Thursday, June 14, 2012

Movie Log: Catching Up Once Again

I haven't seen a movie in over a month -- at this point, I'm paying Netflix a substantial sum so I can hold onto a copy of The Descendants in case of emergency -- and I'm still a dozen movies behind. So it must be time for another speed round. Here's what I can recall about the movies I've seen in the last six months or so:

We saw Bad Teacher and Horrible Bosses within a week, and don't they just sound like they deserve to be reviewed together? Of course they do. And they're very similar movies: medium-dumb comedies with a lot of earthy humor and just enough titillation to ensure an R-rating. Horrible Bosses is the better of the two, with an ensemble of good actors all having fun and selling the premise -- Strangers on a Train, only they're already friends and want to be rid of their respective supervisors -- pretty well. Bad Teacher is louder and even less subtle, relying primarily on Cameron Diaz's willingness to be unlikable in a horribly wonderful way, and the title is the pitch: she's a really, really rotten teacher, and a worse human being, but (as all protagonists must in modern movies) she Comes To Learn Better by the last reel.

The fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, On Stranger Tides, has very little of the excellent Tim Powers novel that supplied its title visible. (Probably the most Powersian thing is that an important mermaid is named Serena -- yes, that's how much of the novel survived.) It's better than the flabby second and third movies, with some good scenery-chewing work from Ian McShayne, Penelope Cruz, and (of course) Johnny Depp, and decent action-movie set-piece scenes. But the Lego video game is much, much better.

I nominated Paul for the Hugo last year. It's not that good, honestly, but it was pleasant, and it was an honest-to-God SF movie that I actually saw. And it's not like I have so much respect for the Dramatic Presentation Hugo in the first place, so I'd be happy if it went to pleasant junky entertainment rather than to equally junky entertainment that fans believe is Important and Meaningful. Seth Rogen doing fart jokes in voice-over is what should win that Hugo, in my mind.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a good movie that hasn't stuck much in my mind; it had a complicated structure (that didn't seem complicated while watching -- a good sign), a passel of fine actors doing mostly subtle work (the big brawl scene being the major counter-example), and stories that were both about and appealed to grownups. There should be more movies like that.

Friends With Benefits was yet another one of those they-start-fucking, he-wants-to-have-a-relationship, she-balks-and-acts-fratboyish comedies that are popping up like weeds. (The best, so far, is the one with Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs, because the girls actually has a good reason there, the plot is specific rather than generic, and the sex scenes are actually sexy.) FWB was a perfectly cromulent date movie, particularly for the younger folks, but nothing more than that.

The Muppets, on the other hand, was totally wonderful and fun, in that inimitable Muppet manner. It has excellent cameos, a great sense of humor about itself and everything else, and could have been perfect if it weren't quite so Mary Sue-ish and the main Muppet character so colorless.

Harry Potter 8 -- don't expect me to type out the full, far-too-long title -- finally ended the series, with lots of action and Mr. Potter acting just as dull and mildly stupid and thoughtless as in the books (and as like far too many real teenagers, I suppose). It's a thing, and that thing is now finally over. Kids 5-10 years older than my sons will be obsessing about these movies for the rest of their lives, which kinda sucks for them, but they're gonna obsess about something, right?

Midnight in Paris is another movie I nominated for the Hugo, and wanted to win (as much as I wanted anything to win that award). I haven't kept up with Woody Allen's movies the way I'd have liked -- some day I need to sit down and run through all of them in order; that would be a great project -- but he's always a smart, thoughtful filmmaker, and stories about stories and art tend to bring out his better tendencies. And Owen Wilson is just fun to watch -- I don't know what it is about him and that marble-mouthed, loose-limbed slacker sensibility, but he just makes the movies he's in more enjoyable just by being there.

50/50 is a Message Movie about a Serious Thing, and also a comedy, which made for some tonal whiplash. It's somewhat above the level of a Lifetime Movie of the Week, but not so far that you couldn't see it from there.

Three and Out was a fun little British movie about a London underground driver who accidentally kills two people with his train (both suicides), and then is told that, if he hits a third within a month, he hits the subway-driver lottery, and is pensioned off with a nice package to assuage his presumed broken spirit. So he sets off in search of that third person to kill...and the movie gets more conventional and less black-comic than I was hoping, since he finds that candidate in Colm Meaney, who wants one last piss-up weekend before he jumps in front of the cow-catcher. I'm afraid this movie has Life Lessons as well, but it's pretty good despite that.

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