Friday, January 22, 2016

10 Movies from 2015 That I Could Take or Leave

21. Aloha

There's a lot of pressure on Cameron Crowe to make great films and this is not a great film. It's reaching for something that it can't get hold of. But what it does manage to grasp, it does really well. It's a great-looking movie with characters I liked a lot and some intriguing moral dilemmas.

22. Furious 7

I'm a big fan of these of movies and that hasn't changed with this one. Still has lots of what I love about this series: tough people, awesome stunts, and a ton of heart. But the plot is thinner this time (and they're always pretty thin), so that and the bittersweetness around Paul Walker's death bring it down for me. It's an amazing technical achievement though in terms of stunts and filling in scenes that Walker hadn't been in. A solid entry in the series, but not one of the best.

23. Kingsman: The Secret Service

X-Men: First Class always makes me forget that Matthew Vaughn is also the director behind Kick-Ass. And everything that turns me off about Kick-Ass is a problem for me in Kingsman as well. I'd put all the blame on Mark Millar, but I like Wanted, so I think it's the combination of Millar and Vaughn. They're both thrilled/intrigued/whatever by hyper-violence and just being really super explicit. I'm not, so including that in an otherwise cool story about dapper spies is a big drawback for me.

24. Terminator: Genisys

I didn't even want to give this a chance. I'd written off the Terminator franchise as something I'm no longer interested in. I mean, I don't use the word "franchise" very often when I'm talking about a movie series. I much prefer to think in terms of continuing story, and "franchise" sounds so business-y. But that's exactly what the Terminator movies have become, with the rights-holders leasing out the property to anyone who wants to reboot it and try to make some more money.

David was really curious about this one though and it became an excuse to show him the first two. So we went and it was surprisingly watchable. I have many problems with the story and both Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney are boring, but Emilia Clarke is an awesome substitute for Linda Hamilton and Schwarzenegger is at the absolute top of his game. I loved both of their characters and the relationship between them.

25. The DUFF

The title is horrible and I was afraid that the movie would be, too. It's a lot of fun, actually, with a nice message about being comfortable in your own skin. Not quite on the level with Easy A, Ten Things I Hate About You, or the best John Hughes movies, but a solid high school comedy. I might even rank it higher after another viewing or two.

26. The Hateful Eight

Great idea. Killer cast. Pretty to look at. Fantastic score by Ennio Morricone. And I was intrigued by the building of the mystery.

But it could've been 45 minutes shorter without losing anything of the story. There's too much dialogue that I don't care about and too many long, sweeping shots of countryside. It's gorgeous countryside, but an hour into the movie, I was ready to get on with things. I was also disappointed in the solution to the mystery, but at least there's no room for boredom as that's unfolding.

I saw the shorter cut without the intermission and ironically, I think the longer version may have helped some of my issues. More specifically, having the intermission as a palate cleanser may have helped. Would like to try it that way and find out.

27. While We’re Young

I like the ideas in While We're Young. Transitioning into maturity is a weird process that deserves some exploration. Very few people actually feel mature. Instead, we think of ourselves as younger than we are, so it can be startling to confront the reality and challenging to ease into the mindset that growing older doesn't mean not having fun anymore.

All of that is cool and While We're Young touches on it, but then it gets distracted by a theme it's way more interested in: the importance of veracity in documentary film-making. Which is also thought-provoking, but not what I signed up for. Still, great cast and it was this movie that made me realize I'm an Adam Driver fan.

28. Jupiter Ascending

So ambitious and so cool. Doesn't deserve the John Carter-level derision it got (but then, neither did John Carter). Sadly, though it's fun, it's not great. As in, I totally would have paid money for sequels, but it's not that big a deal to me that there won't be any.

29. Focus

I suffer enough Will Smith Fatigue that I wasn't going to watch this one at all. The trailer made it seem very serious and all about whether untrustworthy people can trust each other, so yawn. But then I heard some positive reviews about how it's really just a fun heist movie and I'm always up for that. And it is a really fun heist movie. A mediocre one, but enjoyable and at least it's not dour.

30. Mortdecai

I thought this might be interesting to watch after re-visiting the Pink Panther movies this year. Johnny Depp's cartoon mode has grown tiresome in the last few years, but he's doing it less in Mortdecai (meaning that you can glimpse a human being under all those mannerisms) and his supporting cast (Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, and especially Paul Bettany) are doing great, comedic work. Jeff Goldblum has a fun role, too. All that plus an entertaining caper plot and the whole experience was much more than I hoped for.


Paxton said...

My thoughts (I'm acting like you keep asking me for them)

Aloha - Agreed. 100%. It's good, not great. I wouldn't watch it again.

Kingsman - I loved this movie but I totally see your point. Some of the action was hyper violent, yes, but the entire movie was hyper realistic. The amped up violence fit for me because the entire world was amped up as well. That rescue scene with Mark Hamill where Lancelot dies is so over the top it sort of set the bar for what to expect in this movie.

Terminator Genisys - I wasn't going to watch this movie either. But Steph was out of town, I was at Redbox getting a movie for the kids and suddenly I was overwhelmed with an urge to watch it. So I got it. And I was presently surprised. I had very little confidence that this movie was going to be good but the story was clever. I loved Emilia Clarke and Schwartzenegger. I didn't immediately hate Jai Courtney (which is a plus) and I thought Jason Clarke was fine as John Connor. He's better than if they would have brought back Edward Furlong which I know they discussed at some point. All good for me. I actually want to see the next one.

Hateful 8 - I loved every second of this movie. Could you cut 45 mins and not miss it? Yes, if you are only looking at the main story and don't care about any of the "shades of gray" or the tiny character elements that go into Quentin's menagerie of characters. Throw away details that are awesome but maybe won't lead anywhere. It's all Quentin and that is expected in one of his movies. Kill Bill could have been one movie. I actually think it SHOULD have been one movie. Jackie Brown probably could have been half as long. But he likes putting in all those extra touches. It's what he does. Didn't bother me.

Don't care in the slightest about DUFF or While We're Young.

Jupiter Ascending - I liked it enough that I would've watched a sequel. Honestly, though, the first 40 minutes or so are ROUGH. Channing looks ridiculous in his makeup/costume in the real world, especially in the scenes where he saves Jupiter from the hospital. It doesn't start getting good until they go see Sean Bean, then I'm on board for the movie. I'm still not sure how much I love Eddie Redmayne's screaming performance.

focus - It was a good con/heist movie. Sometimes I think Will Smith plays smug instead of confident. I also really got tired of the loyalty reversals at the end. It seemed like there was A LOT. But other than that, I liked it.

Mortdecai - I thought this looked really stupid, but it turned out to be pretty damn funny. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it.

Siskoid said...

Stilllll haven't named the one movie I hated last year... uh-oh...

Aloha: Didn't see it. Seemed too bad that with such credentials, it couldn't be a terrific film.

Furious 7: I saw the first one this year and hated it. Was told that it got good at #5, arched an eyebrow. So okay, I skipped to 5 and enjoyed both 5 and 6 as crazy action flicks in the tradition of Hong Kong cinema with more money and more camp. I was primed for 7 and did enjoy it, especially its funereal atmosphere (Han as stand-in for Walker), though I'd be hard-pressed to recall the story today.

Kingsman: Surprised at how much fun I had with this, though its juvenile humor was, of course, a problem. Still, super badass Colin Firth as a well-dressed superspy? Awesome.

Terminator Genesys: Skipped it. The lesson I learned from T3 was that I wasn't about to get burned by a Terminator film ever again. (Good thing the Sarah Connor Chronicles was good, because the franchise would have been dead to me long ago.) I wouldn't be surprised if I eventually saw it, but haven't seen Salvation yet, so...

The Duff: Her? The title is familiar, but I thought this was some kind of Hilary Duff vehicle.

The Hateful Eight: First movie I saw in 2016 and while I did enjoy it, I thought it was in extreme need of a trim. Characters tell each other stories they then have to tell again because some other character missed it... I mean, come on. I consider it QT's weakest film.

While We're Young: Adam Driver is in it? Ok, I'll check it out. Also seems to have a theme similar to Liberal Arts (not the distraction theme, the other one), which is the movie essentially written about my life. Each character is me at a different stage, it's insane.

Jupiter Ascending: Bought it cheap on DVD because while it's "cool" to bash the Bros for everything since The Matrix, I think a lot of it has held up (liked Revolutions more than the dead-on-arrival Reloaded; Speed Racer is a misunderstood classic; Cloud Atlas has severe problems but I can't fault its ambition), so I'm expecting to like it well enough. Especially if you're comparing it to John Carter, which was unduly panned IMO.

Focus: I agree. I love con man movies, and will give them a pass even when I shouldn't. The con this one's running is that it shows you the street level stuff and denigrates the "long con", except the long con is happening hidden from view. Kind of falls apart at the end, but still fun, and the leads are very watchable.

Mortdecai: I guess you liked it more than the majority of people. It takes a lot to get me to go see a Depp movie. One Depp movie a year is just about my extreme limit, and this wasn't it in 2015. (I'm of course not counting movies I saw on DVD through my force-watch project or that time we watched Into the Woods again.)

Ready for the next batch, Michael!

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I'm picking up what you're putting down about Kingsman. Like "Kick Ass" I thought it was clever how the first half deconstructed its sub genre but by the end it just turns into a full blown cartoon.

I enjoyed it while I was watching it but now that its over I don't have much desire to go back. If I am going to revisit a British action comedy/parody film I'd much rather watch "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz".

Kind of makes me wonder why they didn't pull Matthew Vaughn for Ant-Man after Edgar Wright left.

Paxton said...

"I thought it was clever how the first half deconstructed its sub genre but by the end it just turns into a full blown cartoon."

By the end it was a cartoon? That first Lancelot rescue of Mark Hamill in the very beginning was nothing if not cartoonish. It perfectly set the tone for the rest of the movie. If anyone went into this movie looking for a serious (or even semi-serious) deconstruction of Bond or other "spy movies" then you went in with the wrong expectations.

If you asked me the movie reveled in it's hyper-reality. It didn't de-volve into it.

Michael May said...

Pax, re: Hateful Eight, I've finally figured out that while I appreciate many things about Tarantino's films, I'm not a true fan. I thought I was for a while and I love things about all of his movies, but he has some ticks that his real fans have no issues with, but bug me. That's one of the things that make him a great artist though. He knows what he's going for and he does it whole-heartedly. I totally respect that even if it's not always my bag.

Michael May said...

Siskoid, I'm either headed for real trouble with the one you hated or I wasn't interested enough to include it on either my Watched or Missed lists. Eager to find out which. :)

Liberal Arts is the second movie you've added to my Watch List as a result of these posts. Thanks!

"Speed Racer is a misunderstood classic." "YES!" times infinity.

And Focus' falling apart at the end is exactly my issue with it. I have trouble putting my finger on exactly why, but the ending feels wrong for the movie leading up to it.

Siskoid said...

Just watched Jupiter Ascending and totally comparable to John Carter (which I did like better), even the designs had a similarity!

It's a flawed film, which I think relies on exposition too much, but it's fun and creates a world I would have been interested in revisiting.

Michael May said...

I like JC better, too. It's a very good movie and I'm genuinely baffled by the dogpile it got. With Jupiter Ascending, I can at least see why it's not for everyone. But then, that's the Wachowskis all over.

Michael May said...

Glad you liked it though! Meant to say that first. :)

NoelCT said...

Michael, I wouldn't credit Millar too much for Wanted, as I really dig that film too, but only because they threw out the majority of the comic and did their own thing with it. The Wanted comic is one of rare books that infuriated me to the point of literally hurling it across a room (see also The Choirboys and Memoirs of an Invisible Man).

I seem to be alone in my deep love for Jupiter Ascending but I admit that's largely because my nostalgia is so deeply aligned with the Wachowskis (no longer the Bros, Siskoid), that I kept giddily cheering all the throwbacks to Lensmen novels and 80s anime.

Michael May said...

That makes sense about Wanted. Vaughn is so in tune with Millar's deal that he would've made a different version of that movie. And not one that I would've liked nearly as much.


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