Train to Busan- There’s not a lot that can be done in the zombie genre anymore. There wasn’t really much to do with it to begin with. Romero created them, Boyle sped them up and Wright made them funny. Now all you can do is change the situation where humans have to fight them off. In this case, a train with survivors and the undead peppered throughout the cars. The action sequences in and out of the train are fun and fraught with hordes clambering cartoonily over each other to reach their meals. The typical stereotypes are present (pregnant woman, businessman, uber greedy businessman, child) but there’s enough humor and action to overcome the tropes.
Update: I learned earlier this week that there’s a musical with zombies coming out this week. I stand corrected.
American Made- Do you want your stories to be factual? Where does “based on actual events” and “a true story” collide with (and veer away from) each other? How important is it when a movie says that what you are watching has actually happened? Would you care if they were lying? Michael’s Bay Transformer-vacation Pain and Gain continually and directly stated to the audience that no matter how crazy the events got, that what you are witnessing is all true. A quick and cursory glance at Wikipedia or a Miami newspaper archive will show those statements to be false. Did I enjoy or dislike that movie any less? No. I didn’t really care and the same could be said of the story of American pilot and drug smuggler Barry Seal’s ascendancy.
Tom Cruise is his usual watchable self but this movie benefits from an R-Rating and him stepping into the role of a living person rather than a fictional one. Domhall Gleason is particularly wonderful as a CIA operative who treats running guns and funding contras like trips to the waterpark. He’s equally enthusiastic and happy to do either. This movie may or may not be factual even if it is based on a true story. Whether that matters or not is up to you.
American Assassin- The first twenty minutes of this movie show a lot of promise for what could follow. A man loses his girlfriend during a beach resort shooting and trains to personally take down those responsible. This includes the following: learning Arabic, mastering the Koran, MMA training (where he’s considered a dick by other MMA-ers, and…knife throwing. Here’s where the CIA (Or somebody like them. I don’t remember.) enters and coherent plot lines exit. The rest of the film is a diluted mixture of Hunted and The Recruit and every crappy spy movie ever with Michael Keaton and Taylor Kitsch of all people really attempting to pull its head out of murky waters. It never succeeds.
One Good Thing: A training scene in the woods simulating fighting in real scenarios was effective.
Watch Instead: Where do I go with this? Revenge or spy thriller? How about both. I Saw the Devil is a much better acted, written and shot film. Korea does it again.
Landline- When I was little, one of my cousin’s had to explain to me that people who die on television aren’t really dead. This is a not unreasonable thing to believe as a child and it was a revelation to me. Yet, to this day I still have a hard time separating actor’s from their roles and I’m positive on-screen Jenny Slate is the same as on-the-street Jenny Slate. She is sweet, sort of innocent sort of dirty, snorts when she laughs and has a high vocal register. I am, of course projecting and probably entirely wrong but she is still wonderful in this movie along with John Turturro and the soon-to-be famous Abby Quinn. I’ve noticed that people are starting to do throwback movie to eras I actually remember and it’s kind of frightening. But then I remember that everyone gets old and dies and it’s fine. Just like this movie.
(Side Note: The movie I saw when I thought someone died and my cousin explained it to me was about a man who kills his wife for the insurance money. Her cat (she had a bunch) then gets revenge by pushing a stereo into the fancy bathtub where he’s smoking a cigar and he is electrocuted to death. The man was played by Burt Reynolds and the woman was Kathleen Turner. I just looked it up and that movie/TV show does not seem to exist. Wtf.)
UPDATE: This was actually an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Neither Reynolds or Turner were in it.
Jim and Andy- I’ve been trying to avoid documentaries after having the low-key revelation that no one gives a shit about documentary recommendations. To most people, a good well-made doc doesn’t matter if the person watching doesn’t care about the subject matter. If you don’t like Jim Carrey, you probably will not like this. Even if you do like him, you may not like this. I’m somewhere in the middle but as far as actor’s go he has become one of the most fascinating individuals of my generation. His analysis of himself as an actor, but more to the point, as a person is so insightful and rare among his breed I wanted to just hear him speak about everything. Watching his transformation or more accurately his possession as he undertook the role of Andy Kaufman is constantly fascinating and to hear him talk about it in hindsight is even better.
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father- Glenn Ford was unknown to me until very recently with his part in Cimarron but I’ve heard this movie title tossed around for years. It always seemed like a weird title but after watching it I understand that a lot of it is based on Eddie’s reactions to what’s happening. Played by Ron Howard about one million years ago, he is precocious as fuck but acted well. For being a child star (adolescent and teen) he turned out pretty well but could easily have gone the Baby Jane route. The non-Eddie parts are about his father interacting with different women and dealing with heavy themes of dead wives, women as symbols/objects and being a single father. This has all the elements of a sitcom but actually holds a serious edge at times. .
Elizabeth: The Golden Age- I will probably have to revisit this once I watch Elizabeth (I didn’t know this was a sequel) but I feel confident enough to analyze this without its predecessor in the way. There’s a gloss here that I don’t like. I’m not talking about Blanchett’s costumes those are meant to be over-the-top but other little things that seem too nice. Maybe it’s just Clive Owen’s goatee, but whenever I see these period pieces, they just look too clean and you really should be able to smell these movies to get the true effect. I bet royalty back then, on their best days, smelled like I do after a long weekend of no showering and a couple games of basketball. You can only imagine the rest of the kingdom’s funk. Anyway, this movie seems designed to show the Queen’s outfits and Owen yelling commands at people but its okay.
Maps to the Stars- I’m back on that Cronenberg tip, baby and it is still weird. I would say it’s the most straightforward film of his that I’ve seen this year but no less odd. I won’t even try to explain the story but it’s about celebrity and Hollywood with some hints at Less than Zero-style deviance. The cast are all individually excellent (especially Julianne Moore) but they are left wandering around in an ill-defined world or therapy and…revenge? I don’t know just go with it.
Allied- I remember watching Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation and really seeing Tom Cruise as an older man. Sure, he still runs fast and he will always be handsome, but it was the first time I saw his features had softened. His head is a little rounder and his eyes a little less bright with heavier eyelids. It was sad in a way because it’s reflective of your own life when the people you grow up watching become old. I often look at much older movie stars like Cary Grant and Gregory Peck and think “God, if that’s how they look things are not going to go well for me.”
Allied was my first glance at fifties Brad Pitt (I don’t count War Machine, he was wearing aging makeup) and while he does seem rounder on the edges he still can lead an action movie. That being said, I have a problem with this film but it’s not one they could have accurately corrected. In the beginning, Pitt and Cotillard are both highly trained and deadly assassins. She gives up this life to become a mother while he continues on with his war efforts and the story proceeds from there. This would have been a better story had it reversed and Cotillard was the one trying to unfold all the deception while Pitt played stay-at-home. I don’t recall that this was based on true story so it would have only required a small stretch of the viewer’s imagination. But they didn’t and it was fine. The scenes in Morocco are good.
8 ½- Mario Mastroianni is a very enjoyable person to see on screen. He’s handsome of course but there is something in his movements that position him perfectly in the frame. Or maybe it’s the slope of the corners of his eyes that allows him for the extra emotive boost. Either way, this is the second film I’ve see with him this year and my first Fellini movie and it is something special. Part comedy, part dream, part mental breakdown and the imagery is top notch from beginning to end. It is a master class in scene transitioning from present to past to fantasy. A must-see for film heads but enjoyable for anyone with a passing interest in older films.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Columbus- It took me some time to notice, but the majority of shots in this movie are static or non-moving. Opting instead to frame the scene like a photo, the director allows the actors plenty of room to breathe within that space. When it does move, it’s purposeful and elegant. This is one of the most simplistic and beautiful movies I’ve seen in a long time with engaging dialogue, performances and music. Not much happens but It also doesn’t overstay its welcome either. That it is was overlooked for the Golden Globes and Oscars is a shame but it also had tough contenders (and little money to throw at voters).