and Cristin Milioti especially (and Leslie Jones, who I’m not normally a fan of, being funnier than I ever remember her being), but I guess given the hype they tried to build around it, it was strange to have it end up being the same thing Charlie Brooker does every year.
  • The Midnight Sky is a George Clooney sci-fi thing set after a catastrophe on Earth and attempts to reach a space mission to warn them before they return. It’s in the slow, thoughtful, space sci-fi vicinity of Ad Astra or Sunshine. It’s not very good, although there is one great visual after a space sequence that will probably stick with me for a long time.

Posted in movies by Bill on October 16, 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a new Netflix movie from Aaron Sorkin and an all-star cast. I assume people who like Sorkin will love it, and people who don’t won’t. 

The intro sequence is Sorkin at his best, packing exposition, character introductions, and jokes into a sequence that somehow makes some liberals planning a protest seem like the most exciting thing ever. The rest isn’t as good, but remains predictably Sorkin-y. Pithy rejoinders and impassioned speeches about liberal values. And it works on me, but it’s never as good when I’m aware that I’m being played like a fiddle. 

I knew little about the real story, so it was informative too. Although I found the text at the end saying what happened to everyone to be pretty depressing. 

Posted in movies by Bill on August 9, 2020

An American Pickle is the new HBO Max movie written by Simon Rich (Miracle Workers, Man Seeking Woman) about a 1920 Jewish immigrant with a very difficult life Encino Man-ing to the present to meet his descendant with a comparably easy life, both played by Seth Rogen.

I’d looked to see if it was supposed to be any good, and saw that the critics were pretty fond of it, but the audience was not, and I guessed that meant it either had progressive politics or was unexpectedly serious. It was kinda both. But fairly good. A few jokes that really worked, a lot that were kind of amusing, and some interesting ideas about family legacy and being the descendant of immigrants and I think the modern American Jew.

Posted in movies by Bill on August 7, 2020

Radioactive is Amazon’s movie about Marie and Pierre Curie with Rosamund Pike. It’s… kinda bad actually. They manage to boil it down to the things about Curie’s life that I already knew, skipping over her childhood and education and just about anything about her life that didn’t have to do with radioactivity or Pierre. And it wasn’t all that interesting along the way. By the halfway point, I was wishing they’d gone with the Simpsons version.