Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.4
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 and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Escape to Victory (1981) — 8/10
This is sort of like the Longest Yard but with WWII prisoners of war vs. the German national team in Paris. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow and Pele. Von Sydow plays a German major who is keen on football and recognizes Caine as John Colby of the Premier League. He proposed to Colby that he should put a team together to play against a team of Germans, guards and officers.
When Sydow’s superiors get wind of the idea, they promote it and move the match to Paris, against the German national team, for propaganda purposes. Colby and his men care little, at first. They are allowed to practice and play and get more free reign and privileges than they ordinarily would have.
Stallone’s Hatch is part of a plan to escape—unlike many others before him. He makes it in quite an elegant fashion and makes his way to Paris like a pretty debonair spy. He even enunciates passable French. His job is to sneak into the match in order to break out the entire team.
The matches commences, with the German team depicted as a savage team that plays like Paul Newman’s team did in Slapshot. The referee has been paid off and seems to be throwing his very first game because it’s ridiculously obvious. At half-time, it’s 4–1 for the Germans and they head back to the lockers—ready to be broken out through the sewer system. The breach into the hot tub is wonderful.
They all get below ground, then they decide they want to finish the game—they think they can win. They’d rather win the game than escape. Hatch must be convinced to return to prison—yet again—because they can’t play without their goalie. The colonels who’d arranged the escape are baffled.
It’s quickly 4–3. The referee seems to have forgotten how to cheat. Until they disallow an equalizing goal for no apparent reason. And this all playing a man down. With a few minutes remaining, Pele comes back on the field, having partially recovered for an egregious injury suffered in the first half. Bicycle kick for an indisputable equalizer. The crowd chants victoire. Then they begin to sing a patriotic song in French, drowning out everything else.
Silence falls on the pitch. Hatch must face a final penalty kick. He saves it. The crown goes wild and storms the pitch. The team escapes in the ensuing melee, disguised by the crowd in clothes that cover their kits. The Germans mysteriously don’t shoot anyone. I love how they didn’t even try to give the extras period clothing. There’re windbreakers and member-only jackets all over the field.
- The Shape of Water (2017) — 5/10
This is the story of a mute woman (Eliza) working as a janitor in a top-secret 1960s laboratory. She is a solitary person with an affinity to water. At the lab, an captured amphibious creature is brought in—and she befriends it, seemingly falls in love with it. There is a cold-war tension draped over the whole affair, with one lab tech (at least) working for the Soviets.
The military people are unswervingly cruel, single-minded, short-sighted and stupid. Also, the Russians are comically depicted and their accents are atrocious. I don’t know a lot of Russian (4 years of study deep in the past), but I know a bad accent when I hear one. I can hear how stilted it is and the American accents glare through. It’s embarrassing to think that a globally released film like this couldn’t give enough of a shit to get the language that’s spoken in a good quarter of the movie right. They do this a lot with German as well (season 9 of Archer is painful—especially Cyril). I don’t think that this is part of some elaborate double-irony, being deliberately bad about accents to point up how little Americans care about the rest of the world. At this point, I can’t tell if you’re just seriously an idiot or pretending to be one. It’s a wash.
And this movie was nominated for an Oscar—an organization that will rip out its left eyeball to avoid offending gays, blacks or women (now, anyway), but doesn’t seem to notice when a film offends an entire culture. The Russians are the enemy anyways, right? … So who cares about offending them. They deserve it.
Her best friend is a gay painter (in the 60s) and everyone around him is a horrible homophobic, anti-communist racist. Her other best friend at work is Zelda Fuller, played by the always-amazing Octavia Spencer.
But I’ve having a hard time engaging with this story: everything just kind of happens randomly. The fish-man is considered “hot”. The mute lady wants him; she gets him. Fish-man can heal people and his back lights up when he orgasms, but he just gets mysteriously sick and no-one can figure out what’s wrong. Is there not enough salt in the water? No-one knows. We just have to wait and see what the story wants to show us, but we can’t engage in it and make any predications or draw conclusions.
There’s a lot of Russian, so make to get a copy with subtitles.
- True Cost (2015) — 9/10
This is a quite excellent documentary about and analysis of the Western fashion industry. Actually, the fashion industry is the entry point to an extended critique of the real problem: our unfettered capitalism and laser-like focus on profits and growth. Economist Richard Wolfe is featured in the second half and eloquently sums up the real fix that we need.
The fashion industry has moved from a biannual release schedule to a nearly weekly release schedule called “fast fashion”. If so many clothes are to be sold, then those clothes have to get less expensive. When the end customer pays less, there’s less to go around all the way up the supplier chain. Those with the least power suffer the most.
The documentary covers all aspects of our rapacious system.: It starts with how Monsanto has cornered and redesigned the market in seeds and pesticides to increase their profits and control. They have GM seeds that can’t be used in subsequent years, the plants they produce require more pesticides, and the ruthless race to the bottom ensures that more labor-intensive means of production (organic farming) are priced out of the market.
The materials are made cheaper by squeezing farmers. Next up is finding the source of cheapest labor in the world, working in the worst conditions. This makes selling super-cheap clothes to people buying stuff they don’t need on credit they don’t have a viable short- to medium-term business strategy.
Since people don’t really need these clothes—and they were so cheap to begin with—they throw them away in staggering numbers. Millions of tons of clothes are discarded every year in the U.S. alone.
Underneath it all is the driving engine of rapacious, pure-profit, growth capitalism. The environment and people are not included in the balance sheet when determining the success of a participant in this economy. There is no overarching goal other than funneling money upwards to those that already have it. This documentary uses the fashion industry as a lens through which to view this greater underlying problem.
It’s unlikely we’ll solve it, though, as long as so many of those with the upper hand (most people in the West) don’t really care or are unaware or don’t think that their actions matter. As long as so many are brainwashed into thinking that capitalism is sacrosanct—when every other policy can be questioned and improved—there is no way out.
- Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle: Season 4 (2016) — 9/10
- Stewart Lee is a comedic genius. I don’t know of anyone else whose comedy is even similar. It’s self-referential, meta, deconstructionist and breaks the fourth wall. His topics range from racism to the BBC to the British press to British politics … but it’s not really like that. He’s brilliant.
- Split (2016) — 9/10
James McAvoy stars in this M. Night Shyamalan sequel (?) about a man with a split personality. He kidnaps three young ladies and traps them in a room together. The same man visits them several times, each time clothed in a different personality. Patricia, Dennis, Hedwig and many more.
Dennis is in treatment with Dr. Fletcher, who thinks that people with his disorder are actually preternaturally gifted, almost super-human. That’s why this feels a bit like a sequel—it’s another in Shyamalan’s series of films about low-key superheroes.
The girls try to figure out how to escape, while he’s constantly switching personalities. The film follows Dr. Fletcher’s attempts to control the personalities. Dennis and Patricia have taken over Kevin’s body from Barry—and things are getting darker.
- West World S02 — 8/10
This continues to be one of the more interesting shows, with good acting, good writing and interesting ideas. The war between the hosts and the humans comes to a head and culminates in the first large battle, which the hosts lose. At least most of them do: many of them make their escape into a virtual world, where they feel the same, but are free of physical bodies.
It become clear throughout the season that it’s not only the hosts who are copied or “backed up” to the Delos severs—every guest who’s ever visited the park has also been stored on the servers. This is the path to immortality for some—or so they hope or fear.
Interwoven throughout this main story arc are the individual stories, like Maeve’s unwavering obsession with finding her daughter. On the one hand, it’s annoying since she constantly subverts her own purposes with this overarching desire to find a child that was never hers—she’s reacting to an implanted desire. But aren’t we all, in a sense? Hers is more obviously implanted and artificial, so we think she should be able to free herself from it. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the more powerful—it’s artificial and not subject to the whims of biology since she was engineered.
The other main heroine is Dolores (sadness), who leads her armies against mankind and tries to destroy all of the guests’ records, failing to do so. She does manage to escape into the real world, taking Bernard with her. He doesn’t share her vision and will be ever at-odds with her, but he will also likely be helpful to her.
We also find out much more about William, the Man in Black and the Delos vision. His storyline is entwined with that of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, of whom we learn much more (especially in #8, the Kiksuya episode).
Ford almost makes a virtual return, helping Bernard fill in some deliberately created gaps in his memory—especially as relates to Dolores and Charlotte (the current owner/CEO of Delos). It is at this point increasingly difficult to tell who is a host and who is a human. Even William’s last appearance in a flash-future scene, suggests that he, at some point, crosses the line.
- Sleeping with Other People (2015) — 8/10
This was a pretty solid romantic comedy. It’s raunchier than most (rated R), so maybe that made it a bit more interesting than the many other middle-of-the-road, goody-two-shoes entries in this category. The plot-line is still a classic one: two people who continue to screw up their romantic relationships (one by cheating and the other by being a serial bed-hopper) find solace and comfort in a platonic relationship with each other.
As this relationship becomes more comfortable and real and strong for both of them, they naturally toy with the idea of moving it to the central, romantic relationship. But, also naturally, both fear that this will destroy their friendship as they’ve managed to destroy all of their other relationships. After a few false starts, they both realize that they can make it work this time because they truly are right for each other and flawed in the same way so that their flaws dovetail rather than separate.
In other words: a romantic comedy. I gave it an extra star because I really like the two leads, Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie.
- Disenchantment (2018) — 6/10
- This cartoon has all of the trademarks of a Matt Groening cartoon in its art direction and style. It’s set in a fictional medieval kingdom and focuses on the life of a debauched and unwilling princess. She befriends a stupid elf and a tiny demon. Her father is a drunken lout. Her mother is a squid-person from a neighboring kingdom. They all have adventures that drive their respective stories and the overall story arc forward. It’s not as funny as it thinks it is—or maybe it is, but the humor feels forced and all-too-familiar. It’s not terrible, but I honestly can’t even remember if I finished watching all of the episodes in the season.
- The Alienist (2018) — 8/10
This was a very nice season of shows based strongly on the plot of the book by Caleb Carr. It stars Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Brühl plays Laszlo Kreizler, an alienist who’s proved his value to the police force many times, but is constantly forced to prove himself again because his techniques and the science he espouses are still very new for the time. Dakota Fanning plays Sara Howard, who starts off as a secretary but realizes her full potential working with Kreizler. She often leads the way in investigations and is largely fearless. Due to attitudes at the time, she is only allowed to be her true self in the shadow of Kreizler. Finally, Evans plays John Moore, a high-society playboy who occasionally works as a sketch-artist for the police but mainly assists Brühl.“Those who are seen dancing are thought insane by those who cannot hear the music.”
- Bojack Horseman S05 (2018) — 9/10
- What is there more to say about Bojack Horseman? This show continues to enchant with smart, smart writing and interesting story arcs. All of the shows offer something unique, but the standout episode this time was “Free Churros”, which consisted of a 30-minute eulogy/standup routine by Bojack at his mother’s funeral. I’m delighted to hear that it’s been renewed for another season.