Monday, June 08, 2015

What I Watched In May

Last month saw me enter the sacred movie house on many occasions - and it was good. Well, it was great actually! Except for that one time.

Let me explain.

The latest Marvel film hit screens and, as I have enjoyed all of them before, I ventured out to view it with high levels of anticipation. High expectations are often the death of joy in such instances but in this case Mr. Wedon and his associates pulled yet another Ace from their sleeves and gave us a fantastic adventure. Much like the first one AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON gets its weakest moments out of the way in the first act dropping us into the action with only some dodgy CGI to mar the fun. It was these first few minutes that gave me some slight trepidation but luckily the remainder of the film was sure-footed and just as emotionally satisfying as it was exciting. These truly are the films I hoped - nay - wished for as a young lad reading and rereading every comic book I could afford. They make me glad to be alive!

Next I went to Nashville's only second run theater and caught two movies in one evening. This near overindulgence in cinema made me giddy with a rush of endorphins even if the films viewed were less than excellent. First up was the superior of the two, Neill Blomkamp's third science fiction feature C.H.A.P.P.i.E. which I found to be very quite entertaining but narratively clumsy. The film is quickly paced, well performed and flawless in its depiction of its future world and its special effects, but it is also painfully simple-minded in its plotting and story. That's not to say I wasn't swept along and even brought (I swear) to tears on two separate occasions, but I too often felt the hand of the manipulator subtly shifting the playing field to set up the required set piece to come. Also, the eventually villainous individual played by Hugh Jackman is too sketchily drawn to be more than a cardboard bad guy. It seems that there may have been more ambition in the script to paint him as a religious zealot and the outline of that trait is present in the finished film but the movie slides away from it too often for it to deepen him as a character. I liked the film but it is very flawed.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT on the other paw is a fairly dull affair that wastes a pretty good cast. The film has a good horror premise but squanders it by sanding the interesting story ideas down to silly foregone conclusions. It is a flat, barely interesting but competently produced film that would have merited a 5 out of 10 until the end scattered any remaining good will to the winds. I suspect the sad final act was the third or fourth version attempted by the filmmakers trying to juice an otherwise blah movie. Oh, well.

The Fast & Furious franchise (say that three times fast!) has become a reliably fun and exciting action series since Vin Diesel stepped back into the series and gave it focus. As bizarre and silly as the car stunts and fights often become these movies remain great fun bin the same way a Marvel superhero film can be. FAST & FURIOUS 7 proves that there is still plenty of gas in the tank as the merry, motley crew deal with the fallout of their last government sanctioned adventure. This time Jason Statham is the relentless, deadly villain (as brilliantly teased in the last film) and my man Kurt Russell enters the scene as a potentially valuable ally against The Stath's one man army. I've often said that while some action movies play with the bounds of what is physically possible the Fast & Furious films laugh at gravity and drive past the laws of physics while shooting it the finger - all while looking pretty damned cool. Half the fun of these movies is wondering what outrageous thing they'll come up with next and number 7 does not disappoint in the 'Holy Shit' category of eye-popping crazy.

I worried that the death last year of series star Paul Walker might put a damper on the whole affair, but it did not. They cleverly took the opportunity to very touchingly say goodbye to Walker in the final moments of this film and essentially write his character out of future installments without doing away with him. I'm not ashamed to admit it got a little dusty in the theater before the credits rolled. I think the smartest choice Diesel and his co-creators on these movies have made is instilling a sense of family in the DNA of the character interactions throughout the series and they use that effectively here for more than just a motivational device. Well done.

And last but in no way least was MAD MAX: FURY ROAD! Holy Bleeding Hell - what a film! If this were the last movie I ever saw on the big screen I think I could die a happy man. George Miller comes roaring back to action cinema and blows the theater to bits in a relentless drive to entertain and thrill. It was a joy to be reminded how effortlessly a master can relate back-story, characterization, motivations and hope while rocketing along a speed that forces you to hold on for dear life. This is a white-knuckle ride through a vision of Hades as imagined by a twisted genius and it stands beside the fantastic original three films wonderfully. This is the kind of dark surprise that comes along once a decade or so and I encourage everyone to see it if for no other reason than that it will be copied and stolen from for the next ten years. Viva Max! Viva Furiosa! Viva George Miller!

THE NOVEMBER MAN (2014)- 8 (very good spy thriller)
THE CANAL (2014)- 7 (well done Irish horror film)
REC 4: APOCALYPSE (2014)- 6 (the least of the series)
DAY OF ANGER (1967)- 8 (rewatch)
CHAPPIE (2015) - 7
THE VAMPIRE'S NIGHT ORGY (1974)- 7 (rewatch)
UP THE ACADEMY (1980)- 3 (terrible comedy linked to Mad Magazine)
THE TIME GUARDIAN (1987)- 5 (better than expected post-apocalyptic tale)
THE COSMIC MONSTER (1958)- 5 (not bad British SF monster film)
THE ALPHABET MURDERS (1965)- 7 (fun, slightly silly Agatha Christie adaptation)
HOUSEBOUND (2014)- 9 (excellent New Zealand horror comedy)
FAST & FURIOUS 7 (2015)- 7 (incredibly fun and completely ridiculous)
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972)- 8 (rewatch)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)- 9
PREDESTINATION (2014)- 8 (fantastic Heinlein adaptation/expansion)
BATMAN VS ROBIN (2015)- 7 (good animated tale)
THE LAST OF SHEILA (1973)- 8 (rewatch)


Brian Lindsey said...

After listening to your latest "Bloody Pit" podcast, I re-watched both FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and its pseudo-sequel, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS... Loads of fun kaiju craziness!

Rod, you just gotta watch WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS -- pronto!

Rod Barnett said...

I will, I wil!!