This is the super long extended suck edition of 5 Quick Reviews.
I’ve been stuck in the news cycle this month (A lot of crap going on) and I’ve been working hard on my dystopian, social feminist, sci-fi surveillance, alien crime novel, so I’ve kinda let my DVD folder get a bit out of hand…
Okay, WAY out of hand.
So… for August I give you 8 new DVD reviews of 8 new DVDs in August. And two rants. Only two. But be warned. There’s an awful lot of suck this month.
So… strap your browsers in, people. This is gonna be a big long one.
To the reviews…
First up – Sci fi… I guess.
Divergent (Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment)
Directed by Neil Burger
Here’s a movie, Divergent, that feels more like two separate movies. Over-all it’s the beautiful story of a fractured factional society. Interesting and compelling. Divergent One (we’re going to call them Divergent One and Two) is an insanely good movie. Shailene Woodley plays a societal anomaly named Beatrice Prior (We call her Tris) that lives in fear of being found out because she is special. She is divergent and fits into more than one class of persons. More than one faction. She can use more of her brain than most people. She’s better. I bet the book is amazing
I thought learning about the different factions and the people who lead them and about their place in the society was infinitely fascinating. And watching Shailene as she goes through her trials was gripping. The factions are as follows: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful) and Dauntless (the brave). She chooses one (because she fits in more than one) and she goes through training. And Miss Woodley is attractive and her instructor is attractive and you root for her against the bullies and the power structure and her own fears. Divergent One is an incredible movie. But then something happens to it. A plot happens to it.
Divergent Two is awful. It is sloppy. It is rushed. It is so very very bad. Divergent Two is an action movie that looks like it was made in somebody’s backyard and directed by their thirteen year old dim-witted cousin. The last half hour of this movie is pure garbage. It looks like a completely different creative team. It is – the suck. There are continuity errors and logistic problems and enemies that pop out of thin air and overwhelming odds that pave the way for bad fight scenes with one punch knockouts and instant technology advancements and leaps of logic and it ruins a really good movie. Just fucking ruins it.
Divergent (the whole bloody thing) is a badly directed film. And the story is not to blame. The acting is not to blame. It looks like they ran out of money before the end or just blew it all on food. And it was promising. It had the makings of a winner, but there wasn’t enough time spent away from the main characters to justify the sharp change in tone the movie takes. There wasn’t enough time spent establishing the villain to justify their actions. There was no introduction to this new technology or even a feeling that it was being misused. If it was made for that purpose then who are the manufacturers? What is the manufacturing class?
And I get it. The director spent most of his time setting up that Hunger Games slash Harry Potter “feel” to the first two acts that it never occurred to him to use parts of the first two acts to make the third act make sense. And I bet that it makes sense to people who read the book. But I didn’t read the book and most of the people who see the movie didn’t read the book. The third act is so bad that it makes the first parts seem frivolous. Where were we that whole time.
Divergent is a rarity. It goes from “OMG this is the best movie. I love this.” all the way to “This is a piece of garbage that I wish didn’t exist. Why do you torture me with this filth?” and it does that in seconds.
Skip it. (It’s obvious that the movie they wanted to make ends almost a full hour before the one they released to the world does)
Next up – Crime and a big dick
Written and Directed by Richard Shepard
Dom Hemingway, the movie, is about a safe cracker who gets out of prison after 12 years and tries to get “rewarded” for his pain. Because he kept his mouth shut. But he’s a dick because he can’t keep his mouth shut. I have seen this movie before, this “guy gets out of prison and things have changed on the outside” movie, a bunch of times before. And I’ve seen it done much better and with a better lead.
I didn’t like Jude law in this. I would have preferred a young Michael Caine. Or any better actor. And I usually like Jude Law. He just didn’t do it for me in this. It always felt like he was doing a character and not playing a character. The whole movie feeels like a Jude Law vehicle but Jude Law just can’t carry the load.
The plot is decent even though it’s familiar. He’s a horrible person that makes horrible decisions and gets horrible outcomes but there was really nothing more to it and without a good character actor and a better lead character this character driven movie is flat and lifeless and frankly lacks character.
The dialogue is wonderful, however, although, again, Jude Law chews up the script so horribly, I had to watch it with subtitles on (Closed Captioning for the acting impaired). I’m getting used to good british accents. I watch a lot of Brit shows (a lot). But Jude Law’s Dom Hemingway is a bad british accent. It’s just bad.
The main thing is that a better actor would have played the part better and made Dom seem more real (Brad Pitt or Christian Bale) and, to tell you the truth, I think that is really all that they would have to do to make this a pretty good movie. The rest of the cast is great. Emilia Clarke is fantastic as his estranged daughter. And Richard E. Grant is.. Richard E. Grant, which is always great. But because it relies too much on Jude Law and he’s so very bad. The movie is not good at all.
Skip it. (The dialogue is fantastic but the movie is shit)
Next up – I feel the need…
Need for Speed (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Directed by Scott Waugh
There are some really sweet cars in Need for Speed and it was good to see Aaron Paul in a different kind of role after Breaking Bad. And those are the only two positive statements that I can make about it. The makers of Need for Speed have no idea. They know nothing about cars. They know nothing about racing. They know nothing about geography and linear space and time. They know nothing about simple physics and logic. They know nothing about the rules of society. They know nothing.
At one point in the movie, a pivotal point, Aaron Paul’s character is racing the supposed bad guy for 2.7 million dollars. Well not really. The bad guy is risking 2.7 mil but Paul is risking about 750 thou. Money that he desperately needs to fix his business. Money he earned because the supposed bad guy gave him a high paying job and saved this man’s life. Money he has. Money he already has. Hurray! His business is saved. But in a moment of ego gone mad he agrees to race the much richer man for a much greater sum. And for some idiotic reason Aaron Paul’s young friend races along with them.
There is no earthly reason for his young friend to be involved in their race. There is every reason for him to not be in the race. He has no money in it or place in it. They can go two-wide without danger but not three-wide. The kid is nowhere near as good as the other two men. Tons of logical reasons he should be excluded. Except for the plot. The friend then proceeds to block the wealthy guy at every turn and not let him pass. Helping Aaron Paul’s character to win the bet and basically steal 2.7 million dollars from the man who just saved their business and helped them and let them drive his nice sports cars.
SPOILER ALERT The kid dies. OBVIOUSLY!!! (not much of a spoiler. It happens early in the movie) But I too would have bumped the kid. He’s cheating him out of almost 3 million dollars. It’s bad form. It’s not just bad form. It’s cheating. But anyway we’re suppose to see that differently and he’s the bad guy. But it proves the creative team knows nothing about racing. Or England for that matter. What’s with the awful British chick? Is she supposed to be smart or stupid?
They run down homeless people. Cause traffic accidents. Cause police cars to crash and roll and burst into flames. They wreak havoc on the entire countryside and they’re supposed to be the good guys. Which would be cool if Need for Speed were made with the same silliness of say: The Blues Brothers or Smokey and the Bandit or even the Fast and the Furious movies. But no. Need for Speed takes itself way too seriously for how bad it is. And every aspect of this movie is crap. Ev er y thing.
There’s another character who spots for them from the air. Who just somehow gets into planes and takes off and flies over populated areas. Finally, when they point out that he wouldn’t be able to do that, they switch him to helicopters. Like that’s different. Need for Speed is a very stupid movie. The absence of police presence is noticeable until they’re needed for the plot. Then they’re everywhere. Nothing in this movie makes logical sense. It is the worst written movie I have ever seen. And one of the worse directed.
You say bitch a lot now, don’t you?
Then there are these other guys who are driving a tanker truck (a slow-moving vehicle by comparison to these foreign racecars) that not only keeps up with them but passes them. And the guy stealing the planes takes them back to their airports but then somehow is at airports further along the linear progression of the main character. Oh my god. This is why video game movies are so bad. Because they let people make shit like this.
Skip it. (If you rent this by accident, do us all a favor and run over the disc with your car)
Next up – Let’s get biblical
Noah (Paramount Pictures)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel
Noah begins with a lot of promise. And I was prepared for some Aronofsky goodness. It felt more like a sci-fi fantasy movie than a religious one and I was excited. Because if you throw out all the religious elements, it’s a decent fable. At least the watered down version they teach children in catholic school (pun absolutely intended). It’s a fairy tale story of magic, love, sorcery and revenge.
The movie starts like it will not be taking itself too seriously. Noah starts like it will be a cool fantasy adventure. But it abandons that whimsy somewhere in the middle. And ends like a sermon. Don’t preach at me, movie. I came here to be entertained.
And it’s too bad too. I wanted to like Noah. I like the cast. I like the effects. The animals and the stone giants. I thought the battle scene was awesome and I really identified with the king (supposedly the bad guy). Once again the only person making any sense was the bad guy. (But he loses my support when he shows his true colors later in the movie).
Noah is still an interesting movie up until the end. But it ends like the worst thing this movie could be even as it starts like the best thing a Noah movie could be. It becomes too preachy. And quite honestly it seems more like God and Noah are the bad guys and the worse thing the humans did was eat meat. (Don’t get me wrong. They’re pretty bad)
But you know what I say… drown ’em all why don’t you? Just drown ’em all.
Skip it (Starts good and then gets too serious and then ends too preachy)
Next up – the suckfest continues
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Directed by Marc Webb
Better than the first one, but only slightly better. And that’s not saying much.
If you can remember back when the first Andrew Garfield – Emma Stone Spider-Man reboot came out, I hated it. I hated the first Amazing Spider-Man with a passion. I hated everything about it. The plot was full of holes. The changes to the Spiderman (no fucking hyphen) origin story were unbelievably dumb. It was badly directed. Badly acted. The scenes where Emma and Andrew so obviously improvised were cute – at best. They do have some chemistry, those two. But I was in pain watching it. I love Spiderman.
But in the second one, even the scenes with Andrew and Emma are awful because Andrew Garfield often drops his bad American accent when talking to her on camera. I think he forgets himself because it’s his girlfriend and they’re improvising and he drops his bad American. And the director, the same awful, but aptly named, Marc Webb from the first one, leaves it in the movie because… well because he’s horrible at his job. Just completely horrible at his job. Stop hiring this guy to mangle Spiderman.
However, this time around the Amazing Spider-Man movie has better bad guys and better effects. Some say there are too many bad guys. I don’t. The bad guys are the best thing about it. The effects were cartoonish in the first one. They’re a little better this time. But it has the same bad writing and bad directing. These are truly awful movies.
One day the world will reach a consensus and every copy of both of these films will be destroyed in less than spectacular ways. Sam Raimi’s much maligned third Spiderman movie is a thousand times better than The Amazing Spider-Man 1 or 2. These movies should not even exist. Horrible movies that are perfect examples of what not to do when making a superhero film. Stop making these movies! They suck.
Skip it (Better than the first. But again, that’s not saying very much)
Next up – a temporary respite from the suck
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier and, on DVD, I still do. The relationship between Cap and Black Widow is worth the price of admission and worth exploring further. I love that their individual moralities are so diametrically opposed, yet they’re on the same side. Some of the best scenes in the movie are of those two interacting (Right after that seriously kick-ass elevator fight scene – god I love that scene).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best films of the year. Here is a list of my top five movies so far this year. And as you’d expect each and every one of them is a superhero type action adventure film.
I really liked Edge of Tomorrow (at 5) and then Guardians of the Galaxy just a touch ahead of that. The Lego Movie (at 3) after Captain America: The Winter Soldier (my number two favorite so far) and X-Men Days of Future Past at the top of my list.
But really, to be honest again, all five of those films are just scrunched up together. Changing position on repeated viewing. There have been some good movies this year.
Buy it (This is one for the permanent collection)
Next up – back to the bad
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (20th Century Fox)
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a horribly bad animated movie. First off, Ty Burrell’s voice as the undeniably perfect Mr. Peabody is incredibly annoying. And then there’s Sherman (yes I know he’s 7). He is the worst. He has no discipline and proceeds to destroy everything he touches. Like an unruly puppy. It’s like he was raised by a dog or something. But the “dog” theme throughout the movie, because Sherman is adopted and raised by Mr. Peabody; a dog, just made me uncomfortable.
Very good, Sherman.
I remember these guys from saturday mornings. They didn’t have their own full length show. They only had little educational interstitials between other cartoons. Along with Rocky and Bullwinkle. It was like a little joke with a punch line somewhere in history and then there would be a short cartoon.
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman animated movie is worse than any of the Rocky and Bullwinkle failed attempts. And those were pretty bad too. Wasn’t there a live-action one? Anyway, It’s a very bad movie. A very very bad movie.
Skip it (Another ruined childhood memory)
And lastly – The return of the great Terry Gilliam
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Pat Rushin
The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam’s most recent film, is vintage Gilliam. It’s like a cross between 12 Monkeys and Brazil with a little less nihilism (just a little less). And I loved it.
The only problem I had, if there was one, was with the film’s star; Cristoph Waltz, who tends to mumble his lines. In his past films, with Tarantino dialogue lines, that would be fine. They are perfect. They are well-written. They are short. They are cool. You know what he said. It was something badass. It’s Tarantino. But here, his angst moves the plot. His dialogue is important and it is so difficult to hear him sometimes. So, except for the need to turn on Closed Captioning again, in order to hear another bad accent (at least this one is his own), I loved it. I fucking loved it. The Zero Theorem is an exceptional film.
Just like in Brazil, the main character is a corporate number cruncher in an administrative factory. Except that this factory is a lot more colorful and little more sinister. He suffers from a number of phobias. The worst of which being his agoraphobia (remind you of anyone). He just doesn’t want to go in to the office. He wants to work from home. Why can’t he just work from home? (no really, doesn’t it remind you of someone?).
I’m not going to give too much away but there are a number of great characters and interesting themes. The ultimate search for meaning, for love, for confidence… It’s a real thinker. It reminded me of a cross between the Coen’s Barton Fink and Pi (directed by Darren Aronofsky [Noah]). With an art direction that’s like a cross between Blade Runner and Tim Burton’s Batman. I loved this movie so much. And I’ve only watched it once.
The Zero Theorem is not Gilliam’s best film by a long shot and it leaves some things unanswered. (I think by this point I expect Terry Gilliam to tell us the meaning of life in cinematic brilliance. Is that too much to ask for?) And it is so sad that the studio is dicking him around with the release of this one. Look for it on VOD. Or wait for it to hit theaters. But definitely see it. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It’s deep. It’s cool. It’s interesting. It’s Gilliam. Not his best. Not even in the top five, to be honest (for the last time). But it’s really good.
Rent it (I will be adding it to my collection. I own them all. Terry Gilliam is one of my filmmaking and comedy heroes. My presciption: watch Brazil, 12 Monkeys and The Zero Theorem and call me in the morning)
So to recap…
There were two movies about fathers who are not the best parents in spite or because of their humongous egoes; Dom Hemingway and Mr. Peabody and Sherman, One of them is starring a dog and the other one is a cartoon. Both are pretty bad.
There were two movies about rebelling against the horrors of a dystopian society that thinks it’s utopian; The Zero Theorem and Divergent, Both of them start off strong but only one of them ends that way.
There were two movies about the destruction of life and property by good guys who act like bad guys and bad guys who aren’t really that bad; Noah and Need for Speed, Neither of them with much good to speak of but at least one of them had Emma Watson.
And there were two movie sequels from Marvel superheroes that featured a good-looking couple with strong chemistry; The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, But first I want to apologize for including those two titles in the same sentence, because one is
one of the best movie of the year and the other’s the worst.
And that’s all 8.
I can’t do no more.
C’mon guys! I’ll be back in September with more reviews. And those studios better put out some good ones (they usually do in September. so… fingers crossed).
See you guys on the couch.