Starting to filter in more stuff for Liana to watch, as well. At this point, our three-at-a-time DVD queue tends to be one for just me, one for C and I, and one for Liana. We're also streaming more stuff, of course, and that will be even more the case now that we replaced our ten-year-old original Series 1 Tivo with a new Tivo Premiere that can do NetFlix. Anyway, on to the next batch of movies - these were mostly actually watched in the autumn, I was just too busy grinding out my daily writing to jot down these notes.
IN BRUGES: * * * *
The other night after work, our usual gaming group tackled a rules-minimalist role-playing game called FIASCO, in which you collectively spin an ad-hoc criminal caper that inevitably turns horribly wrong, leaving most of the characters in a bad way by the end. In preparation, I thought I would soak in some appropriate genre. This one is terrific. It starts out sort of PULP FICTION (* * * * *) banter-y and then throws you the dark curve ball about, oh, twenty or thirty minutes in. I never really gave much thought to Colin Farrell before, but he's absolutely incredible here.
BURN AFTER READING: * * *
More FIASCO psych-up. This one, meh… it was no FARGO (* * * * *). The Coens swing a little wildly and sometimes it really connects for me and knocks it out of the park… and sometimes it just smashes stuff up. Has lots of good bits but overall, it just sort of wraps up with a bunch of "…and then we'll just tell you what happened. And be done." On the other hand, one of Brad Pitt's best small roles ever.
CONNECTIONS 1: * * * *
Matt Jones of BERG London calls James Burke "mind gangster #1" for good reason. It actually took me about six months to get through the whole set of episodes. I'd watch one every six weeks or so. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, I liked it quite a lot, but it's really dense and I can't imagine just stuffing the whole series through my head in quick succession. Also, being intensely about technology… thirty years ago… means that it feels more dated than many other works of the same time.
THE MUPPET MOVIE: * * * * *
I hadn't seen this in many years and figured Liana would really enjoy it. I was very right. I'd forgotten just how many great cameos there are, and how deeply ingrained some of them are in my memory. Also, it is ridiculous bullshit of the first order that the soundtrack is out of print and unavailable for legitimate first-purchase in any way. I have a hard time feeling bad about the plight of the supposedly dying music industry when they can't be bothered to sell me an Oscar-nominated soundtrack.
HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: * * *
This was okay. I guess I expected it to build to a more profound or revealing or insightful ending of some sort, but ultimately it's just about solving violence with even more violence. I guess that's kind of what it says on the tin, but it wasn't enough for me.
1001 RABBIT TALES: * * *
Another one for Liana to watch, on a day when we were stuck in the house for the weekend for some reason. It mostly held her attention, but it's a pretty poorly constructed framework to try and hang a bunch of shorts on, and the central conceit of the film (for which it is named) actually doesn't even happen until the end.
QUINTET: * * *
Remember when Robert Altman made a bleak post-apocalyptic science-fiction murder mystery? I certainly didn't. This is a tough one to judge. I could easily go a couple thousand words about it, probably. Honestly, I don't know how I missed it when it came out in 1979; my parents took me to all the other post-apocalyptic dystopian films of the 70s at the drive-in. But I would not have understood it at the time, not in the way that I understood (for example) LOGAN'S RUN (* * * * *) or DAMNATION ALLEY (* * * *). It has its good points and its bad points. On the up side, it is probably the most compellingly, disturbingly developed vision of the end of humanity I've ever seen. There's no pretense of a potential salvation; the ice has won and the last people are dying off, either quickly or slowly, and the only species that is doing well are the dogs that are constantly eating corpses in almost every scene. It's viscerally demoralizing to a degree that almost no other end of the world has ever managed for me, because it feels just plausible enough and its inhabitants have fully accepted inevitability. They can't even be bothered to drag their dead out of sight anymore. On the down side, it is (not to put too fine a point on it) long and boring. Its central message is supposed to be about the urge to survive even in the face of certain doom, and living in a world so utterly without hope that the only excitement possible is the thrill of kill-or-be-killed. But really, almost nobody seems excited at any point, even when they are killing or surviving. It's all really way too understated. Ultimately, I call it three stars, an average of the didn't-like and the really-liked aspects of it. If you are into end of the world stories and also liked the original SOLARIS, give this one a try. I also can't help but wonder if it could be redone in a genuinely compelling way, but that way probably lies madness.
BEE MOVIE: * * *
Liana's first specific movie request! I don't know where she heard about it from, one of her school friends I think, but she really wanted to see it so we had it sent. It's... not so great. It tries to be several kinds of movie, none of which get enough development to really have merit. Also, it sets up some really great structural gags, and then throws them out the window for one-shot jokes that aren't even that funny. (For example, several cleverly-fired uses of "beeish" as being equivalent to "jewish", until eventually they also refer to "Jewish" for no good reason and undermine the whole gag.) Also, it really feels like Dreamworks isn't particularly interested in advancing the state of the art in their animation.
THE JUNGLE BOOK: * * *
Okay as far as Disney goes, with some good musical numbers, but seeing it again as an adult, it's a little thin on plot.
TOY STORY: * * * *
C and I had already seen this, of course, but Liana had not, though she's very familiar with many of the characters by way of cultural osmosis. I think it was everything she'd hoped for. Going back and seeing what feature-length Pixar looked like in the 90s - lighting, texture, movement - compared to what they do now only highlighted my sense of how not-far-along BEE MOVIE is.
For consideration: next batch, we have some confusing David Lynch, more stuff for Liana, and a pleasant surprise from Russell Brand and P.Diddy