Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Movie – Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight is a film about the work Boston Globe journalists did to research and expose the vast scope of child molestation and cover-up that had occurred in the Boston-area Catholic churches.  The title of the film comes from the name of the team of journalists within the Globe who would get assigned months-long investigations of important stories.  This is a good film about a tough topic.  The best thing it does is treat the subject with the respect it deserves and not try to be sensationalistic with it, even though that has caused those who want more excitement and action to label the film “boring”.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Steve’s Selections #14 – Rollerball (1975)

Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I agreed to continue to do a monthly review of a film the other picked for us.  We did 12 in 2015 and we will do 12 more in 2016.  The second one this year is Rollerball – the original version from 1975, not the 2002 remake.  It’s also on the list of the 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I am slowly working on those entries.  I saw the remake of Rollerball back when it came to DVD and I honestly can remember nothing about it other than it had Rebecca Romijn and LL Cool J in it, so I will not be comparing/contrasting the two films in this post.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Movie Status

In the month of January I saw 12 new films, plus I re-watched 2 more.  I also watched about 30 Oscar-nominated shorts, mostly from the 1930s.

The number of movies is low because I didn’t watch any new ones after the 10th of the month.  I just wasn’t in a movie mood, and I felt like reading instead.  I’ve gone through several books in the last week or two, including re-reading many of the Pern books.  I didn’t watch any of the additions to the IMDB list, nor any of the three remaining new Best Picture nominees I have not yet seen.

Watching the shorts came about from seeing comments on a Letterboxd list of every single thing ever nominated for an Oscar.  Someone built a YouTube list of over 500 nominated shorts that were available there.  If you are interested you can find that here.  I figured I’d do them decade by decade, but hours later I still hadn’t finished off the 1930s.  Even “shorts” can be long when you add them together.

Here are the 12 films I saw in January.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.  Note – I’m not going to list out all of the Shorts, except for one on which I want to spread the word.

Oscar (2): The Revenant (2015), The Big Short (2015)

101 Genre (4): Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978), Wild Style (1983), Rollerball (1975), Went the Day Well? (1942)

Other (5): The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition (2014), Some Kind of Beautiful (2014), Cheap Thrills (2013), Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016), Carol (2015), Viola (2012)

Re-watches (2): Twinsters (2015), The Martian (2015)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition (2014) – Like the previous Hobbit film Jackson didn’t just add in more footage, he also changed some of the scenes from the way they were in the theatrical edition, making this a different movie.  The largest change is that the dwarves and elves actually do fight each other now.   3 stars

Some Kind of Beautiful (2014) – Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba play sisters who both sleep with the same man played by Pierce Brosnan. How the heck do you make that boring? I don't know, but the director managed to do it.   2 stars

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)This was on the 101 Cult Movies to Watch Before You Die list. I've noticed that the editors seemed to have wanted to have more than 101 Horror movies and so they shifted several more over onto the Cult list.  This isn't a cult movie. It's not even a "so bad it's good" movie. It's just plain bad. Bad acting, bad story, bad props/effects. It's the kind of movie where a family - camping in a friggin' RV that can leave on a moment’s notice no less - has to get attacked three nights in a row at their campsite by wild dogs before they decide maybe they should leave.   1 star

Cheap Thrills (2013)This was recommended to me a year or two ago and it finally made it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. It wasn't worth the wait. Two guys keep getting paid money to do dares.  200 dollars to smack a stripper's ass? Count me in. 500 dollars to slug a huge bouncer? Not a chance. That's when the film lost me right there - the main character was an idiot and I didn't care what happened to him after that.  And the worst thing is is that the film is completely predictable. The dares have to keep being upped, otherwise there's no movie. Eat a dog? Chop off a body part? Gee, I WONDER where it's ultimately going to lead? I wonder what the ultimate action to get a payoff will be?  Some might argue that this film isn't intended to be real - that it's all a metaphor for the evils of capitalism or some such thing. I think that's giving the movie too much credit. The clue is in the title - watch this movie to get some cheap thrills from seeing two guys humiliate themselves and each other for money.   2 stars

Wild Style (1983) – This is ostensibly a movie about graffiti artists, but the reason to watch it now is to see performances from several early rap acts, along with some breakdancing.  IMDB labels this a documentary, but it's not. It stars non-actors, but it is a fictional story. None of them can act worth a damn, but they were cast because they did graffiti for real or they were real rappers.  One note - those expecting today's easy listening rap based on 70's R&B soft hits, may be surprised by how rap sounded before it got watered down.   2.5 stars

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)Despite the premise of the modern day characters being traditional ones in the 1890s this actually is a continuation from the last movie that aired (or season 3, episode 3, if you prefer). I won't spoil how, though. They essentially show us what's going on just a little ways in anyway when a particular coroner appears.  This is well done, with numerous references to the written stories, but with the related changes to them to both make them more modern and just different enough to be new for the story readers.   4 stars

Rollerball (1975) – This is both on the 101 lists and it’s a Steve’s selection.  I’ll have a review and rating coming next month on the second Monday.

The Revenant (2015) – You can read my review of this Best Picture nominee here.   3.5 stars

Carol (2015) – Haynes revisits the "1950s closeted homosexual" theme he explored in Far from Heaven. The difference is that his earlier film also had other things going on, especially the potential racial romance aspect. Carol has nothing but the main story.  And that story meanders, wanders, stops, starts up again, and just generally is there, rather than having much of any build towards something. Related to this is that everything is presented very distant and antiseptic. I felt nothing between the two women, to the extent that I wondered if that was actually the point - that's it's not actually a love story but rather a rich, bored forty-something housewife who has a fling with a young, beautiful shop girl, but it means more to the young woman. In other words, a story that's been done many times with the mid-life crisis man and the young ingénue, except with a lesbian twist.  If you want to see a period lesbian romance/drama then you can do much better with Desert Hearts (1984). And for the theme of 1950s homosexuality in general you can do better with Haynes' own film Far from Heaven.   3 stars

Viola (2012)I'm at a bit of a loss on how to describe this. It's not really a film. It's more a series of loosely connected and unconnected scenes that seem to exist to show off the acting of the people on screen. And it's barely an hour long, with an abrupt ending as if they ran out of money, ideas, or both.  The highlight of Viola is something that would make an excellent ten minute short - one actress, in a bit of mischief, decides to use a scene from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that she performs (as the character of Viola disguised as a man) with another actress to attempt to seduce the other actress to prove that deep down a strong, obvious desire from someone else is irresistible, even if there was no attraction there before. They run the same lines over and over, but they take on different meanings as the first actress gets closer to her goal of seduction.   2.5 stars

The Big Short (2015) – You can read my review of this Best Picture nominee here.   3.5 stars

Went the Day Well? (1942) – You can read my review of this 101 List film and the first of Steve’s Selections for 2016 here.   3.5 stars

Twinsters (2015) – This was a re-watch and I enjoyed it just as much the second time.  It’s streaming on Netflix Instant for anyone who wants to see it.   4.5 stars

The Martian (2015) – This was a re-watch of this Best Picture nominee and I liked it even more the second time.  You can read my review of it here.   5 stars

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011) – This is the short I wanted to emphasize.  It won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2012.  Anyone who likes books should see this.  It’s The Red Balloon for adults.  You can watch it here:    4.5 stars

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Movie – The Big Short (2015)

As I write this The Big Short just became the unexpected winner of the Producers Guild Award for Best Picture.  Since the PGA winner has presaged the Oscar’s Best Picture winner for seven years straight, and since The Big Short was not considered the Oscar front-runner, this has thrown the Oscar race a big curve.  Making it even more unsettled is that if The Big Short were to win it would be the most comedic film to do so since at least American Beauty (1999).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie – The Martian (2015)

I have seen five of the eight Oscar nominees for Best Picture so far and among them The Martian is my favorite.  It combines the best aspects of Apollo 13, Castaway, and Gravity.  And I’ll address this right up front – despite the Golden Globe wins for the film and star Matt Damon in the comedy categories, this is a drama with some lightly humorous moments, not a comedy.  It’s also a great story.

I like movies where smart people deal with issues by being smart, or to paraphrase a line from the film - by sciencing the shit out of it. We have far, far too many movies about idiots being idiotic, so it's nice when every once in a great while a film like this gets made.  This is easily Director Ridley Scott's best movie in quite some time.  Drew Goddard (who got his start with Joss Whedon writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer) delivered a great script, too.  It’s all based on a book that started out as free, serialized posts on the blog of writer Andy Weir.  He got so many requests to turn it into an e-book that he finally did and was selling it for 99 cents.  It attracted Hollywood’s attention and the result was this film.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Movie – The Revenant (2015)

As I write this The Revenant appears to be the emerging favorite to win Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars.  That is still more than a month away, though, so we will have to see if it keeps its momentum or if it starts to fade.  It is a simple tale of survival and revenge very loosely based on the story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman in the 1820s who was attacked by a bear, left for dead, but managed to make his way back to a fort.  It stars Leonardo DiCaprio in what might finally be an Oscar winning performance for him.  It’s got a lot of good things going for it, but The Revenant also has some flaws.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Observations on the 2016 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2016 Oscar nominations were announced Thursday.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a few years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for Best Director for the movie that ended up winning Best Picture (Argo).

Here are the eight Best Picture nominees:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant