Saturday, June 11, 2016

What I Watched in May

I spent a lot of time in the theaters in May. Never let the cheap theater catch it's breath, I say! When people talk about the explosion of Young Adult novels being adapted into film THE 5TH WAVE should be exhibit one in the case of 'Please Make Them Stop'. I've enjoyed The Hunger Games films (although I still need to catch up with the last two) and The Maze Runner surprised me with it's energy and dystopian imagery but I'm beginning to think the well might be dry enough now that we're getting silt in the drinkables. THE 5TH WAVE is barely passable as a movie much less an entertainment recommendable to others. There are some decent moments of disaster effects and a few of the actors really are trying but there is so little detail or character in the story that they end up flailing. The 'twist' is obvious, the dialog is terrible and the production looks like the cheap effort it is. Ugh.

Part crime tale, part spy story and part science fiction CRIMINAL has a similar feeling of fumbling the story. Once again here, the script is simply terrible. The central idea is about a psychopath criminal who is given the memories of a dead CIA agent in the hopes that some kernel of information that the Agency needs can be obtained from this memory swap. Of course it's much more problematic than that and things don't work out well when the psychopath (Kevin Costner, trying hard) escapes to run wild around -of all places- London. There's a great cast in this film but they're all floundering because the script is a tonal mess asking us to move between too many emotions far too quickly. At no point is the scenario believably enough to get me past the hurdle of willing suspension of disbelief. They give the doctor responsible (Tommy Lee Jones) some gobbledy goop to mumble about the science behind the idea but it's as half-assed as the rest of the film. To make things worse they do such an amazing job of establishing Kevin Costner as a reprehensible scumbag that by the time you're supposed to sympathize with him because he's being influenced more and more by the memories implanted in his head, you don't care. By that point we've watched him senselessly murder dozens of people and no backdoor justification can make up for what he's done. And I have to say the final line from Gary Oldman's character is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard from a spy film in my life. I laughed out loud in the theater and that's definitely not the reaction the filmmakers are hoping for. CRIMINAL was a film that had a lot going for it but no one thought to give a crap about the script.

Next up was CAPTAIN AMERICA : CIVIL WAR or as it would be more accurately named AVENGERS 3: CIVIL WAR. I loved this film and found it to be very nearly perfect. It had everything I wanted and I only have two problems, both small. One - the action scenes have had that bizarre skip-frame thing done to them that is supposed to make things seem faster - or something - but only tends to take me out of the movie. The shots were not presented that way in the various trailers so I know it was an editing choice made later and I wish they had kept the natural look of the mostly fantastic stunt work in the film sans pointless trickery. Two -as much as I'm glad to finally see Spider-Man interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe his inclusion is so obviously a late in the game addition that it is a little painful. I loved every minute he was onscreen but once Stark dismisses him after the big battle I just shook my head. I guess they couldn't figure a way to wedge him into the final act? Pretty clunky. On the other hand, the introduction of the Black Panther was handled very well with the inclusion of Wakanda in future stories ramping up the coolness factor nicely.

Then I ran out to see THE NICE GUYS which will inevitable be on my Best of 2016 list. I'm a huge fan of Shane Black even when I think a director has destroyed his work. (I'm looking at you, Renny Harlin!) I still think that Black's directorial debut KISS KISS, BANG BANG (2005) is one of the best comedic action films of all time and in many ways THE NICE GUYS plays like a sequel to that film. If it took place in the 1970's. With different characters and actors. And a well written child character thrown in to add to the fun. Maybe this isn't the best analogy. Anyway - nearly everything in this film is perfect and if you aren't on board by the time Ryan Gosling is talking to the giant bee you should just push stop and move on. Gosling's comedic timing and delivery are a perfect match for Crowe's stoic cynicism pushing the humor in this dark mystery to great heights.

I walked in to see 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE with the knowledge that the ending was controversial so I couldn't wait to see it. But the film turned out to be a smartly written, creepy exercise in suspense and mystery and I wasn't even thinking about the supposed strange ending by the time it hit. And boy, did it hit hard! Wow. I loved it. I refuse to spoil something this well done but I'll just say that the film has the perfect ending and is a movie I will enjoy showing to others. Oh - and John Goodman is a damned national treasure!

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has been getting bitchy reviews and I cannot for the life of me understand why. Unless it's just another part of the rejection of darker themed superhero films along with the whining about BATMAN V SUPERMAN I really don't get the complaints. Of course, I don't get the complaints about the DC movie Universe either but I can enjoy versions of classic characters that aren't EXACTLY the way I read them as a child so maybe I'm not the Nerd Rage fan base anymore. Sorry - rant over. At any rate, this continues the run of excellent X-Men films jump started by FIRST CLASS and it explores the new timeline created by DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. Here we see the Xavier School for Mutants in 1983 as a fighting team is assembled to deal with the awakening of an ages old mutant bent on wiping out those pesky humans infesting the planet. The returning actors do fantastic jobs and the new, younger actors playing Jean, Scott, Kurt, Storm and the rest are very good bringing real weight to the emotional end of the story. Fassbinder as Magneto must be singled out for his affecting performance here bringing some very real heart to the man who would/could end the world. Bravo to everyone involved.


CURVE (2015) - 6 (not bad little psycho thriller)
WONDER WOMAN (1975) - 6 (TV pilot film is played pretty straight)
F FOR FAKE (1973) - 7 (fun Orson Wells documentary)
ISLE OF FURY (1936) - 6 (early, minor Bogart)
THE WILD BUNCH (1969) - 10 (rewatch)
THE 5TH WAVE (2016) - 3 (flat, dull alien invasion story with terrible dialog)
SUPERNOVA (2000)- 6 (rewatch)
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988) - 5 (rewatch)
THE MUMMY (1959) - 8 (rewatch)
CRIMINAL (2016) - 3 (stupid, bad espionage story) 
THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994) - 1 (wow!)
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987) - 8 (rewatch)
NIGHTFLYERS (1987) - 1 (Terrible and boring)
DIAL: HELP (1988) - 6 (oddly compelling Euro-trash from Deodado)
DEATH WISH 2 (1981) - 6 (rewatch - uncut version)
THE NICE GUYS (2016)- 8
SHOCK (1977) - 6 (rewatch) (Mario Bava's last)
BLACK DYNAMITE (2009) - 8 (hysterical comedy)
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) - 7 (rewatch)
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016) - 8
THE GREAT AMERICAN GIRL ROBBERY (1979) - 5 (tonal shifts make it uncomfortable)


Nick Rentz said...

With the uncut version of Death Wish 2, did they just extend the rape scenes? Rodbert, what the hell is wrong with you? You gave The Wild Bunch 10 and Nightflyers 1.

Rod Barnett said...

Yes and those are the correct ratings!!

And the longer DEATH WISH 2 includes more story and plot detail, strangely enough. I think the extra footage comes from an Australian video release.

Nick Rentz said...

Is it the Shout Factory release of Death Wish 2?

Rod Barnett said...

No. This comes from ..... uuuuhh.... a less than legal status source. The extra scenes are cut into the finished film and they are of much lesser visual quality.

Nick Rentz said...

I figured that you got an early copy of their release. I'm curious to what the deleted added to the movie. Any chance of being able to post those scenes on your blog?

Rod Barnett said...

No. I don't have the video capture tech knowhow to grab from what I have and wouldn't want to invite legally curious eyes. BUT -here a YouTube link to the deleted footage!!

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Great reviews. I totally agree with you about CIVIL WAR and APOCALYPSE. I have 10 Cloverfield and now I have to see if it's as good as everyone says it is.