Archive for 2014

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?

Under-the-Skin-Official-UK-Poster

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.

gone-girl-poster

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.

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-poster

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.

birdman-poster

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.

interstellar-poster

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.

Edge_Of_Tomorrow_Blunt_Poster_7_18_13

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.

hr_the_lego_movie_10

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.

Godzilla01

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.

le-passe-past-poster

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.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-Poster

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!

Interstellar (2014) Review (PG-13)

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

interstellar-poster

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.

Interstellar2

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.

Interstellar3

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!

Interstellar6

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.

Interstellar5

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

Interstellar1

I Did!

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , on November 4, 2014 by Crash! Landen

IVoted

How’s  about you?

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) Review (2014)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by Crash! Landen

How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_2_PosterHow To Train Your Dragon 2 picks up several years after the original film left off. Dragons and Vikings, once at war with one another are now working and playing together all because Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of the Viking Chieftain, develops a friendship with a rare dragon named Toothless. Now, while  the Vikings revel in sports involving these new organic airplanes, Hiccup continues to walk his own path and expanding his own world. Each day he and his loyal Night Fury fly further into unexplored lands, adding a new piece to an ever expanding map.

Draggin25

He’s found what he loves to do, but his father, Stoick (Gerard BUT-LER!), would rather him stop flying around on his dragon so that he can start preparing to succeed him as the Viking leader. But, Hiccup soon discovers that there’s an even bigger world out there, with more people doing bad things to more dragons and he’s once again crusading for Dragons’ rights… Hhhhhh…

Draggin2

When I went to see the original, I really didn’t have any expectations. in fact, I think I didn’t even want to see it. It just didn’t seem to interest me, but I went and… Wow. Great film. GREAT film. It was incredible to look at. It ‘moved’ well; it had a quick pace. It was funny. It had interesting, quirky characters. It had some unexpected twists and turns.

Draggin28

For the sequel, I did have expectations and I was disappointed that this film fell far short of the original. I wan’t EXTREMELY disappointed, but I did feel like Dreamworks was treading over the same ground.Hiccup discovers more people in distant lands who are basically at war with dragons (or with people using dragons). There’s another dragon, far larger than the others that is controlling them, just as there was in the original, only this time there’s TWO giant dragons so that they can fight at the end, but for some reason, it’s not as impressive as the ‘Red Death’ from the climax of the 2010 film.

Draggin26

And as always, Dragon 2’s biggest sin is that it’s dull. The flying/action sequences didn’t seem to be as impressive. It wasn’t as funny. There was a re-occurring feeling of “been there, done that.” The film even lost me a few times, as when Toothless can’t fly without  Hiccup for some reason, when the first scene with the two depicts Toothless… flying without Hiccup.

Draggin21

SPOILERS! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HAVE ONE OF THE FILM’S SECRETS SPOILED! I’M NOT KIDDING! SPOILER ALERT!… Anyway… Hiccup’s anachronistic progressive mentality wore on me in this one, also. The reaction to the appearance of… Okay, his mother (and the TRAILER gave that one away)….who was supposed to be dead is just immediately glossed over. I could never like the mother (played by Cate Blanchett) and I lost respect for the father and son because of the way it’s handled in the film… The mother CHOOSES to abandon her SON and her husband and allows them to believe that she’s dead… because she wants to be an activist and save chimpanzees… I mean dragons. Whatever. I’m sorry, I just can’t get past that. Sure, there’s a thing called forgiveness, but there’s also a thing called responsibility to raise your children. If the Dreamworks’ writers can put their contemporary attitudes into the Viking era, I can put my own into my criticism of the film and it also seemed WAY out of character for the chieftain Stoick, who routinely disowns his son in these films for FAR less. The writing just was not consistent.

Draggin23

Far from the worst film I’ve seen this year, Dragon 2 still has its good points. It’s still visually stunning. The digital artists made a great film to look at, but even this aspect falls short of the first. This one seems to fast forward through the ‘big’ moments as if the filmmakers also felt that they’ve ‘been there’, so they didn’t invest the effort to make them important as they did in the first film. At least it didn’t feel that way to me. If you didn’t see the first film, I’m sure that you might like this more than if you had, but there still is a vacuum of laughs and more draggin’ than dragon.

Draggin24

2.5 of 5 

Draggin27

 

Fair-A-Con

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words with tags , , , on July 1, 2014 by Crash! Landen

Pensacola residents will get the title, I think…

Paracon

Missed this last year for some reason… But, not really comic book oriented enough for me to get my nerd on.I do hope they do well, though, hence the unsolicited plug…

Her (2014) Short Review (R)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2014 by Crash! Landen

her-poster

The Premise: A lonely man who makes a living writing personal letters for other people falls in love with his new smartphone operating system. Yes, literally. With Apple’s Siri, I think we all saw it coming.

Her4

Why You Should See It: Director Spike Jonze was behind ‘Adaptation’, which I have extremely high regard for. How high? Click here for the answer. Charlie Kaufman wrote that, however, whereas Jonze wrote this one himself. The last film that I saw that Jonze both wrote and directed was his big screen re-imagining of the popular children’s book ‘Where The Wild things Are‘, a film that I both liked and was disappointed by. I’ll wait if you want to check out my review for that one. No? You didn’t come here just for Scarlett Johansson wallpaper did you? Anyway… This was almost like watching that one, only without any expectations that I had from familiar source material.

Her1

I don’t mean to work out where a film might be going before I see it, but a quick synopsis popped into my brain as soon as I heard about this one: “Boy Loses Girl. Boy Gets Operating System. Boy Loses Operating System. Boy Gets new Girl.” If you see this, you tell me how close that I came. I won’t blow my own horn if I nailed that one. Really, I won’t. Anyway… This is not in the same ballpark as the watermark of ‘Adaptation’. Not even in the same sport, really, so to speak. This might be in a  soccer stadium or something… No, that would be insulting. Maybe a basketball arena somewhere… And it has a few scenes that were obvious at least to me that did not work as well (or were not as funny) as the director probably thought that they did. It’s still an entertaining film, though. Mostly intelligent. The characters in the film don’t seem to think of things as quickly as the audience will (and won’t see where it’s all going, either), but it is a little more thoughtful than your typical comedy and falling at least a mile or two in general sci-fi tone as the brilliant Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. I have high regard for that one, too, as you can see by clicking here. Or you don’t have to. I’m just sayin’…

Her3

If you’re like me, though, you’ll like most of the people (if not all) of the actors in ‘Her’… Did I just make a ‘funny’? Yes. Yes, I think I did. Anyway, Joaquin Pheonix is a top notch actor, especially when it comes to playing people who are a little ‘off’ shall we say, and he does another fine job here. My only criticism on the rest of the cast is that maybe they were not shown enough… And that’s not any kind of scurrillous commentary on my part aimed at the Johannson’s physical assets. I reserve all of those for Olivia Wilde, actually. She makes everything that she’s in, that much better. She’s like bacon, actually. Olivia Wilde is like bacon, even in a part where she’s not supposed to be particularly liked at the end of her performance. Amy Adams (reunited with her costar from The Master) gets just enough screentime, I guess, for her supportive role, but I think the film would have been a lot better with a lot more of Her (see what I did there?). She’s one of the few actresses that can make even a chick flick tolerable to most.

Is this a big screen movie? Mmmm.. Well, I think so… It’s not a big FX movie. It’s low key. It has the feel of one of those highly polished, ‘packaged’ indie films, but Hoyte Van Hoytema (cinematographer) makes the visuals pretty to look at. It has that minimalist vibe that the director seems to prefer, not even giving  Samantha (the operating system) an avatar. But, maybe that was the point of that, I don’t know. Jonez REALLY wants to say something profound about the human condition, but maybe stays a little too cookie cutter… and a lot too banal… even for such an unorthodox love story. Is that damning with faint praise? I hope not. Jonez sequences a pretty clear narrative, but possibly the film needed more actual conflict. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say. ‘Her’ might be be a little too ‘art house’ and not enough  ‘mainstream  theater’ for its own good. But, I LIKE art house films. And I did like ‘Her’. I just didn’t love ‘Her’.

HER

3.5 of 5

Hertitles

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Short Review (R)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by Crash! Landen

InsideLlewynDavisPoster

 

The Premise: Set in the early 60s, it’s a crucial week in the life of a struggling yet talented folk singer, Llewyn Davis.

ILD2

 

Why You Should See It: It’s a Coen Brothers movie. I shouldn’t have to say any more than that. With the exception of ‘The Ladykillers’ remake, the Coens never disappoint. The characters in this film are as you would expect; quirky, funny, weird, mysterious, hard to read… Actors must really like working for the duo, because they always get the best performances out of actors in their movies and they know almost with certainty that the end result will be something they can be proud of. The film is not bleak so much as melancholy as per its central character LLewan Davis. Oscar Isaac has always been a scene stealer; this time carrying an an entire film in the lead role. When his character is described as having talent in the film, its not lip service. Isaac, himself, is a startlingly deft singer/guitarist. It was nice to see him paired again with ‘Drive” actress Carey Mulligan. I never liked the characters she played until her role in Drive, which was the first of three films in a row that I’ve seen her in now where I thought she was superlative. Coen Bros. regular John Goodman turns up in a less than plum role, but it is memorable, I think. Even if the film were awful, which it is surely not, it might still be worth seeing for the soundtrack. That alone will probably win the film some Oscars this year (Sidenote: ILD probably will be on my own Top 10 list next year since this was a 2014 wide release).

ILD4

Despite having a downbeat tone, the film has the laughs typical of the Coens’ past efforts. There were a couple of BIG laughs, with one in particular that sustained for at least a minute with the audience. Good stuff. And I won’t try to explain what the cat represents in the film. See the film and decide for yourself. Personally, when it ended, I wanted to immediately see it again.

ILD3

4.5 of 5

ILD1