Monday, July 20, 2015

What We've Been Watching

Summertime, with our regular television shows on hiatus, means we can catch up a little on our movie viewing. These are mostly big movies that I was curious about. They surprised me in ways I didn't expect, for the most part.

Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance) 2014
A fading actor best known for his portrayal of a popular superhero attempts to mount a comeback by appearing in a Broadway play. As opening night approaches, his attempts to become more altruistic, rebuild his career, and reconnect with friends and family prove more difficult than expected.
People either loved or hated this. Tom felt lukewarm approval. I can't say I hated it but it did seem like a big waste of time.

That one shot trick was amazing and the use of the drum score to highlight the character's internal tension was very interesting ... but in the end I felt as if I were watching a one trick pony.

I thought these quotes in Wikipedia said it all ...
[Director and cowriter] González Iñárritu's own experiences influenced many of Birdman's themes, and said "What this film talks about, I have been through. I have seen and experienced all of it; it's what I have been living through the last years of my life."

Cowriter Dinelaris described this aspect as "a laughing look at oneself", but said it had to be done in a comedic way otherwise "it would have been the most unbelievably self-absorbed look at the subject".

I've got news for him. Humor didn't take that edge off.

I've seen All That Jazz. I've seen Adaptation.

Brilliant commentaries on art from people in those fields. Birdman was not those movies. Brilliant tricks and fantastic acting can't make up for an abundance of self-absorption and a lack of depth.

Magic in the Moonlight 2014
Set in the 1920s French Riviera, a master magician is commissioned to try and expose a psychic as a fraud.
A sweet little film that is not one of Allen's greatest but which does a good job in the first two acts of keeping us interested in the "is she or isn't she" clairvoyant question.

Colin Firth is good as the Houdini-esque character who debunks mediums. Emma Stone is good as the medium in question. Not something I'll want to watch again but it doesn't pretend to be more than it is. This was just what I expected it to be and that isn't a bad thing.

American Sniper 2014
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission—protect his comrades—to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he cannot leave the war behind.
This true-life tale is a surprisingly "traditional" sort of war movie in that it didn't worry about the politics of the war or about whether it was right or wrong to be in Iraq.

This is the story of a soldier doing the right thing as best he could, the toll it took, and his way back ... with no excuses and no finger pointing.

I found it refreshing.

Her (2013)
In the not so distant future, Theodore, a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user's every needs. To Theordore's surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.
This was a fairly astounding movie. It startled, shocked, endeared, and made us think. We're still talking about certain aspects, especially how it looked at men and women (the title is "Her" after all and there is more than one woman in it), while simultaneously thinking about how we interact with technology, AI, and aliens. The more I think about it, the more I admire it.

This is all without even going into the atypical-typical futuristic look, the color themes, and Joaquin Phoenix's brilliant acting.

There was a certain amount of predictability to at least half of it but the unpredictable parts more than made up for that element.

NOTE: There is a surprising amount of sex in this movie, though not a way that is easy to explain. It is there for a reason but still surprised us and sometimes made us uncomfortable (which in itself had a purpose in the movie).

Edge of Tomorrow 2014
Major Bill Cage is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously demoted and dropped into combat. Cage is killed within minutes, managing to take an alpha alien down with him. He awakens back at the beginning of the same day and is forced to fight and die again... and again - as physical contact with the alien has thrown him into a time loop.
This was recommended by two people or I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Not bad but not great. Tom Cruise is a pleasure to watch in action movies, which are what he does best. However, there was some sort of problem with the pacing so that both Tom and I at different times said, "How long is this anyway?" It fell short of 2 hours but felt more like 3. That could be because so much time was spent in the beginning making sure we understood the concept. Note to director/editor: we've seen Groundhog Day. Just get on with it.

The World’s Fastest Indian 2005
The life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle -- a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.
The name and poster say it all. Anthony Hopkins gives a nice, underplayed performance as the old codger who no one takes seriously except the little boy next door. His goal is to get to Bonneville Flats with his 1920 Indian motorcycle in an attempt to beat the world land speed record. This sagged a bit in the middle on the road trip from L.A. to Utah, especially with so much of the story left to tell once he got to the trials. However, that's really neither here nor there in the big picture.

Not a big movie but it especially entertained my husband who loves cars and racing and engines and speed trials. Definitely recommended for Hopkins or car fans.

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