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Watch any good movies lately?

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  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited August 2017
    Another mishmash.
    Brave (2012) is good Pixar, and I'm happy to have finally seen it. I wouldn't call it great Pixar though. The attention to detail is typically nice, and all the Scottish accents among the vocal performances are pleasant to hear. It still felt a little draggy in spots though, and considering without credits it comes in at about 85 minutes that's a problem. Effective at the conclusion though.
    Swiss Army Man (2016) is like nothing else out there. That doesn't mean it's actually effective, but I can't claim to have seen any of it before. Any movie that begins with Paul Dano stranded on an island about to kill himself because he's really bored, and is able to get off the island because Daniel Radcliffe's corpse appears on the beach and is possessed of such intense flatulence that it propels a man to the mainland, is not like anything else. Radcliffe eventually starts not being so dead, and talks quite a bit. He also has more amazing tricks in addition to the flatulence, such as gushing water like a fire hydrant and possessing a genuine kung fu grip that smacks things in front of his karate chop action. I just wish I had actually cared what was going on. Since I lost interest several times in the middle of what are supposed to be fascinating conversations, I can't claim it's a success.
    The Alamo (1960) is one of two movies John Wayne officially directed. Would that it had been better. Wayne as Davy Crockett is fine with me, and I didn't really have a problem with Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie. Laurence Harvey as a Texan colonel, though? That's some baffling casting. Worse is that, even cut down from 3 hours as the version I saw is, it was still too long. Lots of speechifying and pontificating await. Wayne gets a good moment that feels like the actor instead of the character, but as Crockett he just gets to be kind of dull. The final assault by Santa Anna's troops is pretty good though (anyone who doesn't know what happened at the Alamo is going to be shocked, positively shocked) except it's about 10 minutes of a 150 minute title.
    The General (1927) is a blast from beginning to end. That's generally been my experience with Buster Keaton of course, and this one just cements what a death-defying guy he was. In addition to doing all of his own stunts on a moving train with no safety measures, of course, it's a comedy. The most important measure of a comedy's success is whether you're laughing, and I definitely did as the movie continued.
    Aftermath (2017) shows how low Arnold Schwarzenegger's stature has become, as it's a direct-to-video title. I hadn't heard of it at all until spotting it in a store recently, and I took a chance. What I got was a solemn but effective movie in which Arnold is a happy husband and father who has to deal with being told that his wife and pregnant daughter were on a plane that crashed. We also spend time with the man who was in the air traffic control office the night of that flight, in which two planes managed to collide in midair. Arnold does a surprisingly good job of conveying a grief-stricken man, and while this isn't a happy movie, I'm glad to have seen it.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Bug (2006) is a strange creature, I'll give it that with no qualms. Scripted by the same man who wrote the stage play, and directed by William Friedkin, it also doesn't feel like a filmed play. Things move around and the actors don't just stand there intoning lines as if in front of a live audience.
    Having said these things, the setup is much stronger than the conclusion for me. The setup involves fairly well-realized human beings, while by the end the characters have ceased to be interesting. They're certainly more intense and unpleasant, but any hint of restraint is gone and we're just watching a couple of people with severe mental illness go deeper into madness. Which probably sounds more interesting than it is, unfortunately.
    The setup is that Abbie (Ashley Judd) meets Peter (Michael Shannon), and they have some interesting conversations before bonding a bit. Abbie's got some serious mental baggage though, and Peter has his own issues that start coming to the fore. Schizophrenia is the issue, and soon enough Peter is convinced that bugs are infesting him. Not his clothes, not his abode, but his body. Abbie is initially a bit doubtful but buys into it before long. Soon enough both have plentiful self-inflicted wounds from trying to get the egg sacks out underneath their skin, and Peter is convinced that one being buried under a filling in his tooth results in an episode of self-administered dentistry that isn't pleasant to behold.
    Friedkin does a fine job of making this more and more claustrophobic, but it's the downgrade in writing that left me not terribly interested by the end. Where we started with interesting characterizations, we ended with deranged madness, and it just wasn't as compelling as it should have been.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Ah, Commando (1985). It takes place in a universe no one can possibly construe as reality. Which is probably why it's so much fun. It's one of the purest Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles out there. Sure it's full of violence, especially in the climax when John Matrix is able to take out at least a hundred anonymous soldiers because they're so damn stupid he might as well be in a shooting gallery. Really, what people remember are his quips more than anything.
    "I eat green berets for breakfast! And right now I'm very hungry."

    Also features Rae Dawn Chong innately knowing how to use a rocket launcher against a police van, while somehow not being thrown completely out of her car by the recoil. Not reality, nope. Fun it most assuredly is.
    Then there's Death Sentence (2007). I must admit to being fairly entertained by it, even though the tone veers wildly all over the place and whatever it was trying to accomplish is lost in the mix.
    First up, James Wan directed this. Traces of his early, gimmick-laden camera movements are all over the place, especially in a parking garage encounter with a whole lot of spinning 360-degree shots that are kind of distracting.
    Second up, Kevin Bacon does a fine job in the lead. He's always been a good actor, and here he does the best he can to balance a character that veers from a tearful apology to a son in a coma straight to arming himself for a killing spree. Not realistic in the slightest, but he does the best he can. Kelly Preston does fine as his wife, but really doesn't get enough to do. Then there's John Goodman, who doesn't really fit with the rest of the cast at all but is weirdly compelling when he does appear.
    This is a revenge movie, based on a sequel book by the author of Death Wish that had never been adapted before. When it was adapted this time, a whole lot was changed. It's still vengeance-based though, with Bacon (as Nicholas Hume) reneging on testimony before the court in order to get the guy who killed his son released, so that he can kill him. This puts him into conflict with the gang to which his son's killer was just initiated, and things get ugly.
    Despite the whiplash-inducing tonal shifts, I must concede that I was invested most of the time. The soundtrack deserves special demerits for being stupid and inappropriate though. Using a Sarah McLachlan song to convey sadness is desperate, and it happens twice. This isn't a good movie but I didn't hate it as much as many seem to.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Shin Godzilla (2016) is like no other Godzilla movie ever made. I'm certainly glad to have seen it, but never did I expect so much dialogue. This is, in a way, like an Aaron Sorkin-written show with the amount of conversation happening. Even though I read fast, trying to cope with the dialogue AND the name/title/location of characters and events popping up on the top of the screen was too much at times. Since all the credits are in Kanji and I didn't feel like trying to count the number of names, it's hard to confirm, but there are reputedly over 300 credited speaking roles in this. I believe it.

    Never mind though, it's a Godzilla movie, right? Well, again, this isn't like any other Godzilla movie ever made. That shot is from when the big guy first appears on land, and looks like... a fat, google-eyed Chinese parade float? Well, I can't say I've seen that before.
    In addition to the volume of dialogue and characters, what's striking is the attempt at realism here. Japanese government workers attempt to follow the proper channels in taking responsibility for the horrible mess that's taking place, and actually have talks with the prime minister about the idea of the Self-Defense Forces fighting back on Japanese soil against this creature. Resolving all of that takes a LONG time, though of course when shots are fired they have the usual negligible effect. There's also concern about trying to evacuate civilians from the affected areas, and the UN is brought into the proceedings.
    This is also a first, in that it's the first Japanese Godzilla movie to not reference the original movie since the original movie back in 1954. This is a new creature, one that's actually named by the Americans and has its name translated to Gojira.
    Speaking of Americans, there's a character who's apparently an American citizen and harbors hopes of becoming the US President. Crushing her dream is too easy though, because when she speaks English it's with a thick accent. Serious Presidential candidates don't have that issue.
    Those hoping for monster-on-monster action will be disappointed. Godzilla is certainly here, but he's not really the star of his own movie. He does deploy some moves we've never seen from the Big G before, and it's nifty to see beams shoot from his back and tail that take down anything coming out of the sky.
    Then there's some contemporary resonance. Particularly in the early going, where several times public pronouncements from officials are promptly countered by the evidence showing something different, we get a sense of displeasure with the official word. This comes from March 2011 and the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor meltdown. I don't recognize the full ramifications but they're definitely present.
    Whether this succeeds is partly dependent on your own ability to keep up with rapid subtitle deployment, but it tries and achieves something completely distinct in the Godzilla filmography. Go in knowing that it will not be the standard Kaiju formula, and it may just be a worthwhile viewing.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Street Trash (1987) gets points for originality. It also succeeded in making me feel disgusted, not an easy thing to do. So for a certain audience of people who want disgusting humor, this deserves to be known. I did laugh some of the time, but was just repelled at other times.
    Most of the characters are homeless people in an unnamed American city. This is a gutsy movie that dares to make pretty much every character an unlikable louse. We get a Vietnam veteran named Bronson who runs a homeless encampment in an auto junkyard, the gigantic owner of the junkyard who likes to harass the woman who works there, multiple homeless people who want nothing more than to get drunk, a policeman who's not very good at his job, a higher-up in some kind of mob, and multiple people who have one scene and are forgotten.
    The 'plot' (it goes away in the middle only to come back near the conclusion) revolves around an alcohol shop owner discovering some 60-year-old Venom liquor in his basement storage, and letting it out among whoever wants to pay a dollar a bottle. Funny thing, when it's consumed the result is rather like having powerful acid suddenly flood through one's arteries. Goo effects galore come from this, with lots of vivid yellow, blue and purple liquids flooding out of the victims. The gore is well-done, I won't deny. These practical effects have aged rather well.
    Other scenes are less appealing. I can see how it might be funny to have a woman so drunk that she doesn't notice she's no longer with her boyfriend having sex with some guy in a homeless encampment while multiple other men watch with glee. It's somehow less funny for the watchers to then drag her off, and the next time she's seen is as a corpse on the riverbank. Which the junkyard owner spies and engages in necrophilia with. Wow.
    Or the scene in which a man's penis is cut off and tossed around between people having a fun game of catch! So heartwarming.
    I can't help but sense a current of maliciousness in a scene where a homeless man enters a supermarket and stuffs multiple items down his pants, including a raw chicken. He then enters into a heated argument with the MOD regarding whether he'll pay for the items, before exiting and spitefully knocking several displays over on the way out. This may mean something, but it's hard to tell what...
    This isn't something I'll be forgetting, but neither is it one I want to revisit.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Drive Angry (2011) is over the top and ludicrous. It's also a lot of fun if you're prepared for that.
    Our setup is that Nicholas Cage plays John Milton, who escaped from Hell itself to go after a cult that's going to sacrifice his granddaughter. Amber Heard is a waitress he runs into, and despite being able to take care of herself initially when her boyfriend starts getting abusive Cage is there to help out, then they become a duo. Billy Burke does an excellent job of erasing all memories of Twilight as the cult leader, and William Fichtner is awesome as The Accountant. Balancing Hell's books must be a tough job, but apparently he's got time to chase after Cage and deal with the messes he makes.
    Of course, if this stuff is thought about closely it completely falls apart. This is one heck of a fun ride though. Want to see a truck somehow loaded with hydrogen crash into a police blockade and explode (of COURSE it explodes, why else would it be filled with hydrogen?) - well this is your movie. Want to see Nicholas Cage utter "I never disrobe before gun play" before getting into a shooting war with cult members while a naked woman who was having sex with him is on top? That's the most ludicrous scene, but it gels with the tone of the rest of the movie. William Fichtner responding to two cult members proclaiming that they're going to live forever with "If by forever, you mean the next five seconds, then you're right" is pretty nifty too.
    Not sophisticated. Rather fun though, and doesn't outwear its welcome.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • paulhar1s50npaulhar1s50n HongkongFull Members
    Haven't watched any new movie which is actually good. I noticed that movies coming out these days are not that good or boring. Those days are gone where movies are actually worth watching in the cinema. Anyhow, these are the movies that I really like because the story line is really good.
    1. Clock Work Orange
    2. Machinist
    3. se7ven
    4. American History X
    5. Interview with the vampire
    6. American Psycho
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Whether movies are still worth seeing in the cinema is a personal judgment. I go there frequently because the experience is distinct from watching something at home. Plenty of lousy movies have always been released no matter when you look in cinematic history, and plenty more will be released in the future.
    Wind River (2017) is something worth seeing, for instance. It's directed and written by Taylor Sheridan, who previously wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also worth seeing. Wind River is not a happy movie, nor is it easy to craft one in this setting. It's extremely effective though. There's a thriller/mystery element to be sure, but more than anything it's a character study.
    What sets things into motion is Jeremy Renner, who works as a fish & wildlife employee in eastern Wyoming. While killing wolves that have been feeding on local livestock, he finds a young woman dead in the snow. She ran a long way barefoot in that snow, and whatever put her there seems to have been something homicidal. The death is enough to summon an FBI agent, played by Elizabeth Olsen. She arrives fresh from Las Vegas, the closest agent to the scene. Naturally she's not dressed or equipped for snowy Wyoming weather. It's not that she's incompetent or even a bad agent, simply unprepared. Employing Renner's character to give her vital assistance in navigating the land and people is critical for her being able to do the job, especially when the coroner has no choice but to pronounce the direct cause of death weather exposure. Certainly this woman didn't run through the snow barefoot without a compelling reason, and the evidence indicates she was raped, but without the direct cause of death being a homicide additional FBI agents won't be coming.
    Also, the young woman is/was a Native American, which wrinkles matters further because reservations have their own laws.
    There's some action in the movie, and some ugly gunplay. More than anything it's a thorough capture of this particular area and its lifestyle though. I liked that. Pretty much everyone in the movie is an adult who thinks like an adult, which I also liked. This is a grim tale in a place I wouldn't want to visit under these conditions, but I'm glad to have seen it. Renner is the lead more than anyone, and he acquits himself very well. Olsen does fine work too, but hers isn't as showy a role.
    No, it isn't setting the box office on fire. This is a tale requiring patience and the ability to get involved rather than needing explosions every five seconds. It deserves to be seen though.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Legend (1985) disappointed me. I expected the one and only fantasy movie Tom Cruise has ever appeared in to be something interesting, especially when Ridley Scott directed it. The movie does look good, no denying that. It's surprisingly boring though, and I found it hard to keep watching when nothing interesting occurred.
    This takes place in a fantasy world where an evil demon played by Tim Curry wants all unicorns slain, because they have the power of light. Once they're all dead he can prevent the sun from ever again rising, because light is his bane. Since he can't go into the light himself some goblins have to be sent out in his stead. Apparently there are exactly two unicorns left in the whole world, and one of them gets killed pretty fast. It's up to Tom Cruise to join a few dwarves who are good, claim a couple of mystical armaments and get his girlfriend (Mia Sara) back from the clutches of evil.
    Anyone who expects interesting characters can check out of this one immediately. Tom Cruise shows off his trademark grin a couple of times but is mostly a generic fantasy hero. Mia Sara's Princess is also mostly a generic fantasy heroine, though it's kind of interesting when an attempt is made to turn her to the dark side. This is done by Tim Curry's Satanic villain, who is also pure evil but at least looks pretty cool when he finally appears late in the movie instead of just being seen in shadow.
    Yes, he has hoofs for feet.
    Maybe the problem is I was watching the Director's Cut, which adds about 20 minutes. No matter how impressive the sets and costumes are though, I was still just bored watching this. It's too well made to easily lay into, which didn't help.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    I admire Darren Aronofsky's nerve in getting Mother! (2017) thrown into wide release. I almost wish I'd seen it with a crowd full of people who didn't know what they were getting into, as seeing genuine walk-outs would have been a unique experience. I even heard from a co-worker who was interested until she spoiled the ending, and said she would have walked out on that.
    Well, I didn't walk out. I can definitely see what people got so offended over, and this would not be a good choice for anyone seeking a nice little horror movie. The trailers failed miserably at depicting what's going to happen. I don't think this movie works very well as a whole though.
    It takes place entirely in a home that is being repaired, primarily by the wife (Jennifer Lawrence). Her husband (Javier Bardem) is an author suffering from writer's block. Their existence is interrupted by a doctor (Ed Harris) arriving who thinks this abode is a bed & breakfast. The writer generously lets the doctor stay, something that his wife is not thrilled about but accepts. Then comes the doctor's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) the next morning, to also stay for a bit and make things interesting. Things are unsettling and some pointed conversations happen in this portion of the movie, but it stays relatively grounded.
    That changes in the second half, when an army of extras appears to occupy the grounds and any sense of logic is removed. Dream logic, perhaps. Actual logic that would hold up in any sense - none whatsoever. People repeatedly ignoring Lawrence's wish to stop sitting on an unbraced sink that eventually pays off with a massive plumbing leak - that's only the beginning. Tons and tons of symbolism will be found throughout, but the kind of symbolism that would fuel term papers. What does the glass inspiration of the writer represent? What about the blood that keeps seeping through the carpet? Why would someone start painting someone else's house while there for a 'celebration of life?' What does the hidden room in the basement represent?
    There's something symbolic about no character having a name also. Get used to hearing everyone in the movie address each other either with pronouns or descriptive nouns.
    Near the finish is what really, really angered a lot of people. I can see why. I also can't get into it without probably irritating someone who wants to see this untainted.
    I could go into this a lot, but the bottom line for me is that it didn't really work. The first half has a lot of slow spots that prompted me to check the time. The second half isn't so slow-moving, but once it's clear that we're in a land of dream logic and dream motivation the incentive to care about what's happening is lessened.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Blade Runner 2049 (2017) does justice to the original and expands its world effectively. It's not doing well because studio executives forgot that the original movie wasn't a hit upon release, but box office has no relation whatsoever to quality. As far as the reputed $150 million budget is concerned, at least it's clear that the money is right there on the screen. Sure there's a pile of CG, but in the world of Blade Runner that's completely fitting. This is a movie in which attention must be paid and mindless action does not intrude upon every scene, so it's probably dull to many who just want to turn off their brains for sci-fi. I enjoyed having a movie that rewarded paying attention.
    Ryan Gosling plays a Replicant with a serial number for a name. A mission at the beginning to retire an older model uncovers a mystery that he is tasked with solving, one that is extremely interesting to Jared Leto's character, the heir to the corporations of the original movie. This man is only seen a couple of times, but his goal of Replicants that can procreate is overriding. Considering Gosling's mission is nominally to kill the evidence that Replicants can procreate, this puts him at odds with his police commander (Robin Wright).
    Certain aspects of the technology displayed seem very appropriate, and will probably be coming in the future to the real world. Cars that have detachable drones built-in? Yeah, I can see that happening. Amazon or Google's digital assistants being made into holographic women that have unique identities? Sure, that'll happen in some capacity. People starting protein farms that don't use the standard forms of protein? Already being discussed. Holographic recreations of dead performers are already being used in Las Vegas. I liked that a time when the power went down and ruined all electronic records was also a significant element in the story. What will happen when the world loses power for a couple of weeks? It won't be pretty.
    Probably the biggest compliment I can pay the movie is that, even though it's nearly 3 hours long, it didn't feel that long to me. Had it continued I wouldn't have minded. Deckard (Harrison Ford) is in the movie - the advertising and posters have revealed that. The fact that he doesn't appear until 2/3 of the way along isn't a problem because getting there is extremely interesting. Fascinating world details and production design keep things moving along, though if someone isn't interested in taking in the world it could be seen as dull.
    There is one problem I have, and it's with the sound design. While the new score is 100% in keeping with Vangelis' compositions for the original, there are a few points when the synths are loud enough to become unpleasant. Maybe home viewing will alleviate this issue, but for a sound mix that was just right 99.5% of the time in the theater, those moments of intrusive music were distracting.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • EvilorEvilor Totally Not the Secret Antagonist A secret alcove in the hero's baseFull Members
    I recently watched a movie about a muscle-bound blond man punching aliens in gladiatorial combat while a mysterious figure with wealth and power gambled against him. I can't remember if it was Thor or Arena.
    Fufufufufu,
    -Evilor
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    For some reason, I felt like going through a bunch of Jet Li's English-language output recently. Most of it really isn't very good, but one of them managed to deliver a satisfying experience even so.
    Romeo Must Die (2000) is the first time Jet Li starred in an English-language movie. His costar here is Aaliyah, who would make one other movie before dying in a plane crash at the age of 22. Based on what she manages here, I can't say hers was a thespian talent that was about to set the world on fire, but she didn't embarrass herself. Neither did Jet Li, but this isn't a good movie. It goes with something that was really popular in the wake of the Matrix, which is jumbling the action through quick cuts and embellishing it through computer effects. In the Matrix that at least made sense, but this is supposed to be the real world, so it's just distracting and annoying. It's not as if Jet Li needs any assistance to appear supremely competent at demolishing his adversaries, but when he contorts in midair thanks to the graphical effects, it's aggravating.
    Otherwise this one is pretty forgettable. It did reference Romeo and Juliet a bit, but with minimal intelligence.
    Next up is Kiss of the Dragon (2001), also not a very good movie but an improvement on what came before. I'm putting some of that up to Bridget Fonda as Jet's costar, because I always like her. I'll chalk some more of it up to a ridiculous cartoon of a villain who's supposed to be highly placed in the French justice department but shoots his own men when they don't immediately obey. Of course logical leaps abound, and Jet Li is just fine going through some pretty rigorous action when he's supposed to be recovering from improvised surgery for a bullet wound performed mere minutes earlier. Not bad.
    The One (2001) is a stinker. I suppose the idea of multiple Jet Li's inhabiting worlds throughout the multiverse is interesting, but the writing of this movie is just abysmal. Unless, of course, there are exactly 125 different versions of Earth throughout the multiverse. The plot is just silly, involving an evil Jet Li killing all the other Jet Lis he can find to make himself stronger, while a good Jet Li is the only other one to survive, but the powers of the dead Lis are flowing to both. If your secret desire was always to see Jet Li pick up a motorcycle in each hand and squish someone between them, this is your movie (the effect looks pretty bad). Otherwise, there's a reason no one talks about it any more. Jason Statham is in the movie too, and it's kind of cool to see him, but not enough to warrant seeing this.
    Cradle 2 The Grave (2003) has one of the stupider titles I've seen. Maybe 2 Fast 2 Furious was influencing people that year, I don't know. I also know this one stinks. I knew nothing about DMX before watching this movie (he's in Romeo Must Die, but I paid no attention because it was a small role), and now I know that he's a charisma vacuum on the screen. Maybe he's a good rapper, I wouldn't know. Dull is his default mode of acting unfortunately. The plot is of course a bout of silliness involving gemstones that trigger miniature nuclear explosions when properly treated, and the final battle features a terrible-looking CG nuclear blast in somebody's head. Otherwise we get more fast-edited action that doesn't excite, and some ridiculous script moments. I have to say, the opening heist where a second distraction for a security guard is called in once the criminals learn that the guard is gay was pretty funny. Most of it just blurs together into a void though.
    Unleashed (2005) is my pick for the winner of this bunch. It's not a great movie, but the sight of Bob Hoskins hamming it up as an evil crime lord who takes out Jet Li to dish mayhem is entertaining. Then we get a middle stretch of Jet learning slowly to be a human being in the company of Morgan Freeman, and a climax where tons of goons show up to be beaten down. Certainly not realistic, but the slow beats actually serve a useful purpose in letting the characters get a little grounded. The action isn't cut into nonsensical mishmash by hyper-editing too. Luc Besson produced this one, and it demonstrates that he's not quite able to match Hollywood movies for sheer stupidity all the time. This may not be bright, but it's also not mindlessly dumb.
    War (2007) is the re-teaming of Jet Li and Jason Statham that The One messed up. This one does a better job, too. It supplies a tale of Statham the cop, endlessly obsessed with bringing down rival gangs in San Francisco. Li is the hitman who seems to be playing all sides against each other. It's not great, but it's solid and very watchable.
    Until the twist comes along and ruins the whole experience. I was getting into this movie to a degree, enjoying the action, when along came a twist that rivals M. Night Shyamalan for stupidity. This twist ruined the remainder of the movie for me, and took the entire experience down a great amount. Whoever wrote this twist gets a booby prize for idiocy.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Amos and Andrew (1993) is a mostly-forgotten movie that features a premise which could actually be revived for the present in the form of a remake. Any remake would need to figure out what the tone is supposed to be though. I think this is intended to be a comedy, but there probably won't be much laughing when watching.
    Here's our premise. Andrew Sterling (Samuel L. Jackson) is a well-known writer and behind-the-scenes entertainer. He's bought a new house on an exclusive Massachusetts island and has come one day ahead of his wife, to settle into the place. Upon sighting a black man messing with stereo equipment in the house, a couple of neighbors freak out and call the police. Chief Tolliver (Dabney Coleman) listens to their account and brings along all five of the officers this island possesses, assuming that it is of course a legitimate call. One of the officers (Brad Dourif) freaks out when Sterling is attempting to deactivate his car's alarm, and starts shooting. Others follow suit, and lots of bullets hit the property. Chief Tolliver then gets a chance to talk on the telephone to Mr. Sterling, and learns the reality. HIs solution to save face: grab Amos O'Dell (Nicolas Cage) out of the jail, send him into the house as an armed assailant, and catch him to save the day. Once the two principles meet, things get stickier.
    For a movie rated PG-13, I'm kind of surprised how many times the word 'N*****' is uttered. The MPAA probably wouldn't let that fly today without an R.
    Also a problem is that it's not very funny. It's got a horrifically mixed-up tone that tries to be serious, featuring a bunch of black protesters coming to the island to support their brethren, and daffy, featuring Bob Balaban as a hostage negotiator who is an idiot caricature prattling on about irrelevant junk over the telephone. Or a teenage pizza delivery woman who's really turned on by Amos even though he's holding a sawed-off shotgun.
    Who put this together? One E. Max Frye is the director and screenwriter. Of course, since he's become a household name in the intervening decades, I don't need to introduce him at all.
    Wait, this is the only thing he's ever directed. Oops.
    It definitely made me feel uncomfortable in spots, so I suppose if that's something you want to experience, go for it.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    I suppose after watching the 1989 Batman last year, I decided to revive my departed memories of its sequels. Not Batman & Robin, because I already know what a piece of junk that is. Instead....
    Batman Returns (1992) is pretty much as weird and fitfully interesting as I remembered from seeing it as a child. It doesn't hold together on a plot level very well, unless Gotham City is really a place where a mayoral candidate can bite a reporter in full view of a crowd, and no one will find it remarkable in the slightest. It does look quite interesting though. Tim Burton was still forced to use all sets and models to bring his winter wonderland vision of Gotham to life, and it's fascinating to behold. Michael Keaton remains a solid Batman. Danny DeVito is rendered completely grotesque by the makeup department. Michelle Pfeiffer is an actress I've always liked, though Selina Kyle is pretty much a thinly written character. Really, my dim memories that it felt similar to the first movie seem to be accurate. I remained interested the whole way through at least.
    Batman Forever (1995) is only slightly better than the neon madness that would come next. Lots of neon, along with some primitive CG that looks terrible now. Val Kilmer is okay, Nicole Kidman really needed more to do, and Chris O'Donnell is a little better here than he would be in the next movie as Robin. This is Jim Carrey's movie, though. I appreciate that Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face attempts to act at a sufficient volume to stand alongside Carrey's Riddler, but it's a losing fight. No one can overpower Jim Carrey when he's at his most manic, and this is a ton of exactly that. The plot makes little sense of course, but that's par for all of these things.
    Joel Schumacher is a terrible director and this movie offers additional confirmation of that fact.

    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Now I've been on a recent rush of recent Woody Allen movies. Also a few earlier ones, but I feel like going into his more recent, checkered (to put it mildly) entries.
    Melinda and Melinda (2004) is a great idea for a movie. Let's depict the basic story from two viewpoints, one comic and one tragic. That basic story involves a young woman unexpectedly showing up at a dinner party.

    Unfortunately, the comedy portion is more interesting. It's not necessarily hilarious despite the presence of Will Ferrell as the Woody Allen surrogate, but the characters are more appealing. The tragic portion isn't nearly as compelling.
    Oh, and don't count on much Wallace Shawn. He's in that setup scene and again at the conclusion, nothing else.
    Match Point (2005) got a lot of positive praise when it was released. It was Woody relocating to London and making a movie completely unlike anything he'd done before. I can partially agree with the praise, but the central problem is that Woody broke his usual rule in keeping the movie to a tight length. This one is two hours and really meanders in the middle a LOT, before the third act gets quite interesting. Also, this was Scarlett Johansson's first time working with him. It wouldn't be the last.
    Scoop (2006) is still in London involving Scarlett Johansson. As always, it features a talented cast including Ian McShane and Hugh Jackman, and it involves an apparition coming back from death to inform the living of a man with a murderous secret. It also features Woody Allen himself as a stage magician, and here's where things work at cross purposes. I did laugh at some of the one-liners, but they undercut the would-be seriousness of the narrative as a whole.

    Cassandra's Dream (2008) was next, involving Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell being asked to do something murderous. It's also a very forgettable movie, in that I'm having trouble recalling it now. I was also bored at the time, so this is not one to seek out.
    Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) movies the action to Spain and finds pals Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson being enticed by Javier Bardem. This one is quite interesting and worth seeing, with one caveat: annoying narration. Narration is usually a crutch by poor screenwriters, and since Woody scripts all his movies he gets the blame of telling the audience what it was already gleaning from the visuals.
    Whatever Works (2009) is not absolutely hilarious, but the fact that Larry David is playing the Woody Allen role this time makes it pretty amusing in spots. The script was also one supposedly from the 70s that got pulled out and updated, which may account for many of its attempts at humor being relatively successful. Still a mixed bag but one I was happy to see.
    You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) is not a mixed bag, in that it's actually pretty dull. This one is even duller than Cassandra's Dream, in that I can remember the structure of that one while this is just drifting out of my brain.

    Oh yeah, the one where Anthony Hopkins tried to act like a young man and goes for a prostitute. I had forgotten all the other parts until watching this trailer. Not one of his better movies.
    Midnight in Paris I swear I wrote about fresh from seeing it, over six years ago. Same with To Rome with Love.
    Blue Jasmine (2013) was new to me though. Cate Blanchett got a lot of attention for her lead, and it's deserved. 'Jasmine' is not a likable person, but she is very interesting, attempting to pick up her life by sponging off her sister and get a real job for the first time in her life. It's also Woody's San Francisco movie, which I always like to see in films.
    Magic in the Moonlight (2014) is a cute effort involving Colin Firth as a stage performer in the 1920s who gets his professional debunking expertise called upon to discredit Emma Stone's fortuneteller. It should have been better, especially in the middle, but watching Colin Firth get nicely acerbic is entertaining.
    Irrational Man (2015) is not very good, but not very bad either. Its conclusion is pretty strong and Jude Law as a disillusioned college professor gets one really engaging scene at a party where he's so unconcerned about life or death that he starts clicking a revolver loaded for Russian roulette. Its ethical exploration of whether it can be a good thing to kill someone who brings about nothing but bad in the world could and should have been taken further, but it was engaging while watching.
    Café Society (2016) is the most recent effort I've seen, and it was another mixed bag that wasn't too good nor too bad. Jesse Eisenberg is okay as the lead, although some of the attempted comedy falls flat. More than anything it's neat to see Kristen Stewart show once again that, when not playing Bella Swan, she actually can act, and Woody's evocation of Hollywood in the 30s makes for a fascinating world. His own story is nothing worthy of the dream factory he summons, but oh well.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Let's head back to the 90s for a bit with some widely disparate movies united only by being from that decade.
    The Last Boy Scout (1991) is something that inspired a variety of reactions within me. I'm going to chalk most of that up to Shane Black's script, because I've seen some other Tony Scott-directed movies that didn't impress me. While it's neat to see a character played by Bruce Willis that's intentionally nihilistic and depressed instead of it seeming like the actor himself couldn't be bothered to pay attention, this is a really dark movie in spots.

    Try watching that scene and coming away unmoved. This is a man who hates himself, his wife, and probably his daughter. I don't necessarily agree with assertions that this movie hates all women, just certain women. That's not a funny scene, not to me. It is definitely tense though, because particularly near the end it's not clear if this guy is actually so jaded that he'd cheerfully commit a double homicide, then probably blow his own brains out too.
    The plot itself isn't particularly original, revolving around the efforts of a sports kingpin to introduce legal gambling to deal with the decline in American football viewers. It does manage to make the bad guys such revolting slimeballs that the viewer is eager to see them get their comeuppance, and the action is effective. Many shots are fired and things explode, back in the days when no computers could augment that with clearly impossible junk to confuse the eye. Halle Berry gets an early role, and doesn't last very long. Damon Wayans is also pretty good. This is a mean movie that leaves an impression. Not really a happy impression, but a memorable one for sure.
    Universal Soldier (1992), on the other hand, comes from the big and dumb filmmaker Roland Emmerich. Yes, before he was disappointing audiences with Stargate and the first American Godzilla came this, in which Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren are revived as 'Universal Soldiers' 25 years following them killing each other in Vietnam. Big and dumb action is found many times, featuring such wonderments as cyborgs that can't figure out how to aim at the ground, people who magically spool together an impressive booby trap in maybe two minutes using improvised parts, grenades that explode only when it's convenient for the screenplay, police who are too stupid to raise the alarm when a gigantic truck is ramming into an escort vehicle, other police who are somehow able to set up a siren-laden blocking group with guns drawn that doesn't overpower the sound of an ordinary bus pulling away, and of course the ludicrous knowledge that it only cost $250 million for each of these Universal Soldiers. That wouldn't have passed muster in 1992, let alone now. Especially when these things are numbered up to the GR 80 or so, and we only see six in operation the whole movie long.

    I'm going to echo Roger Ebert's review and say that Ally Walker's character and characterization is the most interesting thing in the movie. Her journalist attempting to blow the lid on first a story and then something that directly affects her ability to keep living is pretty well done. She also starts to have feelings for Van Damme, because... um... the plot says so, I guess. I never watched this when younger and have no great interest in revisiting it now.
    Mimic (1997) is neat as an early Guillermo del Toro film. He's been a good director over the years with plenty of ideas, and that shines through with this so that it's not a garden-variety monster-on-the-loose movie. Sure the science is goofy, but it's better than a number of others. After a prologue in which we learn that a nasty virus is killing thousands of children and was spread by cockroaches, a scientifically-engineered creature directly created to destroy cockroaches in New York City is deployed. Now, that's a pretty outlandish premise because I think everyone knows just how survivable the cockroach is, but it does its job. Unfortunately the creatures, which were engineered to be unable to reproduce... well, as Ian Malcolm said "Life finds a way."

    This isn't a great movie but it's worth seeing. The early CG effects haven't aged well but del Toro is smart enough to only use them when necessary, relying on good old fashioned props and practical stuff whenever possible. The characters get enough development to stay sympathetic, and it's genuinely surprising in a couple of spots. Kids are safe in most movies, but not here. The ending is remarkably ... convenient and unquestioned by the characters, but wrapping things up apparently took precedence.
    Then we have Antz (1998). The DreamWorks animation studio has become a gargantuan creation in twenty years, so watching its roots is kind of interesting. The movie doesn't hold up though, not at all.
    Some of that comes from the distracting decision to have characters with faces half-ant, half-voice actor. It's nice to remember when Gene Hackman was working regularly, but having an ant (General Mandible) with some of his face is kind of grotesque.

    Looking at that segment demonstrates a lot of the weirdness this movie holds now. It's a suitable action segment for ants to jump between shoelaces, but having Woody Allen voice the ant in question is just a huge disconnect. Woody Allen is not and never has been an action star. Maybe that's the joke? If so, I look forward to having Jon Lovitz or Chevy Chase voice whatever this summer's huge animated CG production will be.
    Then there's the animation. It's not exactly ugly, but after the advances in computer animated movies over the years this doesn't pass muster. Unlike Toy Story or A Bug's Life, the real heart of a narrative isn't here either. At the time critics were raving about how this was aimed at adults. Having watched it as an adult, I can say it doesn't hold up. A few clever lines from Woody Allen doesn't make up for the multitude of uninspired plotting.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Beware! Children at Play (1989) is actually the first Troma movie I recall seeing in its entirety. It's out of print and costs some cash to acquire, and I don't really think it's worth the expense at all.
    It begins with a boy and his dad out on a camping trip that turns ugly when a tree falls onto dad's leg. Things immediately go stupid when the son just hangs around for several days with his dad instead of doing ... something! We know it's several days at the very least because good ol' dad gets gangrene in the leg. Dad doesn't make it, and then we cut to about ten years later.
    The entire premise of the film's body is idiotic. Apparently there's an isolated town in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where every six months or so a child goes missing. I'm not sure how they can go missing when they hang out in a group and take orders from a teenager who was the boy in the prologue, or why every adult seems to think they're instantly beyond redemption, but such is the ludicrousness of this movie. The kids occasionally go out and kill someone at the behest of their leader, who in the sign of a writer trying to expand the premise and inflate credentials thinks he's in Beowulf. Specifically he seems to believe that he's Grendel, which manifests itself by having the kids kill and drink the blood of other human beings. I don't really get it either.
    Everything is all leading up to this wondrous sequence that has to get by on sheer novelty, because it makes no sense whatsoever.

    What the hell? Keep in mind that these are the relatives and, in part, the parents of these kids. They're deemed so utterly irredeemable by their time in the Grendel-worshiping group that they must all die, and the viewer must see them all die. Not exactly something you'll see every day, but totally insane.
    It's certainly not a well-made movie either. I never saw the lighting rig or a boom mic in the shots, but then I don't notice that stuff unless specifically looking for it. I did notice poor acting and amateurish editing with a script that doesn't pass muster in the slightest. Also plenty of sequences in which characters just stand around and spout exposition at each other without even much interesting happening in the frame to distract from the perfunctory nature of it. Maybe (probably) it's for the best that the makeup and other effects aren't of a top level either, given how many people would probably be instinctively revolted even more at that footage if they were.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    Ha! Friend Request (2016) gave me some great laughs. It's completely awful and shouldn't be seen by anyone seeking a genuinely good movie, understand that right now! I couldn't help but laugh at it though, and I watched the thing alone. With a group it ought to be a riot.

    Now, this requires a fair amount of plot analysis on my part. The ludicrousness will come across steadily.
    Alycia Debnam-Carey plays Laura, who is really popular and well-liked at her university. Liesl Ahlers is Marina, a woman also at the university who does such an effective goth stereotype that it's easy to pigeonhole her. She wears a hoodie all the time, appears to wear dark makeup, has no friends - anyway. She approaches Laura and we have our title drop. Laura finds Marina's definitely-not-Facebook-because-we'd-be-sued profile interesting, with intriguing artwork that actually is kind of appealing. Then Marina gets a little too needy and likes to link things to Laura that aren't appealing. Eventually a confrontation reveals that - gasp! - Laura wasn't having a birthday party with just a few friends and family, it was a huge gathering. Marina doesn't take it well and ends up committing suicide. Her suicide video is somehow linked to everyone Laura is a friend of, and now things get interesting. For some reason Laura is blamed for this video, and soon enough one of her friends also commits suicide, with a video taken of the proceedings that gets uploaded to everyone with whom she is a friend!
    ...A suicide video where a guy manages to ram his head into an elevator interior multiple times, and someone recorded the whole thing from above. Nothing suspicious to see here, folks!
    Laura is blamed for this horrible video, and some people un-friend her! Not that!
    She still has over 500 friends when another of her actual in-person friends commits suicide. This one takes place inside a hospital, where footage clearly demonstrates that the woman was managing not to see any of the staff on premises as she ran about in a panic. Nevertheless Laura comes under investigation by a pair of police officers who are amazingly bad at figuring out anything.
    Things get even more laughable from there. Marina turns out to be from an orphanage where two bullies abused her, and her mother was burned to death along with many others in a huge fire. BUT - her mother lived through the third-degree burns just long enough to give birth before expiring. Talk about convenient timing.
    I definitely shouldn't spoil the horrendously cheesy conclusion. I want to, though.
    In terms of moviemaking craft it's wretched, with incompetent editing and a loony script that makes no sense. Are CGI wasps inherently frightening? If you think they are, then some shots of them may just freak you out! Other CGI things are inserted that also aren't frightening due to the obvious effects work. Characters seem to change between scenes and how Laura still had hundreds of followers after two of her friends posted videos of their own suicides on her page is never explained. So no, do not come to this for a quality time. You will be disappointed.
    I still laughed, more than at many purported comedies. That might be some kind of recommendation.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
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