The Royal Escort.
Yes. I’ve got more films to talk about this time around, and yet, one of the worst received movies of the year was one of the brightest spots I had in a whil… ok, like in two weeks or so. Let’s go right in.
Chris Columbus’ Pixels. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about this one. It’s about some pretty literal space invaders. Invaders come from outer space, resembling the Space Invaders characters – but they also take the shape of some other classic videogame characters like Galaga, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and such. The effects seem pretty neat and the concept’s sure to be for the liking of many a gamer around the world. Yeah! Oh, wait… there’s this one thing… this one guy. Adam Sandler. There’s also Kevin James. They’re the leads, here. Yeah… no.
You know what, though? I actually liked this movie.
This movie is nowhere near my Top 10 best of the year, but it’s also far, far away from the Worst 5 of the year list, too. It’s a refreshingly decent outing from the Happy Madison gang, and I mean that as a positive and a negative: on the plus side, it’s a bit of their masterpiece: their most ambitious work to date, their most visually iconic one; all appliable qualifiers apply. The action’s quite solid too – so much so that I wouldn’t be amazed if this movie turned out to be an Oscar nominee for Best Visual Effects later on. The voxel integration (which actually should’ve been this movie’s name, but whatever – it’s not as marketeable) is very well achieved, seamlessly going from tangible and existing, to cubic and virtually collapsing. It’s great.
On the negative side of things, well… Sandler’s Sandlering a bit, but that’s just a BIT. He’s doing his schtick, but never embarrasingly or irritatingly so; even if he’s actually playing a role quite familiar to him: the talented loser. He manages to make it float this time around, mostly because he’s not the main star here (nor is Kevin James as the President of the United States, a role for which he earns the MVP award here, even above Peter Dinklage himself). This movie’s all about the action, which as I’ve stated, it’s great, looks great, feels great.
Still, this is a movie that’s very much what it is. It’s corny, slow-paced at times, and never laugh-out-loud. So maybe it’s more mediocre than actually decent. Nevertheless, I can’t find it in me to pan it like the rest of the Internet has done so far. It’s a very sit-throughable film if you let yourself enjoy it. Especially considering that as we’ll find out later on in this movie log entry, Pixels ended up being a bit of a highlight.
Jake Schreier’s Paper Towns. Based on the novel of the same name by John Green, it tells the story of a kid played by Nat Wolff called Quentin, who grew crushing really hard his neighbor across the street, the mythical and impossibly unique Margo Roth Spiegelman, played by Cara Delevigne. When they were children they were pretty close, but they drifted apart after one particular incident. They stopped seeing each other – not out of spite, but rather because of their own life decisions. Her popularity rised to basically becoming a walking urban legend, while he remained an anonymous dude. One night, however, and out of the blue, she asks him to tag along in her quest for revenge against her friends and her boyfriend who’ve done her wrong. After sharing a special moment, she disappears; and Quentin tasks himself in finding her using whatever clue she may have left behind. His friends come for the ride, and they all have one big adventure before they all split on their way to college.
That’s all nice and good, and it’s pretty inspiring in a very teenage-minded kind of way. Seize the day, live the dream, never conform, and such. The screenplay’s actually pretty zig-zagging, going from a scavenger hunt to detective work to teenage drama with confidence. Still… it’s too slow. Too, too slow – an ironic thing to be considering the rebelious, take-no-prisoners ideals at hand. Added to that, it’s John Green pretentious. While it’s nowhere near as unsavory as The Fault In Our Stars, it’s reaching for greatness and daydreaming in the most generic ways imaginable. Teen dramas of will they go to prom or not, will the geek get the hot girl or not, and all that kind of ultra gray things.
Not helping things either is Margo Roth Spiegelman herself. She’s not a tremendously fascinating character, meaning this plot may as well be nothing but hyperbole. In any case, overblown or not, it means well, even if it’s subpar as a film.
Sophie Barthes’ Madame Bovary. Another adaptation, this time from Gustave Flaubert’s eponymous novel. It tells the story of Emma (Mia Wasikowska), a former convent resident who marries an up-and-coming country doctor named Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). Living in a small town, however, she finds herself quite bored pretty quick. Although initially hesitant to partake on them, fills the void her lackluster love life and social status create with romantic affairs and expensive on-credit imported purchases. It’s only a matter of time until the people around her stop giving in to her shit.
Yes, it’s one of those. I can’t stand this movie. It’s too meanspirited! This is a pretty irredeemable, unrootable character, and we’re supposed to be fascinated with her escapades and escapisms, even if we see some very dire red lights coming from a mile away. Wasikowska once again looks great on a corset (all of her attires are showstoppers, must be said) and her performance is fine enough, but… no, it’s undigestible. Even Ezra Miller, an actor I’ve grown super-fond of as of late, with amazing, shocking, highly engrossing turns in We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (both back-to-back Top 10-ers for me), fails to push the project forward.
Not for me, but I can’t even recommend it, either.
Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2. Remember when I mentioned Pixels was a highlight? Kinda missing it right now. It’s the sequel to one of the movies I hated most from 2012, but this time around there’s a bit more of a concept going on. It’s been over a year since the events of the previous film, and whereas Ted got married to his co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), John (Mark Wahlberg) got divorced, and has been pretty bummed out lately. When Ted and Tami-Lynn try having a kid, they realize the US Government doesn’t actually consider Ted as a person, but as property instead, meaning his entire life and achievements (jobs, money on the bank, his marriage) are now null and void. He and John will fight it out in the court with a newbie lawyer named Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), all the while there’s a conspiracy to profit on Ted’s celebrity now that he’s no longer considered an individual.
See? There’s something going on here. Legal issues, civil rights, individuality, humanity, all that meaty stuff MacFarlane has been dodging for decades. I’m also appreciative that Mila Kunis isn’t around this time, not because she sucked or anything (she was alright), but because that meant MacFarlane wouldn’t rely on a female straight-man to complete his starring trio for the Nth time.
What went wrong, however? This movie avoids that meaty stuff like if it’s some sort of responsibility. It’ll go on and on with pointless sequences and go-nowhere jokes, to then realize at the last available minute they SHOULD be working on their case instead (and when they’re at the court, boy do they try reaching a serious note). Even Amanda Seyfried herself can’t add anything new or fresh to this formula, precisely because she’s nothing but a Mark Wahlberg clone – unlike Kunis, she’s more than fine sharing a bong, making this movie needlessly flat. This is a literal waste of time, as its net worth can’t surpass the half an hour.
Seriously considering not watching any MacFarlane-directed films from now on. Time will tell.
Elizabeth Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2. I liked the original quite alright, but this time around… well…
On the height of their success, an onstage wardrobe malfunction turns them into pariahs, meaning they’re getting kicked off of every US competition, and whatever deal and sponsorship they had is now lost. Their only hope is to win the “World”, an interntional competition the US have never won. Amidst individual issues regarding life after college arrives a new talent in the form of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a kid whose parent (Katey Sagal) was a Bella back in the day. This fact will earn her the nickname of “legacy”. She’s also got a song of her own, that will pretty much become the grand finale.
Um… Even if these are fun characters, it’s pretty dry. Part of what made the original pretty fun is the fact that in the peak of shows like Glee and films like the High School Musical series, it was refreshing to have a movie with the same intentions at hand (have a choir of good-looking kids sing the top of the pops) with a less than virginal attitude. Rebel Wilson was a indeed a ReVel-ation, but so was the bittersweet, tongue-in-cheek charm of the cast.
The sequel, however, doesn’t really add anything new. Everything is solved by the way of convenience, insistence and because the script needs it. The original had a blast introducing the odd, “really?” set of characters that would later on revive the Bellas’ brand name, but here… it’s just the same old jokes with no further character development besides Kendrick, Wilson and Adam DeVine (and I say “development” very generously). If you adored the original, bought the soundtrack and such, there’s maybe something here for you, but otherwise… just replay the original.
Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Ethan Hunt and his gang are back, and they’re even more cornered than last time. After all the destruction Hunt has left behind, the CIA has the MIF shutdown to take over it, just as Hunt himself is trapped and caught by an underground conspiring organization led by a ruthless, behind-the-curtains man. They’re The Syndicate, and their goal is to manipulate, if not wipe out, everything that’s a menace to their ambitions: from small countries which they drive to a civil war, to first world rulers they plot to assassinate, nothing’s too big for them. All this just in time when Hunt’s by himself, chased down by his own goverment after blowing up the Kremlin and so many other locations in previous films – but he’ll get some help from the enigmatic Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), even if her loyalties are murky at best.
The M:I franchise has always been one with outlandish, out-there-ish, pedal-to-the-metal action scenes, and this entry doesn’t disappoint in this regard… however, it’s an acheievement it only acheives momentarily. This film’s second act is so, so sharp and gripping, superbly shot by Robert Elswit; a perfect mix-up of tense silence and fighting in the tiniest of spaces; impossible, death-defying environments, and a masterful chase scene bubbling with violently sudden spikes and twists.
However, everything else around it is nowhere near as captivating. I found the conspiracy in this movie to be rather tedious and rather wordy given its “just because” nature – I don’t know if this counts as a spoiler or not, but things happen here because they’re were there and it would be wasteful to not use them. Something like that. The villain’s fine, I guess, but it’s one a bit too hammy and peripherical I couldn’t really muster much fear for. Rebecca Ferguson, though, is quite enjoyable, and I hope to see her again in future entries.
Still, it’s fun. Could’ve been meatier.
Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Now that’s a mouthful – and it’s probably just what you can envision yourself with a title like this. It’s not about a pigeon on a branch (although there’s one in the film, and a couple of others are heard throughout), but it’s a quirky, bordering on pretentious but kinda aware of its self-imposed loftiness. It’s a vignetted story of two friends working selling joke toys and masks with little luck, a fact which strains their companionship. In-between we see a woman failing to charm his dance student, a past-meets-present story of King Karl XII battling the Russians, and some other social commentary… some pretty shocking, some pretty on-the-nose.
A technical feat of this movie (although, truth be told, might as well be a feature from the director himself – can’t say I’m acquainted to his filmmaking style) is that it’s made with a still camera. There’s not a single pan, tilt or movement here. Everything happens within the boundaries each shot presents from their first frame. It’s a superbly composed film, very much like a moving painting, but it’s also one a tad boring to watch: save for taht King Karl XII story, not a whole lot happens; at least, not a lot happens that fully takes advantage of their shot’s real estate.
Not helping matters either is the pace of this film. Yes, much like a moving painting, at times it feels like you’re watching paint dry. It’s a very, VERY quirky movie with characters slowly barely reacting to things others say – not without emotion, precisely, but… they let things simmer for a bit before coming up with an answer themselves. Sometimes it’s too silent, sometimes it’s too predictable. Add the fact that this movie’s quite dark at times and you end up with a pretty uncomfortable movie to sit, but I say this well aware that this brand of cinema has its fans. Where I saw a void, others may see commentary.
If you’d like to see Wes Anderson on steroids and on some downers, check this one out. Personally… I’m struggling to endorse it.
Levian Gabriadze’s Unfriended. This fucking movie gets a 61% on RT while Pixels’ bumming it at 18%. Again, I’m not going to defend Pixels to death, but I feel these two films should be exchanging Tomatoscores. Anyways, this is a teenage horror flick about some kids who hang out on Skype a few days after the death of Laura Barns, a distraught girl who killed herself after the release of an embarrassing video in which she’s shown shit-faced and having literally shat her pants. The kids seem to be doing fine, some wondering about her last days, others wondering about the nature of her death, and a few even not caring much about the whole thing. Nevertheless, as it’s the case in this genre, the kids’ Skype session is invaded by a mysterious anonymous account – an account they immediately realize it’s Laura’s. Soon after, they’ll receive Facebook messages from Laura herself forcing them to participate in life-or-death truth-seeking games. Initially hesitant and dismissive, as soon as they lose control of their own computers to this ghostly apparition, they’ll go through her trials… while online, no less.
And if it that’s not enough, this entire film is seen through the kid protagonist’s desktop. It’s very much like watching a movie shot on Teamviewer.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Horror is not my genre. Not because I get scared and traumatized, but because the tropes and tricks are all so trite to me now. Remove the Skype element and this is just another haunting movie – and as for that Skype element itself, it’s as boring to watch as it’s condescending. Yeah, I know kids nowadays spend like 30 hours a day online, but should we assume they find artifacts and weird chat sessions spooky? This is nothing but a creepypasta turned into a movie, and I mean that in the worst way possible. It’s cheap, it’s corny, it’s far too limited by a shallow device.
Plus, the ending makes no sense whatsover, but by then the damage’s already done with characters this abominally loathsome. I’d say it’s one to watch ironically with friends (it’s at least short), but even so I’d recommend a good movie instead.
Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge’s A LEGO Brickumentary. It’s just what the title suggests, a documentary on LEGO. Narrated by Jason Bateman (who shows up as a Minifig), it spans the origins, rise to success, the fans and the different ideas people have thought of with this iconic toy. From simple by-the-manual construction to huge to room-filling mega-detailed constructions and legitimate, multidisciplinary applications, this doc simply tells how pervasive and inventive this brick has been in the years it’s been around.
Keyword: simply. This doc “simply” tells that, and I mean it. It won’t go astray nor it won’t go precisely in-depth in any of its topics or subjects. Some of them are really interesting and might as well be material for a short of their own; but as is, as skin-deep as it is, it’s just pandering propaganda. If you’re a LEGO fan, there should be nothing new here for you. It’s just reaffirmation of how cool your toy of choice is. On the other hand, if you don’t know much about LEGO, then it’ll feel like it’s telling you to go buy a full set and order pieces by the bag and submit something to their Kickstarter-like service and such. There’s nothing here that feels cinematically artistic.
However, that’s not to say the movie’s boring. It’s lacking, sure, but it’s got enough LEGO-based eye-candy to keep your interest up. Saying that, though, you might as well go see some screenshots and YouTube videos instead. I’d say this one’s only for the die, diehards fans of LEGO, and no one else.