Archive for Movie review

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 Worst 10 Films of 2016

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , on January 1, 2017 by Crash! Landen

Hello!

Every  year I try to come up with the Best and Worst 10 films that I have seen in the past year, which has become increasingly more difficult given that I’m far more selective than I once was. Why watch a sequel to  a film that I didn’t like (Independence Day 2, for instance) or watch a film by a filmmaker that consistently grinds out cinematic vomit (I’ll regret that comment later…)? I’m finding, though, that even  with perspicacious selection skills, that it is far easier to find celluloid grunge than it is to discover something worthwhile. Making a film that resides in the lower tier of the quality scale, at least for me, appears to be the norm, not the exception. Having to come up with 5 great films was difficult. Making this list, the WORST list was… Well, I could have probably catalogued the Bottom 50 for the year easier than I came up with my Top 10. It almost sounds like I hate movies, doesn’t it, but that’s not true. I feel you just have to sift through an awful lot of crap to find the hidden gem. These are not one of those….

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#10 Central Intelligence… For me, the best part of the film was the tagline on the poster. It’s a comedy, though, so what you find funny and what I find funny may be completely different. I thought it was dumbed down, sort of repulsive in some parts and was definitely was not in the target audience.

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#9 The Darkness… Derivative of quite a few better horror flicks; mainly Poltergeist, predictable and just stupid. I thought it might be interesting given that Kevin Bacon was in it, but I was so wrong. SO, so wrong.

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#8 Into The Forest… Probably should be lower on my list. It’s like they started out to make one of those ‘breakdown of society/apocalyptic’ films and just lost interest, turning it into some sort of a rape survival with really questionable logic and a complete lack of conflict, but that’s just me…

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#7 Criminal…Apparently, one film about a guy being downloaded into another guy’s body was not enough for Ryan Reynolds (see 2015’s Self/Less). This was the weaker of the two to be kind. It’s amazing that the cast consists of Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman (in his most abrasive role ever;he shouts the entire film… almost literally every sentence), but is as uninteresting a ‘thriller’ as I’ve seen in quite some time. Hopefully all of these people will be in good films again in the future.

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#6 Backtrack… Technically a 2015 release, but didn’t open in my area until 2016, hence it being on the 2016 list. Adrien Brody has been in a few of these  SyFy Channel style ghost stories lately. All of them have been forgettable with twists taken from better more well know films or with twists that are so apparent from the start that you really can’t call them twists. The movie proves that Sam Neill just loves collecting a paycheck (as do we all).

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#5 Captain Fantastic was not fantastic. I like Viggo, he takes on interesting roles. I guess you can give him that, the premise was interesting: a father raising 6 kids as multi-lingual, historian, math genius, scientist survivalists. Contradicts itself repeatedly, scolding society while ultimately engaging in the same.sins. Has a hypocritical moral arrogance about it that I just didn’t care for. It’s hard to get behind a film where the director is constantly putting matters of opinion and idealogical beliefs as fact, especially when some of those facts are so wrong that they could even be considered offensive.

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#4 Suicide Squad… I’ve never really been a fan of the government controlled supervillain team from DC comics. It never made much sense to me logically, even if I liked the comics that they first appeared in together (Legends, the 1980s DC Comics  limited series). But the filmmakers maybe should have looked at that series to try to understand how to make a coherent story. If you combine Joel Schumacher Batman & Robin garish neon colored visuals with typical Frank Miller ‘grim and gritty’ comic book tone, I think this is what you would get. For me, not a good combination.  There is (mindless) action in this, so at there was something going on onscreen as opposed to Miller’s film The Spirit, where absolutely nothing happened for most of the running time. Much of the film is spent on introducing each and every one of its 79 characters to their own classic rock/oldie tune cranked up so loud that at times it’s difficult to hear any of the poorly written dialogue that the actors are delivering. The plot as far as I could tell, was the team being put together to stop one of its team members. No, really… I did manage to stay awake for the entire movie, which is more than I can say for #3 (and others) on my list.

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#3 The Colony… Could. Not. Get. Through. It. I tried on 2 occasions. Stopped at almost the same point about a half hour in.  Maybe there was an important story there, but I couldn’t get past the pretentious stilted acting(and I mean everyone onscreen… or Hermione as a stewardess. I think with a little more effort they might have made a good comedy out of this… I’ll never know.

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#2 Mojave… Another good example that it’s usually the director that makes the film, not the actors. Garrett Hedlund made an appearance in the Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis (with co-star Oscar Isaac playing the titular character). That’s one of my favorite movies of the last few years and I highly suggest seeing it if you have not. this might be Oscar Isaac’s worst film by some distance. Mark Wahlberg turns up in a cameo, bit why he wanted to make an appearance in this  is baffling as I doubt Isaac will be highlighting this in his acting resume. It’s completely forgettable and  there’s never any reason given to like either of the two main characters who are supposed to be carrying  a movie.

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#1 Everybody Wants Some!! Sigh… Did Linklater HAVE to soil a great Van Halen song (from Women & Children First) by using it as his title for his crap film? Based on his films I’m guessing he listened to a lot of Gary Numan and Pat Benatar… Never been a big fan of writer/director Richard Linklater, even if I’ve occasionally liked some of his movies. Way too pretentious for my tastes. It’s amazing that here he combines ‘obnoxious jock’ behavior with pretension, which makes for a whole host of characters, each defined by one cliched trait, that are extremely hard to listen to or more importantly hard to empathize with. If you can’t find anything likable about a character, even if that character is an anti-hero (or possibly a villain in a lead role), then it’s going to be hard to stay with that film. As with The Colony, I found that I would rather be spending my time with something a little more appealing, like slamming doors on my fingers. Maybe it’s just me, though. There are people that actually liked the film Dazed And Confused (to which this is the “spiritual sequel” to that one as the poster purports) which is unfathomable to me, but as film critic Mark Kermode commonly states “There are other opinions available.” Now to make the list for my Best 10 of 2016…

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

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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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2.5 of 5 

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Her (2014) Short Review (R)

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

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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.

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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.

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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’…

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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’.

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3.5 of 5

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Short Review (R)

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

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

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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).

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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.

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4.5 of 5

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) Review (PG-13)

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Reviews with tags , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by Crash! Landen

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What’s going to haunt me about ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ is that after the movie stopped with about 20 minutes still left on the reel… I mean literally came to a stop with the entire screen turning a bright green… no sound, no movie… right after Will Farrell proclaims that he can no longer masturbate (sorry)… because he’s blind ( not the other way around, oddly enough)…. I had about 10 minutes to decide whether or not to go to the Carmike front office and get my $7.25 refunded. The offer was there. Oh, what might have been. Instead, I stuck it out and stayed to the bitter end. I especially enjoyed the fact that before returning to the point where it stopped, the idiot working the computer (?) fast forwarded from the beginning of the film to that point, then proceeded to fast forward through the end of the movie, so that everyone could see how the movie ended before we got there. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, it did not detract AT ALL from my lack of enjoyment of the film.

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I didn’t expect much out of the Ron Burgandy sequel and that’s exactly what I got. Not much. This film, consistent to the one that spawned this half hearted effort, is nothing but an extremely loosely connected collection of skits revolving around mostly the state of broadcast journalism. Granted, there were some laughs. I laughed a few times in the first half hour despite the fact that most or all of the jokes that were used in the film had been done before elsewhere. Many of them had even been used by Ferrell before on Saturday Night Live to better effect. I wanted to laugh at this. I liked the original movie. I like Will Ferrell. I like Steve Carell. I like most of the people that appeared onscreen, so there was a large amount of built in goodwill towards Anchorman 2; the film just didn’t have much to offer.

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Where the previous chapter ending with 70s newsman Ron Burgandy ‘on top’, naturally, the writers (Ferrell and director Adam McKay) had to stir up some conflict by taking him down a few notches.  So, Burgandy is fired by his boss (Harrison Ford in what becomes a bizarre cameo role) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone  (Christina Applegate) is promoted to network anchor. This is more than chauvinist can handle, so he runs out on her and his son becoming a drunken announcer at Seaworld. He is soon sought out by an old friend to become part of the burgeoning Global News Network, a cable news station dedicated to 24 hours of news broadcasting, unheard of and unprecedented at the time. Ron agrees to take part, because he both needs a job and needs to do what he was placed on Earth to do: to read the news on air… So, the first part of the film is Ron Burgandy ‘getting the band back together. Like I said, the film doesn’t really have a story arc; it’s just a series of loosely related vignettes. The movie works towards nothing and ends up just trying to come up with something ‘outrageous’ at the end to try and  end with a bang. It does have some laughs at the end, mostly because of who is involved (there are a number of somewhat surprising cameos), but it feels like they were just trying to re-enact a scene from the original film that people thought was a highlight. There are a few scenes that are funny in this sequel, but for an extremely long stretch in the film, there was barely a chuckle. I chuckled a few times during that middle stretch, but found that I was the only person doing so in a screening that was less than half full. The best scene for me, apart from the cameo filled ending, there was a scene involving an RV crash that was funny. The film also tries to get as much mileage out of Burgandy’s inability to function normally around black people. Most of the bits in the film never rise above late night TV pun levels.

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I’ve heard many critics saying that the film is a bit of a letdown (Anchorman was a moderately successful critical success), but Carell stands out. I would disagree with that.  I think everyone in this film, much like the RV, put themselves in Cruise Control and took the cash. It’s predictable at most every turn, except when Ferrell and McKay just throw something off the wall at the audience to try to get a cheap laugh as when Harrison Ford turns into a Were-Hyena… Or a minotaur turns up… or  Burgandy bottle feeds a shark. it makes no sense most of the time and many of the laughs were probably accompanied by “Whut?” That’s ‘what’ with a ‘u’, because I’m down wit’ it. Anyway, this should have been a DVD film for me instead of a big screen film. it was a hack job of a sequel and I hope this ends here if this is the best that they can manage. It does have some laughs, though, and that’s really all of the criteria that a comedy has to meet. And I liked the dog, so…

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2.5 of 5

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