This month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews is a little late. I hope you didn’t have to suffer through any bad films because of me. If so I’m sorry.
I got a little carried away in last month’s installment of 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New DVDs. First of all there were EIGHT of them. The reviews weren’t QUICK at all. And actually they were more rants that REVIEWS. I’m sorry for that.
“Oh my god. He said it again.”
This month I’ve calmed it down a bit and returned to form. This time around there are only SEVEN movie reviews, only ONE could be considered a rant (well maybe two) and the rest are all pretty damn QUICK.
“Woohoo! Party time!”
There’s a lot of sci-fi this time out. And half of these movies are pretty damn good. There are four (count ‘em four) science fiction films, one comedy, one animated and one love story. One… epic… love… story.
To the reviews!!!
Godzilla (2014) (Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho)
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by Max Borenstein and David Callaham Based on Godzilla
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn & Bryan Cranston
Godzilla (2014) is a surprisingly good movie after a string of bad Godzilla films.
A prehistoric and (perhaps) extraterrestrial giant fire-breathing lizard is tasked with saving the world. Godzilla is the king of all monsters. You better recognize.
The cast is good. Including the amazingly versatile Bryan Cranston who plays a man obsessed with finding out what actually happened to create the nuclear meltdown that destroyed his life. The plot is good. The effects are good. The fights are epic.
Finally!! someone gets Godzilla right. Well done guys.
Rent it. (Godzilla is a fun giant monster movie)
Next up… we learn that an epic love does not have to be a long one.
The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox)
Directed by Josh Boone
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber Based on The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell & Willem Dafoe
The Fault in Our Stars is a very good story. Well-written. You can tell it’s a great book. In fact, I’m pretty sure that anything I liked about the movie is likely straight from the book because I didn’t much like the direction or the screenplay. But the story and choice bits of writing; important quotes, (probably directly from the book) were sensational.
The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a young girl dying of cancer who meets a boy in a support gr- You know what. It’s about the specialness of first love. And it’s about how life is temporary. So live it to the fullest. At least that’s what I got out of it, as I played a game with myself to see how long I could go without crying. And in my defense, I kept from crying for a while. I didn’t cry until the main character started to cry (that always gets me).
I don’t like to watch tear-jerkers because I cry anyway. I don’t need to be made to cry with some heavy-handed emotional manipulations. It’s the same reason I don’t like Horror Films. a well-done thriller will scare the shit out of me already. I don’t need the contrivance. The whole thing seems too on the nose. Like we are going to make you cry now. But the love story in The Fault in Our Stars is amazing. The actors are fantastic. I was already falling in love with Shailene Woodley from her last few movies and this one just cements it.
She is one of my favorite young actresses.
“Dude, you cried like a woman.” “Ha ha.”
Wow. What a good story. They tell you going in that it’s a sad one, so be ready. But what it actually is is a great love story. What it actually is is fucking Romeo and Juliet done well. Done REALLY well. Still I didn’t like the direction. And the writing is only good because the book is good. And the movie is only good because the book is good. And there’s this one added scene in the DVD where John Green makes a cameo and I just wanted to stand up and applaud him. Dude, well done. Great story. Don’t believe me? Listen to this guy.
“John Green, methinks thou hast written a greater love story than even I.”
- William Shakespeare
Rent it (OR read the book. Read the book. Just read the book)
Next up… there be dragons here…
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox)
Directed by Dean DeBlois
Written by Dean DeBlois Based on How to Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell
Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou & Kit Harington
Well guys, the first movie about a town that learns to co-exist with dragons did well? Time to make a sequel. Let’s see what kind of trouble little Hiccup can get his friends into.
Any plot ideas? Nope? Screw it. We’ll do a sequel anyway. We’ll just make Hiccup do something stupid and hope the characters from the first movie are lovable enough to carry a second one. Those idiots will see anything with loveable characters.
“I don’t like this guy’s attitude.” “It’s okay. He likes us. He likes us.”
And they are loveable. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a fun movie without much of a plot.
Rent it. (Fun with dragons)
Neighbors (Universal Pictures)
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Written by Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz & Carla Gallo
Neighbors is very funny and very very sweet. (Surprised the hell out of me).
“What you think a frat movie can’t have heart?”
A young couple gets into a hilarious feud with a college fraternity that moves into the house next door. This movie is a surprisingly sweet and a very funny film in spite of that hokey premise. Mostly because the cast is sensational.
“Does he mean us or them?”
The story is simple but the entire cast is amazing. From the young married parents who still live in their college town: Seth Rogen, and the incredible Rose Byrne, to their best friends played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, to their next door nemeses played by two of the prettiest young comedy actors in film:
“You talkin’ to me?” “You talkin’ to us?”
The very funny Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother) and the lovely abs of Zac Efron (who spends much of the film without a shirt). No seriously, he does.
Rent it. (It’s very funny and Zac Efron is very hot)
Next up a little indie sci-fi… (R U Agitated)
The Signal (Entertainment One, Focus Features)
Directed by William Eubank
Written by Carlyle Eubank, David Frigerio and William Eubank
Starring Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke & Lin Shaye
The Signal moves through movie genres at the speed of light. It starts off as a hacker thriller, turns into an indie horror, then slides through four more genres that would spoil the plot. It pretends to be about three college computer hackers on a cross-country road trip that are being harassed by a mysterious cyber stalker. And it is not much of spoiler to tell you that it ain’t true. That ain’t what it is at all.
The Signal is a grand mystery but with a weak pay-off. Literally, the film’s pay-off is a special effect. In fact every major discovery in this film is presented as a special effect.
The movie is very interesting. And it’s intriguing. But it sets up these great mysteries and pays them off visually. It’s unsatisfying and kind of cliché. And yet, I kind of recommend it for sci-fi fans, even though the movie starts like it doesn’t know what it wants to be and ends like the writer and director never saw a Twilight Zone episode.
“What’s Twilight Zone?”
Rent it. (It’s not that good but it’s interesting enough so that it’s not a total waste of time)
Next up… a very LOUD sequel…
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount Pictures)
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren Kruger Based on Transformers by Hasbro
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles & Li Bingbing
Bad. Bad bad movie. Bad movie. Bad movie. Bad.
Transformers 4 is a bad movie. Not as bad as the last Transformers and there’s the beautifully sublime absence of Shia LeBeouf (Thank you for that). But the writing is horrible. The dialogue is unbelievably insipid. The plot is unfollowable. And the rules of the magic system are re-written somewhere in the middle.
Once again, the Earth is in danger and the big dumb robots have to destroy a city in order to save it from the other big dumb robots. It’s bad. But what really annoyed me is its inconsistency with the robot powers. How when a robot is broken all it has to do is scan an automotive of the same type and it’s all fixed. What?
And the destruction. The awesome destruction of everything around. The death count is astronomical. But just as long as the three humans that we’re supposed to care about don’t die, it’s party time. And don’t get me started on the maddening fact that these are metal robots shooting metal bullets at each other. So since all of it; the gun, the bullets, whatever, are just a part of their body, in a sense they’re shooting their own DNA at each other. It’s all just one big circle jerk. One massive money shot.
Age of Extinction is yet another incredibly bad Transformers movie from a franchise that continues to make millions at the box-office releasing incredibly bad movies.
Skip it or Rent it. It really doesn’t matter. They’ve made a really bad movie but it won’t stop people from sending them lots of money. It didn’t stop me from wanting to see it.
You win Michael Bay. You’ve made idiots of us all.
And lastly… half American, half Korean, All French and all weird…
Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC (North America), CJ Entertainment (South Korea))
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Written by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson Based on Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette
Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt & Ed Harris
“You think he’s gonna like us?”
In Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel, the last of the human race, after a man-made global ice age, live on a moving train that takes a year to circumnavigate the global land mass. (Well that seems like a good premise doesn’t it?). There are major plot holes and logistic leaps of fancy in the movie. The movie glosses over much of the basics in the graphic novel and it is noticeably missing.
For instance: Who exists outside to repair the tracks? Where do all these people sleep? The director keeps the same number of passengers but shrinks the train down significantly to only 60 cars. (then he creates this silly spatially challenged inter-train-car shootout that just made me fucking angry).
Here the director attempts to explain the shootout and the logistics. He fails.
Snowpiercer is the story of a passenger revolt. The poor passengers in the back of the train, that live off of protein cubes made from god-knows-what, have decided to push their way forward. That’s the whole movie. (two minutes per car).
This movie makes me want to…
The plot is linear and so is the train. We start at the back and work our way to the front. It’s a fantasy so we’re supposed to forgive that the layout of the train makes no sense.
“I could help you with that.”
But what also makes no sense is the movie’s grasp of morality. The bad guy is the guy who makes the hard decisions about how to keep the population controlled (in more ways than one) and the train moving. While the good guy is the guy who wants to destroy the balance and possibly cause the extinction of the human race. It’s a madhouse!
“What did he say?” “I think he said the movie makes him want a bullet in the head.”
Still the story makes you think even as it misses the mark logically. And it has a great cast. It feels at times like a fable or a fairy tale. A fantasy film that almost reminds me of the best of Terry Gilliam mixed with Ridley Scott mixed with Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train (a great movie) with some early Jean-Pierre Jeunet thrown in for good measure. But it misses the mark and is instead infuriatingly pedestrian and in the end just all kinds of fucking stupid. Did they even read the graphic novel?
“Please end it well.”
But I guess they did the best they could with what they had to work with (three languages and an epic story). And it is kind of interesting… NAH
Skip it. (The movie is a total waste of time. We learn nothing. They learn nothing)
So to recap…
We had two movies about giants that either want to destroy or save the planet but end up destroying most of it; Transformers: Age of Extinction and Godzilla (2014). The first one is yet another bad movie in a series of bad movies and the other is pretty good.
We had two movies about a couple in love who fight against the odds while holding on to their sense of humor; The Fault in Our Stars and Neighbors. One of them may make you laugh until you cry. While the other one will make you laugh until you cry. Both good.
We had two movies about a society trying to live in balance with destructive forces; How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Snowpiercer. Both of them cartoonish and silly. But only one of them takes itself seriously and thinks it’s trying to teach us something.
And we had a movie called The Signal. Where any description of it is a spoiler. But it’s worth a look for the clever special effects touches.
And that’s it for September (Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pushed back a month but I reviewed it last month)
Until next time, I’ll see you guys on the couch.
I’ve got a train to catch.
One thousand and one (not sixty).