War for the Planet of the Apes. Kind of a bummer. At first I was really into the melodrama. Eventually, it became very tedious. It seemed like they were stopping for a sappy moment every 5-10 minutes. The Gollum/Jar Jar ape didn’t help. I also don’t understand why a crucial character uses a crossbow in a world with guns. Another hang-up was that I couldn’t figure out how the world fit together. That’s one thing I liked about Rise… and Dawn… – the geography was clear. You knew who was where. This one started in those awesome rainforests, then moved to a snowscape, and then to the Sierras? Or Tahoe? The previous ones were strong in that they felt like our world. I don’t know what happened to it here. Bummer. Filed under: Planet of the Apes.
Arrival. Second viewing. (The first.) The mind-bending scifi stuff doesn’t dazzle as much, having seen it twice and read the story a few times. I like the sappiness, though, and I wish they’d play it up more. But I think if they had, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much the first time…
Alien. Perfection. Still a five-star film. I love those Nostromo jackets!
Predator. Holds up! I forgot how fluid and pleasing some of the camerawork is here. The scene where they unload a zillion bullets into the jungle has a strange formalist beauty. Final fight just a wee too long.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s not perfect, and I’m a little annoyed that they’re still making these… but, now that they are, I think this is the kind of story I’d like to see more of. Sort of putting some shape around the original 6-episode arc rather than extending it. I wish it were more melodramatic. Also a wee long and kind of a bad script? Dumb fan service (I assume we’re due for lots more) and the CGI Tarkin and Leia are huuuuuuge mistakes. Still, seeing Mendelsohn, Mikkelsen, and Whitaker in the same movie? What a treat! Much, much better than The Force Awakens. Filed under: Star Wars.
Star Trek: Beyond. These movies are getting worse. :( Hope they don’t keep going this route, where they turn into basically superhero films. I fear it’s too late. Filed under: Star Trek.
Interstellar. As much as I whine about Christopher Nolan films, he’s got some gifts. My experience the second time around was almost the reverse of my first viewing: I was feeling the family story, and the epic space adventure had me twiddling my thumbs. I need an alternate cut of this movie that removes the “let’s explain the science” interludes. Just gimme the melodrama. The heightened emo stuff just wrecked me.
The Thing. I feel like this one has been in the air a good bit recently. I… don’t understand all the hubbub. It’s fine. Just wasn’t for me.
10 Cloverfield Lane. One of those movies that takes a few different shapes. Start with a stalker suspense, then abduction horror, then bunker survival, then… well, ya gotta watch it. Love how a few new details surfacing makes you change what you’re rooting for. Good ride.
There was a lot of inherent cultural relativism in the science fiction I discovered then. It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!
That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.
And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.
Paris Review – William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211
Arrival. I loved the short story collection that this movie draws from. I wish they’d played the extremes just a bit more. Maybe get even more nerdy with the science/linguistics, and even more fragmented/playful with the chronology. Can’t have everything, though. It’s about as good an adaptation as you can ask for that’d still get wide release.
L’Inhumaine. Marcel L’Herbier’s old French 1924 silent film. I saw this one at Ebertfest, along with Darius Milhaud’s original score played live by the Alloy Orchestra. It… messed with my head.
It starts at this awesome crazy-designed mansion of wealthy singer. You see, she’s a babe and there are men competing for her attention. One is jilted and attempts/fakes suicide. People mourn. There’s a big scene at a Paris theatre with a big rabble-rousing crowd. (That scene also features some awesome cameos from real-life friends from the art world – Proust, Joyce, Pound, etc.). The singer feels guilt. The suicide guy returns. One of the other suitors, a Maharaja, seeks revenge for his jilting by posing as a taxi driver and planting a poisonous snake in her cab. She dies. A mad scientist revives her. Etc. That’s not even the half of it. The final trippy hallucinatory sequence is NUTS. There’s montage, translucencies, overlapping images, swapping color filters, flashes of bold color, accelerating cuts. Don’t sleep on the old stuff.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I had fun, and quickly forgot it. It mostly felt good to be watching a Star Wars movie again. If you’re pretty sure you don’t care about Star Wars in general, this movie will not convince you otherwise. If you do, you will probably leave feeling satisfied, depending on how you like your ratio of pandering nostalgia vs. breaking new ground. The hat-tips and references to previous movies wore thin pretty quickly and for me slowed down what otherwise has some nice momentum. Definitely some groaners, though (for example, the snowy mountain Nazi castle…). I really like Ridley and Chiyoga as the new faces. Isaac is always reliable. I feel like in a few months or maybe not until VIII we’ll look back and admit “Hey, VII is pretty thin but it’s not a total trainwreck and that’s okay”. Ranking the best episode 7’s in 2015:
- Creed, by a landslide.
- Furious 7
- The Force Awakens
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.