Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
My Rating: 3 stars
This movie was ok. I wish I’d seen it right when it came out, and before I’d heard too much about it. Seeing something a little too late always ruins a movie-watching experience for me. In fact, I usually have all the Oscar movies ruined for me each year, because I’ve been really bad about going to see movies while they’re still in the theater. I need to work on that. But, as a result, I didn’t love this movie quite as much as the rest of the world. This is, of course, the story about Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his computer’s Artificial Intelligence operating system, Samantha. And, Samantha is played by the seductive, husky voice of Scarlett Johansson. That girl does have a certain allure.
However, I think that everything I needed to know about this story was given to me in the trailer. I hate when that happens. The movie felt like it dragged on and on. The pacing was totally off, because the film didn’t develop any of the core ideas any more thoroughly than the trailer did (and really it didn’t need to). I’ve been noticing that a lot more lately. I’ve seen a lot of movies that are so single-note that the trailer is sufficient to explore the entire concept. And worse than that, some trailers are even including blatant spoilers! It’s pretty bad. And, the one note that this movie keeps harping on is the ennui of the mopey, lovelorn, singleton. And, then that character stays quite mopey even once he’s found “love.” I lost interest pretty quickly.
This didn’t have to be a simple movie. Artificial Intelligence is a fascinating idea. And, it’s always fun to imagine how humans will interact with it. I thought Ghost in the Shell did an excellent job of exploring these ideas in great detail. That movie asks about the difference between real humans who happen to be uploaded into a cyberbrain, versus an artificially created consciousness. And, Ghost also examined the concept of what it would look like if several different entities merged in cyberspace like this movie did. But, Ghost in the Shell approaches all these topics in a much more sophisticated way. That series really raises a lot of conflicts and questions in a viewers mind. It stirs up emotions. But, this movie just made me want to push Joaquin and his hand-internet down a well, so that they could lie down there, and have cyber-sex together forever. So, I don’t think my disappointment in this film stems entirely from hearing too much about it beforehand.
But, this movie does have style going for it. It looks great. The fashion, the colors, the furniture, the city. It all looks so chic and modern. So, if you watch this movie for anything, watch it for that. I especially like Joaquin’s red color-scheme. But, if you’re looking for a nuanced examination of the complex, emotional relationships between humans and technology, I’d like to steer you over toward the Ghost in the Shell series of movies and TV episodes. Countless other science fiction franchises have borrowed ideas from them, but I still think they do it best. But, get to them before the inevitably horrible US remake comes out. That’s bound to be a disaster.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Movie: Liz & Dick
My Rating: 3 stars
There was no way I wasn’t going to watch this movie. A boozy, pilled-up Lindsay Lohan playing one of the most notoriously boozy, pilled-up actresses in film history! A match made in heaven. It’s a casting director’s dream. That Ms. Lohan may not be an easy lass to control on set, but she sure delivers an expert portrayal of the classic “neurotic wreck.” It’s magical. But then, the viewing public has always had a tempestuous love affair with our volatile starlets.
The film was highly anticipated, and there was tons of gossip surrounding the production. You know what a train wreck Lindsay can be! Liz & Dick is, of course, the notorious, made-for-TV movie about the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Lohan is our Liz, and Grant Bowler is her counterpart. And, the whole thing is just one big disaster. But, that’s what everyone secretly hoped for. In fact, the worse this movie turned out, the better people were going to like it. And, it sure didn’t let us down. Unfortunately I just wasn’t able to set aside the time to watch this thing when it aired. I had to wait several months until I could rent the DVD. But, it was worth the wait. This movie is garbage. The pacing is strange. The acting is just horrible. And, I’ve never enjoyed watching an actress have a full meltdown before my eyes more than I did here.
There’s not too much to this story. We’re all pretty aware of Elizabeth Taylor’s rocky love life. And this film covers it from when Liz and Dick met on-set of Cleopatra in the 60s, up until her death. The script shows them falling in and out of love, and I think it actually does a pretty good job of conveying just what a difficult woman Taylor must have been to love. The very characteristics that make her intoxicating—her intense (but short-lived) passion for new projects, her love of luxury, and her ability to completely ignore the consequences of her decisions—ultimately make her a royal pain in the butt to live with long-term. (I may or may not know someone exactly like that). So, I found this material to be pretty interesting, despite what a joke the film turned out to be.
Of course, this movie isn’t for everyone. If you didn’t like Behind the Candelabra, the made-for-TV movie starring Michael Douglas as Liberace, you aren’t going to like this one either. It’s just as invasive into the lives of troubled celebrities, and it’s just as tragic. But, if share my perverse enjoyment of seeing this kind of basket-case try so hard, yet fail so utterly, you won’t want to miss this.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Movie: Run, Fatboy, Run
My Rating: 2 stars
This movie isn’t the best. I was disappointed because I generally like Simon Pegg and all the projects he’s attached to. The film was another vehicle for Pegg to engage in more of his wacky, inelegant antics, but the end result turned out to be just a movie-long training montage. There really isn’t very much substance. And, you can’t watch that kind of thing for too long before getting bored. This movie bills itself as a raunchy, screwball, slapstick number, but it’s actually a fluffy, romantic comedy in disguise.
The story is essentially about Simon training for the (fictional) Nike River Run marathon in London. Pegg is trying to win back the love of the woman that he left pregnant on the alter five years ago (Thandie Newton). And, for some reason, proving to her that he can run this marathon will make her forget all the humiliation and harm he’s caused her (and their child), and take him back. Then, there’s Thandie’s very fit, rich, American, boyfriend to contend with (Hank Azaria). He will be something of an obstacle. So Simon’s commitment to running is half competing with this new interloper, and half proving to his lady that he can make commitments and follow through. The metaphor is very strained, and I’d almost be embarrassed as an author to release something this implausible. But, then this is romantic-comedy-ville. Nothing has to make sense.
Then there’s the fact that this movie was clearly written by someone who has never ever run a marathon. I’m not the biggest expert, but I’ve run a few. This script exhibits a profound misunderstanding of the scale, timeframe, physical logistics, and media coverage of this kind of event. Casual drop-ins aren’t stationed anywhere near the elite, prize runners. And, the chances of inadvertently bumping into the man you’re competing against for your woman’s love are practically nil. Of course, much of this could have been included for the convenience of the story. But, how hard could it be to find someone in the entertainment industry who actually knows something about marathons to consult on the script for an hour or two? Showbiz is full of fitness nuts who are desperate for the kind of attention and validation this kind of public feat of fitness provides! Oh well.
All in all, this film just had too many obstacles for me to overcome. You don’t have to waste your time with this one. Even though the title of the movie is very cheeky, this is just another piece of generic romantic comedy, even if it does star the delightful Simon Pegg. He just wasn’t given any good material to work with, and the overall product is pretty disappointing. Go check out another one of his movies instead. Start with Shaun of the Dead.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Movie: Staying Alive
My Rating: 4 stars
This movie is an intoxicating explosion of spandex, headbands, thong bodysuits and layered, feathered mullets. And, that’s just John Travolta’s wardrobe! It really doesn’t get better than this. But, what else would you expect from a Stallone, Stallone, Travolta production? This movie is the insane, sparkling, fever dream of a sequel to Saturday Night Fever, written by Sylvester Stallone, scored by Frank Stallone. And, you know whose butt is shaking in those tight jeans in the final frame of the movie. That’s right, the King of Disco, himself. I watched this film at the prompting of the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast. They’re always good for some pretty great suggestions, but this is easily the best one to date.
This movie has everything. There’s passion, love triangles, tiny, glittery shorts! I only regret that I didn’t have a pastel pink and mint green cat-suit for my photo shoot. In this story John Travolta isn’t a dance hall rat anymore. Now he’s a fancy Broadway star! Or at least he’d like to be. At the moment he’s still waiting tables and living at the YMCA. It’s his rebellious attitude that’s getting in the way. Directors just don’t like his improvisations or his angry energy.
But, this guy has ambition. He just knows he’s going to make it! And, he’s going to be encouraged the whole way by Stallone’s super tough, rock ballads. It’s totally nuts. Of course, he’s going to disrespect and trample over the hearts of as many women as necessary to make it happen. He’s cheating on his girlfriend. And, he tries to play head games with the female lead of the show to “put her in her place.” Because, John Travolta is still playing the same jerk that he was in the last film. He’s not going to let some broad slow him down. And, the best part is that not one lesson is learned in this movie . . . unless it’s the women that learn that they should really steer clear of this narcissist if they know what’s good for them.
You have no excuse not to go out and see this movie immediately. It’s just that perfect. There’s just too much gyrating, sweaty hair flips, and amusing 80s jargon to miss. Plus it’s one of the few movies where we get to see John Travolta really working it out on the dance floor again. I’m not quite sure why he ever gave it up. Maybe that beer belly just got the better of him.