Monday, May 8, 2017

First Time Watches: March 2017

Welcome to the month of May.  I fell behind on these posts during the school year, but I’m working hard to get them up.  Oh yeah, this is my post for the movies that I watched for the first time in March 2017.  I’m only a month late on this one, and I’ll be even less late on the one for April.  How about that?

You might be wondering why I write these posts.  What is the point of writing them?  For the most part, it’s a way to quickly share my thoughts on the movies that I recently watched for the first time.  That way you know what my opinions are, and I know how I felt in case I want to go back to the movies in the future.  It’s a win for you and a win for me.  You might call it a win-win situation.

March saw a few interesting movies.  There was a sequel to a disaster movie from the 1990s.  There was a documentary about an animation studio.  I saw Emma Stone horribly miscast, and James Franco trying his hand at horror direction.  The Eagles of Death Metal performed and Chuck Jones made some funnies.  It’s all here in my first time watches for March 2017.

I was introduced to Ben Wheatley when I watched his film Kill List.  That movie didn’t do it for.  Because of that, I wasn’t too excited about checking out High-Rise.  People were saying it was good.  Those people also loved Kill List.  I finally got around to seeing High-Rise and I loved it so much more than I was expecting.  It was a dystopian thriller set in the 1970s with a stellar cast.  The look, the feel, and the overall atmosphere worked perfectly for what I could have hoped to get out of it.  This is a movie that I’m sure to pick up if I spot it on blu-ray.  It’s a movie I would recommend to anyone.  I don’t care if they like it or not.  I just want people to watch it in the hopes that I find another person who falls in love with it as quickly as I did.

Independence Day: Resurgence
Roland Emmerich has had an interesting career.  He’s this generation’s disaster movie icon, taking off from where Irwin Allen left off and pushing the cast aside to showcase the effects of destruction.  Sure, his movies still have great casts, but Emmerich focuses much more on how much he can destroy.  He moved up from Independence Day and Godzilla to The Day After Tomorrow and 2012.  Now he decided to take on the aliens once more, but using the computer effects that he had for 2012.  It made a messy movie.  Gone was Will Smith, which removed a large amount of the charisma that the first movie had.  In his place were generic young people, one of whom was Liam Hemsworth.  The miniatures were gone in favour of destruction on the level of the limousine chase from 2012.  The movie ended up being okay and entertaining enough, but it wasn’t as good as the first, and wasn’t as entertainingly bad as 2012.  It fell somewhere in between, and that’s probably its biggest weakness.

X-Men: Apocalypse
Modern blockbusters have a hard time escalating the stakes as the franchises progress.  X-Men suffered from this problem in the third installment of its rebooted cast timeline.  Days of Future Past chronicled the end of mutants in the future that also meant the end of the world, and how the characters in the past had to stop it from happening.  That is as big as the scope can go, with the biggest possible stakes.  Then along came Apocalypse, which was about a powerful mutant trying to destroy the world with the help of a few other mutants.  It wasn’t personal enough to feel like it meant more than the movie before it.  This felt like a major step down.  There were still good parts (the Quicksilver scene in the mansion is a highlight of the franchise), but it lacked the importance of the previous installment.  Apocalypse was a letdown.

Cameron Crowe is someone who I’ve appreciated since first seeing Almost Famous about fifteen years ago.  No matter the quality of his movies, I tend to get something out of them.  Even movies like Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo, which people don’t necessarily like.  Aloha fits in with those two pretty well.  It’s not a great movie.  It has major issues.  What is Emma Stone doing in that role?  But I still found myself enjoying the movie.  By the end, I was filled with joy as the emotional impact of the story hit me.  As poorly done as some parts of the movie were, the final ten or fifteen minutes got me.  They sucked me in and made me love this movie the same way I love Crowe’s other work.

Chuck Jones: Extremes and Inbetweens
The problem with documentaries about an artist’s career, whether music, film, animation, painting, writing, or any of the other multitudes of art forms, is that it sometimes gets difficult to bring insight.  There can end up being a bunch of people praising the work without actually bringing anything to it.  This was a documentary that suffered that fate.  Famous people appeared throughout, interspersed with clips of the Warner Brothers cartoons that Chuck Jones directed, simply to say that they thought the cartoons were good.  It was a nice recap of his career, but if you’re looking for some deep information on how the cartoons were made, this might not be the best place to find it.

This movie is known for being one of the worst of all time.  The thing is, I didn’t find it all that bad.  The acting was fine, though a little over the top on Justin Bartha’s part.  The story was kind of slow, but it was basically just three people in an apartment, or dealing with stuff related to why they were in the apartment.  It wasn’t an action movie.  It was a romantic comedy mob movie with an R rating, and it worked perfectly fine.  It wasn't terrible.  It wasn’t great.  It was in that vast inbetween that so many movies end up in.  I’m not sure why this one is hated so much.

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis
Colin Hanks directed this documentary about the band Eagles of Death Metal and how they dealt with the aftermath of the Paris shooting in November 2015.  They were performing at the Bataclan theatre on November 13th when shooters entered the venue and killed 89 people.  The first twenty minutes or so suffered from that same problem as the Chuck Jones documentary, as people spent that time praising the lead singer.  Once they got to the event, the documentary took a turn and it became about what witnessing death can do to a person, and trying to figure out how to overcome the PTSD.  It was a very well done documentary that everyone should watch.

This modern horror movie was sold on its gimmick, that the entire thing took place through a video chat on a computer screen.  A group of high school friends were chatting on the one year anniversary of a friend’s suicide when a mysterious chatter joined the group and began terrorizing them.  It was a unique twist on a fairly standard horror tale.  The acting was believable, which kept me interested in watching it.  The only real problem was the end of the movie.  Not the climax, but the final two seconds.  The final two seconds were the only part of the movie I didn’t like.  Let it also be noted that my used bluray copy was skipping, so I may have missed a few seconds in the middle of the movie.

The Institute
James Franco has been quietly building up a directing career that I didn’t know about until watching this movie.  I knew he had directed Interior. Leather Bar., and I knew he was going to be directing The Disaster Artist.  I didn’t realize that he had 37 directing credits to his name, though.  This was one of the movies he directed that I didn’t know about.  It’s not a great movie, but a solid period piece horror about an institute for women with mental problems and how the women were treated.  The acting was solid and the setting was well established.  The problem was in the writing, which had the moments of tension feel disjointed as though they were put in the wrong order.  Still solid, just a little messy in the writing.

The Nice Guys
I wish I had seen this in theaters.  It deserved my support because it’s so damn good.  This was Shane Black’s follow up to Iron Man Three and continued the buddy cop style that he has always been good with.  Gosling and Crowe work well together to create a memorable pair of flawed heroes that you want to watch.  The first half wasn’t the greatest, but it can be forgiven because the second half was amazing.  Perhaps I’ll enjoy the first half more on subsequent viewings.  I love this movie.  It’s too bad there’s a slim to none chance of getting a sequel.

This watch was inspired by two things: I really like Michael Crichton, and I loved the Westworld television series.  Crichton has written some of my favourite books.  Jurassic Park was a great book.  He also wrote Twister, which is one of my favourite movies.  Westworld was like a precursor to Jurassic Park, having the park malfunction and cause harm to the guests.  It was a precursor to the great television show that has aired one fantastic season on HBO.  I had to go back to the beginning.  The movie isn’t great.  The potentially great concept is there.  The problem is that the movie becomes much more about the action of the robots going haywire than how that affects the characters.  The future works based on Crichton’s work, whether his own pseudo-remake in Jurassic Park or Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s reimagining of Westworld into a television series, brought the character side into it, which improved on the nifty idea.  Westworld is not a great movie, but it led to many great things.

My way of preparing for the release of Fate of the Furious wasn’t to watch the Fast and Furious movies.  It was to check out one of the big Vin Diesel movies that I hadn’t yet seen.  It also happened to be directed by Rob Cohen, the director of The Fast and the Furious, the movie that started the franchise.  It felt like Vin Diesel thought “I could be James Bond, but more badass” and Rob Cohen replied with “Hell yeah! Let’s make it!”  It had the basic James Bond tropes, except it was Vin Diesel sleeping with women and travelling around the world.  But it was also 2002-era “cool,” which meant nightclubs and extreme sports.  The action was decent.  The movie doesn’t quite hold up because it feels directed toward people of its time.  It is fun enough, though, so you could have a good time with it.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers
This hasn’t been getting great reviews, with people saying that it lacks the heart of the first movie.  I guess I can agree that it doesn’t have the same amount of heart.  I would also say that I laughed more with this one than the original.  It brought back most of the actors (one of the team members being the biggest change), and threw them into even crazier hockey action.  The most exciting thing for me was that director Jay Baruchel brought in actress Elisha Cuthbert.  It was a Popular Mechanics for Kids reunion!  The movie was great and surpassed my expectations, based on the trailer that I wasn’t too excited about.  Good stuff.

I’ve been meaning to watch this movie for years.  It was a movie made by Outkast after they broke into the mainstream with their Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album.  Set during prohibition, the movie followed a couple of men working at a nightclub of that era.  The men were, of course, played by the guys from Outkast.  The movie wasn’t great, by any stretch of the imagination.  The music was alright, and the acting was solid.  The direction was pretty great.  But the mixture of everything just left the movie feeling a little stale.  It didn’t work.  I can’t quite place my finger on why.

People seem to love this movie.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed my time watching it.  It just wasn’t great.  However, what it potentially set up was something amazing.   The group of children that were introduced could serve to lead a great spin-off series that could take the X-Men franchise in a new direction.  Hugh Jackman turned in what was possibly his best performance in the franchise to date, and possibly the best of his career.  He was supported by Patrick Stewart who was at the top of his game as an even older than normal Professor X.  There’s not much to complain about.  If you’re a fan of superhero movies and don’t mind an R rating, this movie will be everything you want.

Power Rangers
This franchise has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  When I was a child, I would watch the show on television.  My imaginary friend was a Power Ranger.  I had toys, and may have even dressed up as one for Halloween once.  Now in my twenties, I’ve been working my way through the original series once again and writing about it.  When the new movie was nearing release, I was brought in to write a post about the Power Rangers for the Talk Film Society website.  It has had a large influence over my life.  This movie was a reboot/reimagining of the franchise in a modern film setting.  Equal parts Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Chronicle, and The Breakfast Club, the movie brought the original series to a new audience.  One of my good friends would call the movie “a healthy shit.”  That means that it’s not particularly good, but easily watchable.  I sort of agree with that.  I wouldn’t put it in those words, though.  For fans of the original series, this is a completely different take on the material.  Some of it might anger you.  But if you’re willing to see the characters and situations in a different way, you could have a lot of fun with it.  I had fun with it.  It’s not great, but there’s no denying that it’s fun.

A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman
Stop-motion is a method of animation that takes a lot of time and patience to master.  Aardman studios mastered it in the 1990s and has been putting out animated classics ever since.  This hour long documentary recounted their history, from their early work in the 1970s and 1980s all the way up to the release of The Shaun the Sheep Movie in 2015.  It gave insight into how the animation was created, the trials and tribulations that the studio went through (including a devastating fire), their successes, and the people who love their work.  For anyone interested in the history of one of modern animation’s most influential group of filmmakers, this documentary is a must see.

Adam Sandler had Jack and Jill.  Eddie Murphy has Norbit.  This movie was filled with unlikeable characters that weren’t entertaining to watch.  They were more annoying than anything.  Norbit was a nice guy on the outside, but he treated people terribly if given the chance.  His wife was one of the most despicable characters ever put into a comedy.  There were no redeeming qualities about the movie and I don’t want to write about it anymore.  Unfunny.  Not good.

Denis Villeneuve has made movies that people love for a few years now.  Ever since his breakout film Prisoners in 2013, people have been praising him up and down and all over the place.  I watched his follow up to Prisoners, Enemy, and was left wondering what the hell I had just watched.  The movie was the unravelling of two characters who look the same.  They discovered that each other existed and their lives fell apart because of it.  Maybe they were two personalities of the same guy.  I don’t know.  Whatever it was, I was interested the entire time.  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to have their mind jumbled around.

My cartoon history teacher forced this abomination on the class.  It was poorly animated, and the audio was garbage.  The people who made it secretly recorded their children having a make-believe adventure before bed one night and set the gibberish to animation.  It was from the 1950s, so the audio quality of the recording wasn’t good.  You couldn’t understand half of what was being said.  The animation also didn’t make sense.  If it was meant to be some surrealist style animation, I guess it worked.  In terms of entertainment value, however, it was one of the most grating things I’ve ever experienced.

Arthur Christmas
This is not about the aardvark that many of us watched when we were children.  Aardman Studios made their second computer animated movie about the Christmas family.  This included the current Santa, his father (the former Santa), and his children (one of which would be the future Santa).  They used high tech gadgets and teams of elves to get all the gifts to the children.  When one child was missed, they had to figure out how to fix the holiday and get the gift to that child in time.  It was the kind of heartfelt story that Aardman tends to make.  This could be a Christmas classic for anyone who decides to give it a try.  It might be a Christmas classic for me now.

With that, March comes to a close.  In total, there were 21 movies watched for the first time.  That’s a lot of first time watches for a guy who was in school.  A few of them were for school, though, so that brought up the number a bit.

Next month is going to be a big month too.  There are a lot of movies to cover for the April post, which should be fun.  I’ve seen movies like The Fate of the Furious, Stir Crazy, and Hello, My Name is Doris.  If you liked this post or any of the other posts that I’ve written for my first time watches, come on back soon when I share what I thought about my April first time watches.

Also, check out my Power Rangers posts and my Sunday “Bad” Movies blog.  I might as well cross promote.  And one last thing I want to share is the Talk Film Society website, run by my good online friends Marcelo J. Pico and Matt Curione.  They featured a post I wrote about Power Rangers in March, and I’m happy they exist for the good writing they provide.  Thanks, and see you soon!

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