Wednesday, May 24, 2017

First Time Watches: April 2017

We’re getting towards the end of May and I’m just now getting around to finishing this post.  It took me longer than I expected.  I practically took a week off from writing mid-month because I hadn’t taken a breather since about halfway through the school term that ended in April.  It was a necessary break, but it put me behind in terms of writing.  My lazy ass had a buildup of posts that needed to be written and I’m starting to get them out now.

This is the monthly recap of my first time watches.  This post is going to cover the movies that I watched during April.  Yeah, I got the post up within a month of the month I’m covering.  It’s the first time in a few posts that I’ve managed to do that.  I’m excited to see what you think of what I have to say about the movies.  You probably won’t say much.  I don’t know how many people actually read these posts.  Nobody has ever mentioned them to me.  Whatever.  I’m going to keep putting them out there.

April was an interesting month for my first time watches, much like any other month.  There were some feline antics, and some fun in South Africa.  Someone said “Hello” while someone else managed some celebrities.  There was a possible close encounter of the third kind, some cat burglary, and a little bit of Bill Hader.  Maybe you’ll be able to figure out a few of the movies.  If not, read on because I’m about to get into them.

Nine Lives
Hello kitty, hello kitty… Whether record companies replaced Avril Lavigne with her lookalike or not, this movie replaced Kevin Spacey with a poorly done CGI cat.  It was not good.  There was a heartwarming story to be told, but the execution was so poor that it’s hard to imagine anyone looked at the finished product and thought, “Yeah.  Wide release.”  The acting was bad.  The effects were bad.  The story ended up just being insane.  It was as though someone saw Click, thought they should make another movie where Christopher Walken teaches someone the same lesson, and then threw in cats because people love cats.  It didn’t work.  Not at all.

I’ve always been a fan of the John Carpenter aesthetic.  There’s something to the feel of his movies that I always dig.  The way that the music, the stories, and the cinematography come together works.  There’s a simplicity to everything.  He takes his movies and removes any of the excess fat so that you get the bare bones of what needs to be there, and the bare bones work perfectly for his vision.  Starman was one of the movies in his filmography that I hadn’t yet seen.  Now I have six movies and his shorts left to watch.  Starman wasn’t the greatest outing from Carpenter.  It had a strange performance by Jeff Bridges, and Karen Allen wasn’t great, but it was still solid.  I would watch it again if given the chance.  I might appreciate it more, like I appreciate all of his movies on subsequent watches.

Neill Blomkamp is one of those directors who I respect but haven’t fully loved any of his work.  Until now, that is.  District 9 and Elysium were okay, but there was something about Chappie that connected better with me.  The use of Die Antwoord as actors in the movie was an interesting choice that gave a unique feel to that storyline that wouldn’t have worked the same way with professional actors.  Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman were both solid.  The standout, however, was Sharlto Copely doing some of his best work to date as the voice of Chappie.  He embodied the essence of the artificial intelligence coming to terms with being alive, having a personality, and dealing with mortality.  Good movie, this one.

Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin
This special helped to highlight why Dave Chappelle is one of the best stand-up comedians to ever grace the stage.  It was not that the special was filled with amazing, memorable comedy.  There was some in there, but to be honest, I don’t remember much of it outside of the whole Same Hero New Boots bit.  His presence elevated everything.  Chappelle has an assured confidence that pulls you into everything he says.  Even if the jokes aren’t funny or memorable (they’re usually funny), he brings you in and you enjoy every minute of it.  He likes the comedy almost as much as you do.  He’s laughing when you laugh.  He is one of the best.  I need to watch the other Netflix special that was released at the same time as this one.

Hello, My Name is Doris
One of the best performances of 2016 was Sally Field in this movie.  Her performance as an older woman going through her own sort of mid-life crisis kind of thing when her mother dies was brilliant.  She perfectly personified Doris, trying to find herself and break out of her shell when she never had a chance to before.  The time that she had spent caring for her mother had turned her into a recluse who thought her dreams were a reality.  The rest of her family was pushing her to do what they wanted without any care for what she wanted.  By the end of the movie, she showed them her strength and found the confidence in herself to live life to its fullest.  It was a well written, well directed, and well performed movie.  Well worth the watch.

Everybody Wants Some!!
This was a spiritual successor to Dazed & Confused, a Richard Linklater movie from the early 1990s about the 1970s.  Everybody Wants Some!! moved ahead a few years to depict a college freshman travelling to school in 1980 to join the baseball team in the week leading up to the start of the school year.  It had the same sort of hangout style of Dazed & Confused but with a more jock-ish bent to it.  The characters were about getting drinks and getting laid.  It took a while for me to get into the movie.  Yet, this is likely to become another one of those movies that I go back to time and time again just to hang out with the characters.

Sandy Wexler
The third movie that Adam Sandler produced for Netflix might be the worst.  It might also be the most interesting to analyze.  Sandy Wexler was one of those times when Adam Sandler tried to do something a little more serious, with his brand of humour still shining through, and it led to really weird results.  The main character was off-putting in almost every way.  He was a compulsive liar with mannerisms of a sketch character, yet the bloated runtime of over two hours was anything but sketch comedy length.  There was an unnecessary framing device that only helped to extend the runtime.  At its core, though, there was the potential for a great love story about a manager who made his talent feel like family falling in love with one of them.  It was touching.  Adam Sandler being Adam Sandler was what ruined it.  He has tried to be the straight man in many of his movies recently.  Why did he have to goof it up in this one?  He doesn’t seem to realize when he should play the straight man and when he shouldn’t.

God’s Not Dead 2
I had two major issues with the first God’s Not Dead movie.  One, there were too many storylines that didn’t connect in any way to what the main story was.  It was about a college student standing up to his professor for the right to believe.  It wasn’t about all of the other disconnected characters’ home lives.  Secondly, the movie was about belief.  It shouldn’t have been pushing one specific religion.  It should have been inclusive to all religions.  That was my headspace going into the sequel.  Luckily for me, the sequel improved upon the storytelling.  Every storyline was connected through the court case that was going on.  Add to that, the defense (the woman accused was put to trial for discussing the Bible in history class) was simply saying that religion should be allowed to be discussed in school because large parts of history involved religion.  It was looking at religion in a historical context and saying that people should make up their own minds on what to believe.  That is what the series should have been saying all along.  It was also an entertaining courtroom drama, though a little too melodramatic at times.

The Fate of the Furious
This franchise has gone from a mild street racing movie to insane, over-the-top action and that transition was… Well, I wouldn’t call it flawless because the fourth movie was kind of garbage.  But the before and after of the transition were both interesting to see.  The growth of the series was unprecedented and has led to two of my favourite modern action movies in Fast Five and Furious 7.  Fate of the Furious fits in fairly well, though it’s not as good as either of my favourites.  It had great moments, though.  The prison break sequence was some of the best hand to hand combat in the entire franchise, and the gunkata scene with the baby might have been the greatest action scene of the year (until Atomic Blonde comes out in a couple months).  The movie was nonstop action.  The only thing keeping it from the height of Fast Five was that it wasn’t as grounded (though that one still has some insanity), and it didn’t reach the Furious 7 level of great one-liners, even with the solid ones that were there.  There was no “Woman, I am the cavalry” moment, or the “Daddy’s gotta work” cast ripping moment.  There was a weird girls’ soccer team dance though, and that’s something to see.

Neil Patrick Harris: Circus Awesomeus
Neil Patrick Harris was a child actor who practically disappeared from the spotlight until the mid-2000s when he had the one-two punch of playing himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, as well as a starring role in How I Met Your Mother.  These two projects brought him back into the spotlight and allowed him to let the world see his showmanship.  He has since hosted awards shows, performed in plays, and even had his own variety show called Best Time Ever.  Circus Awesomeus was a variety show that Harris hosted for the Just for Laughs comedy festival that featured acts not normally showcased in comedy.  There was a singing clown, a puppet and human comedy duo, a juggler, an acrobat, and a few other performers.  It was funny at times, but it all depended on the specific act.  I’m glad I saw it.  I’ll probably never see it again, though.

For the final first time watch of my History of Animation class in college, I saw a short film from Tim Burton.  It was about a boy who idolized Vincent Price to the point of obsession.  He was basically Tim Burton in child form.  I’m not a huge fan of the Tim Burton aesthetic, but I can understand why people like it.  This was as into that aesthetic as a movie could be.  It was well crafted, and was a well animated stop motion film.  Any problems I have with it are just from my own tastes and not really liking the whole Tim Burton thing.  Nice touch having Vincent Price narrate it.  That needs to be said.

Comedy can be very subjective, with each person having a different opinion of what is funny and what isn’t.  People liked Amy Schumer when Trainwreck first came out, but all of a sudden, they’re now turning against her.  I’m still in the middle.  I didn’t find the movie to be anything amazing.  It was well written.  I’ll give it that.  It just didn’t make me laugh out loud all that much.  There were a few scenes and a few individual jokes where I chuckled.  Most of the movie was just watchable though.  It was entertaining.  Just not laugh out loud funny most of the time.  I don’t get what people have against Amy Schumer.  She’s not unfunny.  She’s just not hilarious.  Maybe they’re unfairly judging her.

Stir Crazy
There’s something to be said about the chemistry of movie leads.  When two people get along in real life, it can translate to magic on screen.  That seemed to be the case whenever Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor got together.  Stir Crazy put them into prison and had their contrasting comedic styles playing off of a bunch of tough criminal types.  Hijinks ensued, and so did laughs.  It was a pretty funny movie, though dated with the many years that have come between its release and now.  Still, I enjoyed watching them deal with life behind bars.

Conspiracy Theory
This was not the Mel Gibson movie.  Instead, it was a 2017 movie about the crew of a show called Alien Engineers searching for aliens outside Las Vegas.  It was an hour and fifteen minutes or so of boredom before five minutes of dull action that left me confused.  The climax of the movie left two possibilities for what happened and I don’t know which one I’m supposed to take away from the movie.  As for the highlights of the boredom, the only real moment of note was a five minute scene of one of the characters trying to remember the lyrics to a rap she wrote about a threesome involving anal sex.  The song even came back in the end credits.  This movie was so bad.

Hudson Hawk
Early Bruce Willis movies have a certain magic to them that hasn’t been recaptured in most of his recent work.  Maybe it’s that he tried a little harder then.  I think it’s that his sense of humour came through a little better.  He wasn’t Mr. Serious Action Guy.  He was Mr. Funny Action Guy.  Hudson Hawk perfectly played into his goofy comedic sensibilities.  It was laugh out loud funny through a lot of the runtime.  It had a solid story, though the story was insane as well.  The whole thing was an experience that I wasn’t expecting, and one that I will surely want to relive in the future.  I will definitely be going back to this movie.

Win It All
Joe Swanberg is part of that new wave of directors that I appreciate.  He goes in the same circles as Ti West, Adam Weingard, and even sort of the Duplass Brothers.  He’s kind of hit and miss with me, though.  I liked Drinking Buddies, and I thought Happy Christmas was okay.  I enjoyed his work in V/H/S.  Win It All didn’t do much for me.  I appreciate what Win It All was trying to do.  The way that it handled gambling addiction felt real and it’s an important topic to tackle.  Jake Johnson turned in a solid performance as the lead character.  It just didn’t capture me.  I never got invested in what was going on even though I appreciated all of the elements.  Something just left me cold.

With that, we come to the end of another month of first time watches.  In total, there were sixteen, from different genres and different directors.  April was a month filled with variety.  There was a comedy special and a variety show among all of the movies.  Maybe my next month will have some more against the norm first time watches.

What I can tell you so far is that I kicked off May with a documentary and a martial arts film.  I also saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so you have whatever I say about that to look forward to.  It’s already over halfway through the month, so I’ve got some catching up to do if I want to toss some oddball picks in there.  I’ll see you next month with more first time watches.

A few plugs before you go, though.  I also write about Power Rangers on this blog.  On my other blog, I have a whole series about bad movies called the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  That’s about it for now.  See you in a month.

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