My DVD folder was bursting at the seams but after I deleted a few dogs, I had 7 good reviews and all but one of them was sci-fi fantasy. I didn’t plan it. That’s how it worked out.
Here are 5 DVD reviews from January and February that are past-due (sorry). But I included a great movie from Ireland from 2009 that I saw recently that is worth the space. And I finish off my Oscar posts with a review of Gravity.
It’s a free-for-all.
To the reviews…
First up… from the UK
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009 Picturehouse Entertainment)
Directed by Gareth Carrivick
Written by Jamie Mathieson
FAQ is a fun, low-budget Science Fiction comedy adventure about the perils of time travel. It is smart and it is funny and it is very entertaining. Directed by the late Gareth Carrivick, it is the misadventures of three friends at the local bar who get dragged into a conflict between time-travelling factions from the future.
This little, ultra-low-budget movie is way better than, the severely overrated, big-budget Edgar Wright debacle; The World’s End (a film that ended up on too many 2013 best lists if you ask me… and you didn’t). Having no continuity problems even though it involves time travel as its main theme and having real characters with depth and humor make FAQ About Time Travel a better film than The World’s End… by far.
Chris O’Dowd plays the Time Travelling enthusiast who meets a girl at the bar who says she came back to repair a hole in the timeline but that she took a detour to meet one of her heroes… Him; A sad-sack who can’t hold a job and thinks she was paid by his two ne’er-do-well friends as a joke. Obviously, he’s wrong.
But as the time hole spreads, he and his friends travel back and forth through time visiting the same bar in the past, the present & the future to hilarious effect. Proving once again that a good story well-made doesn’t have to cost millions to be entertaining.
Rent it (If you can find it)
Next up… a remake (or reboot I guess)
Carrie 2013 (MGM)
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen & Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Brian De Palma already made a fine adaptation of Stephen King’s supernatural coming of age horror-thriller. So, these guys already had a blueprint. All they needed to do was update it. Just add some hip-hop or pop-culture references. How do you fuck that up?
Carrie 2013 is a bad movie. For one, they make you wait for a bloody prom scene that does not deliver. But mostly because it is sloppy and insipid and not at all scary.
The only thing good about this Carrie were the performances by Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Both of them are very good, playing the religiously insane mother and daughter (played in the original by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie) Their insane relationship is the best part of the movie. Everything else was garbage. Everything.
Skip it. (Rent the original Carrie. It is creepy. It is scary. It is still good)
Next… Something dumb
Riddick (Universal Pictures)
Written & Directed by David Twohy
Riddick is the dumbest piece of crap I have ever seen. Not the worse movie but the dumbest. It is stupid. There isn’t a thing that happens or a word that is spoken or a plot point or an action piece. There isn’t a thing in this movie that isn’t a dumb thing to say or do. It is the dumbest piece of crap I have ever seen.
And it’s not just that the movie Riddick doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense. Every move, every line, everyTHING is dumb. The characters do the dumbest shit. They say the dumbest shit. And just because they growl their idiotic lines doesn’t make them cool. They are dumb.
Character A says something stupid. Character B answers with something stupid. Character A responds to that with something else stupid. And then they go do something stupid together. The animals are stupid. The monsters are stupid. People die in stupid ways, doing stupid things after stupid last words. I can’t stress enough how stupid it is.
The only thing I could find that was of any value in Riddick was Katee Sackhoff’s slammin’ body. That woman is gorgeous. But everything she does or says is dumb. I mean technically dumb. Scientifically dumb. Logically dumb. Strategically dumb. The lines sound interesting but are not coherent. Characters do and say things that have no place in the logical world. It was amazing. It was one of the most amazing feats I’d ever seen.
The movie Riddick is so dumb. It is so very, very, spectacularly dumb.
Skip it. (I forced myself to watch it all just to see if something happens in the movie that isn’t dumb. It is consistently dumb from beginning to end. So I’ll give it that much)
Next up… another adaptation
Ender’s Game (Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate)
Written & Directed by Gavin Hood
Based on Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is a great story but we all knew that going in. If you haven’t read the book, read it. But the movie takes a little while to get going. Yet once it does, it’s pretty cool.
Harrison Ford is his regular Harrison Ford self. The man cannot act. I’m sorry Ford fans. He mugs for the camera and points. He quivers his chin. It’s awful. (I said the same when everyone was going on about how good he was as Branch Rickey in 42). But he has a big recognizable name, has done a bunch of great films and gets people in the seats.
The screenplay and the direction of Ender’s Game left a lot to be desired (Gavin Hood is responsible for both) and the children… It’s so difficult to find good child actors. So I give them some slack for the bad acting. Half of the cast have Oscar nominations or Oscar wins in the past but overall the movie is poorly acted. Bad direction is usually responsible when that happens. Ender’s Game is badly directed and badly written.
The story however is phenomenal and although it deserved better, it still shines through the filmmaker’s awful decisions. The effects and the action and the story is good and since that’s all you really want from a sci-fi B movie, I have to reluctantly recommend it.
Ender’s Game has Harrison Ford, a good story and special effects but I still wanted more. Ender’s Game the movie was only disappointing because the story deserved better. I hope they don’t plan to let the same director/writer make the next one.
Skip it (If you’ve read the book. But if you haven’t this movie is a decent presentation)
Next up… some superhero animation…
Justice League: War (Warner Home Video)
Directed by Jay Oliva
Justice League: War was pretty cool if only for being the story of how each hero from the Justice League meets the others for the first time. Batman meeting Green Lantern. The both of them meeting Superman and so on. I’ve always liked a good hero on hero fight when neither trusts the other and there are a lot of good ones in this.
But the writing is silly. The story is sloppy. It’s a little too childish. It moves a little too fast. The dialogue is dumb and so the movie is not good. Not worth the time.
I’m sorry. Justice League: War is not a good movie. Not even Darkseid could save it.
War is short. So that’s good and bad. First they try to squeeze so many first meetings and origins stories into a short film and still offer a bad guy for our heroes to fight but because it is so silly and so badly written, I really wouldn’t have wanted to see what they did with another half an hour.
Other than the novelty of DC’s signature superhero team meeting each other for the first time, there is little of interest and very little that is entertaining.
Next up… something that’s not sci-fi…
The Spectacular Now (A24)
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Wow what a good movie. The Spectacular Now is based on a novel and it is a very well written adaptation. I love a good coming of age movie especially the ones that take themselves seriously. This is straight drama. Straight awesome.
It’s not your run-of-the-mill teen angst film or the common party teen movie, this is a relationship film. A beautiful film. The main character is the quintessential party animal from other teen movies, with a devil-may-care attitude toward his future and a personality that makes everyone think that every thing goes his way all the time.
But it’s a miserable existence and you can see it in his eyes and in the eyes of his friends. They love him. You can’t help but love him. But his life is going nowhere. He is an anchor.
I identify so much with him. Even though I was never good at it, I tried to be him. I tried to be the guy that didn’t care. The happy-go-lucky, bottle of whiskey carrying, not smart enough to know that he’s smart enough to know better, wasted teen. And like him, mine too was a façade of pain. Did I say how much I loved this movie?
This was a great movie. Well-acted, well-directed and very well-written. Romantic and touching and real and I loved every minute of it.
Rent it. (no spaceships, no superpowers, no time travel, no heroes, just a good movie)
Next up… we have THE TALK about Gravity.
Gravity (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón
It is hard to review Gravity without giving it away because the entire movie can be spoiled in one sentence. Not that there is only one sentence to describe the movie Gravity. Far from it. But it is a short film with only two major plot-lines. Astronauts in space trying to survive a cataclysmic satellite disaster and a rookie astronaut trying her best not to be useless and disastrous and, in my opinion, suicidal.
The movie Gravity is just the movie Life of Pi set in space, where Sandra Bullock is the tiger… or is it George Clooney that’s the tiger? It’s both. Sandra is the tiger because her character is a destructive and useless sack of shit who George Clooney decides to try to save to his own detriment. Then later, George becomes the tiger. (But that would be a spoiler if it made any real sense… It doesn’t).
Gravity is a well-made film. Extremely well-directed. However, it is a stones throw away from being an animated feature. 99% of the movie is some sort of effect (Much like Life of Pi) and there is a great stillness mixed with danger and a solitude that brings wisdom and understanding between the two main characters (again… just like Life of Pi).
But truthfully, I hated Gravity until the end. I spent most of the film wishing that Sandy would just die already so that I wouldn’t have to watch her screw something else up. Why are you up there? Did you really just go into space as an elaborate way to kill yourself?
But it ends well. It really does. So this is where the SPOILERS come in.
<<SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! >>
This is the bad… She goes from useless to bad-ass astronaut in seconds. She goes from suicidal to survival mode in one hallucination. The ghost of George Clooney helps her out and all of a sudden she’s efficient and capable. Yes! I knew it was coming and Yes! it is satisfying when she finally decides to save herself and stops wanting to join her daughter in the afterlife. And it did make me yell, Yes! Because it is awesome. But a part of me saw it as the Life of Pi ending. The alternate story. the brutal truth. She just died. She just fucking died in the Russian module. End of movie. So, like I said… satisfying.
<<END OF SPOILERS>>
My visceral reaction to the film proves, to me at least, that it is a fine work of art. A heart pounding thriller. Gravity is a horror film where the “Jaws” monster is the deadly quiet, high-speed, flying space debris. Gravity is a cast-away film where the island is slowly sinking into the ocean. Gravity is awesome. Gravity is fucking awesome.
Rent it. (It is a short film. Not the best acting but absolutely the best direction. And it is a must see for space fans even if the physics aren’t always quite right)
So to recap…
There were two fantastic movies about dysfunctional relationships; Gravity and The Spectacular Now, Both of them rooted in reality.
There were two horror-thrillers about insane killers; Carrie and Riddick, Both of them Horror-ble.
There were two movies about the formation of world-protecting super groups: Ender’s Game and Justice League: War, Neither of them living up to the source material.
And an FAQ About Time Travel that was tremendous but it’s also five years old.
See you guys at the movies,