A mix of new and nostalgic from the late summer. A couple of surprising disappointments this time.
THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN: * *
Oh, it sounded like so much fun in theory. Peter Sellers! Ringo Starr! Wealthy troublemakers on the loose! But I couldn't even finish it, only got halfway through. It's just too muddled, a string of mostly disconnected mean vignettes with no context to set them up and often very little in the way of punchline to wrap them up either.
CATFISH: * * *
Low key… paced oddly enough that it might be real, but there are an awful lot of breakthrough moments that "happened" to be caught on film. Quite aside from the question of whether this is a totally truthful documentary or a cleverly assembled fake or something in between, it's a fairly interesting but not mind-blowing story about identity and the Internet, with some really great personality moments here and there.
HERCULES: * * * *
Request by Liana. Very cleverly done. Excellent cast, nice use of Greek mythology fragments, decent songs - especially the conflation of the Muses with the concept of Greek Chorus and then setting them as Motown backup singers.
BLAZING SADDLES: * * * * *
C had never seen the whole thing all the way through. She still hasn't, as she dozed off partway through, but man, how great is this film? Better with every viewing.
HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY: * *
More mean-spirited and less funny than the original. The two most memorable out-of-left-field segments in the first film (Neil Patrick Harris and the big bag of weed dream) are repeated, both feeling like they were included out of a sense of obligation and since they're no longer out of left field, the "make it random!" knob gets cranked up to 11 each time, just throwing mostly unfunny chaos into an already unfunny and overly chaotic movie.
VALHALLA RISING: * * * *
I don't think I will ever need or want to see it again, but what a great, weird experiment in narrative. Dark Age pagans, confused Christians, a protagonist that doesn't utter a single word ever, a crazy drug trip, and loads of brutish violence. Only afterwards did I wonder that the Kid Sidekick didn't annoy the crap out of me.
MYSTERY TEAM: * * *
Decent premise (kid detectives, now entering adulthood, are faced with their first real mystery - a double homicide) with a solid cast (Donald Glover! Aubrey Plaza!) but in execution, it never quite managed to be great. Almost certainly worth it for Donald Glover fans; maybe for others. Surprisingly gross in a few places.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK: * * * *
Loved the screenplay but seeing it filmed makes it harder to ignore the fact that, as written, it's a story of overprivileged douchebag guys (mostly white) squabbling among themselves over who gets to have the most millions of dollars first while personality-free underwear girls (mostly asian) tell them how awesome they are. Still, I am one of those people who considers Aaron Sorkin's pretentious dialogue style a feature, not a bug, and seeing Eisenberg, Timberlake, Garfield, etc. execute it was swell.
TARZAN: * * *
Another Liana request. Not so crazy about the Phil Collins music, and Disney was still figuring out how to mix traditional animation and CGI so several scenes felt sort of gratuitously artificial. Okay but not great. (Liana has since purchased a used copy on DVD with her own allowance.)
LOGAN'S RUN: * * * * *
When we lived in South Dakota, there was a drive-in that showed sci-fi and action/adventure films in double features and my parents would go see whatever was showing there, with me in tow. The Sinbad movies. The Roger Moore Bond films. But most of all… 70s science fiction dystopia. It really was probably not a great idea to let a six year old see this movie, but it had a marvelous and profound effect on my mind. How profound? Well, the very first fiction I ever wrote in my life was a five-sentence-plus-drawing tale about myself and my best friend Peter running from Carousel and the Sandmen. I was in kindergarten at the time. And even though I was the better part of a decade away from having any inkling of a sexual identity whatsoever, I nonetheless understood that any future which had Jenny Agutter running around in wet brightly colored gauze clothing was Worth Getting To no matter what else the cost might be. Anyway, it came up in like three different conversations with different groups of friends one week and, once again, the nostalgia bug bit deep.
For consideration: coming up we have more dark ages fun, some capers, a TV series many people love that I just couldn't get into, and one of the all-time worst monster movies of the 80s