Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Short Takes On Random Movies

Cloud Atlas - I really, really, REALLY wanted to like this movie A LOT. But instead, I only like it a bit. Maybe it was the casting: Tom Hanks was just totally wrong for this movie. And the Hae-Joo Chang character -- I kept picturing some helpful creative consultant insisting that he be "just like Neo in the The Matrix." Or something. Maybe the film just tried to do too much. That said, I like it a bit more on successive viewings: there are a lot of subtle 'threads' that connect the different stories together, I seem to catch more each time I view the film. And I'm still trying to work out the "transmigration of souls" that is happening over the course of the movie. I've read that each actor portrays a different soul, but I'm not convinced that it's that simple.

Hit And Run - I can't put it any better than Shayne Lechelt's review at College Movie Review:

"Damn you, Dax Shepard. We had a good thing going. I had an unexplainable hatred of you; you had no knowledge of my existence whatsoever. I was used to this arrangement. Comfortable. Happy, even. So imagine my worry as I enter a movie written, directed, and starring that very man."
In addition to Shepard, the movie features Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold, Kristen Chenoweth, Bradley Cooper, Beau Bridges, and some really nice cars (Shepard and Bell did a promotional interview with Popular Mechanics, fer chrissakes. That kind of thing makes me melt -- in a gender-confident, guy kind of way, of course). It's a good, funny movie, and like Lechelt I came away thinking that Dax Shepard might not be so bad after all. The one caveat I'd offer is that it's a funny movie that requires a certain amount of concentration: a lot (but not all) of the humor is in the dialog. If you need your jokes telegraphed to you Three Stooges style, this is not the movie for you.

Decay - With a sub-$2000 budget (and you can download it for free), you might not expect a high-quality cinematic experience. As the only zombie movie ever filmed at (and inside) the Large Hadron Collider, it's worth seeing just for the shots of the LHC campus. But it's surprisingly watchable beyond that, with pretty decent zombie-gore effects and passable acting by people who, I think, are actual real-life physics graduate students.

Looper - A really good science-fiction movie. I'm extremely picky about science fiction, but this was good enough in terms of narrative, pacing, production design, acting, etc, that I'll forgive some of the more glaring holes in its premise.

Premium Rush - Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bicycle messenger in NYC? Given the chance, I would have invested in this movie. Luckily, I did not. Which is sad, because the general premise sounds like it could be killer. But for some reason, the film just didn't work. It lost momentum early-on and the storyline sorta fell apart. Too bad.

I Spit On Your Grave - It's actually pretty rare that I consider a movie a complete waste of time and celluloid, but this one qualifies. I watched it to the end -- no mean feat, that -- to see if there might be something that, somehow, made it worthwhile. But no. It's simply a hateful, stupid movie with *no* redeeming qualities. Note: it's apparently a remake of a 1978 movie with the same name; reading some reviews I'm led to think that the original film might be better. But I'm in absolutely no hurry to find out.

Frankenweenie - An outrageously unoriginal, emotionally manipulative animated movie by Tim Burton. It probably would've swept the Oscars back in 1995, but nowadays it's just another children's movie that's trying to be "hip" by being "macabre".

Dredd - Extremely violent and rather pointless, IMHO. I guess Judge Dredd and 2000 AD have been a Big Thing in the UK for many years, so maybe I'm missing something. Also, I didn't see it in 3D. Mostly I just thought those helmets the Judges wear are really, really stupid-looking.

Silent Night - Even Malcolm McDowell as a semi-insane sheriff couldn't save this one.

Total Recall - I was not a fan of the original (which, I'll note, portrayed Arnold Schwarzenegger as the jerk that he reportedly is in real-life), and I can't really say I'm a fan of this remake. Although I enjoyed Schwarzenegger's absence and the production design / SFX were first-rate. And a surprise appearance by John "Harold" Cho!

Home Alone - Yeah, I'm probably the last person in North America to see this movie. I thought the primary attraction was Macauly Culkin inflicting damage on Joe Pesci and Daniel Sterm, but (to my surprise) that was only a smallish part near the end, located after over an hour of boring stuff. I know a lot of people think this is a Christmas Movie to rival It's A Wonderful Life, but give me We're No Angels anyday.

Savages - A rather pointless movie with a shameless "and then the little boy fell out of bed; it had all been a dream"-class ending. Oliver Stone, you should be embarrassed.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World - A thoughtful, charming little movie about the end of the world. Probably a good "date night" movie.

Godkiller: Walk Among Us - Definitely not for everyone, it's an "illustrated film", which is sorta like La Jetée but occasionally stuff actually moves around on the screen. It's post-apocalypse cyberpunk with something about alien invasion and / or gods walking the Earth, with some great voice-work. I liked it, even though it ends without fully resolving (or fully exploring) what could be an extremely interesting world. It's not "hentai", but the MPAA would probably give this movie an NC-17.

Sinister - A modest horror / mystery, not bad but also not great. It managed to establish and maintain a "spooky" atmosphere -- but otherwise it lacked memorability.

Nuclear Family - OMG, it's a SyFy Original Movie that doesn't suck too badly! I guess it's intended as a pilot for a television series (current status unknown), Corin Nemec (aka "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" is believably bad-ass, but Ray Wise steals the show as the scenery-chewing Bad Guy. I was taken aback by the extreme levels of violence in this movie -- there were none of those annoying tropes where Good Guys don't kill Bad Guys, or Women can't kill Bad Guys without a huge emotional reaction, etc.

Ted - How could a film adaptation of Neil Swaab's Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles not be funny? Well ... I guess the fact that it was more of a "rip off" than an "adaptation" probably had something to do with it.

The Dictator - I guess I should just admit to myself that I've got a better chance of liking a movie if I begin with "lowered expectations". This movie, for instance. I thought it would be crap but instead it was delightfully engaging, with a lot of extremely crude and / or politically incorrect humor. I like that sort of thing.

21 Jump Street - I was never a fan of the television show, but this "reboot" is full of rude, lewd, and inappropriate humor -- which is to say, I loved it. Surprisingly, R and the kids loved it, too! Look for a hilarious cameo role by Nick Offerman aka "Ron Swanson".

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