Incredibles 2. I liked it more than the first one. This one seemed funnier, and I like that the main heroes swapped roles. The set piece with the Screenslaver chase, fight, and monologue was delicious.
The Incredibles. Long overdue! Pretty, pretty good. Not as funny as I’d expected, but that’s alright. I like the nimble score and playing off genre tropes.
I Am Not Your Negro. I liked it a lot. Just the premise – a movie rendition of an unfinished book – is such an interesting way to start. I’ve heard similar formulations before, but two ideas in here really stuck with me. One, his comments during an interview that, while he may not know what whites believe, he can see the state of our institutions (church, work, real estate, etc.). They tell you something you cannot deny. Second, his prompt to ask ourselves why the negro was invented. Black people didn’t come up with it. It’s a white invention to fill some need – one worth examining. Recommended. Filed under: documentaries.
Eve’s Bayou. One of my absolute favorites from Ebertfest. Maybe my favorite, period. Stands out superficially with some impressive child actors, female leads throughout, and no white people. I love how it accumulates little moments. There’s a vibe here I’m not savvy enough to describe other than “very 90s” that’s very… old-fashioned. Full orchestra. Soft film image. Evening glow. It felt like a play at some points, with some of the momentum and delivery in the dialogue, and how the scenes were staged. The scene where Mozelle tells the story of her husband confronting her lover is a little masterpiece. Highly recommended!
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I don’t know how you could watch the prequels and pick anyone other than Obi-Wan Kenobi as the coolest guy in the galaxy. I also appreciate that it undercuts the Jedi a bit. They are powerful and try to do some good, but they mess up a lot. I really dig the psychological battles and manipulation in this one. Great stuff. While Christensen is not a good actor, I buy into his tortured melodrama because I believe in Darth Vader’s arc. You’ll forgive a lot if the story is worth believing in. Would have loved more of that. Meanwhile, who the hell is General Grievous? (Know what’s cooler than two light sabers? Four light sabers!) Yeesh. Better than the other two prequels, I think, and a good way to close things out.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. One of my major complaints of the prequels is that everything looks so nice, and nothing really feels lived in. Very true in this one. I like that we get to hang out with Obi-Wan so much, doing private eye stuff, chasing down assassins. Overstuffed and scattered, though, and there’s just no way that Anakin & Padme fall in love. Teen Anakin is a nightmare. While I don’t see him in that relationship, I can start to feel for him here, just tragicomically buffeted by his emotions, absolutely at their mercy. The soundtrack is in peak form here, too.
Chi-Raq. This one made me wonder if other movies are even trying to be interesting. Some parts I didn’t love, some I actively kinda disliked, but man there’s so much good stuff. So many different moods and shifts. It’s a little bit of a mess but I’d much rather feel that investment, alternately cackling with pleasure and rolling my eyes, than settle for a placid, sated indifference for two hours.
Jurassic Park. Damn this movie is good. One of those movies where just skimming through search results looking for a good headline image had me smiling. Dr. Sattler is up there amongst the best heroines of the last couple decades. Smart, tough, funny, bold, decisive. (“We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.”) There’s a lot of humor I’d forgetten in this one.
“Are these characters… autoerotica?”
“No, we don’t have any animatronics.”
Some catchphrases (“Hold on to your butts.”), and a few great monologues, like…
I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it.
Also nice to see an action/thriller that, despite it’s crazy dinosaurs, is very human. It isn’t heavily reliant on overt evil, just self-interest and shortsightedness that devolves (see what I did there) in just about the worst ways possible. And the heroes are pretty regular people, out of their depth, but thinking on their feet and for the most part working together. Even the kids make some good decisions.
Maybe the best sequence in the whole thing is where that teamwork is undercut by each group working with limited information. Dr. Grant and the kids are making their way back to HQ, while the folks at HQ are working to get the power back on. It’s brilliant. Each group is separately in danger, each one needs to succeed, and the success of one group of good guys, at the wrong time, is really gonna screw over the others. I’m surprised more movies don’t do something like that – the same team accidentally working at cross-purposes.
If you haven’t seen this in a while… fix that.
Hard Eight. Philip Baker Hall is awesome, and so is John C. Reilly. Love how Reilly becomes a poor imitation of the expert. I love the moments of still life, coffee and pie and cigarettes and such. I felt a bit let down by the reveal. I guess you’d have to steer the climax a bit differently without it, but I didn’t really need a reason for how the story opened. I was totally on board with this strange characters. I think The Master is my favorite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s, then probably this one and then There Will Be Blood and then Magnolia? Hard to say. They’re all pretty solid.
The Avengers. The basic plot mechanics are a bit tired, but I am not ashamed to admit how satisfying it is to see the whole gang together after seeing others in the Marvel series. A couple neat camera moments (Cap in the rearview and a POV shot that flips along with the car it’s inside of). Nothing quite like the joy/terror of Hulk being Hulk. I really wish Renner had more to work with.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I had so much fun. Good action movies make you want to do the things you see on screen. Iron Man is fun to watch, but I don’t feel like I want to fly around and shoot beams out of my hands. But this? Yeah, I want to hold up a shield and run through locked doors. The First Avenger is still my favorite of the Marvel movies, but this is a nice elaboration and keeps the good drama/humor balance. Such a great character, becoming more suspicious, more wary of what he’s asked to do.