Avengers: Infinity War. It was mildly distracting to see the movie’s first major battle taking place in my downtown Atlanta neighborhood, just blocks away. Is this how New Yorkers feel all the time? Thanos is a great villain. Maybe knowing they’d have him around later let them invest more and give him some motivation beyond destruction? I like the several scenes where loved ones are torn between hard choices – Vision and Scarlet Witch, Thanos and Gamorra, Starlord and Gamorra, etc.. My main frustration with the movie was the big Wakanda scenes. We are convinced this is the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet, and they are fighting a crucial battle… with infantry, hand-to-hand? It’s a shame. They could have done something more interesting. The giant roto-tiller machines were cool, though.
Her. Third viewing. Just as compelling as the first time, though these days the hook seems more unlikely and even more unappealing. Filed under: Spike Jonze.
Lost in Translation. Bill Murray is the best. Johansson is really good, but I don’t see this movie working without him.
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.
Under the Skin. Even now, a couple weeks later, I’m still not sure if I liked it or not. Which technically is a “yes”, I think. At the least, I appreciate that there’s nothing quite like it.
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.
Her. I still like it! (Previously.)
Her. I expected to love it, I did, and I still was pleasantly surprised with some of the mordant humans-are-screwed humor and the science-fiction-y, speculative thoughtfulness. It’s pretty wonderful. Shout-out to movies that rely on conversation and subtle music. Also neat to see a movie set in the comfortable future – nothing crazy here, just a few plausible tweaks that have had some time to settle in. Some of the writing and face-acting didn’t work for me, but for ideas and smarts, I will forgive many things. Also, seeing Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams on screen together again made me want to re-watch The Master.
Iron Man 2. It’s really pretty when things are blowing up. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with a lot of ‘splosions, so I’m behind on the state of the art. Lots of eye candy, though. The main villain face-offs felt really low-stakes and awkwardly paced. Really erratic writing. I felt like the first one was funnier? Captain America is still my favorite of the few Avengers movies I’ve seen.
The Prestige. Themes: obsession, sacrifice, craft, identity, showmanship, revenge, deceit, science as magic, etc. It’s a little mechanical and maybe overstuffed, but always interesting. Hugh Jackman is excellent. I expect viewers would either love or hate the ending, in which the inevitable is delayed while the story is re-told and all is explained. I kinda hate that, but I should have expected as much. I guess that’s Nolan’s own prestige moment? I get really annoyed when you watch a movie and then, near the end, the movie tells you about the story that happened that you didn’t know about. (Yeah, I know I complained about this recently.) Good twists are fine, but they always make me wonder how you could tell the same story in an engaging way while sharing more details with the audience up front. Isn’t it also fun when we know something the other characters don’t?
I’ve now seen all of Christopher Nolan’s feature-length movies. Here’s how they stack up for me right now:
- Memento (with a commanding lead)
- Batman Begins (I’d like to re-watch this soon)
- The Prestige
- Following (tied for third?)
- The Dark Knight
The Nanny Diaries. This is not a great movie. Scarlett Johansson is not a great actress. But Laura Linney is excellent, per usual.