Mr. Dynamite- The second “dad pick” (see last week). This is such a different movie than the last I can only surmise (with no other evidence) that he enjoys movies with the word “Mr.” in it. Though I’d already seen it, I’m including this movie in my list for two reasons. One, it’s a balanced and informative documentary about a complicated, driven and talented performer. The second reason is that it took me an hour to remember that I had watched it already. Now, you may ask if it’s so forgettable why watch or recommend it? It wasn’t that I forgot but I went in thinking it was a different doc on the same subject. Up to a point, I thought Netflix was just re-using HBO footage. Anyway, it’s well done (Gibney is a current documentary master along with Errol Morris and Ken Burns) and you couldn’t ask for a better soundtrack with all the creators there to explain it.
Time After Time- Up until recently, I would’ve called myself a fan of time travel movies. I like sci-fi but time travel specifically was a fun prospect and movies like Primer, Time Crimes and Looper were top tier favorites. Sadly, it’s receded a bit and is now just a genre that I find interesting at best and tedious most times. This film is a meta version of the classic H.G. Wells’ story which uses Wells as the main character himself and what do you know? He just happens to know Jack the Ripper who he chases through time to 1979 San Francisco. There are a plenty of fish-out-of-water moments but the meat of the story is him trying to find The Ripper who resumes his old ways. One of the key themes in this film is Jack the Ripper talking about how much of an amateur his crimes were compared to present day crimals and he makes a great case. Mary Steenburgen appears in her second screen role and she is marvelous. Imagine being good at something for forty years. That’s longer than I’ve been alive and the only thing I’m any good at is spellingg.
Shaun the Sheep- As I said in regards to My Life as a Zucchini I give credit to movies just for being hard to make and stop motion claymation fits that bill. Along with green screen, animation and set building, Shaun is funny and sad with a little villainy thrown in for good measure and the result is basically stop motion perfection. Every shot and movement is perfect and I spent a lot of the time just trying to figure out how it was done. The music is also impressive with a handful of minion worthy singles. All and all, a simple and funny story with painstaking art and eye to detail.
The Long Goodbye- The private eye in this story, Philip Marlowe, has been portrayed by more people in radio and TV than James Bond. Whether he is faithfully portrayed here I don’t know but Elliot Gould and Robert Altman certainly bring their own style to the noir genre. The most notable thing about this film is Altman’s use of lavalier mics which allows Gould’s mumblings to be heard and he sounds more like a crazy person than hard-nosed private eye. I just never bought him in that role and even less so towards the end when he’s trying to get tough with people. This may explain why many posters and stills for the movie show Gould holding a gun which he does for all of two uncharacteristic seconds. This is not a bad movie at all but it’s unconventional and noir in California has a much different feel than a Chicago or New York. Especially when the plot allows the story to spread out across the landscape and not be confined to smoky offices and pool halls.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Annabelle: Creation- I enjoyed both of the Conjuring movies where the Annabelle doll had her cinematic roots, but when I watched the first Annabelle prequel I couldn’t get through more than 20 minutes before losing interest. It’s a hard trick to create a strong antagonist who is also static. In Creation they found a way, and it is compelling throughout. If you are into jump scares there are plenty but there’s a deeper story that is much more unnerving and lasting. Like the Ouija Origin of Evil, digging deeper proves fruitful.
Thor: Ragnarok- Thor stories (Thories? No, that’s stupid) are inherently different than the rest of the Marvel movies because it’s not about super heroes but mythic characters so the whole cast is a different ball of wax. We’re talking aliens, gods, realms, etc. This gives them some leeway to just be whatever they want to be and only hinting at the other movies. I’ve enjoyed them all but also found them to be forgettable. This movie was touted, rightfully so, as being the funniest Marvel movie ever. They are typically funny to some degree so this is not a stretch but the one liners here are almost over the top. Also, I can say that again a named Marvel character dies but it doesn’t alter the plot at all or the story could have proceeded either way. All death in the MCU is noted but doesn’t change anything. Cate Blanchett is doing light work here, same with Ruffalo. The real reason to see this is the director himself. Not for his skills on a big budget set (he had none before this) or his distinct visual style (I couldn’t pick his movies out of a lineup). The reason is that he is actually in the movie doing motion capture and voice for a character named Korg, a rock covered revolutionary. Michelle in Spiderman has been usurped as my favorite MCU character. Long Live Korg, the pound-for-pound funniest character I have ever seen. Example:
Thor: How did you end up here?
Korg: (In Kiwi accent) Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’ m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that? Do you reckon you’d be interested?
The Dark Tower- I never read these books but the author (and his fan base) speaks to their pedigree. I have read the graphic novels which have great depth and imagination. None of that is on display here and even the world it tries to build (from existing material!) is tenuous and ill-defined. I have no idea who any of these people are and just don’t care if they succeed or not. Guess what? They do and it’s pretty stupid. I may have to revisit this review as Tower is basically a fresh wound at this point. I doubt time will heal it.
Miss Sloane- Have you seen Scandal with Kerry Washington? I liked the first season but the need for every character to remain on the show and in turn always have something to do in the plot got a bit excessive. I think Washington’s character is president now. Anyway, Miss Sloane operates in the same world of shady D.C. politics but instead of being a cold, level headed fixer she’s a cold, level headed lobbyist. This has some interesting moments but it took a long time to say whatever it was trying to say. When The Turn came, I had long ago stopped caring.
Rocko- I’ve never been a “porn guy” and learning the names of the participants was never a necessity for me. Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy are the only two I can think of based solely on their work in adult movies. Sasha Grey I know as well but that’s because of Steven Soderbergh or Entourage. So the concept of the world of porn as a business or life escapes me to somewhat. I never knew Rocco Siffredi or his work so the documentary about his retirement was not a sad affair but it was eye opening. When adult entertainers greet their co-workers is it common for them to start making out and groping each other’s privates? This seemed to happen off camera (porn camera not documentary camera) a few times and the familiarity between strangers was absurd. If you’re going to be fucking that day I suppose there’s no time to waste. Speaking of documentary cameras it was interesting to see them operate on a working porn set and not get in the way (most of the time). It was run and gun filming at its dirtiest. I felt a strong discord of sympathy for Siffredi and his “burden” which is contrasted with him being rough with women. The scene (doc not porn) of him painfully choking a woman, who in turn appears very fond of him, is baffling workplace psychology. Like I said, not a porn guy.
Dog Eat Dog- Are you a fan of Nicolas Cage? I don’t mean do you like Raising Arizona or Leaving Las Vegas but are you a fan of Nicolas Cage? It’s not black or white but if you know what I mean then you get it and I don’t mean in some ironic way. He has, in starts and spurts, put out some of the most iconic, chaotic and singular characters of the past 40 years. And that’s not just since he went broke and started taking every single acting gig under the sun. He’s always good and that’s my point. Whether he’s in high budget National Treasure, indy-gold Adaptation or b-movie nothingness he is always 100% Cage. This movie falls somewhere in the bottom half of that spectrum with enough style and Dafoe to keep it really interesting. Relative unknown Christopher Cook also creates a unique gangster in this weird story. Schrader does not have a great directorial track record but his involvement in big name productions has worn off on him.