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Crash! Landen’s Best 10 Films of 2016

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Lists with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2017 by Crash! Landen

Having seen fewer films than I normally see in a year, I had some difficulty coming up with 10 films ‘worthy’ of a ‘Best of’ List. Much happened in 2016, I suppose, that limited my movie outings. There are a few much hyped movies that I have not yet seen (such as Embrace of the Serpent, Hacksaw Ridge, the new Bourne movie and Notes on Blindness amongst others) that I will see in the near future that probably will have me rewriting this to some degree. I can’t see them all (and I try to avoid dome of them anyway).

You might notice some of the films on this list were originally released in 2015, but as I always say, I build my list on when movies are released in my part of the world. And some of these like The Revenant  feel like they are 2015 movies even though they were not viewed by the general public until January of 2016, because they won 2015 awards. Not my problem. As always, the hardest part of the list was from  6 to 10, but here they all are.

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#10 The Neon Demon I have liked most of Director Refn’s work ; his largely minimalist art house films framed with stark violent visuals. This  is his most bare-boned film that I’ve seen and is one of those films that makes you question what you just saw. Some have called this a horror film (there is that bit of cannibalism… and regurgitating eyeballs and….), but I think its more satire/social commentary than outright horror. It’s definitely not supposed to be taken literally.

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#9 Room A good-hearted film  with disturbing subject matter. It may be a little fairy tale-ish given the reality of victims of this sort of crime, but… I liked it for the most part.

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#8 The Family Fang A very odd little indie low budget movie. I didn’t like it the first time I saw it, but 3 more viewings later… It’s humorous in a dark sort of way about children and the parents that they’re stuck with, recovering from a damaging childhood…Or something like that.

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#7 Anthropoid Just a claustrophobic account of the attempt to assassinate  Reinhard Heydrich (central architect of The Final Solution) by Czech agents in their Nazi occupied homeland during World War II. This really captures the feeling of what it probably feels like to engage in a real and necessary suicide mission (as opposed to the lip service of the film that made my Worst 10 list). It’s not a feel good film in any shape or form, but it is very well made and captures a tone that I think few movies  have.

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#6 The BFG Just liked it. Had a weak third act, but he title character is unique in hismuttered  warblings. It is a children’s book come to life, so I guess it doesn’t matter that everything doesn’t entirely make sense. Spielberg works as well with kids as any director as he does here with the adorable Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. Visually brilliant, there are some awesome set pieces from Spielberg’s depiction of London after midnight to the BFG’s home to the Dream Country past Giant Country. A great kids’ film as is the next one on my list…

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#5 Finding Dory Took me a while to see the follow up to Finding Nemo, but it was worth it. Pixar wins again. Doesn’t quite deliver the level of laughs, nor reduce one to quivering blubbers (as many other Pixar films do), but still a solid movie about finding one’s home.

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#4 Hail, Caesar! One of the Coen Brothers’ lighter, flimsier films, but still a lot of fun. Some critics stated that this was proof that the Coens hate Hollywood, but would that it were so simple (trippingly), I think it proves the opposite showing quite a bit of nostalgia for the way films used to be made  strung together with Josh Brolin’s Christ-figure Eddie Mannix, washing away the sins of those under studio contract. Chuckled all the way through this.

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#3 The Nice Guys Laughed all the way through this one. Very much in tone with the director’s first film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but maybe a lot funnier. For me, anyway. Neat to see Kim Bassinger Russell Crowe  in another film, too (LA Confidential being that other one). I hope there’s a sequel.

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#2 The Revenant Got DiCraprio his Oscar for portraying a guy having a really bad time of things and his quest for revenge. Ended how I thought it HAD to end to make this a truly great film in its own way. but, I remember flicks like The Outlaw Josie Wales made an entirely different statement on the question of revenge and they’re not wrong, either I guess. Tom Hardy probably  should have gotten some awards for his role, also, but all of the cast did a top notch job, surest sign of a good director.

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#1 Son Of Saul did some things that I have not seen onscreen. It follows the central character Saul, a Hungarian Jew,  through roughly a day in his life as a Sonderkommando (see the movie for an explanation) in the the chaos of Auschwitz death camp run by the Nazis. The thing that really sets it apart from any film that I can remember is the way that it’s shot, remaining mostly in closeup after the opening shot where a soft spoken Géza Röhrig (portraying Saul) walks into focus from the blurred  forest landscape. It’s amazing the number of subtle emotions that Röhrig  gets across while keeping an extreme stoicism. The ending kept me thinking about the film for days afterwards. What’s strange, is that what I just said about the theme of revenge in The Revenant and the film’s statement of resolution was viable just as the opposite was true in other films such as The Outlaw Josey Wales… whereas here in Son Of Saul, the point of the film is entirely contradictory to my feelings on its ultimate statement if that makes any sense. i don’t think I can say anymore without talking about the ending, but in any case, even if I don’t agree with the point being made entirely, it’s still my #1 movie of 2016 (of the films from 2016 that I’ve seen thus far).

10 Cloverfield Lane * 13 Hours * A Hologram For The King * Anomalisa * Anthropoid * Arrival * Backtrack * Batman vs Superman: DOJ * The BFG * Bloodfather * Cafe Society * Captain America;Civil War * Captain Fantastic * Cell * Central Intelligence * Coming Through The Rye * The Confirmation * Criminal * Dad’s Army * The Darkness * Deadpool * Demolition * Doctor Strange * Don’t Breathe * The Driftless Area * Eye In The Sky * Everybody Wants Some!! * The Family Fang * Fathers & Daughters * The Fifth Wave * Finding Dory * Genius * The Girl On The Train * Green Room * Hail, Caesar! * Hell or High Water * The Huntsman: Winter’s War * I Am Not A Serial Killer * Into The Forest * Intruders * I Saw The Light * The Jungle Book * The Lobster * Midnight Special * Miss Peregrine’s Home For peculiar Children * Mojave * Money Monster * The Neon Demon * The Nice Guys * The Revenant * Room * The Shallows * Star Trek: Beyond * Star Wars:Rogue One * Son Of Saul * Suicide Squad * Sully * Synchronicity * Term Life * X-Men: Apocalypse * Zoolander #2

Crash! Landen’s Best 10 Films of 2015

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2016 by Crash! Landen

As always, these are the top 10 films that I’ve seen from 2015. They are not necessarily my favorites as much as those that I think were the best made and most successful at what they were trying to do. The release date thing… I only recognize the release date in my area. If it was made in 2014, but didn’t make it to theaters/streaming services/DVD releases until 2015, then I consider it a 2015 film. I have not seen everything, of course. Among films that I have not seen are Ridley Scott’s The Martian or Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (which should be rectified shortly). So the list may change when I get around to it. I don’t think this was a great year at the movies, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with 10 that I liked. Heeere they are.

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10. Antman The last couple of spots are always the hardest to fill since there are a number of movies that I think could go here. Number 10 was between this and Ex Machina. Both are fairly predictable and I think Ex Machina should have been less so. Antman was far more enjoyable, though, so I gave it the tenth spot, if only to prove that I don’t hate every Marvel movie.

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If you haven’t seen Ex Machina, though, it’s worth seeing (as is Alicia Vikander in the film… did that sound creepy?).

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9. It Follows This was a low budget (slightly subversive) horror flick with something going on right below the surface and is definitely best if you know nothing about it (I had not seen the trailer). Starts off a little shaky and somewhere towards the end it starts to unravel a little, but it collects itself with the final shot. It has a fairly original premise (which I won’t give away) and was a film that I didn’t really know where the story was going. I applaud the effort even if I may or may not have had to sleep with the light on  for DAYS after seeing it.

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8. Spectre Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007(?) maybe didn’t live up to Casino Royal or Skyfall, but it was still pretty good. Like Skyfall, though, you can’t really think about the details, you just have to go with it.

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7. Maps To The Stars David Cronenberg’s films can be either  be memorably brilliant or outrageously bad; ‘Maps’ falls on the better end of the quality spectrum being essentially a satire about some of the Hollywood populace. Mia Wasikowska is great in everything (as she was in Crimson Peak which didn’t make the cut). She’s as quietly warped as Julianne Moore’s character is outwardly off-balance in the story and the pay off between the two towards the end is fairly shocking. Maps made me laugh pretty consistently in a low key sort of way. It’s typical Icy Croneberg.

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6. The Walk Not in the same ballpark in quality and not nearly as inspirational as the 2008 documentary ‘Man On Wire’ about the same subject matter, but still a great film. It’s one of the few occasions where I would say that if you did not see the film in IMAX 3D, then it probably… no definitely will not have the same impact. I would hope this at least wins some FX awards.

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5. Mad Max: Fury Road No Mel, but George Miller’s still running the show, so I knew there wouldn’t be a letdown.  The funny thing is that Miller probably could have just dropped Max altogether, since the film was more about Furiosa than Max, but probably for me, the best action flick of the year. The first meeting between Furiosa and Max (chained to and carrying one of the ‘Warboys’) was as entertaining as any of the high octane car chases. I would like to see the storyboards on that one.

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4. The Gift This one came out of nowhere. I’ve always thought Jason Bateman was better than he gets credit for. I think I saw this right after I had seen ‘Bad Words’ (2013), where Bateman played a misanthropic 40 year old spelling bee contestant (which I highly recommend). That one was a comedy, where Bateman has made his career. The Gift is definitely not a comedy  and it’s another I can’t say too much (if anything) without spoiling it. It has kind of a M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie twist, but it’s not one where there is a game changing moment. You just think you’re watching one film and it ends up in a completely different place and point of view. And it’s kind of a nasty little tale when you get down to it with a creepy ending.

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3. Shaun The Sheep Yes, the first of two animated films on my list. Everything that I have ever seen by Aardman, a company  that makes very clever stop motion animated films and shorts, has been nothing short of brilliant. They are as good at what they do as Pixar is at what they do and they are no stranger to my Top 10 lists. ‘Shaun’ is a complete pantomime. There is no dialogue in the entire film, it’s the ultimate example of Hitchcock’s “Show the audience, don’t tell the audience” theory in action. There seems to be literally a sight gag/joke every 2 seconds of the film.

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2. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Billed (at least by British Film Critic Mark Kermode) as the first black and white Iranian Vampire Western (filmed in America), you would probably think ‘A Girl’ sounds like a horrible idea of a film. In that case you would be wrong. A film is lucky to create a single image or scene that is worth remembering; this movie has several of those. Arash Marandi is both cool and shleppy at the same time, just listlessly matriculating his way through life. Sheila Vand is absolutely mesmerizing. They both have individual scenes that are not only brilliant, but seem destined to be iconic, Together they have several ‘Meet Cutes’ /scenes of the kind that may stay with me until I die, like the montage in the museum from ‘Ferris Beuhller’s Day Off’ that ends with Cameron staring into the painting ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat with the Smiths’  (covered by The Dream Academy, I think) “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”  playing in the background… PAuse to admire that last sentence…. Aaannnd: Continue… Definitely worth seeing if you have the patience for subtitles.

And with the top film, I have to note that I found it odd that for the first time ever, my top film is the same as that of the aforementioned Mark Kermode. I’m a regular listener of ‘Wittertainment’ (Hello to Jason Isaacs), not only because it’s a show about films (and Kermode’s film reviews), but contributor Kermode and host Simon Mayo are genuinely enjoyable to listen to… But, I almost never agree with him on just about every movie that gets a run down on their show, so it was a little surprising to me that I not only agreed with him on the TOP Film of 2015, but the Top Two films. Not saying that legitimizes my opinion in any way (it might do the opposite actually, given that Kermode clings to the belief that the Greatest Film of All Time is The Excorcist). But, anyway, my #1 of 2015 is another animated flick:

 

InsideOut

#1 Inside Out I never, ever, EVER thought that I would like this film enough to make it #1, but with a dearth of ‘Great Films’ this year (or maybe I just haven’t seen ’em yet), Pixar has yet again delivered a story that I just cannot deny my top spot to. I don’t think it’s Pixar’s best effort by any stretch, but it’s still really good. Pixar seems to have a special talent for illustrating in a very simple (yet ingenious) way moments of emotional resonance or memories (as in what the title dish tastes like to the critic in Ratatouille or the depiction of Carl’s memories of his deceased wife in 2009’s Up. Hell, I need to stop typing about it, I might start blubbering right now. They have that effect on you if you actually involve yourself with their films.

I have to admit that coming into the film I did not want to like it largely because I had heard critics such as Mark Kermode going on and on about it (and right now, my words of going  into a film without being predisposed to a particular opinion before you actually see the film are AGAIN coming back on me as they did in that last post). When I did finally see it, I thought it was typical Pixar; clear story, a few chuckles, some great ideas, amazing visuals, etc… Yawn… I liked it, but I did not understand the ‘rave’ reviews… Until Bing Bong. Once Bing Bong made an appearance everything changed and strangely the film seemed to step up from an enjoyable film to a classic one. And of course, they provided at least one more moment where I was blubbering over a cartoon character… BASTARDS! And as clever as the film was, I think it reached another height with the credits (which I won’t spoil for anyone).

And there it is. I know….”NO STAR WARS?! Have you SEEN it yet?” Yep. Seen it. Girl empowerment film. Looked great.”But it had light sabres! And stormtroo–!” Yep. Got it. Not on my list. “But–!” Not on my Worst List either. That’s good, right? Anyway…

My annual lists may change in the near future if I see something better (or worse) and remember to update my lists. Won’t change to add The Force Awakens, though. “Wha—?! What’s WRONG with you?! It’s STAR Wa—!” Thanks for reading.

Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Films of 2015

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by Crash! Landen

Coff! Kaff! Hack! Koff! It’s been a while… And boy is this blog dusty… SO dusty in fact it’s not working properly. I’ll see what I can do, but if it’s beyond repair, then it’s beyond repair…

Okay, Im back! Seems to be working a little better after making some space. The sign over the door still isn’t working, but I’ll get to that.

I saw a lot of CRAP this past year. I did my best to avoid the biggest bombs, but finding actual “good” movies was a supremely difficult task for me this year, which is why I’m first starting with my annual list of celluoid radioactive waste. This is the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to my cinematic viewing choices. Keep in my mind, these are my opinions so I cannot be wrong. It’s my list. The only criteria I have is that I have seen the film* and that I was so aggravated by it that I felt the need to put the film in question onto this list. So without further adieu… Here is my look back at 2015’s cinematic nether-regions (at least with the films that I’ve seen. There are probably far worse films, but like I said; I avoided them for the most part*).

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10. Avengers: Age Of Ultron “What?! A Marvel film on the list?! What?!” Yes! I’l admit I laughed throughout, but the humor was largely there to attempt to cover up all of the film’s fallacies. I’ll admit when it comes to subject matter that has been engrained as part of my childhood that I may not be the most objective of viewers, but, I do try to be. I try not to be that fan that overreacts to any detail leaked online 2 years before the film’s release. I remember when pictures of Heath Ledger were ‘leaked’ and the nerd populace had a collective stroke at the outrage that Christopher Nolan was perpetrating upon them, only to crown the director as a genius auteur and the actor’s performance as award-worthy after the film was released. I was not one of those people. When James Spader was announced as Ultron, one of my all time favorite Avengers villains, I gave it a chance. I have never cared for the actor, but I had not yet seen the film. Of course I was disappointed, though (hence the #10 spot). Again, having read various comics featuring Ultron growing up, I had a perception of how the character should be like in general. What I remembered was Ultron as a raving psychotic machine who ended EVERY sentence with an exclamation point. Spader plays a lackluster lounge singer that specializes in boring the audience with monologues and the WORST part.. and really, I should have known this from the casting of Spader (but, again, I gave it a chance until actually seeing it), but just as with Zack Snyder’s version of Watchman’s Dr. Manhattan, this director chose to not give the villainous automaton a modulated voice. Sounds like a stupid criticism, right(?), but if you don’t get the villain right, first and foremost, in a superhero/action flick then you’re not going to get the movie right. That’s not the only misstep for the film, though. Besides the mis-castings (there were others) the storyline was tedious and never mounted any suspense. Being a nerd, I was also annoyed at some of the things that a nerd would be annoyed at, like the whole hammer lifting gag and SUDDEN SPOILER ALERT having the VISION being the one that can also lift the Mjolnir. Yes, I was out of my mind on that one and not just because they gave no reason as to why the Vison, an android, is worthy other than he lifts the hammer. So he (it) is more worthy than Captain America (which makes me wonder why Steve Rogers would not be more worthy than Thor himself since they have portrayed him as an arrogant buffoon in all of the Marvel films). Anyway… Not, the worst film I’ve ever seen, but not deserving of making 18 billion dollars on its first weekend (which is what it made, right?).

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9. Wyrmwood Not much to say. I hate putting low/no budget films on my ‘Worst’ lists, but this movie was deserving. It was as obnoxious as it was poorly written, but I guess I shouldn’t expect much from a film about zombies and a girl that develops telekinetic zombie controlling powers from an apocalyptic mad scientist.

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8. Blackhat Couldn’t get through it. Wasn’t this Michael Mann. He films are generally far too angstily (is that a word?) melodramatic for my tastes. Chris Hemsworth playing a hacker even more arrogantly than he plays Thor probably doesn’t help matters, but the director does nothing to make anyone care about any of the proceedings (anyone meaning me). The film reminds me of that turd from the 90s Hackers, starring Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie. Jolie was insanely hot in that film. Did that slip out? Anyway… The film just bored the hell out of me and was that sort of  film where the filmmakers approach real world technology like they’re making a 1950s B-movie.

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7. Paper Towns Oh God. This one should probably be lower on the list. I can’t really put this one into words other than saying that the characters were so annoying that I needed to either punch them all in the face or have some punch me in the face. Repeatedly. It’s a film where the film builds Cara Delavigne’s character up into a legendary (yet irritating) figure and in the denouement tell you, the viewer, that it’s WRONG to think of someone that way. “SO wrong. Noone’s mythic. We’re all the same looking to figure things out for ourselves.” BASH!… And I couldn’t get through most of it. Probably not the target audience, anyway…

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6. Jurassic World In the original Jurassic Park I learned that a T-Rex can run up to 35 mph. In Jurassic World I learned that Bryce Howard can outrun a T-Rex… In high heels. And apparently after being set up as an idiot when it comes to “the great outdoors”, she becomes a din-expert and probably saw the original film, like the rest of us since she just came up with this idea with a flare and used it in exactly the same way as Sam Neil used it. Is that meta? I hate meta. This movie also spent WAY too much time reminding everyone what a great flick that original Spielberg film was, instead of trying to make a great film. I KNOW! ” But, Crash!, this made 3 zillion dollars in its opening weekend! How do explain that?” People are idiots! That’s how I explain it! PLEASE NOTE: I was there in the theater on the film’s opening night. Draw your own conclusions on that one.

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5. The Grizzly Maze Wow. Let’s look at the cast… Thomas Jane. Scott Glenn.Adam Beach. All really great actors. The lovely and talented Piper Perabo. I’ll watch her in just about anything. And, uh… Jame s Marsden… Um, yeah, well… But how the hell did ALL of these actors get roped into this pile of Grizzly poop? Just a horribly written film that makes those exploitational low budget horror films (like Grizzly) look like Oscar— nay— legitimate films.

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4. Electric Slide Looked cool. Shot well. All style, no substance. Skipped over story to get to ‘the cool’.

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3. Cop Car Kevin Bacon’s worst film where he plays a murderous sheriff that has his police vehicle stolen by two potty mouthed kids played by two horrible child actors… I have to remind myself of what I always say about actors (especially child actors)… Always blame the director (and editor), because they’re they ones that are really responsible for an actor’s performance. Or to blame, as is the case here.

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2. Knock Knock Knew nothing about this one other than it starred Keanu Reeves. Most critics will decry Reeves wooden acting style, but he generally comes off as a fairly likable dude onscreen and that can go a long way, even if his films are never that good (with some exceptions). But, I gave this one a shot… Then, the credits rolled and the Lion’s Gate logo appeared. Aw, crap! Then Eli Roth’s name appeared as director. F*ck. Do I need to say more? He wrote it, too. I KNOW. I know. I’m contradicting what I said earlier about giving a film  a shot until it actually unfolds before me. But… It’s Eli Roth… I tried. I really did try. I might’ve made it a half hour in until I could no longer tolerate the lead character’s stupidity necessary for an Eli Roth film to work… Did I say that? None of his films work. Not really… Anyway… The acting was horrible (maybe Reeves’ worst acting ever and remember; I like Keanu), the characters abrasive, the film goes exactly where you think it will. And that it’s shot in one house for the entire film doesn’t help it from looking televisual. Just another spiteful, cynical little film made by a guy blatantly ripping off the films that he admires while not fully understanding why those (better-made) films work. Maybe, he’ll make a ‘good’ film one day, but I doubt it.

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1.  Fant4stic* Okay, I’m going to contradict myself again. I’ve talked about being open to a film until I’ve actually seen it, from the tenth spot all the way down to my number two (which is what this film inspires every time I think about it… Number Two), but as with the Avengers, the source material means too much to me to be objective. And when I say ‘source material’, I don’t mean the current offering from Marvel comics. I discovered Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a big box owned by my babysitter (which is a fairly long time ago in people years) and that was probably why I have been a lifelong comics collector. That initial exposure to Stan and Jack gave way to the likes of Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, Joe Sinnott and Big Bad John Byrne doing their stints on the Fantastic Four… So, I almost feel like one of those Harry Potter fans feel like when the film they’re watching isn’t following every letter that was written by the author… Almost… I can certainly understand their ire. But, I digress, what am I trying to say? Josh Trank, after his success with Chronicle, an extremely overrated film (at least to me), was set to the task of resetting the Fantastic Four franchise. He does so, by thumbing his nose… no, he just gave the middle finger to longtime fans with a legion of changes to the story and the characters to where the film looks more like an attempt at yet another superhero team than an actual re-imangining of the FF. That might’ve worked if it were, but it is not. It’s the Fantastic Four. And it’s not a good sign when all during the filming, there are stories, legitimate or not, of Trank pitching tantrums and nearly coming to blows with his actors and producers and even less of a good sign when he’s tweeting how bad the film is and how it might’ve wound up had he gotten his way (he also quit/got fired from  helming one of the next Star Wars films because of Fan4stic… allegedly). Then there’s the less than 10% rating on Rottentomatoes.com… which brings me to my second bit of hypocrisy involving Fant4stic: I’ve only seen the trailer…. …. …. …. …. …. Yup. Have not seen it, nor will I. The trailer alone was enough for me to put it in the top … er, bottom spot. And yes, I did see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It didn’t make it onto the list.

I will post my Best of 2015 shortly (meaning maybe tomorrow).

Own It…

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , on April 23, 2015 by Crash! Landen

GSMT1

Most unintentionally funny series that Marvel Comics ever released… And now I own it. Great character; HORRIBLE name.

Crash! Landen’s Best Films of 2014

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , , on December 31, 2014 by Crash! Landen

 

 

My last post of the year… and my annual proclamation of films that everyone should see. For me, it wasn’t one of the better years at the movies, but, there were still interesting movies being made. There are actually many films that I have not seen that have varying degrees of acclaim (not that my views are dictated by what critics think), so as always, this is just a list compiled from the movies that I have seen. And as always, the release dates can make things confusing, too, but I always base that on when a film is released in my little part of the world,

There were several movies that I thought about putting in the 10 spot. Anytime Terry Gilliam makes a film, I usually have room on my list for it, but Zero Theorem didn’t quite live up to what I was anticipating. It was even a little bit of a downer which isn’t typical for Gilliam. Still worth seeing… The horribly named Snowpiercer, which came out of left field, probably deserves to be here. It has a very hokey premise; one that just doesn’t add up the more one thinks about it, but still was a very pleasant sci-fi surprise. My number 10 was a science fiction film, though… Or was it?

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10. Under The Skin Scarlett Johannson starred in one of the weirder films that I’ve seen in recent memory. I think I got what the movie was trying to say for the most part, but I don’t think it has to be understood. It’s a very artsy film that has a lot of subtle moments and sequences that are left up to the viewer to comprehend them how they will. I also don’t know if I enjoyed it, either. It;s a creepy movie and that damned soundtrack didn’t help. Worth a look, though; especially if you want to see something that’s a little different.

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9. Gone Girl This one didn’t entirely add up, but it never failed to entertain. Aside from one extremely violent (and extremely unnecessary to tell the truth) scene, you might not even guess it’s a movie by director David Fincher…. Or.. Maybe you would.

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8. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies It’s over! It’s finally over! No more   elves! No more Hobbits and Dwarves and Gollumses! Jackson will finally have to move on! What? Oh, sorry… Yeah, I liked it, but at the same time, this was a trilogy that probably could have been a one and done. The final installment was also glaring in its shortage of scenes with…. The Hobbit. You probably could have called this last one The Mad Dwarf King. It kind of was his movie… And that human guy’s movie, too… Sure wasn’t Bilbo’s movie.

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7. Birdman Slightly Kauffman-esque (as in Charley Kaufman), this is probably Keaton’s best work since– no, not ;Batman’… Did you really think I was going there? No, since Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’. Keaton is the perfect person to play this, though, given the film’s subject matter (about an actor known for playing a popular superhero trying to be taken seriously in his craft). The lovely and talented Emma Stone stands out (of a pretty good cast) as Keaton’s daughter. Just wish Alejandro González Iñárritu had not gone with beatnik style drum soundtrack.

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6. Interstellar I don’t care how many physicists helped with the ‘science’ of the film, there’s a lot here that I just have to chalk up as horseshit. Sorry. What? I just mean, I don’t believe the gravity of a  habitable planet (with no apparent nearby star to provide light and life and such) orbiting the lip of a black hole will slow time for the people on that planet, nor do I believe by dropping weight on a spacecraft being sucked into said black hole will allow you to escape. That being said and forgetting about the multiple drawn out endings, I still think this was a tremendous movie that offers more than your typical blockbuster. And it was quite dramatic, very suspenseful while the movie was unfolding for the first time. Worth seeing.

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5. Edge of Tomorrow Groundhog Day with an alien invasion. Tom Cruise has his detractors (with good reason) but his film career is unusually consistent. And I rarely say this, but I could probably handle a prequel highlighting The Angel of Verdun… But, that’s probably because of my creepy fixation on Emily Blunt… Sorry. Moving right along.

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4. The Lego Movie Silly, but funny. Liked it far more than I thought I would. Deserves to be this high on the list, despite that awful song.

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3. Godzilla Will probably make a great twin bill with Pacific Rim. Some complained that like Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’, the audience was deprived of the title character for  too much of the movie, but as a lifelong Godzilla fan I would disagree very strongly. I also would say that this is a movie  best enjoyed on the largest screen possible. The great thing that the film did was to recreate the same sort of intent that the original film presented while embracing what the character would later become (from a metaphor for atomic destruction to something benevolent towards mankind). If you love big monster movies like I do, this may even be your movie of the year.

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2. The Past A subtitled French film about a broken Iranian family.. Or something like that. It’s actually a lot more than that, as it surprised me repeatedly with its continuing revelations about the characters and plot twists. The entire cast is nothing short of brilliant. I have seen two of the actors in other films… Berenice Bejo in  the ‘silent’ film ‘The Artist’ and Tahar Rahim in the equally dazzling ‘A Prophet’, but Ali Mosaffa made it seem like I was just a fly on the wall watching ‘real’ people, as did the rest of the cast. The child actors seemed to be living the experience instead of acting in it. The ‘resolution’ in the story (if you want to call it that) was unexpected as was the meaning of the film.

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1. The Grand Budapest Hotel Not Wes Anderson’s best movie, but good enough to place first on my list. Had lots of chuckles and a few HUGE belly-laughs. Anderson has honed a very distinctive eccentric style over the years. His movies are instantly recognizable as his. It’s probably his most artistic live action film to date and you get all of the Wes Anderson regulars (including Bill Murray) along with some new notables (that hopefully will make appearances in his future films, as well). There were many critics that asked the question ” Who knew Ralph Fiennes was a comic genius?”, but I wouldn’t have asked that. He’s a brilliant act. He has some great moments with his costar Tony Revolori. Has a few scene stealers, too… Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, and of course, Willem Dafoe who seemed to be revisiting his character from Shadow Of The Vampire, but with funnier results. And as I said in my short review of The Grand Budapest Hotel… That poor, poor cat.

So, anyway.. Bring on 2015 and Happy New Year!

Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Films of 2014

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , on December 30, 2014 by Crash! Landen

Happy  Holidays!  I have not posted in a  few weeks, but the end of the year is upon us which means it’s time for me to post a Best 10 Films list and this list: the Worst 10 Films that I saw in 2014.  This probably is NOT the very worst of what’s out there… Not being a paid critic, I don’t see everything that has been released like I used to. I’m a bit more selective and in the past few years I have seen fewer ‘bad’ films. This year, I have to question my own decision making since I think that I’ve seen more crap than movies that I would give a passing grade to. There were a number of films that probably could be counted here that just missed the cut. Some were surprising to me; I was extremely disappointed with How To Train Your Dragon 2, for instance (which felt like a lesser retread of the first one). The Captain America sequel was another Marvel letdown and the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got the 4 Turtles (mostly) right, but nothing else.  Transcendence and Winter’s Tale were interesting failures (Will Smith as the Devil?!). I also saw quite a few indie.. what’s the word? Turds. ‘Turds’ is the best fitting word that I can come up… But, they were SOOOOO low budget, that it’s pointless to pick on them. ‘Don’t Blink’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ come to mind there.

But, to get on with it… Here is my list of free-time stealing bombs released in 2014.

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10. A Long Way Down Had a great premise; on New year’s Eve a depressed, albeit successful man goes to the tallest roof in London prepared to throw himself to his own death when someone else turns with the same idea… That was a good premise.. Then another person shows up and I still think they may have had something, but when a fourth person turns up, they found themselves with too many stories to tie together. Pick any two of the four (or the unfortunately named Imogen Poots and any other one except that dude from Breaking Bad) and  this could have been something worth watching.

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9. Transformers: Age Of Extinction I’m a Michael Bay /Transformers apologist, but this was WAAAAAYYYY too long for a film sequel based on a mediocre cartoon based on a toyline. I’ll admit I was in nerd heaven when the Dinobots show up… even if there was no real reason for them suddenly showing up and fighting alongside Optimus Prime at the end. Just far too long, though.

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8. X-Men: Days OF Future Past Had its moments, but I think the entire series was ruined from the first decision to include so many characters. And so many superpowered characters. Should have began with Prof. X and the original 5 X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman). To try to cram 40 years of extremely convoluted, poorly written continuity into the films is just stupid. But, what do I know. This and Transformers and Twilight and the Harry Potter films etceteramade BILLIONS, so what do I know right? That much money means they’re GREAT. Right?… RIGHT?

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7. Robocop An unnecessary, lesser dumbed down remake with someone’s politics introduced to piss off half of the audience. I have purposefully forgotten everything about this version.

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6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Sigh. I ranted about this one. I like Garfield and Stone, but there’s just too many other things wrong with this one.

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5. Fury A very odd film that consisted of unlikable members of a World War II  tank crew with contempory cynical viewpoints and dialogue. Has one overly long BORING scene involving a woman and her daughter (if I remember correctly) that stops the film completely and turns the film down into creepy misogynist territory. It feltlike that one scene went on for an hour… And the idiocy of the finale… A tank that doesn’t roll anymore surrounded by a horde of Nazis that choose to charge the tank and fight with their fists instead of artillery… Just. STUPID. Maybe this one needs to be lower on the list. Just writing about it makes me think it was even dumber than I remembered.

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4. Maleficent Chick flick. And one of those “We don’t NEED men!” sort of chick flicks, too. I always loved the old Disney cartoons and the villainess in Sleeping Beauty was probably my favorite… When she was green. And evil. And turned into a really pissed off dragon. And was killed… here, she’s the heroine and been ‘done wrong’ by men. And the film was just boring, besides.

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3. Walk of Shame Another chick flick and it was pretty shameful. I love Elizabeth Banks. She deserves to be in better movies than this.

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2. Hercules Another case of false advertising. The trailer I saw shows Hercules battling Hydras and giant lions and other supernatural types. Hercules. Greek/Roman demi-god.  Here, though, it’s just Hercules the normal dude. All that mythology stuff is just a load of crap. Everything in the trailer is rehashed at the beginning and sneered at. So I was like “What? THAT’S WHAT I PAID TO SEE, NOT NORMAL-MAN.” It would be like going to see Superman and finding that the filmmakers have decided that he no longer flies or leaps tall buildings or is superstrong… He’s just a reporter now and he really IS from Smallville, not some ridiculous alien planet. That’s stupid, right? NO. IT’S NOT. THAT’S WHAT I CAME TO SEE.

No, I didn’t make it all of the way through.

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1. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For You would think with Eva Green being so… NAKED!… For such a prolonged time… and with Jessica Alba grinding on the floor practically every time she’s onscreen… That I would think this is my movie of the year. But, no… I do have standards and this actually bored me. The Joe Gordon Levitt subplot was asinine. Bruce Willis just took a paycheck. I felt cheated, Frankly, what with all of the various actors posing (and acting) in front of their green-screened static backgrounds. I can’t say I thought the original stories were that great anyway, but somehow, on the pages of a comic book, it somehow works better. Maybe Rodriguez and series creator Frank Miller should have tried making a real movie this time instead of a glorified motion comic with hot chicks. I’m gonna’ pass on the third installment if it ever gets made.

And that’s my list. The best 10 to follow shortly.

Interstellar (2014) Review (PG-13)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by Crash! Landen

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Film director Christopher Nolan’s latest silver screen offering is a thought provoking thrilling entertainment even if it’s not always logical. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, an ex-pilot turned farmer in an age of blight and famine. The human race is slowly starving, suffocating even, with no answers in sight. Cooper, a widower, is someone who is a bit disappointed by humanity’s state of malaise; no longer reaching for the stars. He doesn’t enjoy being a farmer other than to provide for his two children (Tom and Murphy), still yearning to fly.

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By an act of fate (or maybe not so much), he comes into contact with a reformed version of NASA (which was shut down after having been deemed as unnecessary). There he meets an old friend: the physicist Prof. Brand (played by Nolan favorite Michael Caine) who now leads the mission to save humanity. He has a plan to do just that, having been studying a wormhole that was ‘placed’ in our solar system by… fifth dimensional beings. My brain immediately went to Mr. Mxyzptlk (one of Superman’s arch-foes), but I remembered he was from the fourth dimension. Oh. We have more theoretical dimensions nowadays, I guess… But, I digress.

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A number of manned spacecraft have already traversed the wormhole to a galaxy far, far away. Brand wants Cooper to fly a new mission to find out if the worlds that the manned spacecraft have found are habitable. Cooper at first refuses (because he’s a father), until Brand illustrates that he’s offering a chance to save his children. With that, Cooper sets off with a team of scientists that includes Brand’s daughter (played by another Nolan regular: Anne Hathaway). And here… We…………….. Go!

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As with most, if not all of Nolan’s films, the running time is quite bloated with excessive content that allows for more ill conceived moments that momentarily take the viewer out of the story (And there are quite a few ill conceived moments). I say “momentarily” because another staple of a Christopher Nolan movie is that he knows what buttons to push to get the audience behind his protagonists’ journey as he does here. Even when a spaceship’s crew is lightening their load in order to attempt to escape the gravity of a black hole, I just ignored the utter ridiculousness of that particular idea and enjoyed the action. Nolan ‘sells’ the situations of his characters very well, even in the scenes that really added nothing except extra running time minutes. There are some black hole sized gaps of rationale that just don’t make sense, especially in who drops the wormhole near Saturn… Some cinematic time loops make sense. This one doesn’t if you think about it. But, anyway… There are also some revelations that didn’t seem to be properly set up (the one involving Anne Hathaway’s character in particular).

 

I’m not complaining about the extended length too much nor the movie’s coherence. I was never bored; never checking my watch. The story was as epic as something covering this kind of subject matter should be. It was the kind of spectacle that Hollywood films can be. The sound accompanying the IMAX visuals was worth the few extra dollars (to me). The story does offer up a little to think about with all of the concepts that get kicked around. Some of Nolan’s reoccurring themes make their way into the story, also. One such theme that I don’t think has been talked about much is the way  Nolan focuses on the way stories are told and the reliability of the truth of the story by the teller (as in ‘Following’, ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, even the Batman films to some degree). That’s touched on a little in the beginning of the film (with Murphy’s teacher who talks about the ‘faked’ missions to the moon) and the theme makes itself evident later as well.

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I don’t think this is Nolan’s best work, but it was worthwhile to see at the movie theater. There are some real knockout scenes that echoed some of the films that probably directly inspired this one (especially Kubrick’s 2001) along with some head-scratchers (it’s not surprising that some of the people behind the VERY flawed 1997 Jodie foster vehicle ‘Contact’… which also co-starred McConaughey… were also behind this one). Some things like the extended epilogue should have probably been cut from the film, but on other scenes I can’t even come up with a description for (as in the ‘docking’ scene) other than that it was just really damn cool. The fact that it also reminded me of the fun but ridiculous Luc besson film ‘The Fifth Element’  in the ‘message behund the film’ didn’t help, either. There are parts in this that are better than what is taken in its entirety. Some of the best parts of the film involved McConaughey playing the brash pilot and also some of the obvious tearjerking scenes with his daughter (who I have failed to mention until now… played by Mackenzie Foy who maybe stole a few scenes from her adult costars). But the good parts far outweigh the bad (and I didn’t even get to the at first not very impressive robot comedy relief). Just go see it and make up your own mind, but if you like science fiction (or Christopher Nolan’s past films), there’s a really good chance that you’ll probably like this one.

4 of 5

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