Sunday, July 26, 2015

Inherent Vice

In 1970, dope head private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) gets a visit from his ex girlfriend.  She tells him about her new lover, Wolfman (Eric Roberts), a wealthy real estate developer.  She hires Doc to prevent Wolfman from being committed to an insane asylum.  Doc takes on two other cases, and all the cases end up being tied to "The Golden Fang", which is a powerful heroin smuggling ring.  Meanwhile, Doc gets harrassed frequently by "Bigfoot" Bjorsen (Josh Brolin) of the LAPD, a less than honorable cop who is trying to pump Doc for information.

Since most of the characters use drugs, only about half of them seem to make sense most of the time.  The same can be said about the convoluted story, which requires much patience.  I enjoyed the story, although parts of it are slow and other parts are hard to understand.  The film is not meant to be totally understood, but creates an interesting atmosphere around strange circumstances.  As a result, it is the kind of film that I would expect to be directed by Quentin Tarantino or the Cohen brothers.  Instead the movie is directed by Paul Anderson who directed The Master, another very strange movie also starring JoaquĆ­n Phoenix.

The term "Inherent Vice" refers to property that cannot be insured because it is likely to decay.

The movie is rated R for frequent profanity, frequent drug use, and nudity.

The film tried my patience a little, but it is worth watching:  Rating * * * 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the highest rated of the three Madagascar films, but by far my least favorite.  Whereas the first two movies were fairly enjoyable, the third installment is weak on character development and plot.  Instead, it is child level cartoon with over the top action sequences and out of place annoying musical numbers.  The movie tries to give us a couple of emotional moments involving a circus tiger, but these don't work particularly well.

It is a pity, because I like these characters.

It also ranks for me way below Penguins of Madagascar, which is enjoyable just as a cartoon.

A great deal of money gets spent on full length feature animated films.  The ones from Pixar have been mostly fantastic.  Pixar knows how to give us good stories that resonate emotionally.  Dreamworks Animation can't seem to rise to the same level.  Pixar is kicking Dreamworks butt.

Madagascar 3 cost $154 million to make and made $747 million at the box office.

Rating:  * *

Some might say that this is O.K. for children, but I say children deserve better.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road versus Jurassic World versus The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Mad Max:  Fury Road is a good summer action film that really adds nothing to the genre that we haven't seen before.  Tom Hardy is not as appealing, or as manly, as Mel Gibson in the role of Max.  In fact, he is upstaged by Charlize Theron who seems to have more cojones than he does.

About 15 minutes before the end I had to get out of my front row seat and move back a bit.  That is because all the car chases and loud explosions were starting to grate on my nervous system.

I find myself wondering why we need so many movie remakes that are no better and often worse than the originals?  Still, I enjoyed the movie enough to recommend it.  

Rating:  * * *

When I saw the trailers for Jurassic World, I asked "Haven't we seen this movie before?"  Yes, three times before, but as far as I can tell the Jurassic movies have gotten better with each incarnation.  I wasn't happy with the original Jurassic Park, or its sequel, but liked this film and its predecessor.

Here the characters and story are better developed.  There is enough new material to make it a pretty slick movie.  

Rating * * * 1/2

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is better than the much loved The Avengers in every respect.  The previous film suffered from too many squabbles between the characters and a last 30 minutes that was overkill on action and special effects.  The new movie has better developed characters and a much more interesting villain.

I think that it is tied with Jurassic World for good summer blockbuster entertainment.  Rating:  * * * 1/2.   

Kill Bill Volume I

I will watch any movie that is praised by critics.  However, Kill Bill Volume I is a good revenge story that is seriously marred by the movie's many excesses.  Which excesses do I mean?   Crudeness.  Constant violence.  Graphic blood spurting violence.  The protagonist fighting off 35 sword wielding Japanese mobsters and not one of them thinks to use a gun.

It does not speak well for our society that we find this entertaining.  The movie has no sense or morality or the value of human life.  It reduces my desire to see other Quentin Tarantino movies, because he only has one mode of filmmaking, which is to make bloody and excessively violent movies.

The film is meant to be an American version of Asian martial arts pictures.  It switches between many different movie techniques, including animation, to make its story seem artsy.  Its various techniques seem gimmicky to me.

If there is one bright spot, it is David Carradine as the little seen but often heard offscreen villain.

Rating * * 1/2

The movie is not complete without seeing the sequel, so I am just curious enough to watch that as well.

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys is a reboot of the terminator franchise.  Since the terminator universe revolves around people and robots traveling from the future to the present, it is always possible that a time traveler would completely change the story that we have already seen.  Almost.  The movie recycles many familiar elements.  If it wasn't for a few interesting plot twists, one of which I didn't care for, the movie would seem completely redundant.

Matt Smith has a cameo as a personified Skynet.  There is a touch of irony in putting the Doctor Who actor in a movie about time travel.

Overall, it is a decent summer action movie.  It does not rise to the level of Terminator II, which is by far the best of the series, and I am not sure if it even rises to the level of Terminator I.  It is more like Terminator III, which is full of action sequences, but is otherwise mostly forgettable.   The action sequences make the movie feel slightly too long.  

One thing the movie lacks is the intensity that Linda Hamilton brought to the role of Sarah Conner.  It is the actors who really make the movie, and here Arnold Schwarzenegger is great.  However, all the other actors seem lukewarm.

With a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I felt like I was taking a chance on this movie, but I really liked Terminator Salvation (Terminator 4), and it only had a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is suppose to be the first of a new trilogy, although the movie seems to stand alone and I did not see any hint of a follow up.  I missed the post credits scene that lets us know that Skynet survives.  Maybe we will see more of Matt Smith.  I hope so, since he would make a great villain.

This is the first Terminator movie without any nudity, although there are hints of nudity hidden by shadow and special effects.  Since people always had to travel through time naked in the Terminator universe, it seems to me like an integral part of the story.

Rating: * * *