Justice League Dark- I mentioned earlier about the disparity when turning a comic book into an animated film. I figured out here what it is that I don’t like or why it doesn’t pack the same punch. When you draw a comic, you can really throw everything into each page. From line work to color you are trying to knock it out of the park. When you do animation, you have to sacrifice a lot of that detail for the benefit of a story with movement. It takes a lot of time to animate things whether in a traditional or more digital fashion and I just don’t care to see artwork simplified for the sake of it. That aside, I enjoyed how this showcased traditional superheroes as inept when it comes to the magical realm. Batman holds his own but a lot of the humor comes from him reacting moodily to mystical encounters.
The Man Who Knew Too Much- At one point, after their child is kidnapped in Morocco, James Stewart and Doris Day decide to go back to England with no real proof that their child was no longer in Morocco. Stewart gives some half-baked reasoning but I just saw them as bad parents after that. Well, maybe it was before when they gave their kid to a total stranger to babysit for them. Anyway, they spend the rest of the movie uncovering a plot to kill the Archduke of Whereverstan while occasionally getting clues wrong. If he’s not drugging her to calm her down, Stewart is telling Day to stay put while he solves everything which he doesn’t do much of. This is a great movie but I get thrown when people make obvious keep-the-plot-moving choices.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Atomic Blonde- From one half of the John Wick directing team comes… the female version of John Wick. But in the 80s. And without guns. And better dialogue. They took what worked in Wick and brought it to Cold War Germany. I would venture that 80% of this movie is awash in some form of neon or fluorescent and each shot is just beautifully done. There are simple dialogue scenes where I could not stop analyzing the blends of color and their positioning. Everyone will say “the stairwell shot” when asked what the best part is and that’s fair. It’s one of the best long takes I’ve ever seen (with some tricky editing) but the music and lighting got us to that point so kudos to the DP and Director for not resting on that scene. McAvoy turns in a great and possibly villainous performance with a solid cast of shady characters filling in the gaps.
Grapes of Wrath- I mix this up with Of Mice and Men so often. This one takes place with a family who is bouncing around from camp to camp trying to find work AND live in a not-shithole existence. So, basically Of Mice and Men. Wherever they go, trouble either follows or is waiting and we go out on a glimmer of hope and an airy notion about the working man as omnipresent and therefore powerful:
MA(chuckling): I know. Maybe that makes us tough. Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good, an’ they die out. But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. Can’t nobody wipe us out. Can’t nobody lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa.
We’re the people.
I haven’t read the book or any analysis of it but this seems vaguely communist to me which I’m totally fine with but given the era when it was made I would think McCarthy and his cronies would be after everyone involved. I’m not sure and I didn’t research it.
While we’re Young- Noah Baumbach is at his most restrained in this movie which is sad if you love his dialogue but great if you want to see growth. As much as I hate to admit it, in real life I am more Ben Stiller than Adam Driver than I would like to be. I am zero Charles Grodin that I am aware of. With those names in mind (along with Dizzia, Maher, Horovitz, Seyfreid and Watts) this movie is perfectly cast.
American Anarchist- Long form and uncomfortable interviews with the author of “The Anarchist Cookbook”, Dan Powell. The first 1/3 of the film does a good job placing the book in its historical context with a background on the writer, but afterwards it devolves into messy confrontational interviews on Powell’s responsibility for its authorship and retreads of his early life. Ultimately, nothing is solved and the spotlight shone on the notorious book only gives it a longer shelf life.
Midnight Cowboy- Like Gone with the Wind, I had assumed this movie was one thing and was only partially right. The editing is phenomenal and each character hums with their own life no matter how minor the part. I am admittedly late to the party, but Ratso Rizzo has entered my pantheon of great characters. The imaginary New York of my mind is also present which makes this a great viewing. I mean they live in freezing squalor for most of the film and it still seems cool as fuck.
Jack Reacher: Never Look Back- I knew going in that it would not be as good as the original. When Werner Herzog is your main villain it’s hard to follow up. He is replaced by “that one guy” with his henchmen played by “that other guy.” Cruise is enjoyable as usual but he is starting to look his age. I am a Cruise-ite (ScienTomogist?) and would love to see more experimentation with roles encompassing the philosophical as opposed to the physical. But he runs so well.
Life (The alien one)– The first time I saw this trailer it just looked curious to me. Why are Ryan Reynolds AND Jake Gyllenhaal in space fighting an alien in this dumping ground of January-April releases? Maybe it’s going to be incredible? It is not. Despite a great cast, they never really gel and as organic as the monster looks at times, it appears cartoony against the surprisingly realistic spaceship. In the end, we are all doomed and that makes it worth it but only just barely.
Tab Hunter Confidential- Have you ever looked at Justin Theroux? I mean, really examined him? His head is way too big for his body but somehow this dimensionality works for the camera, not to mention his constantly and perfectly arched eyebrows. My point is, some people are physically built for fame and Tab Hunter was one of those people. Actually he still is. At 85 he has held onto those beach boy looks that propelled him into stardom in the Golden Era of Hollywood where he had to hide his sexuality, a practice that this film eludes to still existing today. You don’t think Justin Theroux is gay do you? Is Jennifer Anniston his beard?
UPDATE: Justin and Jen have split, sadly, and are both currently single. Tune in here for all your celebrity gossip apparently.
Manhunter- I rarely have the opportunity to go back and watch original versions of movies as I spend most of my time lamenting the remakes of them. Red Dragon was a solid entry in the Hannibal Lecter series and as a film surpassed the Hannibal movie which was itself a sequel to Silence of the Lambs. This is the original version of Dragon by Michael Mann of Miami Vice fame and has Brian Cox as Lecter being held in a cell that would not hold Hopkin’s Lecter for an hour. Neon permeates this film and at one point you can see it through massive venetian blinds at the FBI headquarters. Did they have a neon sign at Langley at one point? You can’t see it but there’s cocaine everywhere in this film. Red Dragon is an improvement in every way possible.
One Good Thing: Brian Cox as Lecter is pretty watchable.
Watch Instead: Duh.
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-grapes-of-wrath-1940. This is an interesting review and necessarily includes discussion of the socio-political elements that are the thrust of Steinbeck’s novel, for which he won the Pulitzer.