Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2017.2

Published by marco on

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 almost 1200 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. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

South Park: Season 20 (2016) — 9/10

This season follows a single story arc over 10 episodes and sees Parker and Stone at their absolute satirical best.

There are member-berries, which impart to their consumer an overwhelming capitulation to nostalgia. There’s Mr. Garrison, who dyes his face orange and runs for president on the platform of “fucking other countries up the ass”.

Gerald is an Internet troll sans pareil named “Skankhunt”. He befriends a whole community of trolls through an online acquaintance named “Dildo Schwaggins”. The whole school suspects Cartman, the boys are annoyed with him that he’s alienating all of their girlfriends and they gang up on him and destroy all of his computer equipment. PC Principal is utterly overwhelmed with the whole situation, unable to know who to support in their bullying fascism and/or freedom.

Cartman has a girlfriend Heidi, who’s “really smart and really funny”. Butters starts a retaliatory movement against the bullying girls with a “Weiners Out” movement.

The Danes start a company called TrollTech, which will find out and publish everyone’s entire Internet history. An entire city named Fort Collins is targeted with their “weapon”. Society there collapses into murderous chaos once everyone can see what everyone else has been doing online.

Cartman is terrified that Heidi will find out who he really is and they go to SpaceX to go to Mars. But, of course, SpaceX isn’t ready, but Cartman convinces them to let Heidi help figure it out because “she’s really smart”. He has dreams about Mars and sees the future: men will be milked for sperm and jokes on Mars—because women, despite his conscious protestations, are not funny—where women will rule with an iron fist.

Hard-hitting and satirical on many levels, introspective about their own own brand of satire, topical (Hillary Clinton and Obama are in it), it’s quite a ride. Highly recommended.

Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin’? (2017) — 9/10
I really liked Jen’s previous special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) and I really liked this one, as well. She has a nice delivery, rambles everywhere with mini-tangents—kind of like Bill Burr, but in a 70s-style blouse and high-waisted pants. She talks about taking a trip to Italy on her own, about meditation, about catcalling, about sexual experience and losing your virginity, about family, about her Bostonian Mom, about her Christian upbringing. I laughed out loud a few times. Recommended.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) — 7/10

Andy Samberg leads the rest of the Lonely Island troupe in a mockumentary about Conner (4 Real) who started out as a young rapper in the Style Boys but broke out on his own. His ego gets way ahead of him and his career deteriorates into a joke. He re-unites eventually with his original bandmates and they live happily ever after.

There are a lot of good numbers, good lyrics, lots of callbacks and inside jokes (both within the movie and referring to the real world), lots of quick and snappy reparteé and lots of cameos by real-life music stars and hangers-on like Nas, 50 Cent, Ringo Starr, Simon Cowell, Mariah Carey, Pink, Usher, Seal, D.J. Khaled, RZA, Weird Al and so on and so forth.

Tim Meadows plays their manager really well, Sarah Silverman is OK as Conner’s publicist, Bill Hader is a long-haired roadie, Chelsea Perretti a CMZ reporter, Imogen Poots Conner’s fiancé, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph and more.

It was fun and held together mostly by Samberg’s charisma, a decent script and adherence to the mockumentary formula, tongue-in-cheek light-heartedness by all participants.

American Psycho (2000) — 8/10

Christian Bale stars as Patrick Bates, the eponymous psycho. He’s a Wall Street trader at Pierce and Pierce, concerned only with “fitting in”, looking good, spending ostentatiously, living shallowly, His fiancée (Reese Witherspoon) is obsessed with this father’s money and with their upcoming wedding. She doesn’t notice that there’s nothing to his hollow personality because it matches her own. He’s sleeping with their friend’s quaalude-addicted girlfriend, who’s cheating on her fianceé (Matt Ross).

Bates is a consumerist, yuppie, Wall-Street trader with no moral center, nothing to his life whatsoever. He’s kind of dumb. He waxes lyrical about pop bands in an attempt to sound intellectual. But he only does so to intoxicated, captive audiences who can’t judge him. He structures and curates his whole life to a ludicrous degree, crafting every detail of every interaction. That’s why he’s so bad at ad-hoc interactions like small talk with his idiot, trader friends (Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, Bill Sage) or with Detective Kimball (Willem Dafoe).

Bates has murderous fantasies that he appears to act on. He lives them out in detail. He confesses bits and pieces to people, but they don’t hear him. Is it because he only thinks it? Or because his superficial social circles just aren’t listening to anything he says? Despite his high opinion of himself and his excessive grooming and care for his appearance, no-one really likes him. His efforts win him nothing. He doesn’t really do anything at his job. He’s such a nobody that people keep mistaking him for others.

He confesses loud and clear to his lawyer, who neither cares nor believes him. He investigates and discovers that he might be mad: there is no evidence of his murderous work anywhere. Bates is a very unreliable narrator. Bale is quite good in the role, slightly off the whole time, a shell of a man with no empathy within.

Jim Gaffigan: Cinco (2017) — 7/10
A light-hearted and relatively well-presented set from Gaffigan, who doesn’t offer any surprises, but has a few good zingers. His material, as usual, consists of: eating, food, being fat, his 5 kids and being lazy.
Sausage Party (2016) — 7/10

This is a cartoon about sentient groceries and household products. They all live in a big store. They have a single overarching desire in their lives: to be bought by the Gods (people) and taken to the Great Beyond—where everything is beautiful. They are all happy and they all sing to greet each sunny morning, when the store opens at 07:00.

Into this world a seed of doubt is thrown by Honey Mustard (Danny McBride). He was taken from the store but was returned. He has seen things. Horrible things. The Gods eat food. Hot dog (Seth Rogan) and bun (Kristen Wiig) embark on a mission to find out what’s really going on. They are accompanied by Sammy Bagel and Lavash (a falafel). When they find out, they must adjust their worldview considerably.

This movie is very nicely and professionally animated and voiced by a slew of well-known actors and actresses: Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Salma Hayek, James Franco, Edward Norton and more. This movie also earns its R rating well: the food curses a blue streak and they’re all alcoholics, drug addicts and horny as hell. A miasma of innuendo infuses every conversation. There is a gigantic food-orgy scene at the end that rivals the one from Caligula. Seriously, those are some dirty groceries.

This was a refreshing change of pace from cartoons that play cutesy for the kids and make the adults adduce innuendo from clever double-repartée and pop-culture references. In this one, the layer of kid-stuff is pretty much gone from the get-go. My favorite line? The pototo (Greg Tiernan) singing “The pipes, the pipes, they’re calling’…OH JAYSUS FOOK, SHE’S PEELING ME SKIN!”

This is a Rogan joint, so there’re a lot of references to drugs and not everything works, but Cera and Hill and Hader do a much better job than in End of the World, which was a shit-show. Recommended for those to whom this sounds good.

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) — 6/10

This is the original movie, starring Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean. Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. (the Rat Pack) are all on-board as part of the 11. Normal Fell plays another member of the group:

“I’d get a 50-foot CrissCraft and leave it in the driveway, just ‘cause I could. Then I’d give it away to the mailman or something.”

Dean Martin also chimes in at another juncture with this lovely sentiment:

“Repeal the 14th and 20th amendments: take away the woman’s right to vote and make them all slaves.”

A lot of the guys are former soldiers (from the war 15 years before), some of them are former paratroopers. 53 minutes in and the group is finally collected and we finally start to hear about the big plan. Before that, there was a lot of character-building and singing (courtesy of Dean and Sammy). They plan to steal 11 million bucks—1 million for each of them.

They get to Vegas: and there’s nothing to it! The Flamingo has almost no floors. They pull of the heist, but things go terribly awry. One of their members dies of a heart attack. The guys from whom they stole the cash are hot on their tails, so they given $10,000 to his widow and hide the rest in his coffin. They all attend the funeral—to watch the coffin slide into the crematorium. The final scene is an abrupt one, where they slink away from the funeral home, into a harshly lit, penniless future.

It was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Never Say Never Again (1983) — 7/10

Sean Connery comes roaring back to seize the role he was born to play back from Roger Moore. This is actually one of the better Bond films, featuring the delightfully psychotic Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush and the somewhat bland Kim Basinger as Domino Petachi. Max von Sydow is Blofeld and Klaus Maria Brandauer is Maximilian Largo, the evil genius.

The story isn’t particularly brilliant—Largo steals nukes from the Air Force—but it moves along well. They spend a lot of time on the setup for the theft, focusing on the air-force colonel (Domino’s brother) who’s being blackmailed into getting his retina replaced so that he can impersonate the president and release the two nukes.

There’s a good reason why that sounds far-fetched—not least is that, when he’s actually stealing the nukes, there’s no-one around, which makes you wonder why they had to implant the fake retina in his eye instead of just carrying it in the briefcase in which he carried all of the other equipment, but then we wouldn’t have had Bond’s awesome fight scene at the hospital…—that’s because it is. The ending is a bit meandering and weak, but it was still good fun.

Results (2015) — 5/10
Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce are personal trainers living and working in Texas. Kevin Corrigan is a newly minted millionaire who engages their services. Giovanni Ribisi is his lawyer and pot dealer. It was an odd story that never really went anywhere. Smulders was a very direct and mean/vindictive person with whom the earnest though somewhat shallow Pearce was inexplicably head-over-heels-in-love. Corrigan is trying to find himself and he also temporarily thinks he’s in love with Smulders. The ending with Corrigan having found himself at a party he throws for some sorority girls was really cool. Good song, good band. The love story and gym story was unsatisfying. Not recommended.
Requiem for the American Dream (2015) — 9/10

An excellent overview of world history, politics and economics with Noam Chomsky. The movie was made in several interviews over four years and is a more timeless, a higher-level take than many of his other talks you can find online. He places the world as it is today in context, shows how we’re not living in radically bad times or different times. Things have pretty much always been this way for the most of us (at least those of us born and having achieved political sentience during the Reagan years).

This can be depressing, but he offers advice on how to see it in an encouraging way. We haven’t been defeated yet and there are still those of us fighting. The camera zooms in uncomfortably close on an eighty-year–old man, but just listen to what he says instead of focusing on the weird places that hair starts to grow on a man’s face in advanced years. Highly recommended.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016) — 9/10

This is a pretty nice treatment of Douglas Adams’s two-book series about the odd detective to whom odd coincidences constantly happen. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to the odd group of people that orbit Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett). Primarily he’s on the prowl with his newfound friend Todd (Elijah Wood).

Jade Eshete as Farah and Hannah Marks as Amanda are both very good, as is Aaron Douglas as an evil body-snatcher. Another pair on a crash course with Dirk and Todd are Bart (Fiona Dourif) and Ken (Mpho Koaho), both of whom are also very good and entertaining. The acting really sustains the story quite well—else it would collapse under its own oddness.

There is too much detail to relate here, but if you’ve read the books, you won’t be surprised by the intertwined complexity of the story. They make the deus ex machinas work. There are soul-stealers, supernatural body-snatchers, regular-joe cops, a mysterious dead eccentric who left a trail of traps and puzzles behind him, his missing daughter, people trapped in animal bodies and vice versa, a top-secret military program, psychics, a time machine, a soul-transferring device, intertwined fourth-dimensional continua, time loops, the inexorability of fate, angels and demons and so on.

All will reveal itself to be perhaps mundane than it seemed at first—or perhaps not. A tight story with good acting. Looking forward to the next season. Highly recommended.

The Last Days on Mars (2013) — 5/10
Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas star in this half-hearted zombie movie on Mars. The effects are OK and the acting turgid, mostly due to the half-hearted script. The Zombies are more-or-less unstoppable. Liev Schreiber gets away from the planet, but he’s infected too. The movie ends with him considering how to kill himself. Good riddance. Watched it in German. Not recommended.
Pitch Black (2000) — 7/10
Saw it and reviewed it in 2012.