Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2017.5
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.
- The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium (2017) — 9/10
This is the better of the two new specials on Netflix. Chappelle is effortless and very, very good in this one. I don’t remember a lot of specific jokes, but it was all-new material in his standard topics. The nearly 70 minutes were built on the scaffolding of the 4 times Chappelle met OJ Simpson. He didn’t address politics directly at all, other than most of his material stems from being black in America, which is at heart a very political thing, no?
- Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle Live at Austin City Limits (2017) — 8/10
This was also very good, but I liked The Age of Spin better. This one featured a little too much easy material, with a little too much masturbation humor. It’s like when Louis C.K.
won’t stop talking about shit: you can try to fool yourself into thinking that he’s a genius and you just aren’t seeing all the levels of his humor, but objectively you can’t see the difference between when Dave Chappelle makes an easy masturbation joke and when a lesser comedian does it. Still, it’s Dave Chappelle: he’s pretty damned funny.
- Louis C.K. 2017 (2017) — 8/10
- I would have given this a 9/10 but for the first bit—where he would not stop talking about shit, which, I get the point he was trying to make, but it wasn’t funny enough to me; I found it an odd way to start, it was more of a middle bit—and his final bit, which started off really good, but then stole from Steve Hughes—“what’s more manly than fucking a guy in the ass?”—before pantomiming being the catcher himself and then screaming “good night”. Louis is generally considered a thinking-man’s comic so he’ll probably be given the benefit of the doubt that there was something deeper here than a more lowly comedian with a similar bit would intend but, again, I’m not seeing it.
- The Birds (1963) — 6/10
I didn’t like this movie as much as I’d hoped I would. I’ve really liked other Hitchcock movies like Vertigo and Psycho but this one was disjointed and odd. The plot made little sense,
there was no effort made to explain certain points. People didn’t act very predictably and no reason was given for why they were so odd. And the birds—they weren’t explained either, not even a little bit. They were just an unpredictable force of nature that were filmed at exhausting length. The best scene was in the diner about 2/3 of the way through the movie. Not recommended.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) — 7/10
- Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh lend gravitas to an otherwise standard Chinese action/kung-fu movie. It’s exquisitely made, with really good effects and lovely choreography. The story centers on the eponymous sword. Its wielder has never been defeated in combat. It resides at a kung-fu temple but is in danger, although guarded by Michelle Yeoh. Yen shows up with a small group of talented fighters to help guard the sword against Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee). In the middle of this is the story of Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Wei Fang (Harry Shum Jr.), two children switched at birth. It’s a bit complicated: he’s the true-born son of yet another famous swordswoman, but she benefitted from having trained under the same. Also, they’re in love, which feels kinda incest-y, but it’s totally not. All of the other talented fighters are killed in the final battle but the main four survive to fight another day. Decent, but not required viewing.
- Kevin Hart: What Now? (2016) — 8/10
- He’s funny and he’s a hell of an entertainer and storyteller. This show was taped in front of an entire football stadium full of fans. Recommended.
- Luther (2016) — 9/10
- This is a hidden treasure on Netflix that originally ran on the BBC. It tells the story of DCI John Luther, a passionate, brilliant copper in London. He works cases of very twisted murder by very twisted killers, many of them with personal agendas against him. There are some rough spots, but overall it’s a very enjoyable series, powered by the overwhelming charisma of Idris Elba as Luther.
- Dirty Pretty Things (2002) — 8/10
- This is a story about the lives of quiet humiliation and struggle lived by the immigrant underclass in London. Audrey Tautou plays the Turkish immigrant Senay opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Nigerian Okwe.
- The Lobster (2015) — 7/10
- This movie had an interesting concept and a good follow-through, but it was a bit long and would have benefitted from tighter editing. Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Léa Seydoux were quite good. This is the story of a near future where people are required to pair off. If they cannot find a compatible mate in 45 days, they are turned into an animal and released into the wild. Couples are returned to the city, where their marital bliss is carefully controlled by frequent police stops. Farrell fails to pair off, but runs away before transformation, retreating to a group of rebels living in the woods. This is where he meets Weisz and falls in love. However, the human denizens of the forest are not allowed to love. This leads to punishment. Weisz is blinded, but Farrell avenges her by leaving their leader (Seydoux) to the wolves. They flee back to civilization, where they end up in a diner—Weisz seated at a booth, unsure of where to “look”, Farrell in the bathroom, working up the courage to stab his own eyes out with a steak knife. It’s unclear what will happen next.
- Iron Fist (2017) — 7/10
I’d heard that this Marvel-comics–based series on Netflix was a far cry from the three others preceded it—Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Luke Cage. I’ve watched them all and was pleased to see how they intertwined and built on each other. It’s not always fantastic television but, all in all, it’s pretty good. Iron Fist builds on this, with some pretty good characters—although I’ll admit that the main character Danny Rand as Iron Fist is the weakest of them. For a guy who spent 15 years training night and day with monks in a remote part of Tibet to achieve their highest honor,
he sure doesn’t have a good grip on his emotions. On the other hand, he’s away from the only thing he can call home, back in his childhood home of New York City, so its not surprising that he regresses. It’s a bit embarrassing when he does—everyone else seems to keep it together better and it makes him a bit more easily manipulated.
Madame Gau features strongly, as does Claire the nurse. Carrie-Ann Moss as Hogarth is also a breath of fresh air. Danny’s friend Davos says to Claire “That’s how we’re trained. We don’t let emotions cloud our actions. […] A weapon doesn’t know feelings.” That’s nice and all, but we’d just spent 10 shows watching Danny do the exact opposite of that. He’s very simplistically portrayed—especially in the final few shows.
The supporting cast is entertaining, though. The Meachums are pretty good, as is Colleen Wing. I really like Ward. Madame Gau is really good, but Bakudo is a smug Deus ex Machina. The choreography is not nearly as good as in Crouching Tiger. Some of it’s good, but most of the rest is highly telegraphic and clumsy. Finn Jones as Iron Fist is pretty stiff, even though he’s supposed to be the best evar.
In the end, it’s a battle between two cults for the hearts and minds of a couple of good people.
- The Nice Guys (2016) — 7/10
- Russell Crowe plays muscle-for-hire in 1970s Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling is a private investigator who seems a bit bumbling but who has a good reputation. They become embroiled in a murder mystery involving Misty Mountains, who crashes her car spectacularly in the Hollywood Hills.
- Amy Schumer: The Leather Special (2017) – 4/10
- There were some amusing bits, but it wasn’t enough to fill the whole hour and ten minutes. The first half an hour was hard going, with Schumer going through a thin gruel of poop and pussy jokes that were OK but not particularly well-crafted or -delivered. There were a few lines that made me laugh out loud, but her skit show is world better than her standup. She went through a painful and frankly painfully ignorant about gun control that went on for what felt like way too long. I’m not sure who her audience is: you have to want to hear her talk about her vagina non-stop for twenty minutes, with no real outstanding jokes there. Then there’s a long bit about diarrhea, also with only one good line. Then there’s a diatribe about guns that lashes out at everyone who owns one as a knuckle-dragging utter moron who approves of random murder. Then there’s a long section about blow jobs and how bad she is at them, how she’s not good at exercise and likes to eat. And so on. The crowd was shown laughing very hard, so either that was faked or they really enjoyed it. Then there’s a long section on dating and what it’s like to sleep with Amy. A couple of good lines there, but I don’t know to whom I could recommend this.
- Wild: Michael Mittermeyer Live (2016) — 6/10
- This special was pretty standard fare for Mittermeyer. He had a few good bits, but he’s basically just giving his fans what they want. Most of his bits were pretty good—even if the material wasn’t always original, he presents really well. He’s been doing this a long time and knows how to squeeze as much as possible even from jokes you’ve kind of heard before. Recommended for fans, but anyone new to Mittermeyer should probably see one of his older specials first. Saw it in German.
- Vir Das: Abroad Understanding (2017) — 8/10
- I gave him an extra point for being much better than I expected and for having a full set of non-standard, new-to-me material. He’s an Indian comedian (from Mumbai, if I recall correctly). I’d never heard of him before, but he’s apparently quite a big thing in India. His special was divided equally between playing a decent-sized club in the U.S. to playing a sold-out sports arena near his home town in India. Recommended.
- Fargo: Season 3 (2017) — 9/10
- The first three episodes were almost the loveliest season yet. The first two seasons were very lovingly directed but this one trumps them both. This is definitely a show where you will be rewarded for watching carefully.
- Sonic Highways (2014) — 8/10
- This single-season series follows the Foo Fighters through several of the cities they’ve toured and lived in over the twenty years of their career. Lots of nice stories, nice people and great music. Having fun with it so far, but haven’t finished watching the whole season.
- Doctor Strange (2016) — 7/10
- This Marvel Universe movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton was better than I expected it to be. It’s about an arrogant but brilliant surgeon who loses the loss of his hands and goes on a mission to Tibet to find a fabled wizard who can heal him. He ends up healing himself by becoming super-freaking-mystical and mastering powers that allow him to manipulate dimensional energy. There’s of course an evil, evil enemy bent on the destruction of life as we know it. You get the drill. Entertaining.
- The Sopranos: Season 1–3 (1999) — 9/10
This show is every bit as brilliant as people say it is. There’s a good overall story arc, but the shows are very much character-driven. The writing and dialogue is really great. We’re near the end of season three and the quality is still very high. Looking forward to the next three seasons.“You got a driver’s license, not a license to go carousing around on a school night”
Tony: A.J. says he’s got no purpose
Melfi: What did you say?
Tony: I told him it’s cost me about $150,000 to raise him so far and if he’s got no purpose, I want a refund.
“Melfi: You’re both very angry.
Tony: Oh, you must have been at the top of your fuckin’ class.”
- Lucas Bros: On Drugs (2017) — 7/10
- The Lucas Bros are twin-brother comedians who perform together, finishing each other’s sentences. The specialize in black-commentary comedy, callbacks and meta-comedy. I liked their delivery and a lot of their material was polished and funny. Decent.
- Get Hard (2015) — 7/10
- Better than expected, actually. This is Ferrell’s second movie lampooning/satirizing the rich (the other was The Other Guys, which came out soon after the last global financial crash). Kevin Hart kind of always plays himself, but it’s a good character. Alison Brie (of Community fame) was refreshingly good and Will Ferrell played a much better person than he usually does. Recommended.
- Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) — 8/10
- Changed my opinion on this one. Gave it an extra point. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote the last time that “she’s probably officially cast as “eye-candy” although for me she doesn’t even fill that role particularly well”
- Predators (2010) — 6/10
- Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Mahershala Ali, Alice Braga and several other warriors are part of a group selected by the predators to be beamed in to a death-duel planet. It’s a pretty thin plot device to get a bunch of militaristic characters into an infighting pile of conflicting personalities. The plot followed the standard predator plot: kill or be killed; the predators eliminate a bunch of the humans, then the humans eliminate some predators, then there’s a showdown. Not recommended.
- Tracy Morgan: Stayin’ Alive (2017) — 6/10
- This is Morgan’s first appearance since his near-fatal car crash with a UPS truck. Some of his material is based on these experiences, some of his material is unnecessarily filthy. By that I mean that it’s not particularly clever (or funny) but it’s shocking. You can try to convince yourself that he’s trying to ironically point out the meta-comedy he’s mining by offending those who take themselves too seriously, but it’s tough to figure out if he’s actually being clever or he’s just being a filthy jerk. Not recommended.
- Seventh Son (2014) — 5/10
- Great effects, great cast (Djimoun Honsou, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander), awful execution and story. It’s just a mystery how this movie was made. I kept watching for the cast, but it never really got better. Not recommended.
- Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (2017) — 8/10
- I was pleasantly surprised to discover how clever (and clean) Norm McDonald’s standup is. It made me check out his book, which was even better. The standup was good and he knows how to craft a joke. His delivery is pretty good, but takes a little getting used to. Check out his book for an even-better experience. Both are recommended.
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004) — 6/10
- This was a second (or possibly third) viewing of the climate-change disaster movie starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward and Ian Holm (Bilbo). The science is ludicrous and the plot is severely strained in several places. It’s entertaining enough, but not really that great.
- Alien: Covenant (2017) — 6/10
- This is the latest installment, with Ridley Scott once again at the helm. His vision is interesting and his direction is, as always lovely, but the plot was just odd. There were so many incongruities and deus ex machinas that involved everyone being spectacularly careless and stupid to drive the plot forward (just like the previous installment, Prometheus). The best part was Michael Fassbender as David and Walter, two androids. The scenes with just the two of them were the best (Fassbender playing against himself). The story was reaching for something interesting but couldn’t decide what to do—and ended up muddling in the standard horror/alien-creature direction that was decidedly less interesting than the more portentous possibilities hinted at in some of the stilted dialogue. Perhaps another viewing would improve things, but it might also just highlight the more glaring plot holes and technological anachronisms.
- Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust (2017) — 8/10
- I gave her an extra star for being much funnier and cleverer than I expected her to be. I expected more shock-comedy material, but it was pretty well thought-out and well-delivered. Recommended.
- F is for Family s02 (2017) — 9/10
Season two is even better than season one. A good mix of very funny jokes, running themes, period references, a bit of pathos and excellent characters. There is a lot of polish in the scripts, with dialogue pared down to essentials. The amount of work that went into this show is obvious. Highly recommended. Very funny.“Dragon on your chest. Dragon on your chest. Dragon on your chest. Breathing fire!”
- Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (2017) — 9/10
- After seeing his excellent set at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, we checked out this special. It’s an extremely strong first special, mining his multicultural heritage for a lot of very funny material and providing a story arc across the entire set. Highly recommended.
- Archer S08 (2017) — 7/10
- This is a decent entry in the pantheon of Archer seasons but not the best. It’s set in the 1930s, with the cast playing various crooks, cops and nightclub owners or performers. I liked it but there are better seasons.
- Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up for the First Time (2017) — 8/10
- I had no idea who this guy was, but he was a lot funnier than I expected (this seems to be a trend). His delivery reminded me a mixture of Louis C.K. and Bill Murray. His material is pretty good and pretty original. Recommended.
- Rick and Morty S01–02 — 9/10
I avoided this show for a while because I thought it was just hype: but it’s the real deal. Grandpa Rick Sanchez is a fantastic character, well-written and relentless. He’s a genius. He never backs off and he never loses. There is no comeuppance for him. Morty is also a great character, growing with each episode into a more and more interesting and well-developed guy. The rest of the family is also good, but you really watch for Rick. Some choice quotes from Rick below.“It’s like the N-word and the C-word had a baby and it was raised by all of the bad words for Jew.”“There is no god, Summer; gotta rip that band-aid off now you’ll thank me later.”“I’ll tell you how I feel about school, Jerry: it’s a waste of time. Bunch of people runnin’ around bumpin’ into each other, got a guy up front says, ‘2 + 2,’ and the people in the back say, ‘4.’ Then the bell rings and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or somethin’. I mean, it’s not a place for smart people, Jerry. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but that’s my two cents on the issue.”“Like nothing shady ever happened in a fully furnished office? You ever hear about Wall Street Morty? You know what those guys do in their fancy board rooms? They take their balls and dip ‘em in cocaine and wipe ‘em all over each other. You know Grandpa goes around and he does his business in public because grandpa isn’t shady.”“Listen, Morty, I hate to break it to you, but what people call “love” is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, Morty. Rise above. Focus on science.”“Now listen, I’m not the nicest guy in the universe. Because I’m the smartest. And being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.”