2018年10月22日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 2015

The top 5 movies of 2015 were Star Wars: the Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Minions.  I loved none of these movies, and I don't think any of that year's other highest-grossing films were particularly good.

2015 was the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Oscar for The Revenant, though if you ask me he probably should have won it earlier for The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, or The Aviator.  

Aside from The Revenant, other award-winning films of 2015 included Spotlight, The Martian, Room, and the forgettable Steve JobsThe Big Short, my favorite "awards worthy" movie of 2015, was largely overlooked.

My favorite movies of 2015 are probably Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, Get Hard, and SicarioTerminator: Genisys and Fantastic Four count among my least favorites.  I regard Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight as the most overrated.

Some Good Ones

1. A Walk in the Woods

Robert Redford stars as the travel writer Bill Bryson.  After his friend's death he decides to trek the length of the Appalachian Trail.  It's a very funny movie, full of Bryson's characteristic wit.  Critics were pretty hard on this film, but I think it's better than most reviews would have you believe.

2. Woman in Gold

The title of this movie refers to a painting done by Gustav Klimt.  Helen Mirren stars as a Jewish-Austrian refugee returning to Austria to reacquire a painting stolen from her family by the Nazis, with Ryan Reynolds as her attorney and confidant.  It's not bad, but the tenuous connections between Mirren, Reynolds, the Klimt painting and the Holocaust are never fully assembled into a complete film.

Fun Fact: After Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren's character) won back her family's five paintings, one of them was purchased by Oprah Winfrey.

3. American Ultra

You know those big black and white graphic novels that cost a fortune?  Written and drawn by someone you've never heard of?  The kind a certain friend is obsessed with, but which fail to impress you?  American Ultra is just like that.  Jessie Eisenberg stars as a sleeper agent on the run in small town America, with Kristen Stewart as his girlfriend.  If you're bored enough it's ok, but I wouldn't seek it out.

4. Trumbo

Bryan Cranston stars as the legendary screenwriter accused of being a communist spy.  Cranston is excellent in the role, and Helen Mirren is particularly memorable as Trumbo's sometime adversary.  

Fun Fact #1: Louis C.K. is in this.  Trumbo was released two years or so before his sexual misconduct scandal.

Fun Fact #2: Dalton Trumbo also wrote and directed 1971's Johnny Got His Gun, excerpts of which appear in the video for Metallica's "One."

5. Concussion

Full Disclosure: I'm an (American) football fan and I probably would have liked this movie regardless of its quality.  I'm also a Steelers fan, and that compromises me even more.

The above said, the actor that plays "Iron" Mike Webster probably deserved both an Academy Award and a bigger role.  Will Smith?  Not so much, especially as  Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin upstage him at every opportunity.  Even so, Smith is... acceptable as the Nigerian doctor who made the rather obvious discovery that getting hit in the head thousands of times during your football career can give you brain damage.  The movie's chief flaw is that it simply loses steam during the second half, and events which ought to have been momentous just aren't.

One of the more jarring things I about this movie is the courtroom scene in the beginning.  Not to nitpick, but if anyone had hemophilia that serious they would have needed regular blood transfusions, and their condition would have been obvious to all.  It's not the sort of thing a doctor surprises a jury with in court.

6. The End of the Tour

I read Infinite Jest not long ago, so I was a bit surprised to come across a movie featuring David Foster Wallace so soon after his death.  Jason Segel stars as the famous author, with Jesse Eisenberg as the Rolling Stone reporter interviewing him.  People not into books will probably be bored by this movie, but I enjoyed it and thought it was very thought-provoking.  Eisenberg was also much better used in this film than in American Ultra.

7. Dope

Ok, so if he really wrote a letter like that for Harvard there's no way he's ever getting in.  Not even with the check cashing guy's dubious assistance.

But aside from that Dope is a funny and engaging movie, even if it starts to drag once the hero starts dealing drugs.  There are also two achingly beautiful women in it, so beautiful I had to go look them up on the Internet afterward.

Fun Fact: One of those achingly beautiful women is Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny.  She appeared in Mad Max: Fury Road the same year.

8. Irrational Man

A philandering philosophy professor takes Crime and Punishment a bit too seriously.  I'm still not a Woody Allen fan, but Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone make this movie better than it ought to be.

9. Stonewall

A young man runs away to New York and gets involved in the struggle for gay rights.  It's on the long side, but the characters remain interesting throughout.  I couldn't help but tear up a bit when the protagonist's mother and sister show up at the pride march.  Critics got worked up over the racial aspects of the film, but in my opinion they were overthinking it.

10. Legend

Tom Hardy stars as twins taking control of London's underworld.  The first half of this movie is awesome, but the second half is somewhat boring.  Of the two brothers played by Hardy the insane one is much more interesting than the sane one, and the insane one doesn't factor into much of the second half.  

Fun Fact: This is actually the second film based on the infamous Kray twins.  The first was 1990's The Krays.

One Which is Good, But Which Will Probably Make You Uncomfortable for Any Number of Reasons

1. The D Train

Jack Black stars as the chairman of his alumni committee, trying to organize a 20-year high school reunion.  James Marsden co-stars as a classmate who sought fame and fortune in Hollywood.  Black gets serious points for trying - there are some truly cringeworthy scenes in this movie - but the ending is something of an anticlimax.

Some Bad Ones

1. Blackhat

I think Michael Mann was out of his depth, and Chris Hemsworth's uncharacteristic lack of screen presence isn't helping matters.  Blackhat is the story of one hacker trying to catch another, burdened by unnecessary cgi sequences in which the virus "takes hold," and a ridiculous romantic subplot involving Hemsworth and Tang Wei.  The U.S. law enforcement officials are all thundering idiots, and Hemsworth's character is seemingly the only person in the movie with half a brain.

2. True Story

Real life buddies James Franco and Jonah Hill star as a killer and the reporter interviewing him for a story.  It starts out well and the acting is good throughout, but there's not enough of a story for two hours.  It also takes a couple retarded twists near the end.

3. Last Knights

If Blackhat is a lot of action at the expense of plot, Last Knights is a lot of plot at the expense of action.  Something-something war happens and then the middle ages get played out again with a multiracial cast of characters.  Morgan Freeman struggles with some truly bad dialogue, Clive Owen tries to look heroic despite the fact that he has very little to do, and the bad guy is such a terrifically bad actor that one almost wishes they'd cast Tommy Wiseau in the part, just to make it that much worse.

4. Poltergeist

Sam Rockwell (!) takes his family to live in a haunted house.  This movie was already effectively remade much better by The Conjuring, so the stakes were high for this 2015 update of the 1980s classic.  It's less overwrought than the original, but it fails to build up any kind of tension.  It just kind of ends, and that's it.

5. Love

First shot of this movie: a woman jerking off the protagonist until he ejaculates into her mouth.  

The plot?  An American living in Paris has a threesome with his girlfriend and a neighbor, later (accidentally) has a child by said neighbor, loses his girlfriend, and then spends an unhappy day at home reminiscing over the girlfriend.  In between pretentious voiceovers he remembers all the sex they had, and yes the sex is very graphic.  The trouble is that everyone in this movie is so damn unlikable, and it's not like graphic sex is that hard to find elsewhere these days.

I liked what director Gaspar Noe did with his previous film Irreversible, and I'd still like to see his newest film Climax, but this one wasn't doing anything for me.

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