Archive Page 2
The latest mega-blockbuster from unstoppable Marvel Studios was Guardians of the Galaxy. People hailed it as the greatest cinematic achievement since the introduction of the talkie. It was heralded as the best movie of the year. It had everything: action, adventure, comedy, and wonder. It also had a giant sentient tree and a talking raccoon. Let’s face facts here, people. Guardians of the Galaxy was passable summer fare. It wasn’t revolutionary, it didn’t do anything that hasn’t already been done before. It was an average, braindead, popcorn movie that doesn’t have a lot of rewatch value.
I say Guardians is braindead because it requires no active thought on the part of the viewer. All the audience is required to do is sit back, relax, and DURR WATCH DEM EXPLOSIONS BLOW STUFF UP REAL GOOD DURR! As you start to curl your hands into angry fists, take a second to think about that last statement. Try hard to think of a single scene in Guardians that challenges your brain, has a plot twist, leaves something ambiguous, or posits a viewpoint that might challenge your deeply set beliefs about morality or cultures or relationships. Guardians doesn’t do anything close to any of that. All it does is blow shit up.
I’m a Cyborg but That’s OK
This is a really weird movie from South Korea, from the same director as Oldboy. Now, I really loved Oldboy for how dark and twisted and funny and interesting it was. Cyborg, on the other hand, is completely different in style and tone. You wouldn’t even know it was filmed by the same director. Cyborg tells the story of a young girl who goes crazy and gets put in a mental institution. She is fully deluded into thinking she’s a cyborg. So much so, that instead of eating, she licks batteries for nourishment. She navigates the eclectic group of patients, all while having visions of herself doing wild things like sprouting machine guns and mowing down everyone in the asylum. The movie is really light, and mostly a fun romp not meant to be much more than that. While it was fun, it was kind of forgettable. I wouldn’t disparage anyone for liking it, but there is little substance here. Once the shock value and its weirdness wears off, there is little else going for it.
Writer, director, and star Jon Favreau plays a disaffected chef trying to make his way in the culinary world. He is head chef of a fancy restaurant, and likes to try new things. He unfortunately butts heads with the restaurant’s owner who only wants to stick to the hits. This leads to him serving an uninspired meal to a nasty food critic, which ultimately leads Favreau to quit his job. What follows is essentially a roadtrip movie. Favreau buys a food truck, and drives it from Florida to California with his son and best friend in tow. Along the way they make Cubano sandwiches, and Favreau reignites his passion for cooking. On top of that, Favreau also, more importantly, energizes the flagging relationship between himself and his son. He was on-track to win Neglectful Father of the Year before the cross-country journey. Maybe it’s kind of a cliche that they can fix all their relationship issues in a van serving food, but it worked in the film. The movie was very well written, well acting, well directed, surprisingly funny, and tackled a very interesting and unusual subject matter. Favreau himself is no dummy, and sets himself opposite some beautiful women. It’s a little hard to believe they’d swoon over him, but you can’t blame the guy.
Boardwalk Empire quietly aired on HBO for the last five years, and the final season recently wrapped up. This was an interesting series because it had the pedigree of an all-out hit. It had Steve Buscemi in the lead with lavish productions values, a fantastic period setting, and a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. Strangely, it never reached commercial mass appeal. It seemed to always be overshadowed by other series like Game of Thrones or whatever else HBO happened to be airing. Boardwalk Empire was always the bridesmaid on the progamming block. That was too bad, because it deserved better. It was a great series.
The story was about prohibition-era gangsters, their battle for control of the bootleg liquor industry, and the rise of organized crime in the United States. While it is ostensibly fiction, there are a lot of historical characters populating the series like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and many others. Buscemi’s character, Nucky Thompson, was based on real-life gangster Enoch Johnson. They chose to fictionalize him so they could do whatever they wanted with his storyline, and not have to stick too rigidly to historical fact.
The numerous characters wove a fantastic tapestry of stories stretching over the course of the roaring 20s. The characters all effected one another, not always directly, but each player had a part that could influence events in everyone’s lives. It doesn’t quite get to The Wire’s level of interconnectedness, but it certainly does a good job, anyway. The characters are absolutely fascinating, from the lead played by Buscemi, to Michael Shannon’s rage-proned prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, to Kelly MacDonald as Nucky’s wife, to Michael William’s Chalky White, to disfigured Richard Harrow, played by John Huston. There are many more characters than this, and they all electrify the screen.
And So It Goes
I was stuck on a 12-hour flight and my choices were to sleep (impossible), stare at the back of the headrest in front of me, or watch this nauseating piece of shit. Reading was off the table because I had stupidly packed my book, and didn’t have it in my carry-on. Anyway, I chose the movie. This 2014 movie stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton playing characters meant to be thirty-year-olds. They sleep around, act goofy, obsess about their careers, and stumble through life. Of course, it’s allowed to never have your life completely figured out, but the glaringly bad writing, the fact that they couldn’t adjust things for their ages, dragged this film down quickly. Douglas’ character is suddenly forced to take care of his 9-year-old granddaughter. Keaton lives next door (in a duplex apartment) and helps pick up the slack. They meander about their pointless lives doing nothing of interest. The little girl does some school project about butterflies or some shit. Eventually, the movie farts to an ending and it stops. The acting is woefully bad, with everyone phoning in their performances. Avoid this one.
On the same flight, right after And So It Goes ended, Begin Again started. This isn’t a movie I would ever have chosen to watch, but it turned out better than I expected. Mark Ruffalo stars as a music producer who used to be big, but lately has been churning out nothing but shit. His company eventually gives him the boot. Keira Knightley stars as the girlfriend of a douchey pop-star played by Adam Levine. Occasionally, she writes songs for him. They live a comfortable, yuppy lifestyle until one day he cheats on her and she leaves him. She decides to strike out on her own, playing her own music. Ruffalo sees her at an open mic night, and realizes she could be the next big thing. They pool their limited resources, and record an album (written and performed by her) in various New York City locations. Naturally, the album becomes a big hit. I liked this movie for several reasons. The characters are fairly well written, they feel organic, and interact in largely believable ways. Ruffalo and Knightley worked well together on screen. I wouldn’t say they necessarily have chemistry, because Ruffalo doesn’t have chemistry with anyone. The story moves in interesting directions, and it never once verges into cliche territory. And the highlight was the segment of them recording the album, which was lots of fun to watch. It’s a decent movie, and one worth checking out.