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Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2015.5

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<n>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 <a href="http://www.imdb.com/user/ur1323291/ratings">the list</a> of over 900 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 <i>genre</i> and my mood. YMMV.</n> <dl dt_class="field"> The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072271/">7/10</a> <div>This is the slasher film that redefined what it meant to be a slasher film. It invented tropes out of whole cloth that would endure for decades. The movie was not only better than expected, but also darker in unexpected ways. It's hard to imagine this movie being made today because no-one could relate to it: there are young people traveling in a van through a hot Texas desert, with no air-conditioning and probably no deodorant and no smart-phones and no complaining. It was dirty and dusty and no showers in sight and still no complaining. One of the couples scrambled to what the guy remembered as a swimming hole and they find only a dried-out arroyo---where they both lie down anyway, she in a halter-top and he without a shirt. This is not remarkable in and of itself, but it bespeaks a willingness to put up with discomfort that has all but disappeared---if not in real-life people themselves, then at least in the depictions of themselves they consume. We like shows about a pretty, rich people now. Although Leatherface is the most famous killer from the film, he's not even the weirdest of the family that the young crew discovers. Hell, the guy in the wheelchair is a <i>good</i> guy and he's pretty creepy. Recommended.</div> Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S01 (2015) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3339966/">8/10</a> Ellie Kemper is Kimmy Schmidt, a refreshing and adorable and bubbly and effusive and funny young lady who survived over a decade as a prisoner of a cult leader in a bomb shelter. She moves directly to New York and makes a strange set of friends and has all sorts of amusing adventures. The writing is quite good and makes good use of the stark time-delay that she experienced, having missed her entire youth and being essentially stuck in the year in which she was removed from society. Recommended. Vehicle 19 (2013) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1911662/">6/10</a> A movie starring Paul Walker that takes place entirely in a minivan in Johannesburg, South Africa. It seems that Paul Walker could not star in a movie without driving nor could he be in a movie without a techno/dubstep soundtrack. That's not a dig. It's actually a pretty fun movie, buoyed mostly by his nuanced acting, even when the script got a bit wooden (another thing he's used to from his <i>Fast and Furious</i> forays). Much of the action footage reminded me of GTA missions, with helicopters and fleets of cop cars. The finale was incredibly tense and sucked me in. I kind of liked it. Recommended. Trainspotting (1996) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117951/">8/10</a> The classic heroin movie from Scotland has brilliant and for-the-untrained-to-Scottish-ear-nearly-incomprehensible dialogue, a great story that meanders nowhere and a near-constant voiceover by Ewan McGregor, who is ethereally thin and wasted-looking. Some of the drug imagery---quite well-filmed by Danny Boyle---would be recycled by Darren Aronofsky in <i>Requiem for a Dream</i>. While McGregor as Renton is the central character, Robert Carlyle as Begbie is also a fantastic character---although he's going to make you <i>really</i> uncomfortable, even if you like violence in your movies. The story is a shifting set of loosely interrelated incidents: going off of heroin, losing opiate suppositories in a toilet, a baby dying of neglect, Renton sleeping with an underage girl, his stealing his best friend's sex tape, leading to his best friend's losing his girlfriend, leading said friend to heroin himself, just as Renton goes through his second withdrawal to get clean. The movie is about not only addiction to heroin, but the "addiction" one has to one's origins---not being able to get away from your mates at home. Recommended. Grace and Frankie S01 (2015) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3609352/">6/10</a> This is an uneven dramedy about four elderly people, played by Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterston and Lily Tomlin. The two men are partners in a very successful law firm and they turn out to have been partners in much more, as they come out to their wives and announce their plans to spend the rest of their lives together. It was amusing enough, although the eponymous duo, played by Fonda and Tomlin are the ones who really shine. Not recommended. Daredevil S01 (2015) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3322312/">9/10</a> A promising interpretation of the blind lawyer turned hero. Production values are sky-high, as is the dialogue and casting. It's beautifully shot and does a good job of making Daredevil's powers feel plausible. Even the fight scenes are well-choreographed and framed, which is nearly a miracle for television. Even in movies, we've movies away from fights actually <i>hurting</i> anyone---with most movies opting for a cartoonish/super-hero take where no-one is every winded or bruised or damaged. Not so in Daredevil. The writing, acting and presentation held up over the whole season. It was an eminently satisfying portrayal of a complex superhero whose powers are very useful but aren't on the cartoonish level of Spider-man or the Avengers. Looking forward to season two. Vincent D'Onofrio is excellent. Highly recommended. Psycho (1960) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054215/">8/10</a> This is the classic Hitchcock film about Norman Bates, who lives alone somewhere in the depths of California, off the main drag of a highway that no longer passes by his eponymous Motel. He lives there with his mother and when he does get a guest and she happens to be pretty? Well, then things go a bit sideways. I don't want to give away too much, so suffice it to say that it's a very well-made and worthwhile film. As with so many films of this era, the scenes often feel like theater pieces, with a lot of dialogue and the actors contained to a small area. Anthony Perkins is excellent, striking a balance between effusive and jittery and helpful and pensive and brooding and calculating. Recommended. Side by Side (2012) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2014338/">8/10</a> This is a documentary about the rise of digital film in the late 20th century. There are interviews with tons of actors, cinematographers, directors and other technical people who provide fascinating insights into how digital ended up taking over film-making. A bit on the long side, but they shot in digital and didn't have to care about wasting film, I guess. :-) Recommended. Snatch (2000) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208092/">8/10</a> This is so clearly a Guy Ritchie movie. It shoots out of the gate with a fantastic, frenetic stylistic-stamp credits sequence. Characters are introduced and the plot expands in several directions at once. Jason Statham as Turkish is fantastic, bested only by Brad Pitt as Mickey, the Pikey bare-knuckle boxer. There's a great soundtrack that would make its stylistic way into the Ocean's movies. Watched it in English without subtitles and was <i>not</i> shaken by Mickey. <i>Scarlet Cushions</i> and <i>Periwinkle Blue</i> indeed. Don't ever bet with a Pikey. The cast is through and through great and the dialogue, pacing and direction suit me. I liked it much better than <i>Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels</i>. It's the story of a two-bit fight promoter and mob boss named Brick Top who is a <iq>horrible cunt</iq> (in his own words). He goes a step too far and things spiral out of control. Pitt's performance as Mickey is absolutely mythic. Highly recommended. We're the Millers (2013) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1723121/">6/10</a> A better-than-expected movie starting Jason Sudeikis as a small-time drug dealer, Jennifer Aniston as a stripper who end up posing as a fake family. Sudeikis's neighbor's son (played by Will Poulter), an unassuming and wide-eyed nerd, and a street-wise homeless teen-aged girl (Emma Roberts) round out the family. When Sudeikis's stash is stolen, he is sent by his boss (Ed Helms) to Mexico to pick up a giant shipment. Sudeikis enlists the others to help make a more convincing family. Hijinks and romance and all of the usual stuff ensue, but the actors and a decent script save this film from the expected ignominy. Amusing enough, but not going to recommend it for anything other than filler. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2395427/">7/10</a> I thought this outing was much better than the first one, but it's still almost too much in one film. Larger than life like the comic books, I guess. This film's cinematography had the most comic-like settings, with giants foregrounds spilling over complex and detailed backgrounds. The characters were decent, but quite one-dimensional---just like the comic books. The Hulk is a bit more complex, but Iron Man is a Cartesian plane. Even Captain America was better. Maybe that's because Chris Evans does a good job with that character. Ultron wasn't as evil as I'd expected. He's portrayed far worse in the comics. The action is fast and furious and over-the-top and relentless but it's good enough for what it is. Recommended, although there are far better superhero movies and TV series out there (see <i>Daredevil</i> review above). Lincoln (2012) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/">7/10</a> It's a wonder that this movie had the success that it did: it's wonderfully made, wonderfully acted and has wonderful dialogue, but it's quite long and quite slow and quite complex and concerns itself largely with realpolitik of the end of the slavery and the civil war. It was much better than expected and Daniel Day Lewis really knocked it out of the park, as did most of the supporting cast (Sally Field as Mary Todd was also notable). The writing was superb. I think I might have learned some stuff I didn't know, but I also don't know how much historical liberty was taken. I just enjoyed watching Lewis and Sally Field chew the hell out of the scenery, as is their wont. Recommended, but brace yourself for a 2.5-hour slow-paced historical drama. Rush (2013) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1979320/">7/10</a> Daniel Brühl as Nicki Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt tell the tale of the famous, 1970s-era Formula-1 rivalry. Lauda was the defending champion and Hunt his challenger. They'd known each other since they'd started racing and had a complicated relationship as grudging colleagues and arch-rivals. The story was excellent as was the acting from the two top actors. The racing footage was decent, but at-times quite confused and it went on far too long. Hemsworth's face adorns the movie poster, but this seemed much more like the Nicki Lauda story---and what a champion he was. He would come back from his devastating crash to almost win the world championship that year, but have it snatched away by Hunt in the last race. That lasted one year, though and as Hunt was retiring, Lauda was collecting another championship. Recommended. Hamlet (2000) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0171359/">7/10</a> Ethan Hawke plays a New York-based Hamlet, with his uncle Claudius played by Kyle McLachlan, Bill Murray as Polonius, Liev Schreiber as Laertes, Steve Zahn as Rosenkrantz and Julia Stiles as Ophelia. The dialogue is true to the original with very few alterations. I have never actually read Hamlet all the way through or seen a real enactment, but I recognized so much of the dialogue. It's really quite good, just lovely language, like <iq>If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry. Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go.</iq> uttered by Hamlet when he's betrayed by Ophelia. The setup is a bit long, but the payoff is fantastic. Pretty well-acted and relatively well-adapted to 21st-century New York City. Ethan Hawke is positively malevolent as Hamlet; Bill Murray is not very believable, but McLachlan, Stiles and Schreiber are very good, striking a nice balance between the English and American accents. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092067/">7/10</a> This is one of Hayao Miyazaki's first full-length animated features. The style---and some of the characters---would remain unchanged throughout several of his subsequent features. I saw it in dubbed English---which makes the movie feel cheesier than it actually is. That said, there is a very Popeye-style slugfest within the first ten minutes, so, yeah, it's kinda cheesy. The story---unusually for a Japanese anime---does not involve the unstoppable power of nature. Instead, there is a magic crystal that open the way to the ancient city of Laputa, which totally has flying robots that kick a major amount of ass. Spoiler alert: there are also no WWII/atom-bomb undertones. Spoiler alert: they find the city in the sky. Spoke too soon: Laputa's all about the glory of nature, but it's guarded by a cadre of powerful robots who've continued to guard the city over millenia. The dialogue is kind of bad, but the story is quite good---which would basically become Miyazaki's calling card. The city of Laputa, with its mix of technology and nature and ancient secrets and puzzle blocks feels very much like a video game, and it actually predated but must have inspired Myst, at least to some degree. And Pazu climbs around under the city of Laputa like Luke under Cloud City. Christ, the throne room looks almost a bit like the final room in the <i>Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull</i>. In the end, they had to destroy the city in order to save it, after it had been preserved for so long, to no clear purpose. And there's the Japanese morality tale: man destroys everything he touches. Kevin Hart: Seriously Funny (2010) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1714196/">6/10</a> I really like Kevin Hart and I've seen another special of his that I <i>really</i> liked, but this one didn't really do it for me. I liked about half of it but can't remember which bits, which doesn't say much for it. Not recommended. Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats (2014) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3804556/">7/10</a> I only knew Chelsea Peretti from her role as Gina in <i>Brooklyn Nine-Nine</i> and was unaware that she's also a stand-up comedienne. This special was very funny and she has a good on-stage persona, not too different from Gina's. Recommended. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1583421/">4/10</a> Channing Tatum is briefly in this movie, but wisely chose to die early. The Rock is working hard to prove us all wrong when we say that he couldn't make a career choice more terrible than the <i>Tooth Fairy</i>. Hoo-ah! Bruce Willis is in this, too, and more terrible than in the Expendables. Hoo-ah! Jonathan Price is also in this and even more insidious as Zartan than he is as the Sparrow in <i>Game of Thrones</i>. Hoo-ah! There is so much weapons-porn in this movie: there's a whole house in which every available surface opens to reveal hidden weapons. It's Bruce Willis's house, surprise, surprise. Most of the effects are kinda bad---even the green-screened martial-arts sequences are too long---but blowing up London with a high-energy spike looked pretty good. Yeah, London's gone. Cobra Commander is pretty sassy: his whole getup reminds me a bit of <i>Megamind</i>. Why did they have to replace "Go Joe!" with "Hoo-ah!" Would the U.S. Marines not cough up their sponsorship any other way? 'Cause this movie is practically an advertisement for the U.S. Marines. I cannot in any way recommend this movie, but it passed the time during a couple of workouts. I grew up with this stuff, though, so nostalgia was definitely a factor. </dl>