New Feature: My Week in Movies
So, as one of those New Year’s Resolutions I don’t really make, I’m trying to watch more movies. I figure I can make it a two-birds thing by using it as an excuse to make blog posts, about my general impressions. Longer than I’d be able to tweet but shorter than a full analysis; just a few sentences, by and large.
I don’t want to try to make it a daily thing — I might not watch a new movie every day and even if I did I probably wouldn’t post and I’d get all backlogged and eventually throw up my hands completely. But, maybe as a weekly thing, it could be done more reliably.
Generally I think I’m going to want to make it a Saturday feature, since that’s the day I’ll most likely have the time once I get back to workin’. But since I missed this past Saturday I’m going to do the first one today.
So, in the first week of the year (January 1-January 7, 2011), the movies I’ve watched — an asterisk indicates availability on Netflix Instant:
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE* — This is the first movie of 2011 for me; we started watching before midnight at our New Year’s shindig and finished after. My roommate Katie, who is a total Star Trek fan, basically hates this movie. I didn’t really mind it that much, but we were having a party around it. We freely comment and make jokes about movies when we watch them at home, so that might have helped. If I had watched it alone I could see myself getting bored pretty fast.
FOREST WARRIOR — Chuck Norris as a Native American forest spirit in what I can only assume was a direct-to-video message movie about…something. “Nature good,” I guess is the most cogent version. A bunch of kids fight an evil lumber company because KID POWER! Norris is hardly in it at all.
SUPER MARIO BROS. — I don’t think I’ve seen this movie since it came out in theatres and…yeah. It has a special place in my heart just because I first saw it when I was 10 and thought it was so cool somehow, but it’s pretty baffling now. Like, why would they make most of the choices they made? The filmmakers, I mean. Dinosaurs evolved…into humans? Because a…a meteorite split dimensions? What? And they have the technology to evolve and de-evolve people (don’t get me started)…but not to irrigate? I’m gonna need my Plinkett voice for this.
It almost seems like they took another script and put Mario names on it, but what Mario aspects there are, are so significant that I feel like that’s unlikely. Like, I can’t imagine someone wrote an unrelated script that would have contained any of this shit. It’s more of an unsuccessful attempt at trying to “ground” the film in some kind of reality, when they should have gone full-bore Alice in Wonderland fantasy — perhaps too expensive a proposition back then. I dunno what the answer is, but trying, as an exercise, to retrace the creative steps and choices leading from the source material to this trainwreck is strangely fascinating.
And why is Luigi the one chasing the Princess? What the hell is that shit?
LEGION* — At the beginning of this movie, the archangel Michael, having fallen from Heaven, breaks into a warehouse full of plush toys and opens a secret room full of weapons. What? Why is that there? Did he put that there? Is the warehouse a front for some criminal organization that he knows about because he observed them from heaven? The movie never even considers telling us. Welcome to Legion.
I was at the Comic-Con panel for LEGION and it was hysterical to watch the filmmakers try to spin this movie — about how God “gets tired of all the bullshit” (<– from the opening narration) and sends his angels to murder all of mankind, with the lone opposition of his former right-hand general Michael — as being “thoroughly respectful” of Christianity. Didn’t anyone tell them that accusations of blasphemy are good publicity (and also that you’re going to get them no matter what you say)?
The principal failing of the movie, IMO, is the lack of actual fallen angels in the fray. The angels (who are totally acting like demons, but they’re angels, not demons, got it good) are doing God’s bidding to kill humanity, and specifically to kill a knocked up waitress because her child will [vague allusions to salvation or whatever] oh look a monster shoot it! At no point does Lucifer put in an appearance. How can you make an entire movie about battling angels defying God and not even mention Lucifer? According to the story, Michael is the one who defeated Lucifer and cast him out of heaven — how do you make a movie about Michael deciding God has lost his mind and not have Lucifer smugly show up and tell him “I told you so”? You’ve got all of Heaven’s angels coming after you and you don’t try to rally Hell’s against them? Stupid. Oh, and there’s pretty much no way this movie ends without a Deus ex Machina, obviously.
SPECIAL* — Indie dramedy about a guy who takes experimental drugs as part of a medical study, has a severe psychotic reaction, and becomes convinced that the drug has given him superpowers. Neat idea, solid execution, and ends in a weird, sort of uplifting but mostly uncomfortable place as only an indie movie can. Solid performances, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Worth checking out if you haven’t already burned out on postmodern spins on the superhero.
TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE — This is probably the best of the TWILIGHT films so far. I know that’s probably not saying a lot in the opinions of many of my readers, but it’s true. There’s actually a unified plot that drives the action of the entire film (rather than two acts of meandering angst and a final act where some plot shows up to say hey), and though I still don’t buy Robert Pattinson as a sex symbol, he’s a good enough actor to sell me on the emotions behind his character and make me believe him when he speaks his heart to Bella — no small feat, either, ’cause Kristen Stewart is giving him nothing to work with. The films don’t evince the same sharp differences in styles as the series changes hands among different directors, the way the HARRY POTTER films did, but I guess there’s only so many ways you can light and shoot “overcast.”
Oh, and they threw in a short speech at the end, where Bella tells Edward she wants to become a vampire because she feels that the world of monsters and danger and excitement is her world, where she truly belongs. It’s not just because she loves him sooooo much. In the books, it is just because she loves him sooooo much — score one for the screenwriter in the “social responsibility” column.
CHOCOLATE — Thai movie about an autistic girl savant. You know how some “mentally handicapped” folks can watch or even just listen to someone play a tune they’ve never heard before on a piano, then sit at the piano and play it perfectly? She’s like that, except she watches martial arts movies and then whoops ass just like they do. The plot went in one ear and out the other — her mom is sick and something about gangsters owning her money — but the fight scenes, especially the final one crawling up and down the side of a tenement building, are brutally awesome.
THE WIZ — The Wizard of Oz for the “urban market,” music by Motown. Fun movie, fun music. My favorite tune was “Mean Ol’ Lion” — interesting, as its counterpart in the Judy Garland film “King of the Forest” is probably my least favorite in that one. Apparently this was a bomb in its day, but I think it’s got some real charm as a piece of retro filmmaking. The only part that doesn’t work for me is Diana Ross as Dorothy — not because she’s too old, which apparently was a wide-ranging criticism at the time, but because her performance is just bad. She’s always got this look on her face like she’s terrified of everything and might burst into tears and/or lose her mind and start blindly swinging a knife at any moment. Even when she’s happy. It’s just, gah.
THE STING — When I was little and I went on the Universal Studios backlot tour, they’d always point out areas of the backlot used in THE STING. Which I had never seen and somehow thought was a kitschy vigilante T.V. show like Knight Rider or something with Burt Reynolds. I dunno.
Anyway, it’s not. It’s a tightly-plotted con man movie with some great performances that won the Best Picture Oscar for its year. I can’t necessarily say that it was deservedly so since I don’t know what else was nominated, but it’s a damn good film and it makes sense to have a Best Picture win to its name.
GOD OF COOKERY — Very early work by Stephen Chow. KUNG FU HUSTLE is one of my most favoritest films evar, so it was interesting to see an early, less-polished film with much of the same bizarre yet engaging sense of humor in evidence. It didn’t even have much in the way of conventional fight scenes, actually — rather, they treated cooking as though it were a kung fu fight. I’m not even going to try to explain, but I really liked it.
AMERICAN ZOMBIE* — An amusing mockumentary set in a post-zombie but pre-apocalypse world. The zombies — many of whom are basically the same as they were before they died, just dead now — are too disorganized to have a proper uprising, but they’re working on it in their spare time.
I’m not sure exactly what kind of social commentary the film was trying to make — there’s some apparent cultural prejudice against zombies, but the movie doesn’t get into any specifics, nothing to hang your hat on for sociological analysis — and the director of the film turns in a painfully wooden performance as “herself” (the director of the zombie documentary) in “candid” moments when the cameras are turned back on the crew rather than the zombie people they’re interviewing. But it was still a fun, reasonably original 90-ish minute take on the genre.
OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001) — Watching THE STING made Katie want to see this, so we did. It’s aged incredibly well (as have the leads, but I digress). Tightly plotted, stakes rising constantly, fun character dynamics. The only thing that gives away its age is the group of hot-at-the-time Young Hollywoods, playing themselves getting poker lessons from Brad Pitt’s character. Remember when Joshua Jackson was a thing? Good times. Still need to see the Rat Pack original.
Also watched this week were RETURN OF THE JEDI and HELLBOY. I watched them to record full-length commentaries for Down in Front, so it seems redundant to post anything here. The JEDI commentary will be available on iTunes next Sunday.