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Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2021.5

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 around 1600 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.

Creed II (2018) — 5/10

Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes champion at the start of the movie in a thoroughly unconvincing bout. He is trained by Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is in Russia and trains his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu), who is a force of nature in the boxing ring. Ivan works with promoter Buddy (Russell Hornsby), who approaches Creed in the most ham-handed way for a “rematch” against Drago.

Creed, because he’s weak-willed and kind of dumb, succumbs to the pressure and takes the match. Cue a montage of them training. Rocky doesn’t take part because he says it’s senseless. Cue a match where Viktor absolutely slaughters Creed—just like his father slaughtered Apollo Creed before him. In this case, Viktor hits Creed when he’s still down, so he’s disqualified. Creed is still the WBC champion, but he’s a shattered mess with broken ribs in a hospital whereas Viktor is still fighting and bellowing about a rematch.

Creed agrees to the rematch, but with Rocky as his trainer. They go to the desert to some sort of prison-camp-looking training ground where Creed trains just like Rocky did in Russia before his match in Moscow. Creed overcomes all odds and beats Viktor. The end.

There are more things, like Ludmilla Drago (Brigitte Nielsen) showing up a few times, with a complicated history in that family. Or that Creed and Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson, phoning it in) baby is deaf because Bianca’s also deaf. At least a 1/3 of the movie was about their relationship. The subplot with Bianca’s singing career taking off—OMG she’s deaf—could have been excised completely without losing anything. Her music was not very good anyway.

This is basically a shitty remake of Rocky IV. Michael B. Jordan is wholly unconvincing as a gutty fighter. At 130 minutes, the movie was much too long. I’m a sucker for Dolph Lundren and Sylvester Stallone, but I guess I’ll have to wait for The Expendables 4 for something I can enjoy. It was reasonably well-made, so I didn’t deduct more stars, but maybe I should have.

The Boys S02 (2020) — 9/10

The second season starts with Butcher (Karl Urban) framed by Homelander (Antony Starr) for Stillwell’s (Elisabeth Shue) murder and in the wind and the rest of the Boys in hiding with a gang that Frenchie (Tomer Capon) knows. A new super-villain hits the shores of New York—and turns out to be Kimiko’s brother, Kenji (Abraham Lim). They capture him and head out on a boat, but have to flee back to shore. The Seven attack, chasing them through tunnels and catch and kill Kenji. It’s Stormfront (Aya Cash), not Homelander who does it, ruthlessly and not without pleasure. Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) vows revenge.

The Deep (Chace Crawford) is falling into a Scientology-like church and tries to ingratiate himself back into the Seven, but Homelander’s not having it. Homelander is becoming more and more ruthless—and showing more and more what a psychopath he is. After having killed Stillwell, he gets Doppelganger (Dan Darin-Zanco) to pretend to be her so that they can continue their relationship. Homelander doesn’t even care that it’s not really her.

Annie (Erin Moriarty) gets a sample of Compound V out into the wild and reveals to the world that supes are made, not born. Vought rolls with it, using their marketing might to gain more power from it. CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) is a dead-eyed master of taking control. He calls Homelander’s bluff and seems to be the only person capable of thwarting him. This doesn’t sit well with Homelander, though.

Homelander retreats to Becca and his son, Ryan, trying to push him into using his powers. The boy doesn’t want to, but finally does—to keep Homelander away from his mother.

Stormfront! Where to begin? She is designed to get on your last nerve. Her innate evil—akin to Homelander’s—is slowly revealed throughout the season. Stormfront has been around for a long time—since before WWII, when she was still named Liberty. She came up in the Reich, though, and has a serious race issue. He story arc culminates in her finally getting Ryan to use his powers for real when she’s choking out his mother. Stormfront turns pretty crispy, but isn’t dead yet (apparently supes are kind of immortal).

Maeve (Dominique McElligott) is increasingly disaffected and plans Homelander’s downfall by threatening to release video of their “rescue” of the airliner in the previous season. Annie is still working with the boys to get more dirt on Vought, taking them to Sage Grove, where Vought is producing more supes in a sort of mental institution/supe factory, where they find Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore), who’s able to explain his actions of the past well enough that the Boys spare him.

Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) finally calls a hearing to before Congress to discuss Vought’s behavior, but the star witness Lamplighter self-immolates in the middle of the tower on a rescue mission with Hughie (Jack Quaid) to rescue Annie. Now they need to get Vogelbaum to be the star witness, but it’s broken up when people’s heads start exploding every which way but loose. Vogelbaum is dead, as are several Congresspeople.

With Stormfront’s Nazi past leaked, all sides return to their original places, with the Boys exonerated, Annie back in the Seven (as well as A-Train, but not The Deep). At the end, we see the head of The Deep’s church Adana (Goran Visnjic) yucking it up with Neuman…right before she blows his head off with her mind power (spoiler: she’s the unknown assassin). Hughie, moving on, gets a job with her campaign.

I continue to enjoy this unflinching, dark look at superheroes that draws a lot of material from the original comic books, but weaves it into a slightly different story.

The Office (US): S04–s05 (2007–2009) — 9/10

Season four sees Karen leave the Scranton Branch to become branch manager in Utica instead, where we see her try to poach Stanley. (God only knows why. Did she need someone with basic Sudoku or crossword skills?) Michael and Jim and Dwight drive up to Utica to “defend” their honor against this attack. Of course, everything goes wrong—and Stanley stays in Scranton because he was just maneuvering for a raise anyway.

After her spectacular firing at the end of the previous season, Jan moves in to Michael’s condo and takes over, spending a lot of money to remodel things for her extended stay there. Michael doesn’t really have the money for it, but he can’t say no. We see at a catastrophic dinner party at Michael and Jan’s that Michael sleeps on what amounts to a dog bed at the foot of her bed. There’s a video camera in the bedroom. The evening ends with the police breaking up a domestic-violence dispute after Jan throws something through Michael’s laughably small flat-screen TV. Their relationship is over for now.

Dwight and Angela come out in the open with their relationship, but it soon sours when he euthanizes one of her sickly cats. She starts dating Andy instead. Dwight and Angela soon start a dalliance again, though, sneaking off to the warehouse for one quickie after another. Andy has to be happy with a kiss on the forehead.

Ryan gets very big for his britches at corporate, lording his new role over Michael and the Scranton branch. He makes a modernization push, having a new web site built and then demanding that everyone book their orders through it. The salespeople are not excited about it, but try to work with him, at least a little bit. Eventually, it comes out that he’s double-booking sales on the site and he’s fired for fraud.

Toby moves to Costa Rica and is replaced by Holly, who is a female version of Michael. Holly and Michael inevitably spiral toward each another. Pam takes a three-month graphic-arts course in NYC, so she and Jim have to deal with a long-distance relationship. Michael throws a giant party for Toby’s departure—because he hates him and wants to celebrate that he’s gone. Jim wanted to propose to Pam at the party, but Andy usurps him and proposes to Angela. She accepts.

Jim eventually proposes to Pam on one of their trips between New York City and Scranton. She eventually returns from her art school, but has decided that she doesn’t like digital graphics design, so she’s staying in Scranton. Jim is delighted because he’s bought his parents’ house and surprises her with it. She’s delighted, against all expectations.

Michael and Holly’s relationship ends when CEO David Wallace finds out and he banishes her to the Nashua branch. In other relationship news, Andy finds out that Angela and Dwight are still having their affair, despite Andy and Angela’s engagement and wedding plans. After a showdown, they all break up, leaving Angela back on the singles market.

Corporate sends Charles Miner (Idris Elba) to take over the branch, causing Michael to resign in protest and to start the Michael Scott Paper Company. Pam and Ryan jump ship as well, hiring on as sales associates. Their office space is in a large supply closet in the same building. Michael’s penchant for genius-in-stupidity lets him steal a lot of clients from Dunder Mifflin with unsustainable prices, leading Dunder Mifflin to offer him a buyout. Pam, Michael, and Ryan are re-hired at Dunder Mifflin, with Pam moving to sales and Ryan dropping back down to his original temp position (which is a lovely joke that a useless temp position remains after years and years and years).

The quality remains quite high, with almost no dead or filler episodes. The writing is impressive.

Belleville Cop (Le Flic de Belleville) (2018) — 6/10

This was a comforting and soothing movie to watch while recovering from a flash migraine. It was utterly and unabashedly formulaic, following a formula established in the 80s, enhanced only by Omar Sy’s and Luis Guzman’s charm.

The story is mainly about Baaba (Omar Sy), a Parisian cop who was born in and works in Belleville, a neighborhood in Paris. He still lives with and is very close to his mother Zohra (Biyouna). His girlfriend is in love with him, but is losing patience with his inability to commit to a life together.

After a few scenes establishing the points above—and also showing that Baaba is a good cop with a flair for investigation as well as the gift of gab—we see Baaba meet an old friend of his from the neighborhood, Roland (Franck Gastambide). Before Roland can reveal much of what he was doing in Miami as a police officer, assassins show up and kill him right at the table.

Baaba gets assigned to find out what happened, tracking the case to Miami, where he’s teamed up with Lieutenant Ricardo Garcia (Luis Guzmán). Baaba travels with his mother, whom he sets up in a nice apartment, funded by his police department in Paris. Garcia’s mother is also heavily involved in his life and they have a barbecue party together at one point. Zohra gets involved with one of the gentlemen assigned to assist around the grounds.

The movie had a bit of a Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours vibe to it, with the fish-out-of-water (black) cop traveling to the city of a more seasoned but jaded and black-sheep of a cop. They team up to find the bad guys and solve the case, with Baaba returning to Paris in triumph. Unsurprisingly, he learned a lot about himself and is ready to take the next step, moving in with his girlfriend—and without his mother in tow. The end.

I watched it in French with German subtitles.

Batman (1966) — 6/10

This is the original movie about Batman (Adam West), Robin (Burt Ward), and Alfred (Alan Napier) doing battle with the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Joker (Cesar Romero), and Catwoman (Lee Meriweather). They all reprise their roles from the campy TV show of the same name.

Having individually been foiled umpteen times by the Dynamic Duo, the four villains team up to one absolutely wacky and Rube Goldbergian plan, which pretty much immediately fails. This despite Batman’s utter inability to recognize Catwoman when she’s not wearing her cat ears and mask—and also vamping with a ridiculous Russian accent. They rally and improvise and come up with something even more unlikely—this succeeds a bit better, but is thwarted by the insuperable Batman and his trusty sidekick.

The quartet’s plan to kidnap the U.N. fails and Batman saves the day—although the U.N. members’ minds have been swapped when they were rehydrated.

The movie was incredibly campy from start to finish—and from start to finish takes quite a long time, enough time for everyone involved to chew the scenery for a good long time. The scene with Batman trying to deposit a cartoon bomb at the docks takes long minutes and somehow doesn’t end up being funnier for all that (sometimes these kinds of drawn-out scenes turn funny after a while—thing Tig Notaro with her bar stool).

The sets are quite interesting, with everything clearly labeled—more often than not, as Bat- something-or-other. The costumes are OK, with some strange bits like Cesar Romero’s mustache having been painted white along with the rest of the Joker’s face.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) — 6/10

I can’t tell whether I’ve outgrown these kinds of movies or whether they’ve just been making them worse. Everything seems trite and cookie-cutter and designed-by-committee.

Of course, there’s a little deaf/mute, pacific-islander girl (Kaylee Hottle) (a ka-ching on the identity matrix) with whom Kong communicates almost exclusively. Of course, she’s the hero because you’re watching a children’s movie. There’s no use complaining about it: no matter how violent and over-the-top the CGI, no matter how attractive they seem to be making the film to a mature audience in the trailer, if it’s rated PG-13, then it’s going have been written by or for children.

Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) is the researcher in charge of Kong’s artificial habitat on Skull Island. Humans have ostensibly trapped him there to protect him from Godzilla’s predations. Kong is not pleased with it and throws missiles into the roof of the doom to partially disable it.

Seemingly out of the blue, Godzilla attacks a facility run by Apex Cybernetics in Florida. Apex is trying to build some massive device that is attracting Godzilla’s attention (spoiler alert: it turns out to be Mecha-Zilla). They realize they need a better energy source, which they figure is in the Hollow Earth (which is, apparently, a thing), so they send some sort of Earth-piercing ship to navigate the reverse-gravity interface and then land inside the Earth, with Kong in tow, of course, because he’s got to help them find the power source. He manages to find it and brings it back with him to the surface, via a tunnel that Godzilla carved with his radioactive fire-breath. I am not making this up. The gravitational interface is not a problem for either Titan to navigate.

Alexander Skarsgård is in this as some sort of rogue adventurer/geologist/archeologist/I-wasn’t-paying-attention, but he’s really there to grab the ladies (news flash: not that many are going to watch this, despite having three female “leads” of varying ages and having a hunk in a subordinate role) whereas Millie Bobby Brown (11 from Stranger Things) is there to grab the upper end of the PG-13 crowd, to let them know that they and their grrrl power are firmly in charge. Brown’s character Madison Russell (I am not kidding) solves problems by just following her gut instinct and failing upward. Planning and thinking are for boomers. Julian Dennison plays her nervous and more-hesitant sidekick Josh Valentine (again, not kidding), but he’s not able to spread his wings here as much as he did in Deadpool.

Once Kong has his ancient weapon/power source and Mecha-Zilla is powered up, we’re ready for a good 30 minutes of destroying cities, shifting allegiances, and enough almost-wins and lead changes to satisfy three Wrestlemanias. Long story short: Godzilla and Kong team up to destroy Mecha-Zilla, Godzilla leaves the area, apparently undamaged, Kong remains, somewhat damaged. The epilogue shows Kong in a new Monarch-run encampment in the Hollow World (because now it’s easily accessible?)

Honestly, this movie was nothing like what the trailer promised. The trailer looks like a dark take where perhaps bad things might happen and lessons might be learned, but the movie is actually a CGI-orgy meets Spy Kids. Some of the power moves in the battle scenes were neat, but after 300 of them, it got kind of boring. I don’t understand how they continue to put so much time into these interminable CGI sequences when everyone involved knows that it’s too much. There is no reason that this thin plot needs to be almost two hours long. Say more with less.

Achtung, Fertig, WK (2013) — 6/10

This was the sequel to Achtung, Fertig, Charlie, with only Marco Rima reprising his role as Kommandant Reiker. The plot is basically that a Swiss man named Alex skipped out of his military service, but he is now dating Reiker’s daughter Anna (Liliane Amuat) and wants to marry her. They’re doing fine together (he’s a yoga teacher), but they don’t have nearly enough money to buy a house. Reiker offers them a house but only if Alex does his military service.

Alex shows up for WK (Wiederholungskurs)—which is a yearly refresher that all military members have to do in Switzerland—despite having never actually done RS (Rekrutenschule or boot camp). As expected, he bungles, crossing Wachtmeister Weiss (Martin Rapold, also reprising his role from the original). As in the original, the crew gets into hijinks. As in the original, there is a smoking-hot woman there, but this time it’s not Reiker’s daughter (who’s no longer played by Melanie Winiger), it’s a super-competent soldier named Jessica (Sira Topic), who’s been relegated to kitchen duty for lack of subordination.

Alex is one of the only ones who treats Jessica like a human being, so she takes a shine to him. He’s devoted, though, so the kitchen-rutting scene is not repeated in the sequel. Anna finds out about Jessica anyway, has a fit, and breaks it off with Alex. He’s determined to win her back and get the house, though, and he vows to win the supposedly impossible war game set up by Reiker’s competition. In what comes as a shock to all, they manage it in the nick of time, with the chubby guy getting a girl, Jessica saving the day and proving her worth beyond the kitchen, and Alex getting Anna back and winning their home.

I saw it in Swiss German.

Love, Death, and Robots S02 (2021) — 9/10
This is a series of cartoons and high-end CGI animations, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes in length. The skits range from kinda goofy—the first is about an out-of-control household appliance in a retirement home—to longer and more thoughtful—like Snow in the Desert, which deals with immortality. Pop Squad is set in a world very much like that of the film Elysium or perhaps Altered Carbon and is nicely rendered. Life Hutch was a tight story of a man fighting a rogue/damaged expert system in a survival pod. The final segment was The Drowned Giant, which is about how a town deals with a giant body that washes up on its shores. They basically take it in stride, not trying to fit it into their conception of the world. Months later, the only remaining signs of the giant are bones decorating bars.
The Crying Game (1992) — 7/10

IRA soldier Fergus (Stephen Rea) is part of a cell that kidnaps Jody (Forrest Whitaker), a British soldier. They lure him into a trap with a female member—it’s a pretty clumsily executed trap, to be honest—and then drag him back to their lair. They interrogate him, but don’t get much information. Fergus befriends him, against orders, and getting in trouble himself. The other members are growing weary of his relationship with Jody. They worry that he will stand in the way when they will almost inevitably be required to kill him.

Jody is distraught at the news that he is to be executed (as is to be expected), but happy that Fergus will be the one to do it—if anyone has to. As once before, he asks Fergus to get out the picture of his wife from his wallet, this time telling him where to find her in the city.

The day comes when they decide Jody is more of a liability and must be eliminated. Fergus volunteers to watch him on the last night, then takes him out to the forest to execute him. Jody runs, freeing his hands. Fergus gives chase. Jody escapes onto the road, where he’s immediately hit by one British armored personnel carrier and then run over by another. Fergus escapes back into the woods, running off while British helicopters eliminate his compatriots.

Some time later, Fergus is now posing as “Jim” in the city and he looks up Dil (Jody’s wife). He finds her singing at a bar, where bartender Col (Jim Broadbent) helps him make her acquaintance. They grow close. He defends her from another boyfriend/lover Dave and they grow closer. They talk oft of Jody, her husband. His things are still all over the apartment. But Dil doesn’t know yet that Jimmy knew him.

Jimmy gets a blowjob, which is just fine with him. But he is literally the most oblivious person on the planet, because he has no idea that he’s spending most of his time with a cross-dresser at a bar that features only drag queens on stage—and whose customer base seems to be largely other cross-dressers.

Finally, they decide to sleep together and Jimmy is, predictably, shocked to see a penis. He doesn’t handle it well. Dil forgives him and works to repair their relationship. She knows Jimmy loves her, but he can’t handle it. She wants to help him. This seems kind of generous and kind of self-destructive.

One of Fergus’s IRA compatriots Jude (Miranda Richardson) also escaped (somehow) and returns to pester Jimmy/Fergus. She’s quite a bit more hardcore and manic that he is. She breaks into his apartment and tries to coerce him into helping the cause again—explicitly threatening Dil. Jude thinks she has everything under control, but she may be pushing too hard. Maguire (Adrian Dunbar) made it out as well and he, too, is a raging asshole. He and Jude are quite a pair.

Dil, on the other hand, is actually jealous of Jude, completely misconstruing her current relationship with Jimmy. She thinks that Jimmy and Jude are both from Scotland and has no idea that they’re both in the IRA. Dil is a hairdresser, but in a last bid to protect her, Jimmy cuts her hair off at her salon, changing her appearance so drastically that Jude and Maguire will have no idea who she is. Jimmy accompanies her back to the apartment and he dresses her in Jody’s old clothes. I’m honestly not sure if he thinks he’s resurrecting Jody. They rent a room at a hotel, where Jimmy leaves Dil in order go to work.

Jude shows up at Jimmy’s job site to tell him that he still has a different job to do (namely: the assassination). Dil “escapes” from the hotel and gets absolutely hammered, absolutely despondent. Jimmy finds her outside of her apartment—exactly where he doesn’t want her to to be. She nearly ODs on alcohol and pills but Jimmy saves her—then confesses to his involvement in Jody’s death. Dil seems to be at peace with it.

In the morning, Dil has tied Jimmy up and is back in her right mind. She demands more answers, asking Jimmy to fill in the blanks she has in the story from the previous evening. She threatens him with his own pistol. Jude is on the move, but Jimmy is going to miss his IRA job. Maguire tears off to do the job himself, then gets capped in the middle of the street.

Jude tears off in their car. Dil unties Jimmy after they express their mutual love for each other. Jude comes right into the apartment—which is, mysteriously, unlocked—but Dil gets the drop on her and shoots her several times. Dil wants to shoot Jimmy, but can’t. Then Jimmy gently takes away the gun as she tries to shoot herself. Jimmy tells her she has to leave (Jude’s dead on the floor). Jimmy stays and watches the police arrive, waiting for them with the murder weapon in his hand, having wiped off Dil’s prints.

Dil visits Fergus in prison as he serves the sentence for her crime. She’s counting the days until he gets out. He tells her the story of the frog and the scorpion, which he’d learned from Jody. The end.

The first time I saw this was in college, soon after it had come out. But I don’t remember any of the plot except for the clutch revelatory scene. That was the only reason any of us went to go see it, but it turns out to have been nearly completely irrelevant to the plot. I watched it this time in German.

Men in Black: International (2019) — 5/10

The film opens with Agents H (Chris Hemsworth) and High T (Liam Neeson) in a showdown with the Hive. Just the dialogue for this segment is enough to encourage the viewer to leave after five minutes. I stuck around because I’m working my way through a cold, so a shitty simulacra of a better film from an older franchise, reworked to appeal to a generically intelligent and aged audience was sufficiently entertaining.

But that’s all it was: the plot was about protecting a ludicrously overpowered weapon from a vaguely defined but immense and inscrutable evil called the Hive. To do so, they must go through Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), a three-armed and sultry arms dealer whom H used to date. Agent M (Tessa Thompson)’s livelong dream is to be part of the organization she’d briefly seen as a child. She eventually gets a probationary position at the MIB and pairs up with Agent H, who is a loose cannon (of course).

At some point, they pick up Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjani), who provides comic relief and is instrumental in the defeat of the Hive (of course). There is CGI tech galore—shine but no substance—designed to impress the pre-teen and teen market it’s obviously targeted at.

There is also Agent C (Rafe Spall), who is an IT-guy (read: nerd) rather than a field agent and who suspects that H is the mole. Predictably, he and H end up being great friends and collaborators when they find the real mole. Agent O (Emma Thompson) is the head of the whole organization (T heads up the London division) and has a seemingly omniscient gut feeling that something is wrong, but chooses to risk the whole organization to let a probationary field agent figure it out for them. The memories they build while doing it will last a lifetime.

So H is vindicated and becomes probationary head of the London division, with C fully supporting him. M is now a full-fledged agent, but assigned to New York, so H and M will have to deal with an unrequited relationship (unless they requite it on the way back to Paris from London in the fancy car they have to return to headquarters there). T is dead, along with the Hive. With the ultimate evil defeated, it’s unclear what the MIB is supposed to do now—all of the other alien species were shown amicably cooperating.

This movie is set in what used to be an interesting universe, but it’s a semi-reboot of the first film rather than a new story—although this time with a black woman rather than a black man in the starring role. Hemsworth and Thompson had great chemistry in Thor: Ragnarok, but they were lukewarm at best in this half-hearted and committee-written script. Nanjani’s voice work was good—he had the best lines, although that’s not even saying much.