Nocturnal Animals (2016)
I was on a Movie Year in Review panel at CONvergence last weekend and a couple of movies came up that I had similar reactions to. One was Nocturnal Animals and the other was Hail, Caesar. I didn't like Hail, Caesar as much as I expected to and that's because the trailers for it led me to believe that it was going to be a crazy kidnapping movie instead of just a quirky series of vignettes loosely tied together by some common characters. I suspect that when I get around to watching it again, I'll like it better the second time.
The marketing for Nocturnal Animals was similarly misleading. The trailer makes it look like a thriller in which Amy Adams receives a draft of her ex-husband's (Jake Gyllenhaal) novel and suspects from reading it that he's out to kill her. She does receive the draft and it does effect her deeply, but I kept waiting for the part where her ex turns murderous and it never happens. That's not even a spoiler, because that's not what this movie is. What it is is cool and beautiful and personal and haunting. Get past the weird-for-its-own-sake opening credits and the rest of the film is pretty great with some really effective performances by Adams, Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Rules Don't Apply (2016)
Rules Don't Apply is another one that defied expectations, but not as successfully for me. IMDb describes it as an "unconventional love story" and that's sort of accurate, but whatever image that put in my head, it was more fun than what the movie actually is. The romance between Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich simmers a super long time before anyone does anything about it. I found that very realistic, as I also did the problems that popped up to keep them apart after they admitted that they liked each other. That makes their relationship a compelling drama, but it's also rather somber.
Alongside of that is the film's examination of Howard Hughes. Warren Beatty is great in the role and I can see why he picked this as a subject to write about and direct. He boils everything down to Daddy Issues, which feels overly simplistic, but then uses that - and Hughes' relationship with the other two leads - to make a beautiful comment on aging and parenthood. He's not at all subtle about it though, so while I like a lot of what the movie's doing, I don't love the way it does it.
The Sure Thing (1985)
Marketing seems to be a theme this week. The people in charge of getting you to go see The Sure Thing sure wanted you to think that it was a sex comedy like Porky's or Hardbodies. Not remembering details about it, I was a little nervous showing it to David, but my memory was that it wasn't that raunchy. And since we recently watched Better Off Dead, I wanted to revisit some other, early John Cusack.
Sure enough, it's a sweet (and really good) romantic comedy like you might expect from the guy who went on to direct When Harry Met Sally. It's not as zany as some of Cusack's other movies from the same era like Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, or Hot Pursuit, but it fits well somewhere between those and Say Anything. Cusack is hilarious in it and Daphne Zuniga is fantastic. I don't know why she didn't become a bigger star than she did, but I'm going to blame Mel Brooks.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
There are some jokes in Beverly Hills Cop that wouldn't get told today, but I'm shocked by how well it holds up otherwise. Eddie Murphy is at his funniest, the relationships are sweet, and I like the questions it raises about Right vs. Proper. Also: Bronson Pinchot being way funnier than he ever was in Perfect Strangers.
Hey, between this and Beverly Hills Cop we had ourselves a little unintentional Paul Reiser film festival. I love this movie so much. It's perfect. Even better than the first one.
And I know there's growing appreciation for the third one among fans, but I'll never forgive it for the way it unceremoniously dumps the characters I love so much from this one. I'm going to wait a while before seeing if David wants to watch it. I'm in no hurry. (Though I would like to get through it and move on to Resurrection, because I love most of that movie up to the last ten minutes or so.)
Jam of the Week: "My First Rodeo" by Whitney Rose
Some rockin' country.