Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.5
- Robot Jox (1989) — 4/10
I was tempted to give this movie an extra point for having some pretty nice robot models for pre-CGI—but I couldn’t do it. The acting was just too terrible. As was the writing. The writing was worse than the acting, but it was a close call. The costumes were decent. This movie was made in the same year that the Berlin Wall fell, but it acknowledges nothing of that thaw in the Cold War.
We learn that the world has been nearly destroyed by war. The survivors no longer fight, except with giant robots in official battles over territory. The battles take place in an arena in the desert. The two competitors are, of course, America, and something called “Confed”, which is clearly Russia, going by the accent of “Alexander”, their champion.
The script was written by Joe Haldeman, so I expected better. It was an unsubtle, jingoistic, sexist and utterly predictable movie with giant robots in it. I’m not even going to describe the plot because it doesn’t matter. You know what it is; good guy triumphs, loses, is nearly destroyed, triumphs again. Bad guy cheats the whole time. They reconcile, finding common ground. The end.
Perhaps the only curiosity was that the American robot was clearly inferior to the Russian one. The only thing that could defeat that robot was its own weapons, turned against itself.
- A Simple Plan (1998) — 8/10
This is possibly Sam Raimi’s best movie. He really is an excellent director. Bill Paxton played well (as opposed to his disastrous acting in Boxing Helena, but Billy Bob Thornton puts on a master class as Jacob. Raimi’s style is clearer when things start rolling as the “plan” comes undone.
This is a story of a simple-sounding plan hatched by three guys who find a plane full of money. They swear to tell no-one, then slowly tell too many people. Murders snowball. There is attrition. Brothers fight and reconcile. Recommended.
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) — 8/10
This is a movie about the band Queen and its rise to fame, culminating in possibly the greatest rock concert ever—their performance at LiveAid in 1985. The band is a family and each is essential; the film shows how famous tracks each came from different band members.
This is not the story of Freddie Mercury, except so far as to describe the band. Naturally, his life is emphasized, as it defined the band more than the quieter family lives of the others. His homosexuality is an undercurrent throughout the film, rising to the fore in the second half. It is no way hidden or suppressed to get a PG rating. The treatment is subtle and tells the story adequately without getting ludicrously raunchy.
The film doesn’t shy away at all from male intimacy, but draws the line at depicting any sex or nudity at all (i.e. we don’t have to endure Malek going down on a prosthetic penis, which is what some reviewers seemed to think was the absolute minimum required for “authenticity”. Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury. He seems to do quite a good job of it. The rest of the band is also quite good.
It was a bit longer than it needed to be, especially near the beginning. The final 20 minutes were goosebumps.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) — 7/10
This sequel to the original was decent, but it was too obvious that this movie is a stepping stone to the next movie rather than a real movie in its own right. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) feature much more prominently and we learn much more of his plans for eliminating muggles and dominating the wizard world.
Jude Law is good as a young and constantly scheming Albus Dumbledore. We meet Dumbledore’s brother as well, in the person of Credence and Nicolas Flamel (from the original books, he’s the one who created the Philosopher’s Stone).
It was interesting, but possibly only for fans of the series.
- Queer Eye S03 (2019) — 7/10
- The fab five are back for another 10-episode season of helping people learn how to comb their hair, trim their beards, vacuum their apartments and choose clothes more appropriate to people their age. The format is the same for each episode, but it’s only really noticeable if you binge. We spread them out over several weeks and enjoyed most of them. Some of the people they chose this time were less “worthy”, but it’s fine. I like Bobby’s work on interior design, but they seem to go more and more over the top with each episode, spending God only knows what on people who will only mess everything up the second the five leave.
- Love, Death and Robots (2019) — 9/10
- This series is what I remember experiencing when I watched Heavy Metal for the first time. Perhaps in 25 years, they will also seem hopelessly dated, but for now, they were quite interesting. The 18 episodes are cartoons or CGI featuring what the title advertises. Many have interesting science-fiction–worthy plots akin to those in Black Mirror (i.e. a Twilight Zone with a strong science-fiction/technology foundation). I would watch many of these again, as they were quite good. I really liked Zima Blue. Many of the others were clever or funny or both. They were all high-quality rendering. Highly recommended.
- The Dirt (2019) — 6/10
This is the biopic of the rise, fall and rise again of Mötley Crüe. It felt a bit gratuitous, on the one hand (there’s a quick scene at a party in the first five minutes where Tommy Lee orally pleasures a young lady in the middle of a party until she squirts all over the place), but also quite formulaic, on the other. The acting is decent, although no-one really stands out. They spend a lot of time going over details that were most likely in the book, but don’t really focus too much on the appeal of the Crüe to its fans.
There are plenty of scenes of debauchery and partying and drugs and sex, but they also don’t titillate. Even when they disgust—Ozzy’s piss-licking scene at the pool—it’s not that well-done.
- Isn’t It Romantic (2019) — 7/10
Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, a young lady working as an architect in New York City. She’s best friends with her secretary, who does nothing but watch romantic comedies all day on her computer. Natalie is quite down on these unrealistic movies.
Natalie strikes her head quite badly and gets a massive concussion, waking into a glorious hospital room that she likens to a “Williams Sonoma”. The doctor is handsome and thinks she’s beautiful. Slowly she realizes that her life has become a romantic comedy: she is a star architect with her own firm; her secretary is now her partner, who hates her (because the formula dictates it); her original firm’s client, Blake (Liam Hemsworth) is now in love with her.
Adam DeVine plays her best friend, Josh (who’s secretly/not-so-secretly in love with her) both in the original setting and in the romantic comedy. Adam also gets a love interest, in the form of a normally unattainable “Yoga Ambassador” called Isabella.
It’s a cute idea and decent iteration of the “it was all a dream” formula. At first, Natalie thinks that she has to consummate with Blake to get out of the dream, then realizes that Josh has strong feelings for her, so thinks she has to stop his wedding to Isabella and declare her love to him—but finally realizes that her real problem is that she doesn’t love herself. Tada! She wakes up in a regular emergency room. Wilson is very good and funny, as is DeVine.
- Nate Bargatze: Tennessee Kid (2019) — 9/10
I really liked Bargatze’s quick set in another Netflix series called The Standups and he delivers a full hour in this special with the same aplomb. He’s clean as a whistle but not noticeably so. That is, he’s not like Brian Regan, over-exaggerating to get laughs. Bargatze is very subdued and intelligent and delivers a great set.
He has several bits that just grow slowly and then hit you with a lovely punchline. Talking about climate change, he compares our planet to the other planets, saying if you think the Earth is bad, you should see the others because “they’re nowhere right now”. He talks about tailgating and inadvertently entering the stadium 3 hours early, he tells of his early career with his magician father. He spends a good deal of time following up on his original special, which could have tanked, but was relaxed and interesting and very funny.
- Kevin Hart: Irresponsible (2019) — 6/10
- Kevin plays the O2 arena in London, standing in the middle of dozens of thousands of people, talking about his sex life and sweating profusely. Unlike Bargatze, Hart often seems forced, getting laughs for presentation rather than for material. It’s not really my cup of tea anymore—I like his earlier specials better. It seems like an entire stadium full of people in London disagree. It did feel like they jumped to crowd-shots of people dying with laughter, tears running down their face, a bit too much. It was almost like they were trying to tell you when to laugh.