The Dark Knight. Second viewing. (The first). It’s not good enough to carry its thematic weight. But Ledger is brilliant. That scene meeting with the mob… (“You’re crazy.” / “I’m not. No. I’m not.”) …chills.
Gone Baby Gone. Second viewing (I like my first write-up). One thing I hate in this movie is how a disfigured villain character distances us. Seems like kind of a weasel move. You see similar in True Detective, which also really bothered me. So much of the series lingers in mundane evil and violence, and then… the final villains are freakshows. Lame. I suppose it’s a bit different here with the denouement, but the earlier raid still gets under my skin.
Lucy. Movie trailers can be deceiving. In this case, they sold it as a pretty yawner-looking action movie, but the story is delivered with more spirit and weirdness than you’d expect. There’s this really wonderful ongoing pattern of spliced-in nature footage as counterpoint to the story. A few moments are delightfully heightened (e.g. opening the briefcase), or thoughtfully disorienting (not translating other languages). Most of that is early on, though, and it unfortunately falls back on serviceable scifi/action pastiche, including plenty of Matrix-y philosophy talk. What really helps the early going is that Johansson is more fun to watch. It’s too bad that our hero basically turns into robot, loses affect. There’s an ongoing theme of conquering time via reproduction/evolution, and how knowledge transforms. Notice how they smuggle drugs in their stomach (womb). Also makes me think of study drugs, nootropics, etc. Also reminded me of Ted Chiang’s story Understand in his (really really good) collection Stories of Your Life. So maybe the overall problem here is that it was too good too soon, and once you’ve got the premise up and running, it’s hard to keep it weird. I’d place The Fifth Element ahead of this in my Luc Besson power rankings.
The Dark Knight. Re-watched to re-evaluate. Individual performances are great but as a whole it’s just… ¯(ツ)/¯
Million Dollar Baby. I’ve had this near the top of my Eastwood rankings for a while, but I started to wonder if I was due for a reevaluation. It’s good, but I think memory rounded off some of the rough edges.
Rankings are getting a bit absurd, but I think you can safely say that numbers 1-4 are in the must-see tier, 5-8 are worthwhile, 9-11 you can safely skip, while only 12 is what I’d call straight-up bad.
The Lego Movie. I had heard that this was better than you’d think, but it was still so wildly beyond my expectations. (My first reaction might still hold. I’ll need to mull it over a it more.) The story is pretty straightforward, but they build in a lot of good meta-movie/genre tropes and the sense of humor was right up my alley (both the wit and the dumb gags). And it’s gorgeous. The verrrrry very end doesn’t quite work for me, but geez. What a treat.
Oblivion. If you have seen and enjoyed a science fiction movie, you will probably find something to like here, where they’re all mixed and mashed into a movie that’s far from perfect, but more than good enough. Easy to find plotlines and moods from movies like Moon, Solaris, the new Solaris, 2001, The Matrix, WALL·E, Star Wars, Star Trek. (I particularly like the space-captain-retiring-to-California parallels with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Generations). I would have been okay with more time exploring the love/memory/identity stuff and less generic action, but no biggie. Outside of the plot, a few areas I was impressed by: camerawork with a smart sense of space and geography; world/technology design and general gorgeousness; and a good soundtrack by M83, et al.
Gone Baby Gone. I kinda wish the movie had stopped after the second voiceover. It would have been amazing (if maybe predictable in an ambiguous, artsy way). But it’s a genre film, so it kept going, and while the second, twisty act was a little mystery-novel page-turner-y, Ben Affleck does a great job with it. I assume he was being more or less faithful to the source. Great, great cast. The end offers an interesting tension between Monaghan’s ethic-of-care/consequentialist perspective and Casey Affleck’s ethic-of-justice/deontological take. I also like the sound in this one, working with the full range. I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse than The Town, which I mean as a compliment to both.
Other great movies that are heavy on the Boston:
The Shawshank Redemption. Second time around. Still don’t like it.