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I'm still in a bit of a movie drought, but that should end soon-ish I hope, as nearly every major distraction I've had has been dealt with. Copa América ended (we won!), the Pan American Games are underway but their airing times are spotty, and EVO 2015 is done in the hypest of fashions. Next sporting thing on my radar should be on October, which would give me some ample time to catch up with current releases! And this time around, it's...Alan Taylor's Terminator Genisys
. It's chapter five for the Skynet Saga, I guess. With all the time travelling going on, it's been rather hard to keep track of its continiuity lately. I'm thinking this one's a reboot? Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future, is sent to the past as commanded by John Connor to protect his then-teenage mother Sarah Connor from a Terminator sent to her point in time by Skynet to terminate her so John Connor is never born, and thus the revolution against the machines would never happen. But whereas the previous movies would focus on the hunt and the chase, this movie adds a few extra angles to, if anything, broaden the scope and possibilities associated with time travel and a foretold conception.
Well... it tries. It fails miserably. Deary me, this franchise keeps finding new embarrassing lows. This movie makes T3 feel like T2 and Salvation feel like T3. This entry castrates the Terminator franchise: long gone are the dreadful, relentless chase sequences, the reasoned paranoia and suspicion, and above all, the visual creativity; just so there's an open path to Hunger Games-type romantic will they/won't they intrigue, terrible jokes, preachy notions of current gadget use, and the sappiest ending imaginable -- but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I can accept a bad idea as long as it's well executed: maybe a shitty joke can work if you frame it properly. There's value in anti-humor, after all. However, this is just clumsy storytelling. The T-1000 is only here for ten minutes, and then never mentioned or heard of again; the twist can be seen from a mile away (seriously, the trailer spoils everything); and it's so anti-violence the final boss is a fucking hologram; and the sub-villain, the Terminator sent to terminate Kyle and Sarah, is so lame at his job everytime he meets them he tries negotiates
. He goes on and on trying to make them like Skynet
Look, I could go on and on about this film, but let's not go any further than "it's awful, don't". I seriously made a Top 10 made out of the worst things about this movie, but I'm saving it for the time being. I'm thinking this one's a keeper for the Top 5 most disappointing films of 2015. If we're lucky, we'll be talking about this one later on.Noah Baumbach's While We're Young
. Ben Stiller stars a documentarian caught in a bit of a burn out. He's been churning his latest film for the last eight-or-so years with an unclear aim and premise. Added to that, he and his wife, play by Naomi Watts, have suffered some casual isolation in the form of all of their friends having kids while they can't/won't. Things take a turn for the unexpected and unheard-of in the form of Adam Driver's character, a hipster-y looking dude who admires Stiller's work and is eager to have him as a mentor while he makes his own film -- and in a sort of unwritten exchange, Driver will introduce him to a new world of charming, fully-embracing, nostalgia-driven possibilities. Stiller and Watts will feel rejuvenated with his antics and views on life; but not only their friends will have some backlash to their new customs... but there is a deeper thing going. We're talking about conspirations here.
Much like that paragraph itself, it goes swimmingly til the end right there. That "conspirations" thing forces the movie into a zigzag far too messy for its handling. Before that, it was a rather pleasant sit -- although not one as brilliant as Baumbach's previous effort, Frances Ha. It was energetic, tightly edited, freshly performed. Its comedic timing and overall joy managed to surpass its overwhelming mean-spiritedness, as characters will vilify and object each other with uncanny ease no matter if they're longtime friends. Still, it'll manage to bounce off from that just as easily, always wanting to turn a new page and such. But then comes this conspiracy third-act-subplot and things go a bit haywire without much effect. It'll all boil down to a "yeah, but who cares" or a "it's not so bad". And I'm not fighting against those outlooks: in fact, I agree with them; but then why bring them up in the first place if all you're getting is a hohum, far-too-agreeable conclusion?
It's an OK film, overall. It'll have its fans if you're into quirky comedies and films about the filmmaking process, but I think it's a bit too disjointed to reach a point. Good in parts, not as much as a whole.David Zellner's Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
. It's a movie based on an urban legend we'll touch upon in a little while, but I don't think you should know it to fully grasp this movie's plot. The film stars Rinko Kikuchi as Kumiko, a lonesome, socially shut-in Tokyo-based office lady who finds a VHS tape hidden under a rock in a cave by the beach. When she comes home, we find out it's a copy of the Coen Brothers' classic 1996 film Fargo. However, the tape's in such a sorry state the player skips and fast-forwards straight into the latter part of the film, where Steve Buscemi's character (spoiler warning... from a 19 year old film, but still), with his lower jaw bleeding from a gunshot, hides a briefcase filled with money under the snow, next to some fence, and he marks the spot with a tiny red shovel. Kumiko becomes fascinated by it and immediately devotes herself to locating this treasure
. From a movie.
It seems it's based on the account of an actual Japanese office worker who committed suicide in Minnesota, and the "urban legend" part of this movie comes from the notion she was actually looking for Steve Buscemi's hidden money from Fargo... but that was nothing but a mere vox populi fabrication. She was depressed, not delusional. And maybe that's the problem with this movie: even if you've never heard that urban legend, and even if you haven't seen Fargo at all
, you can immediately tell what'll be the outcome for this girl. This isn't an action-heavy, loot-craving sort of flick like that subtitle seems to imply. This is a rather stark, gelid film. It's about a woman doing everything she can to make her fantasy a reality, even if it's all fantasy from the get-go; and you get these warning signs throughout the whole film about the whole thing being fake but she keeps ignoring them even if she only has the most tenuous reason imaginable: Fargo starts with a "this is a true story" text... and that's all she needs not only to think this movie is real, but to think the movie's indications are legitimate, that there is indeed a tiny red shovel by a fence, and under the shovel, covered by snow, there's a briefcase containing a fortune.
To make matters worse, it seems Kumiko doesn't even get to see the entire film
. I mean, let's assume that yes, the Fargo story is real and there's a briefcase with money hidden somewhere; and also let's assume the Coen Brothers film is a true-to-life representation of the events: your one x-marks-the-spot map if you need it. There's this one point in the film where she screws up and you can tell immediately (provided you've seen the film, too) she'll hit a dead end... and it's only halfway through. Even if you want to give in to her delusions, you know it'll always be a fruitless endeavor.
This is a terribly stubborn film. The concept was neat, the performances are chillingly executed, and the cinematography's quite good, but it's a project so socially harsh it makes for a depressing sit. Watch Fargo first (as you should, it's a landmark film) or again, then give this one a watch if you're really curious and you want to expand the Fargo universe somehow -- although with that TV series around, do you really need this sad-as-fuck note?Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda's Minions
. So the jittery fucks get their own movie -- and at this point, why wouldn't they? They've certainly gone above and beyond the protagonists of Despicable Me in terms of popularity and, sadly, memorability. I've never been fond of them, I've found them to be movie filler at best; and the series as a whole has been at best OK and barebones at worst. What's new this time around? Well... what's old, more like it, as this movie's actually a prequel. It tells the Minions' story before Gru. Turns out the Minions are actually a species biologically devoted to serve whoever they deem as the most evil one around. However, luck hasn't been kind to them, as their masters have found their demise in their incompetence and witlessness. Living in an ice cave, they've been aimless and unmotivated for ages since Napoleon tossed them to the curb, but three Minions wander off to find a new dark lord the community can serve to. The year's 1968, and soon after arriving in New York, they'll find just the right one.
Actually the idea's not a bad one. It can even lend itself to sequels, as the Minions stumble from employer to employer with different, long-lasting results. However, let's be real: these are the Minions we're talking about. They're personality-free. They're a background decoration that surfaced to the spotlight because the headliners weren't fun enough. They're not characters: they're templates. How many times have you seen tiny, wacky, hyperactive, big-eyed characters lately? The McDonalds Happy Meal box, the Rabbids, the fishes and the bears from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax... what's with that? Is this the new thing
, like when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came into light furries where all the rage with the likes of Biker Mice from Mars, Street Sharks, Swat Kats, etc? Is this what people have clamored for? Diminute, high-pitched, lol-so-random... specks? At least the furries had identities and traits of their own, these are just copy+pastes.
Yeah, I'm not a fan. Nevertheless, this movie doesn't do anything to convert me, truth be told. It's far too predictable and forgettable, ridden with pointless references to everything British or sixties. If you liked the Minions, you'll enjoy this, but if you don't -- or hell, even if you don't care about them, you're not gaining anything here. Still, there's some use to this movie: you can use it to keep a child glued to the screen for 90 minutes. Crowded theater, mostly children, all quiet and laughing at the right parts. This was meant for them, yeah... but I still think they deserve better.John Maclean's Slow West
. It's an East-meets-West country story, about a young Scottish man (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) dwelving deep into the most dangerous parts of the American West, searching for his beloved one, who escaped Europe after an incident for which he takes the blame. On his way, he encounters a bounty hunter (played by Michael Fassbender) who'll work for him, providing him protection and guidance towards his destination. The young man, still hopeful and with eyes wide open, thinks he's ready to undertake the savage, lawless fields; but he's far from that, as the bounty hunter will point him out. Still, the opposite is also true: the bounty hunter, determined to do whatever it takes to survive and unflinching, will slowly open up to him -- especially considering he's a man escaping his own dark past, and sees in him something foreignly earnest, despite his naïveté.
Out of the movies I'm featuring today, it's the movie I liked best. In a sense, it's sort of Wuthering Heights vs. True Grit. Hopeful meets reality. A story of two classes, two worlds socially incompatible: the upper class kid, cultured and well-mannered from foggy Scotland faces the real world for the first time, and a man trapped by freedom and anarchy, who's seen -- and possibly done -- the worst of humanity in order to survive. They won't admit it, but they need each other in a landscape as violent and unforgiving as this. The experience of the weary traveler and the daydreaming and commitment of the young. They're a pretty good duo. It's called "Slow West", yet it's anything but slow -- at 84 minutes, it keeps a formidable pace with subdued although potent perfomances and a gorgeous nature landscape cinematography by Robbie Ryan (who, by the way, was the DP in Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights).
Still, maybe that "subdued" part is this movie's Achilles' Heel: although it's a movie about a kid ready to drop everything in his life in pursuit of his beloved one, and a man willing to kill strangers in the blink of an eye if it means survival; it's a bit pocket-sized when it comes to emotions. It's not fierce nor is it weepy. It's a bit too tight and downplayed, turning the movie a bit emotionally mute at times, although it's certainly got a punch to the gut or two -- and if anything, it's saving itself for a sprawiling, ricochéting third act. Duration and quality considered, even if I know it won't make my Top 10 best of the year list, I'd strongly recommend you checking this one out. Nothing to lose here.Peyton Reed's Ant-Man
. By all means I had to close this entry with a Marvel movie, as protocol dictates. This month's superhero's Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd), an ex-burglar recently released from prison and struggling to fit in back into society (getting a job, getting paid and such), and is further hurt with the possibility of his infant daughter growing out of his reach because he can't afford child support now that he's separated from his wife. A chance to get back in the game proves to be too tempting to pass and he takes it, showcasing his masterful breaking-and-entering skills to successfully penetrate an empty house's security mechanisms to supposedly steal a lofty loot... but fortune-wise, he apparently comes empty-handed. He only finds an odd red and black suit. Soon he'll find out he's been watched for a while now, and that getting that suit was all part of someone else's plans: Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) wants to enlist him for a mission regarding his previous working place, Pym Technologies. What does the suit do? I suppose you know by now.
When talking about Marvel films, comparison to the rest of the canon is inevitable, especially considering that we're getting them yearly, and the ones before are still fresh by the time the new one arrives. Where does this one land? I'd say right in the middle. It's not the best nor the worst. It's okay. It's a very "Marvel" movie too, especially considering what the studio has become as of late. It's very comedy-driven, technologically-minded flick with some cool visuals and a too-snappy, geek-friendly dialogue. That said, this one feels the most sitcom-my of the bunch, populated with one too many gags and bits and a way too carefree attitude towards everything going on here. Some may think this film is among Marvel's funniest, and I'd say it's true but basically by default. It's non-stop jokes. "What's the problem with being so fun-oriented?"... none, but this movie feels absolutely dry on gravitas. Of all the Marvel films, this movie is the one that ironically feels the most small potatoes of the bunch. Not only they're lightweight about everything, but everything is
lightweight compared to whatever happened elsewhere. All things conisdered, the parental responsibility, the fancy new technology at hand, the potential crisis ahead... this movie simply lacks character motivation. Things happen because they do, or because some character wants really hard
for them to happen.
Still, if anything, it's fresh. Ant-Man delivers some of the most creative action scenes Marvel has put to date -- and that was so much needed, if I have to be honest. I was tired of seeing the same ol' city-wide battlezone by the time Guardians of the Galaxy came. So imagine my surprise to see Avengers: Age of Ultron doing just that for the fourth time in a row. They play with sizes and scales really well, making intense action scenes in tiniests of places. Also, it's basically a heist film: another new thing for Marvel, too. It's a cool spice, although sadly they don't give it much time.
That's it for now! See you next time.