Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2016.12
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of over 900 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood. YMMV.
- Krull (1983) — 5/10
I saw this movie for the first time over fifteen years ago. It’s actually better than I remembered, but still not a spectacular movie. The sets are pretty nice and the production quality is good. It’s got Liam Neeson in it and failed to be ruined by him—and that’s not nothing.
We follow the story of two star-crossed lovers on a planet with medieval technology that is somehow also bound up in galactic struggle. Krull is the son of one of two monarchs who agree to bind their kingdoms through marriage. The “Beast”—an interstellar traveler with a ferocious army of “Slavers”—sends his troops to seize the bride for his own. Krull embarks on a mission with the “Old One” to find the “glave” (the five-pointed throwing disk) and get to the teleporting dark fortress where the Beast makes its home and where his bride-to-be is being held captive.
They encounter a band of robbers—among them is Neeson—that Krull convinces to join him in his quest. They have many predictable adventures, seeking one seer after another who can tell them how to find the dark fortress. The Beast sends minions and takes over bystanders to try to trick Krull into giving up his mission.
He doesn’t though and uses the glave to great effectiveness as a sort of extragalactic sawzall to knock the beast down. Down but not out. It turns out that the real weapon he needs was within him all along. Actually, he needs his bride to give him the fire that he then prolifically fires form his hand to solve all of his remaining problems. A good thing, too, because, like, can you imagine if she’d been the one to save everyone? Unthinkable.
- Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) — 6/10
- Robert Hays is back as Striker and Julie Haggerty is Elaine as they crew a space shuttle bound for the moon. It’s soon off course and headed for the sun. There are a shocking number of inside jokes (e.g. when Peter Graves—Captain Oveur—is trying to shut down the misbehaving computer, the Mission Impossible theme plays ominously). There are a bunch of inspired cameos and comic bits and parodies of countless films. I enjoyed it. Lloyd Bridges is brilliant, as are William Shatner and Rip Torn and Raymond Burr.
- A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) — 3/10
- You know what? This movie fucking sucked. It’s a travesty. It’s a jingoistic mish-mash of action and endless, incoherent car chases and stupid arrogant Americans and hoo-rah violence celebration and ridiculous deus-ex-machina stashes of weapons and endless clips and stupid-not-cool smirking from Bruce Willis who is simultaneously sucking in his gut and fucking indestructible—even more so than his musclebound and sulky son—and cartoonish depictions of Russians as hapless lackeys to the combined might of two Americans—one of whom, we are nearly constantly reminded, is “just on vacation”—and the cartoonishness doesn’t stop just at the Russian culture but continues with an utterly ridiculous depiction of how nuclear weapons work. Ugh. It’s too tiring to even list it all. Watch the first one or the second one or the third one—how can you go wrong with Jeremy Irons as an ethereally thin, ambiguously sexually oriented supervillain?—or even, God forbid, the fourth one, because at least there you get to watch Bruce Willis call Kevin Smith “Dumptruck”. Avoid number five at all costs. I avoided it for three years, but it came on just as I was laid low by a migraine and I was trapped like a spider in its stupid web.
- Deadpool (2016) — 8/10
Although the film self-referentially pokes fun at itself for even pretending to be a date movie, it really is the story of a young man and woman who fall in love only to have their paradise darkened by the cloud of an extremely aggressive cancer, the cure for which so horribly disfigures him that he decides not to return to her, letting her think him dead instead. The movie is the story of how he eventually does get the courage to return to her, only to realize that the only real problem he had was that he didn’t trust her to be big-hearted enough to see past his once-handsome-and-now-gruesome visage to the man beneath. He didn’t give her enough credit for having fallen in love with the man within rather than the stud-muffin without. So romantic, date-night fare, right?
There’s also a tremendous amount of violence—not necessarily gratuitous, but over-the-top choreographed, at any rate—a fuck-ton of swearing, some nudity (Ryan Reynolds’s booty, ladies and germs) and seriously adult themes. The story is also told in a series of looping flashbacks over the course of two years with a lot of asides that break the fourth wall (as in the comic books, actually). It’s a well-paced film. I liked how the taxi driver who takes Deadpool to the scenes of battle was a main character, I liked how we were introduced to two minor X-Men characters. I liked how they showed Wade and Vanessa’s relationship develop as a shared experience, rather than the classic trope of making the woman try to rescue the man from himself, because he’s obviously damaged. They were both damaged, but in the same way, so it worked for them.
It took me a while to get used to Ajax’s and Angel’s powers because they were both just as indestructible and impervious to pain as DeadPool and Colossus. But that’s how superhero movies are, that’s how these battles have always been, drawn-out like professional wrestling matches, with the bad guy always almost but not quite turning the odds before the “hero” triumphs. The hero in this case is Deadpool and he goes against the trope by making damned sure that Ajax isn’t coming back.
Ryan Reynolds carries the film well and T.J. Miller as the bartender at his favorite bar/hangout was the only other actor I recognized. I only realized that Ajax’s smirking face belonged to the same actor who’d first played Daario Neharis in Game of Thrones.
- Daredevil S02 (2016) — 9/10
This season centers on the Punisher, weaving in the Yakuza, the Hand, Wilson Fisk (still in prison) as well as Elektra. The plot with the punisher is more down to Earth, with his spectactular denouement at the hands of Daredevil and eventual arrest near the beginning of the season. Murdock and Foggy are defending the case against the Punisher, sensing corruption in the DA’s office. Foggy is forced by Murdock’s lackadaisical attitude (his focus on being Daredevil) to handle the case alone and does a great job. Frank Castle himself torpedoes his own case with his own testimony and goes to jail. There he is a target—but no more than from Wilson Fisk, who wants to use him to eliminate his chief rival.
The other plot line is more fantastical, involving Elektra, who is far from a sympathetic character. I found Elektra to be terribly annoying, with one-dimensional motivations. It turns out that she is the reincarnation of an ancient living weapon that the Hand wants to get their … well … hands on. Lots of back and forth between Daredevil, Stick and Elektra, lots of fighting until they prevail in the end. Well, kinda. Elektra takes the fall, but she can’t die (not really) and the Hand collects her body and puts it into their sarcophagus. The end.
- Hangover Part III (2015) — 4/10
- It’s just not doing it for me, anymore. Minus one point for the start of the movie with the giraffe because it was just so deliberately and nonsensically stupid. Chow plays a central role—they long since discovered he’s the best thing about these movies—but even he is too exaggerated, though he does the best he can with what he’s given.
- 11.22.63 (2015) — 8/10
- James Franco stars in this adaptation of the Stephen King book. The series follows the book relatively closely—close enough any way—and Franco is really good, as is Chris Cooper, looking grizzled and earnest as always. See my notes on the book, which hold for the series as well.
- Jim Jeffries: Freedumb (2016) — 7/10
- I think Jeffries stretches his material a bit too much, meta-discussing his previous specials for a lot of the first third of the show. When he settles down to new material, some of it is quite good.
- Zootopia (2016) — 8/10
- This is a surprisingly clever animated film about a city called Zootopia (Zootropolis on this side of the pond), populated by anthropomorphized animals. Their society is split along the lines of Predators and Prey but this split is fraying at the seams, with predator attacks rising just as the integration looked like it was working. Judy Hopps is a rabbit police officer intent on figuring out what’s going on. Nick Wilde is a fox who witnessed the latest incident involving an otter (predator) who was kidnapped. Things are much more complex than they would seem, as machinations on both sides lead to evil that goes all the way to the top. Recommended.
- Walhalla Rising (2009) — 6/10
- Interesting and moody film about a One Eye, a mute warrior of nearly supernatural strength, played by Mads Mikkelsen. He starts off as a warrior slave, used as a gladiator by a traveling band. He eventually escapes with a young boy in tow and, together, they escape on a boat and end up in the New World.
- The Towering Inferno (1974) — 6/10
- This is a star-packed movie about the grand opening of a skyscraper of record-setting height. Paul Newman is the architect; Steve McQueen the chief firefighter. Together, they try to save the people trapped in the building. Everybody’s in this movie: William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and others more obscure to me. Most of the people overact and it’s a bit on the long side, but a ton of money went into effects, so it’s a good time.
- X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — 7/10
- An ages-old mutant named Apocalypse, who can permanently absorb powers from other mutants, rises again, from the ruins of the pyramid where he was buried milennia ago. This is another “young” X-Men movie, with Fassbender and McAvoy playing Professor X and Magneto respectively. When Apocalypse discovers these two, he wants to use Magneto to control the planet, then the Professor to enslave humanity utterly (using Cerebro).
- Call Me Lucky (2015) — 6/10
- I was really happy to have been introduced to the comedy of Barry Crimmons and the first 30 minutes were really, really good. Barry, however, derives a lot of the anger that drives his comedy from having been molested by a priest when he was an altar boy. The movie spends a lot of time explaining this part of his life. While essential to his story, it drags quite a big, losing a lot of the momentum achieved in the first third. The movie still ends well, with what I feel is Crimmons’s strength: his standup comedy.
- Flash Gordon (1980) — 7/10
- This movie was much better than expected. Sure, it’s cheesy now, but God would I have loved this movie if I’d somehow discovered it as a teenager. Princess Aura and her retinue as well as a Dale Arden lent an air of softcore porn to the whole affair, with big, dumb, blond Flash Gordon barely noticing any of it. Max von Sydow as Ming was magnificent; Haim Topol as Dr. Zarkov was also very good. Timothy Dalton was also in it, as Prince Barin, Gordon’s chief rival for various affections but eventually a converted adherent.
- Mascots (2016) — 6/10
- Christopher Guest—starred in This is Spinal Tap and wrote/directed Best in Show—wrote and directed what feels like a sequel to the latter film. This is the story of a fictitious competition for sports mascots from all over the world. In an interview format, we are introduced to these characters and other family members as they prepare for, make their way to and partake in the competition. It’s OK with a few chuckles, but nothing to write home about.
- Ukraine: Winter on Fire (2015) — 4/10
- I found this to be an incoherent propaganda-laden documentary about Maiden Square. It was interview-heavy, with interviews exclusively from one side, with information exclusively from one side, with no attempt made to offer explanations for actions other than “the other side was evil and wanted to capitulate utterly to Russia and Putin”. It was utterly simplistic and didn’t offer to explain how much of Ukraine might have felt differently than the relative handful of people that protested, many of which were obviously privileged youth, at the beginning. Of course they were upset that Ukraine didn’t join the EU—they were looking forward to moving to London to work for a big bank. The rest of their country would have been subjugated as a vassal country of the EU, a status thoroughly by Greece and other Balkan and Eastern states. The film was at its best when it focused on the violence by the government shock troops against citizens, but again motivations were not explained, alliances not elucidated. It was just taken from granted that the youth, the rebels, were the good guys. They overthrew a democratically elected government, then accused the president of abandoning his post when he fled their credibly violent threats.
- Joe Rogan: Triggered (2016) — 9/10
- This was a really solid special from Rogan with a good style and great material, well-delivered. Rogan has a family and mentions them a bit, but he hasn’t capitulated his entire career to them (I’m looking at you, Patton Oswalt). He’s funny, he’s dirty and he’s right enough of the time to make this a great special.
- Inside Out (2015) — 8/10
- The concept is interesting and relatively well-executed, but it’s overall too vanilla a treatment for my tastes. Everybody’s too white and too nice and too bla. The parents and daughter don’t even have a Minnesota accent—they sound like plain middle-of-the-road Americans without the traditional inflection of the north. This kind of threw me because the girl was blubbering to go back to Minnesota but she sounded like she’d lived in San Fransisco her whole life. I wondered why? Pixar and Disney pay attention to these details, so the omission of the accent must have been a deliberate choice.
- Bo Burnham: Make Happy (2016) — 8/10
- He’s young and got famous on YouTube at 16. He’s kind of a mix of Jim Carrey, Weird Al, Tim Minchin. I liked him and appreciated his very unique style and presentation. A lot of his jokes came out of nowhere—if the next special is the same, it’ll get old, but this time around it felt fresh and funny.
- Better Call Saul (2015) — 8/10
- Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks reprise their roles as Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut, respectively. This two-season (so far) series presents their backstory: Saul started off as Jimmy McGill while Mike is a recently retired cop looking to make better money. It’s well-acted, relatively well-written and very well-shot. Recommended.
- Luke Cage (2016) — 8/10
- This series present the backstory and rise of Luke Cage as well as Misty Knight in Harlem, New York. They are pitted against criminal forces in the form of Cottonmouth (Cornell Stokes) and his cousin, councilwoman Mariah Dillard. Further into the show, Diamondback appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to seed chaos. The characters are interesting and, for the most part, well-written. It gets a bit weak in the middle, but finishes pretty strong again.
- First Blood (1982) — 8/10
- I like this movie. I think Stallone is pretty good in it, the fight and forest-combat scenes are quite well-choreographed and the story is much more interesting than people give it credit for.
- Solomon Kane (2009) — 7/10
- Solomon Kane is a pirate bound for hell, as he finds out when he attacks a castle to plunder it of its gold and finds it occupied by “The Devil’s Reaper”. An effects-heavy action flick with no actors of note, save Max von Sydow in a small role. In the second half, the relentless mud and rain and muck and blood reminded me a lot of the mood in Hard to be a God.
- The Good Dinosaur (2015) — 2/10
- What a steaming pile of crap this movie is. More like “The Bad Dinosaur” or “The Good-for-nothing Dinosaur” or “Useless McWhinyPants gets a Participation Award”.
- The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) — 4/10
- This is pretty self-indulgent project on the part of RZA. He wrote and starred in this movie about a black blacksmith in a village in China called “the Jungle”. Clans fight for power constantly, with much of the action centered on a brothel called The Pink Blossom (subtle). The cast is better than expected, with Lucy Liu playing Madam Blossom (more or less reprising her role from Kill Bill), Dave Bautista the physically impressive Brass Body, Russell Crowe as Jack Knife and Rick Yune as X-Blade. It’s not even worth describing most of the plot. Blacksmith gets his arms chopped off by Brass Body, Jack Knife helps him forge and attach Iron Hands that are highly destructive. They all attack the blossom to defeat the usurpers of the Lion clan and get all the gold, … oh, God, I can’t go on. The production values, effects and cast are worth a couple of points. Tarentino was involved somehow, but I can’t recommend this at all.