Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.6
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.
- 12 Angry Men (1957) — 9/10
- This is the classic filming of the theater piece about the jury trial of a young man accused of having murdered his father in a fit of anger in the middle of the night. It is the story of 11 jurors ready to hang the boy high for pretty poor reasons while Henry Fonda plays the lone holdout. He asks them to at least spend a few minutes discussing the case before they condemn a man to die. It’s well-written and well-acted and the story is very convincing. Details of the case are revealed through discussion and the jurors one-by-one switch to not-guilty verdicts. In the end, they all agree that the boy was railroaded by an unfair system and vote not-guilty. Highly recommended.
- The Andromeda Strain (1971) — 5/10
This is the film of the book by Michael Crichton about an extraterrestrial incursion in the form of a crystal that acts as a virus for humans. The virus acts quickly, dehydrating blood almost instantly. The U.S. government quickly gathers a team of crack scientists to investigate it in a high-tech lab built in several layers under the desert.
The film follows the investigation and the slow realization of how the alien crystals are actually alive and are evolving. In the end. we know no more about the alien substance, but it evolves into a form that is non-lethal to humans.
There is a tremendous focus on the technology in the film. The decontamination process is an entire act. The Waldo arms are given dozens of minutes of screen time.
- The Last Witchhunter (2015) — 8/10
Vin Diesel stars as Kaulder, a warrior from the dark ages who vanquishes the Witch Queen. Before she falls, she curses him with immortality.
The rest of the movie takes place in the present day, in New York City. Kaulder is in league with the Catholic Church to keep witches under control. There is a sort of licensing system and Kaulder is a much-feared officer of the law. A cult is working to resurrect the Witch Queen. We learn that Kaulder’s immortality is related to the Witch Queen in a more direct tie (her heart).
Michael Caine is Kaulder’s assistant, with Elijah Wood his eventual replacement. Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) is very good as the witch who gains Kaulder’s trust (and love?) The final battle is a bit uneven, but overall it’s an entertaining action movie.
- Evil Dead (2013) — 7/10
- This is a really well-made gore flick with more than a few shoutouts to the original. It’s really violent and gory, with limbs being slowly and viscerally ripped from bodies. The makeup is very, very good and the actors do their jobs well. The plot vaguely follows the original, with several points of similarity (the book, the chainsaw, etc.). Predictably, the characters don’t cop to the true severity of the situation quickly enough to save themselves. One by one, they are possessed and taken down by others. It’s a well-done version of a classic formula.
- The Fly (2013) — 9/10
- Geena Davis is as beautiful as I remember her being when I first saw this movie as a teenager. She’s still so young. Her boss drives a Maserati. The makeup is really good—the deterioration already begins when Seth’s on the sofa with Victoria. Goldblum matches the physical deterioration with a psychological one. The visuals and graphics are definitely dated, but worlds better than those from the Andromeda Strain, 15 years before. I had no idea who David Cronenberg (the director) was then. In the intervening 30 years, I’ve seen many more of his films and his imprimatur is very obviously on this film. It’s quite poignant, at the end, that the Brundlefly/Teleporter is still capable of asking for the sweet release of death.
- Casino Royale (1967) — 8/10
- This is an extremely high-quality spy-film spoof starring the lovely Joanna Pettet as James Bond’s daughter, David Niven as James Bond, Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble (Baccarat expert, who’s written a book on it. The joke here is that there is no system to Baccarat: it’s a game of pure luck) and also as James Bond, Orson Welles as Le Chiffre, the equally lovely Ursula Andress as Mata Bond (Mata Hari, who’d married Bond), Woody Allen shows up as “Jimmy Bond” in a non-speaking but central role, and the stunning Jacqueline Bisset as Miss Goodthighs. I just saw David Prowse (Darth Vader) has an uncredited role as Frankenstein’s Monster. Peter O’Toole was an uncredited bagpiper. John Huston, Deborah Kerr, Anjelica Huston, William Holden—it seemed everyone wanted to be in this movie. All of the actors seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. The plot follows that of the book, more or less. There’s even the scene where Bond is kidnapped and tortured by Chiffre on a chair with a hole in it (although it’s much less graphic than in the remake with Daniel Craig). Peter Sellers is amazing, as always. For once, he gets to play a confident character. I love the 60s aesthetic here. Some of the interactions are a bit dated (i.e. misogynistic), but it’s 50 years old.
- Rear Window (1954) — 8/10
Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly and Raymond Burr star in this Alfred Hitchcock classic. The premise is of a man (Stewart) laid up in his apartment with a broken leg. Out the rear window of his apartment, he has a view of many other apartments in his neighborhood, exquisitely rendered in a stage set. It’s an incredibly hot summer in New York City, so everyone has their windows open until all hours of the evening.
Stewart is a photographer; Kelly is his high-society girlfriend. Stewart spends a good deal of time watching the neighbors. Hitchcock appears in one of the apartments, winding the clock in the apartment of the composer/pianist.
Jeffries is kind of a dick. He’s inordinately proud of how he travels the world as a photographer, can’t see any art in writing music (sees only that the guy writes music to pay his rent). He scowls at the same guy a while later, because he’s practicing atonal jazz with his friends (probably because it’s “noise”). He and Doyle keep talking about “notifying the landlord” when occupancy of the apartment changes—even for one night.
- Showgirls (1995) — 6/10
Elizabeth Berkley plays Nomi Malone, a drifter/dancer who ends up in Las Vegas. She is not a good actress. She very often goes to “11”. I’m not really in the position to judge her dancing, but it’s a bit jerky, I thought. She’s good, but with a very exacting energy. I was surprised to see Gina Gershon and Kyle McLachlan with such big roles. Gina Gershon is naked nearly as much as Berkley is. And dances nearly as much. There’s a lot of dancing, most of it extremely good.
The plot is pretty standard, actually. Yeah, there’s a lot of nudity and lots of sexy dancing, but it’s probably a pretty accurate depiction of the show-girl dancing world. Again, I have no idea, but it didn’t seem to be too exaggerated just to be extra-mean to women. The plot, writing and acting were brutal and stupid sometimes, but again, no more than other movies.
Ok, I take that back: now they’re drinking champagne in a giant pool. And then they made a lot of waves in the most ridiculous cinematic depiction of a female orgasm ever. Berkley cements her utter lack of acting chops in that scene. She also saves a lot of time on laundry because she wears neither a bra nor panties. Although you have to remember this is just Verhoeven’s and Eszterhas’s style—remember Starship Troopers.
The dance numbers in the big shows are not terrible. Nor, again, are they particularly hard to believe. Probably the people complaining about them want to believe in a world where none of this exists. And 75% of the way through the film, there’s a gang-rape scene nearly out of nowhere, of Berkley’s best friend and roommate. The rapists were clever: they released her, bleeding from everywhere, right back to a party with hundreds of people. And no-one knows a thing.
The aftermath/coverup with Kyle McLachlan is completely believable and culminates in yet another of Berkley’s nearly spastic acting “reactions”. But now we’re in revenge mode—I honestly can’t tell if Verhoeven is taking the piss here. He can’t seriously want us to believe she’s a martial-arts expert now, too? And then one more quick lesbian scene with Gina Gershon and she’s drifting back to the road. Saw it in German.
- Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) — 8/10
This sequel to the remake, which starred Donald Sutherland and Jason Statham (the original starred Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent), starts off with a bang. Jason Statham takes no shit from anyone and won’t be distracted by a pretty face.
He’s on the lam after the end of the first film, but he’s been discovered by an old enemy. He escapes from Brazil to Thailand (using a passport and phone from a giant stash in a shipping container), where he meets up with an old friend Mei (Michelle Yeoh). The second pretty face works a bit better (Jessica Alba)—she’s sent to spy on him and lets her man beat her up so that Bishop (Statham) can’t help but get involved. He figures this out, as well, but is slowly getting sucked in to the job.
Jessica Alba is cute as hell, but she’s in Statham’s shadow—he’s built like a brick shithouse. Really not bad for a guy who was almost 50 when he made that movie. Naturally, Alba is 14 years younger, which is actually a small gap for Hollywood.
Still, it’s a decent setup: she gets kidnapped by the guy who wants Bishop to commit three kills/hits so he’s backed into employing his unique skillset, but left morally off the hook for killing complete strangers. The hits are nicely constructed: we see Bishop planning them mission-impossible-style and the executing them to perfection.
He’s brilliant, quite a sketch artist, is familiar with all sorts of munitions and weapons and is immensely strong. Obviously, it’s completely unbelievable, but it’s a lot of fun. It kind of reminds me of the Hitman movies, but better because Jason Statham > Timothy Olyphant.
The final kill is Tommy Lee Jones, who seems to have a lot of fun with the role of international weapons-dealer. Instead of helping his enemy eliminate his competition, he strikes a deal with TLJ to fake his death.
Definitely a wonderfully choreographed film. It’s nice to see that Alba is far from helpless—she can hold her own, but her ability to take on huge guys is relatively realistic. As with any action film, Statham has as many bullets as he needs and he has preternatural aim with a pistol (especially when in motion). Some of his kill-shots look like shit we used to do in Quake: falling backwards but still administering a laser-like shot to the forehead.
Overall, a very fun and satisfying action movie.
- Maze Runner (2014) — 6/10
The story shows a world that consists of only large meadow and forest enclosed in giant stone walls. It is inhabited by a tribe of boys who call their home “The Glade”. It’s kind of like Lord of the Flies starring a bunch of millennials without phones.
They are joined regularly by a new boy/man, who appears from a cargo lift built into the ground. As the film starts, they are joined by Thomas. Thomas starts trouble by not immediately accepting the rules as they’ve been established by the others. One has to follow the rules because it’s what keeps everyone alive. If you don’t follow the rules, the cargo boxes stop coming.
Also, don’t try to escape because the Maze will eat you. The maze is inscrutable and impenetrable and is inhabited by Grievers—giant robot-spider machines with an unquenchable desire to kill.
Predictably, Thomas is better at maze-running than anyone else and he manages to kill a Griever and he finds a way out, etc. etc. However, he only finds a way out of the original maze—there is much more to come because the maze is part of a dystopic, wasted world ruled by the mad remnant so factions that destroyed it.
I think I might have made it sound better than it was.
One review I read wrote that she “snatches [$10] from him like a mongoose trying to kill a cobra”; that’s how she does everything. Roger Ebert himself wrote that “If all lap-dancers get as carried away as Nomi does, I’ll bet they’re constantly seeing a chiropractor about their backs.” Ebert actually noticed a bunch of the same things I did, for example:
“It’s trash, yes, but not boring. Sometimes, it’s hilarious: (1) As a dancer writhes groaning on the stage, a choreographer grabs her knee and squeezes.
“She screams. “It’s her knee,” he concludes. ”