Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I watched some movies

by tryanmax

Andrew is right; the movies that have come out lately are largely blah. They’re not good enough to rave about, but they’re not bad enough to criticize. That said, I do have a few thoughts on some movies I’ve seen recently, just not enough to warrant an entire article on any one. Here we go:

The Butler (2013)

I liked this movie better when it was called Forest Gump. This is your typical nostalgia piece, rolling through the decades over the shoulder of a simple protagonist who had the smarts to go with the zeitgeist while everyone else was fighting it. Things to look for: cameos by big name actors doing pitiful impersonations of former presidents; Oprah reprises her role as Oprah.

Fant4stic Bore (2015)

This snooze fest handily steals the title of Worst Superhero Movie Ever from Catwoman. The Halle Berry vehicle merely squatted over the source material before kicking sand over it. Upping the ante, Fantastic Four forgoes even telling a story and has no characters in it. Oh sure, there are actors doing stuff and calling each other names that aren’t theirs, but who are these people? What do they want? What do they care about? Why does a black man have a black son but a white daughter? None of these things are addressed even as ugly John Cusack, the slut from House of Cards, the other Michael Jordan, and grownup Billy Elliot cross the streams and turn into X-Men—or something like that.
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Lest you think I just plan to rag on every movie, this one is really cute and I recommend it. There’s just not a lot to say as it is essentially a feature-length cartoon in the spirit of Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety. I loved the score so much, I bought the soundtrack on my phone before I even left the theater. Buying soundtracks is not a typical move for me.

Ex Machina (2015) / Terminator Genisys (2015) / Transcendence (2014)

A.I. is bad and it will kill you.

Actually, I enjoyed the Terminator sequel for what it was. Actually, maybe this is a reboot. With the messed up continuity of the Terminator franchise, who can tell? An interesting tidbit: the producers of Genisys didn’t have rights to reuse footage from the 1984 film, so they copied some of the original scenes.

Mortdecai (2015)

Oh, look! It’s Capt. Jack Sparrow! Again… Seriously, the only thing more tired than Depp’s drunken sailor routine are his claims that somehow each of the characters is based on something different.
We’re the Millers (2013) vs. Vacation (2015)

While neither of these movies warrants a full review, they do deserve a quick comparison. Obviously, Vacation is the official successor to the Chevy Chase franchise, with Ed Helms playing a grownup Rusty Griswold trying to relive his childhood road trip to Wally World. It tries, vainly, to replicate gags from its parent, but it is held back by PC sensibilities, overt partisanship, crude bathroom humor, and zero chemistry between the cast. Worse, a joint cameo by Chase and Beverly D'Angelo only kills what little momentum the movie has.

Conversely, the Millers feel much more like spiritual successors to the Griswolds. Jason Sudeikis plays a low-level weed dealer who, to get out of a bind, agrees to smuggle a “smidge” of marijuana into the US from Mexico. As cover, he recruits a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a couple of teen delinquents to form a fake All-American family on an RV roadtrip. Everything about this film is better: it’s funnier, it’s fresher, it’s edgier, it’s not driving any agenda, and most importantly, there’s excellent chemistry among the actors.
Jurassic World (2015)

If you like nostalgia, dinosaurs, and Chris Pratt—and I know I do—you’re sure to like this movie, because it has those things. Is this the best Jurassic Park movie yet? Not on your life. But it is an enjoyable time waster. I really like the direction they went with the backstory: Jurassic Park has become a commercial success to the point where both park management and visitors have gotten blasé about giant carnivores and safety protocols. That’s not so good. They don’t go too deep in the weeds about it, though, which is fine. Because what we really want to see are big dinos and Chris Pratt.

Well, those are some movies I’ve seen lately. There were others, but they were so unremarkable that I didn’t. In other viewing, if you haven’t watched Netflix’s Stranger Things, you should. And what’s wrong with you? Haven’t you heard everybody raving about it!?

Have you seen any movies lately that did nothing more than bring you 110 minutes closer to death? Feel free to drop a one, two, or three sentence review of a movie you don’t recommend.


AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, tryanmax!

One of the problems I've had lately, besides a total lack of time, is that when I do finally sit down to watch a movie, the movies fall into the category... to bad to recommend/review yet not interestingly bad enough to say anything about.

Basically, films have become Corn Flakes... not good, not bad, not interesting.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, as with corn flakes, the key to making movies more interesting is to add bananas. Not literally. Or maybe literally. I'd pay to watch Olivia Wilde eat a banana.

shawn said...

Movie recommendation: "What we do in the shadows". A vampire "documentary" from New Zealand. And by "documentary", I mean that in the sense of "This is Spinal Tap".

tryanmax said...

Shawn, I've heard of that, including the Spinal Tap comparison. It's on my radar, just need to locate and watch it. Thanks!

ScottDS said...

The Butler just reeked of total Oscar bait… and that’s coming from me, the guy who tries to give Hollywood the benefit of the doubt around these parts!!

Fant4stic - you need to read up on this film’s problems. It’s kinda crazy and that’s why the final film fails. And he’s not ugly John Cusack, he’s Rachel Maddow’s twin. :-)

Mordecai - I honestly don’t know how to describe this film. It’s not particularly good - it’s not suave and sophisticated enough to be a good Hitchcock-type comedy thriller, but it’s not dumb enough to simply be a dumb disposable comedy. It’s weird… it just sits there!

We’re the Millers - this wasn’t nearly as funny as the critics suggested (though Jennifer Aniston is aging quite well I must say!). It was dumb and forgettable and I could’ve done without the shot of the kid’s swollen genitals which I felt was almost mean-spirited. But this is Citizen Kane compared to…

Vacation - what a piece of shit!!!! But I could tell that from the trailer. Ed Helms plays the same character he always plays and is in no way Rusty from the other movies. A shame since this was done by the same guys who wrote Horrible Bosses which was surprisingly funny. Profanity and shock humor for the sake of it (and y’all know I’m no prude) and the younger son I just wanted to strangle.

Jurassic World - I liked it. It’s not the first one, but when the T-rex showed up, I had a grin ear to ear!

Transcendence - I reviewed this one. It’s bland and boring and from what I read, the original script was much more exciting and action-packed.

Terminator: Genisys - Arnold’s the best thing in it, but the rest is been there, done that. Too much technobabble with the time travel and they were so obviously setting up future installments which may not happen after all.

Ex Machina - a pleasant surprise! And you have no idea how happy I am that this won the Best Visual Effects Oscar over Star Wars. Every shot looks perfect and for a fraction of the usual cost!

tryanmax said...

Scott, excellent takes!

I stand corrected regarding Rachel Maddow's twin. I have read about Fant4stic's woes, so it makes sense that it turned out awful. It's the epitome of going through the motions.

RE: Mortdecai: Right!?

Don't forget, European Vacation is part of the Vacation legacy. That's how I justify saying the Millers fit that legacy.

It had slipped my mind that you had reviewed Transcendence. It was very dull. At least Capt. Jack didn't make an appearance.

I didn't have anything bad to say about Ex Machina, which is why I didn't. Although, I pretty nearly guessed the outcome about a quarter in, which dulled the experience.

AndrewPrice said...

Slightly off topic..

Ghostbusters is now headed for a $70 million loss. They were actually projecting a profit as early as one week before the film was released.

So a Son rep said this:

"We're very proud of the bold movie Paul Feig made, which critics and audiences loved. It has enlivened a 30-year-old brand and put it into the modern zeitgeist. As a result, we have many ideas in the works to further exploit the Ghostbusters universe."

Uh, the film lost $70 million, meaning it was rejected by audience. And it failed, it did not "enlivened a 30-year-old brand." It essentially killed the brand.

Isn't it amazing corporate America can sleep at night?

Jason said...

The ending of Terminator Genisys was weird, because it's the only truly happy ending of any Terminator movie I've seen (though I haven't seen Salvation). All the others had some element of tragedy by the time the credits rolled.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, that seems like typical corporate spin. What they're glossing over is the fact that any live action sequels have been nixed in favor of kids' cartoons--presumably direct-to-streaming--and Feig whining that he'll never touch a reboot again. Good riddance!

tryanmax said...

Jason, good point. Seems a little indicative that they might not do another. Or maybe they had a dark ending that didn't screen well. Who knows?

PikeBishop said...

I am kind of like Andrew in his take above, I am so over CGI, Superheroes, comedies that rely on fart jokes (and that includes Judd Apatow movies where two actor ad lib for ten minutes about farts), recycled TV shows, anything with a Roman numeral in it or most chick flicks, so yeah, as you guessed it, I don't see many movies any more. Recently we had a free weekend of HBO and I made a point to check out some other types of films. Probably the best was a little indy film called "My Blueberry Nights" from 2007 or so. It featured the first acting performance of singer Norah Jones, and it was a very pleasant surprise. Miss Jones, not unlike a lot of singers before her, can actually act. She gives a very nice and nuanced performance in a movie in which her framing story, boyfriend breaks up with her so she starts hanging out late night in a New York eatery and sampling the pie, leads to an episodic cross country tale. Nice supporting turns by Jude Law and Natalie Portman add to the fun.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any of these except Jurassic World, and I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Sometimes, you just want to sit back, relax, and watch giant monsters fight each other. Pacific Rim falls into that category.

Andrew Klavan lamented on his podcast this week that the art of movies (like all art as time goes by) is in decline. I agree. As culture degrades, storytelling is a casualty. What good is a moral to a story if there is no morality in civilization?

Eh, that's too deep. Which is why I tune out & enjoy a good-enough popcorn flick when I can.

tryanmax said...

Pike, that sounds intriguing. I'll put any eye out for it. Thanks!

tryanmax said...

Anon, Klavan is a tad hyperbolic. I don't think the issue is as much a culture in decline as it is an art form in plateau. Movies have been completely commercialized and risk averse. Morality might turn someone off, so it's best to steer clear. Everybody farts, tho'. The culture responds by giving the industry fewer and fewer dollars.

I'm not sure what art form steps up next. Serial dramas seem to be doing the job of tackling harder, more nuanced storytelling. You can do that when people are willing to invest 10 - 20 hours in a narrative.

djskit said...

Ex Machina - Sci-Fi film noir. Was watching "Double Indemnity" for the umpteenth time when it hit me.

tryanmax said...

djskit, it was very noir. The mood is the best aspect of that movie.

Anonymous said...

As far as morality goes, I think most people don't like being preached at or lectured to. OTOH, I can't bring myself to pay for "entertainment" that undermines my values. The more common the value a story enforces, the more popular it may be.

I like the turn TV has taken towards more serialized stories. With the advent of VCRs (and now DVRs, streaming, boxed sets, etc.), the necessity for self-contained stories lessened. Movies, I don't care for serialization/series as much. Ones based on books, usually OK, although the individual movies may vary. I find the MCU to be more of a positive exception. We'll see how well the art form adapts.

Right now theaters are tweaking the experience aspect with premium bells & whistles because the art form is suffering. Not making a difference in drawing me in. But I'm an introvert and a cheapskate.

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