Er, yeah, that’s the ticket!
The Heat: A real gem and likely Biscoff-award winner. Sandra Bullock — underrated comedic actress and overrated as a dramatic one — doesn’t totally click with Melissa McCarthy (firing on all cylinders from the first second of screen time) until about halfway through this rote but hilarious buddy-cop flick. But once the two perform the requisite silly dance routine to early nineties hip-house — an improvement, barely, on Bullock and Ryan Reynolds’s Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock singalong, which is saying a lot, everything is gravy. Even when the plot inevitably wheezes to a close the film stays funny. A nice cameo from criminally under-cast Jane Curtin. Soundtrack of the year.
Iron Man 3: In a lot of ways the best of the series (in that it’s the best superhero movie of the bunch, even if I might like the first one better as an action movie), the third Iron Man is the best pop treatment of panic and PTSD I’ve ever seen. But add to that a not-terrible villain (the Iron Man movies have a surprisingly awful track record with villains, probably because any light that avoids the black hole of Robert Downey Jr.’s scene-stealery goes directly to Gwyneth Paltrow) and Don Cheadle making good on a lighter and better take on Rhodes — and firing off the best punchline of the whole movie: “Oh, you breathe fire?” Despite its release date, this is a crackerjack Christmas action flick, including a novelty holiday tune on the record player.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Just saw this one last night — thoughts remain unchanged: A refreshingly dour take on the early 60s and its pre-Beatles folk scene, with anachronistic neo-folk nonetheless providing a nice conceptual foil to Music After Dylan. We’re lucky Dylan’s the one who made it. Oscar Isaac plays one of the great contemporary schlemiel’s in cinematic history, even for a Coen Brothers movie.
This Is the End: Probably the only Apatowverse man-child yuk/yuck-fest I can stomach anymore. I finally saw Funny People this year (it was excellent) and This Is 40 (it was awful, but a weirdly affecting film) and even though I officially dislike Apatowverse in all of its microgenres now, I actually like the sappy dramas more than the comedies, I think. (Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the only one that has it both ways; Superbad has not aged well; Knocked Up was always terrible; etc.). Emma Watson’s cameo was a nice reminder that this whole team is literally clueless about what to do with and about women. But the secret weapon of the film is that it’s actually pretty eerie — a not-quite-good comedy and not-quite-good cheeky meta horror flick that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Escape from Tomorrow: Just saw this one on Amazon. It’s not very well done, even given the audacity of the method of filming (guerilla style in Disney World) but any movie that maps family trauma in Disney World without making it a facile anti-corporatist screed can ride the Lynchian fumes to “liked it more in theory” canonization. I spent a few days at a conference in a Disney hotel and hung around for two days afterward for random scheduling reasons, and the vague sense of dissatisfaction and dread I felt is perfectly matched in this movie’s muted and wildly inconsistent surrealism. So points for experiential accuracy.
Thor 2: Huge improvement over the first one, though in a way the first one in retrospect feels kind of like a “fans only” origin story. The bad guys are basically straight out of Power Rangers and I still don’t really like Natalie Portman, but points for (1) gratuitous shirtless shot of Chris Hemsworth within 6 minutes of movie (2) Kat Dennings doing something that isn’t 2 Broke Girls and (3) Stellan Skarsgard and Tom Hiddleston vying for comic relief. This is the first time Loki has really coded as a trickster, a very good look for Hiddleston. Also enjoyed the big finish eschewing chains of giant explosion for a very inventive puzzle, like the final battle in Portal in an Escher drawing.
Much Ado About Nothing: Finally Whedon lends his serviceable TV directing chops and stunning house to a script he didn’t write! Total delight.
_The Wolverine_: Methodone for folks who like this particular corner of the Marvel Universe (my wife likes the X-Men films more than I do but there are a lot of them and they’re usually fun to watch), with a great performance from Liev Schreiber, a terrible one from will.i.am, and a promising one from Ryan Reynolds, whose Deadpool I hope goes full meta jacket (LOOK AT MY PUN THAT I DID). LOL I’m thinking of a 2009 Origins movie I watched on Amazon a month or two ago WOOPS.
Star Trek Into Darkness: These continue to be more Star Wars than Trek, which also means that they’re as good as their action sequences, which in this one are pretty good. There are about two too many. Cumberbatch as Khan didn’t bother me as much as them not doing anything with the fact that he was Kahn — they might as well revealed him to be “Dr. Badguy” and would have had about as much narrative traction. Didn’t help that I saw the original Wrath of Khan on 35mm b/w the original Star Trek episode on 16mm, but also reaffirmed that there’s very little connection between the two iterations of the franchise. Thought the Kirk/Spock reversal was clever, though they didn’t have the guts to go all the way with the idea, settling instead for “magic blood” which — at least try a little.
This Is Us: I can’t even with this. Certainly the best 3-D concert experience I’ve ever seen, which I guess isn’t saying much but should be saying more — mandatory viewing for anyone who still uses blanket dismissal words like “manufactured” and “focus-group-tested” and generally believe in cumbersome pop conspiracies.
Stuff I still want to see: Short Term 12, Fruitvale Station, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Stories We Tell, The Spectacular Now
(1) Tumblr post about people calling me a creep (sort of) eight years ago
(2) Tumblr post responding to people calling other people creeps (sort of) now
(3) Further exegesis on 1D compared to Serious Music Critic Bands
(4) Contribution to any pertinent debate among music critics about anything
(5) “I feel like someone should respond to that — if you just ignore it, how will it ever go away?”
(1) “Wait…tell me…oh no. Oh, no! C’mon Liam…”
(3) Getting genuinely upset about technical snafus during #1DDay
(4) Refusal to work out or otherwise exercise.
(5) His stupid face
1. Tegan and Sara - “I Run Empty”
2. Britney Spears - “Now That I Found You”
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Subway (NOLA Demo)”
4. Miley Cyrus - “Rooting for My Baby”
5. One Direction - _Midnight Memories_ Side 4
Rating scale is (1) crushing disappointment (2) (relatively) mild disappointment (3) as bad as it possibly could have been, oh well (4) much worse than my barely-there expectations (5) much worse than it had any need to be like seriously did someone take a great script and just like staple dumb shit into it or what
- Not Spring Breakers
- Not The Great Gatsby
- Not Elysium
- Not Pacific Rim
- Not The To-Do List
In order from crushing disappointment to “really should have been better, what is wrong with you that it wasn’t better.”
Saw Inside Llewyn Davis tonight. I liked it! It is about one of my favorite things — counter-factual histories of almost-rans who but for the grace of God coulda been contenders (and in this case had a hint of cumulative advantage thought experiment to it) and very few of my least favorite things.
I could take or leave the folk music itself — some of it was good-enough pastiche, Llewyn’s had a distinctively post-Dylan affectation sorta thing going on, though that’s kind of part of the charm of the movie, that there’s no possible way to “read it” outside of Dylan getting big.
I could leave or leave Carey Mulligan’s performance, which seemed one-note.
All in all, though, do see it for the couches my god the couches.