Out Here in the Fields

(a review of Premium Rush (2012))

Bad stuff: For every movie this point forward which uses the song “Baba O’Riley,” I am going to murder someone.

Good stuff: Stop judging movies by their premises. I really don’t have much to say about this one, just that there was a significant amount of dumping on Premium Rush when it came out because “It’s a movie about bike messengers. Also I’m a tasteless, presumptive lepton.” But, it’s a really good movie, about bike messengers or whatever. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was amazing, Michael Shannon was amazing, and the plot was as fast-paced as possible to accommodate the lifestyles of the primary characters. An absolutely brilliant start to my day. I couldn’t have been happier, especially with the smug satisfaction of people being wrong in their assumptions yet again. Not that I am as of yet convincing very many people of my film critiques. Maybe I need to fight to prove I’m right.

A Life Sentence for a Rose

(a review of Beauty and the Beast (2017))

(spoilers for Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and the Beast (1991), Les Misérables (2012))

The latest in Disney’s growing list of live-action remakes of their own films, soon to include The Lion King and Mulan, Beauty and the Beast was… enjoyable. I’ll admit I was never really big on Beauty and the Beast. It’s fine, it just doesn’t do anything for me. So for this review mostly what I want to talk about is the criticism of Emma Watson’s singing rampant the moment this film premiered.

It seems that after Les Mis (2012) everyone became a fucking pitch expert, not even close to mildly critiquing every single goddamn flat note in an epic dramatic tale over two and a half hours long. Mostly I just hate when people don’t shut up, but this was especially bad because I didn’t find the complaints valid. Was every singer perfect? No, of course not. However, the slight off keys and flat notes and whatever else (I’m no music expert either) were made by actors, people being paid to experience and convey the emotions of their characters, and I find it all the more convincing when someone is singing of their struggles and crying and they miss a note, because the jarring difference brings you back to reality, where this person has become a prostitute to give their daughter a place to live, or is about to jump off a bridge because they’re an asshole.

And like I said, ever since then, and maybe also because of Pitch Perfect, everyone has to spend their time not shutting up about less than amazing singing. Emma Watson’s no opera singer, but to me Belle doesn’t have to be. To the keen eye it’s obvious when the song is live-sung and when it was prerecorded and added in post, but I’ll take that over shitty, on the set sound quality any day.

Mostly, just be quiet and enjoy everything else this gorgeous movie had to offer. Beautiful sets, well-needed inclusions to the story, including the repair of a couple plot holes from the 1991 film, and a satisfying final encounter with a villain much deeper and identifiable than previously portrayed. Why are the loudest voices always the ones trying to negate a good thing?

Slap Him with the Right

(a review of RocknRolla (2008))

(spoilers)

A movie I had to look up like three times how to spell the title of correctly, RocknRolla is another in what will probably be a slew of Guy Ritchie films I watch because I’ve seen about half and after how much I really, really fucking loved King Arthur (Palace Burn Well) I want to watch them all. This one was pretty good, a bit slow at times but a good story made up for it.

The story does, however, tend to rely on constant, and often coincidental, interactions between the main and supporting cast, like Peter bringing the two entrepreneurial junkies to Johnny Quid’s hideout flat, thus negotiating the complete wrap of all events. Making up for this though was a roundup of several great actors being thoroughly entertaining, humorous, and actually somewhat less violent than I imagined going in. Best of all was Toby Kebbell’s portrayal of the titular rocknrolla, a much deeper character than he seems at first, somewhere between complete nihilistic accomplishment and an absolute waste of space he swings a baseball bat from a half open recliner and disrupts the world of a dozen other protagonists and antagonists. It’s not often that I root for the dope fiend.

I think my only true, and valid, complaint is that I wanted to see more of the crazy unkillable Chechnyan. You know, before he got killed.

Dark Bidding on the Internet

(a review of What We Do in the Shadows (2014))

(spoilers)

Comedies to me boil down to three categories, leaving me without much to say about them, usually. They’re either funny, not funny, or impressively funny. What We Do in the Shadows is in the latter category, a brilliant and hilarious mockumentary that has such a well laid-out story it does not even have to be a documentary-style film, but is all the better for it. It’s an imaginative look at the minutiae of modern vampire life, from dishes dirtied with blood to the troubles of having no reflection to becoming increasingly disconnected from the modern world and its advances. It also showcases the lesser of vampires, the ones not necessarily known through the ages, or at least not known any more, as you see the issues of not being particularly good at some vampire powers, and the trials of the freshly undead.

There is a clever, steady buildup of events, and the movie spends the correct amount of time on each topic, never boring but also never skimming. Time is aptly balanced between the protagonists, giving all of the pros and cons of these less than perfect people of the night. The best scene by far though is the first night we get to see the three flatmates go out on the town to seek sustenance, introducing the audience to the local vampire population apparently quite vast in Wellington. Overall What We Do in the Shadows was fantastic from start to finish, one of the funniest movies I’ve seen recently.

Just Not Wildly Keen

(a review of Jack the Giant Slayer (2013))

(spoilers for Jack the Giant Slayer, Maleficent (2014), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), Alice in Wonderland (1951))

Jack the Giant Slayer is another in a line of fantasy epics based on stories with a smaller scope made bigger and including at least one large battle sequence. Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, so on. I can’t say it took the most creative license with its source material, considering almost none of the events in Alice in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass) happened in the books, but I can say it did have perhaps the best battle sequence amongst them. Out of the three (four) I also can’t say that I enjoyed Jack the most, however I believe it to be the best made.

Maleficent, which I thoroughly enjoy, did not have a strong enough story to quite stand on its own feet, and as such much of the movie relies on the title character. And this character analysis and story of a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity and herself made it more of a drama set in a fantasy world than a dramatic fantasy film. Alice (2010) is good as well but a few things must be considered. First, I would argue that the story makes too much sense, tries to clear the air too much considering not only the source novel but also the cartoon Alice (1951), also produced by Disney, which was markedly more accurate in its indiscriminate nonsense. Second, again due to the 1951 film, it’s a trial to determine where the film falls in place, as it could be a sequel to the other film but isn’t officially and so on. Third, delving deeper, the writing was just plain incorrect. Research ‘Jabberwock’ vs. ‘Jabberwocky’ and comment if you’re then as angry as me.

Jack the Giant Slayer stands on its own, a fair and interesting story, well written and acted out, that respectfully diverts from the original tale in detail and casual plot point and then redirects back to it with a clever ending that explains those differences, as the story becomes passed down through the generations and gets messed up a la telephone game.

I was happy they stuck with a PG-13 movie, as an R rating would’ve had a lot of unnecessary human eating gore. Mostly though I love a good villain swap. The human Roderick, having magically enslaved the giant population, is slain to be replaced by the giant Fallon, who leads his people to war only to fall in some fiery water himself and be replaced by his second-in-command Fumm. Fallon returns soon after, but at first it excited me to think that the primary antagonist spot would keep switching. There should be a movie that does that like five times.

I was only left with one question: where does the water go from the waterfall up in the clouds?

Now Available

(a review of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002))

(spoilers)

So I wasted some time. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (crappy name by the way), directed by Kaos (same), is one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen. Whenever a movie, especially with big names in it, is universally disliked, most tend to see that as an aversion, while I more often than I like see it as a challenge. However, not being that big of a risk taker, I waited until the day when I finally found this movie for 50 cents at a used book store. And I paid exactly the right amount.

First off, I’d like to express my distaste for the idea that everyone and their fucking mom is a hacker when it’s convenient in movies. A, there’s nothing flashy about hacking. B, it takes some serious skill, which even an ounce of research would tell you. And C, you can’t do literally everything you want to do by hacking.

But that’s just a drop in the bucket for this fucking movie. From start to finish it’s nonsense. Terrible story, terrible writing, terrible acting (even from actors you know (I really don’t get that)), etc. The soundtrack guy was totally confused, apparently, as all of the music for the slow scenes was fast paced and vice versa for the heavy action and fight scenes. And the fights! Let me tell you, I’m quite the fucking connoisseur of fight choreography, and this was some shit. Filthy, wet shit. More overblown nonsense than I can handle. Of course there was unnecessary slow mo; this was 2002 after all. That was poorly done as well. And Darth Maul/Toad guy? Ummmm… Ray Park! Yeah, you. Stop saying, “cancel,” when you mean ‘kill;’ you sound like a twat. It was like some future techno speak bullshit that movies from that time kept trying to sound cool with, but he was the only asshole doing it, and just with that one word, but he said it like five million times. “Don’t let them cancel each other.” “Do not cancel the target.” Shut the fuck up.

The logistics of just about everything made no sense. Like I said, the fights, plot, all of that, but to me the worst was the accuracy. Movie cops and henchmen usually bumble about and can’t hit anything they’re shooting at until it’s necessary for them to, sure, that’s something we live with. But I refuse to accept expert marksman assassin whatever protagonists missing their mark constantly. Constantly.

Ballistic was just bad, unforgivably so. I mean this not as a challenge, but as a warning: do not watch this movie. Just don’t bother.

Fun followup fact: the two Game Boy Advance first-person shooter video games based on this film, which came out respectively before and after Ballistic‘s release, were very well reviewed, the first receiving a 9 out of 10 from IGN.

Fixing the Sink

(a review of The Judge (2014))

(spoilers)

I think it’s am important lesson we should all learn that when returning to your country town home, somebody’s probably your daughter.

For a courtroom drama, The Judge doesn’t spend much time in a courtroom, or in investigation, or talking about law stuff. It is also a deep family drama, exploring the horrors of fatherhood and the worse horrors of family. There are certainly plenty of intricacies and developments to keep the plot moving along, but it’s really a disappointing amount of time before the gavel. And that’s because there really isn’t much of a case to be tried despite the earnest attempts of Robert Downey Jr.’s character Hank Palmer to “spread reasonable doubt all over this case.” Robert Duvall absolutely killed the bastard; the rest is just dancing around that fact.

But it’s character development, mediocre at worst, and commentaries on relationships albeit often awkward or cliched. It’d be difficult to pick a side in the feud between the titular judge Joseph Palmer and Hank if Joseph didn’t make so many way below the belt comments, especially about Hank’s failing marriage. Overall I liked the movie, though I was a bit underwhelmed. I think I had banked on more tearjerking moments, when really the only one was the judge’s admission to Hank that explained everything about their relationship since the latter was a child.

I also feel like something should have been said regarding Joseph’s legacy after the guilty verdict. A lot of time in this movie is spent first talking about this concern, as Joseph did not want his chemotherapy and subsequent memory loss to stain his previous year of tried cases, and then drawing out the plot considering Hank chooses to use this to their advantage in the end anyway. Basically, not using the sick person defense doubled the length on the film, but then there’s not a single mention of the predicted repercussions. Unfortunate, yes, but there’s always room for downers in drama. Heck the man dies at the end anyway. Really a lot goes unresolved now that I think of it.  None of the family save for Hank and Joe hash out their differences, and Hank’s budding relationship with an old flame is left uncertain. I suppose that’s reality, though.

I’d like to give an honorable mention to Billy Bob Thornton’s character Dwight Dickham, who stole the show as the most interesting personality as far as motivation, evolution, and the actor’s ability to characterize his presence. Dishonorable mention goes to Dax Shepard’s character C.P. Kennedy for sticking around to pat Hank on the back every time he was amazing, for unnecessary narrations to the less emotionally intelligent audience members, and for having a stupid character name.