Devil (2010)


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Do you copy?  Hello?  Am I speaking to the devil…?  Over.

They say the devil is in the details, but…apparently the devil is actually in the elevator.

This M. Night Shyamalan written (and thankfully not directed), claustrophobic, light horror movie is actually fairly effective for the most part, though not really at being overly scary.  It’s more effective as a whodunit…or, whothedevil?

Thanks to some unnecessary narration, we know that the devil has decided to take human form and punish some people in an elevator.  What we don’t know is which of the five people on board the elevator is secretly the Prince of Lies.  Meanwhile, at a security desk, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is watching everything over a video camera and wondering what the heck is going on.

I’ve been debating with myself on this one as to whether or not it would be more effective if somehow the audience point of view never left the elevator.  Would it have felt more claustrophobic that way?  Long ago I did another trapped-in-an-elevator movie called Blackout that spent even more time inside the lift, and it didn’t effectively create much claustrophobia either, so…maybe I’m just not scared of getting stuck in an elevator.  Anyway, I actually like the bigger scope of the movie, as it includes several other characters being affected by what’s going on.  It felt more real to have police involved, a mechanic, security guards, etc.

Not a bad comeback effort from the guy that has been on a pretty big Hollywood losing streak.  Maybe writing and not directing is the winning formula for ol’ M. Night.  Believe it or not, I’m rooting for him to regain his former glory.  I liked his first few movies, even the Village, but everything since, not so much.

In Your Eyes (2014)


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your hair is…in your eyes…

“You’re smart, and ain’t nothing in this world dumber than a smart guy.”

It’s like You’ve Got Mail with psychics!

In Your Eyes is a movie with a title that references a Peter Gabriel song, but does not feature said song in the movie.  What gives?  It does, however, feature many other indie songs all throughout the movie.  In fact, it uses the sentimental music montage as a bit of a crutch.  When your two lead characters are separated by almost the entire country, I guess it’s hard to create scenes of a growing love without some good ol’ montages.

The story, written by Joss Whedon, features two lonely folks, Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) and Dylan (Michael Stahl-David).  Rebecca is stuck in a loveless marriage with a controlling doctor, while Dylan is an ex-con, on parole, working at a car wash.  One day, the two suddenly gain the ability to experience the world through each other’s eyes. Why?  How?  Doesn’t really matter.  Make up your own reason.  I believe unicorns were involved.  They were both licked by unicorns.

After quickly (too quickly) adjusting to and accepting this new discovery, the two begin getting to know each other and helping each other with their problems and issues.

I certainly don’t fault this movie for having such an unexplained, fantastical premise.  But I do fault it for playing it pretty safe with how everything unfolds.  It goes pretty much exactly as you’d expect it to…at least until it becomes a borderline thriller at the end.  That felt a little out of place.

A movie with this plot could go a few different ways.  On one end of the plot spectrum, it could have been a slapstick comedy with one goofy, awkward situation after another.  Not something I’d want to see. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it could have been darker, riskier, edgier.  Maybe one of the characters could have been disabled, or they could have been different ethnicities, or heck, even if one of them wasn’t particularly attractive, that could have been something.  But no, like I said, this one plays it close to the middle on that spectrum, going for the safe romantic-comedy angle.

The leads are fine, there are some amusing moments, and even a few touching scenes, but overall it seemed like a waste of a good premise.  But hey, they do shoehorn in a car chase, so…yeah…

Elstree 1976 (2015)


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sorry if the men’s room is a mess, you know our aim isn’t so good

Star Wars.  For those of you who have never heard of this little movie, it came out in 1977 and did pretty well at the box office. Well enough to be followed by several sequels and a near cult-like following rivaling most, if not all, other such followings of movies.  Every little detail of it has been pored over, again and again, by the most ardent fans.

Well, get ready to learn some of those little facts and details thanks to Elstree 1976.  This is a documentary about some of the more minor actors who appeared in the film.  BARELY appeared in the film.  Or didn’t appear at all, as they were covered with some sort of elaborate costume.

You’ll hear stories about how they were cast, their interactions with George Lucas (and the stars of the movie), their lives since then, and how fans react to them on the convention circuit.  Yes, some of these people have parlayed 2 seconds of screen time into years of merchandise sales at conventions.  There is some bad blood between some of the actors who had speaking parts and the ones that didn’t, and I thought that portion of the movie was the most interesting section.

Overall, this could have been a little shorter and still made its point.  The topic is fairly interesting, especially for Star Wars fans, but it starts to run out of steam at times.

But hey, if you ever wondered what the guy who played Greedo looks like, you’re in luck!

I, Origins (2014)


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lemme just go ahead and grab your eye there…

Well, I’m back!  Reincarnated, you might say.  The robot is still hunting pretty things, and it has found one – a movie called I, Origins.

First, let me say, DO NOT go watch the trailer for this movie.  It will show you every plot twist, every revelation, every everything that’s in the movie.  I’m glad I did not see it before watching the movie, and I suggest you follow my lead.

I will give you a quick plot set-up.  Ian (Michael Pitt) is a scientist who is obsessed with eyes.  Along with his lab partner (Brit Marling), he is trying to disprove the idea that the human eye is too perfect to have developed via evolution.  After meeting, and totally falling for, a mysterious woman (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a party, he only has a picture of her eyes to remember her by.  But, through a series of strange events, he meets her again.  This sets him on a path of spiritual, and scientific, discovery that could change the world.  Boom, no trailer needed!

It’s a very interesting story that seems to be seeking a balance between science and the supernatural.  It has funny moments, sad moments, great characters, great acting, and a great soundtrack, not to mention it just has an overall lovely look and feel to it.

I will leave you with a little scene that I enjoy.  It will give you an idea of the feel of the film:

Big Bunch o’ Movies


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watching you...

watching you…

I have fallen far behind on movie reviews.  There are too many to catch up on, so I’m doing a post with a bunch of short reviews of all of them.

Veronica Mars (2014) – If you liked the TV show, you’ll probably like it.  It’s amusing in the same way that the show was, with a lot of inside jokes and references.  The main mystery isn’t very compelling, but that’s sort of how it was on the show too.  It was always more about Veronica getting the best of everybody who underestimates her.  7.4/10

The Lego Movie (2014) – Fun, but chaotic.  I didn’t always know what was going on, but when I did, it was pretty good.  7.1/10

Gravity (2013) – I’m sure seeing this on tv at home instead of in 3D in the theater hurt my enjoyment of it.  At home it was a little underwhelming.  Not just the visuals though, the plot too.  There are moments where I was on edge a little, and it was pretty to look at, but there was nothing about it that really grabbed me.  The last 10 minutes or so was the best, but that wasn’t quite enough.  6.0/10

Robot & Frank (2012) – Not a bad premise…some good performances…but ultimately it just drags along too slowly.  5.5/10

Bill Cunningham New York (2010) – This one was a pleasant surprise.  It’s a documentary about a guy who has been taking fashion photos on the streets of New York for a long long time.  He is an entertaining character.  8.2/10

City of God (2002) – This was a rough one.  Good, but tough to watch.  7.6/10

Frozen (2013) – I am now among those that have seen this movie.  That is to say, I am now at the risk – at all times – of having one of the songs from it stuck in my head for hours on end.  It’s a decent movie…has some funny moments…and a couple of the songs are catchy.  Oh, and the snowman that comes to life, Olaf, is the best part.  Still, the story isn’t all that interesting, and neither are most of the characters.  6.8/10

Sharknado (2013) – No. Just no.  1.2/10

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Another good one from Wes Anderson.  It doesn’t jump to the top of my favorites of his, but it’s enjoyable throughout most of it.  So many cameos!  7.8/10

112 Weddings (2014)


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Yep, I married a mix between Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms...

Yep, I married a mix between Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms…

This is a documentary by a filmmaker, Doug Block, who also films weddings on the side.  He has shot 112 weddings over the years, and now he has tracked down several of those couples to see where they are now, after 3 years…5 years…10 years…20 years.  It’s one of those concepts that’s so simple yet so fascinating because nobody has done it before, at least not to my knowledge.

How many times have you been at a wedding and thought to yourself, “I wonder how they’re going to turn out.  Can they make it last?”  Well, in the case of these marriages, wonder no more!  You get to see them on their wedding day, as happy as could be, and then immediately jump forward several years to see them now.  Some are happy, some are sad, and the others are somewhere in between.

I think maybe this should be required viewing for anybody who is married, might get married, or even just anybody who might commit themselves to another person for the rest of their lives in any way shape or form. Not to dissuade them from doing so – at least not in most cases – but to give them a more realistic look at what to expect so that they’re better prepared for what’s to come.  I know people are usually told that sort of thing before embarking on such an endeavor, but to see it on screen makes it seem different.  The stark contrast between the whirlwind of joy on the wedding day (or partnership ceremony day) and then the ho-hum of every day life (or the despair of divorce) can be startling, even to a person who might think, “nah, that couldn’t happen with OUR relationship.”

It’s not a masterpiece, and I’m sure some won’t find it nearly as interesting as I did, but I think there’s a lot of fascinating stuff here if you really give it a chance.



12 Years a Slave (2013)


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I got you this you can better see how horrible I am...

I got you this lamp…so you can see better how horrible I am…

Definitely not the feel good movie of the year, but a movie that does manage to be enjoyable despite its really tough subject matter.  It’s beautiful to look at, has mostly good performances, and looks at a kind of slavery story we don’t always hear much about.

I guess the idea of being kidnapped from the north and being brought to the south to be sold into slavery isn’t any more or less cruel than any other pathway to slavery, but it certainly feels that way when you see it played out on screen.  I guess the main character, Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), being an educated black man in the north, has a sense that he is removed from the nightmare of slavery.  So when he wakes to find himself in chains, it’s not just shocking, but totally unfair.  Thus the mood is set for the rest of the film, where we the viewer constantly hope that his real identity will be discovered, and the illegality of his slavery will be revealed because it’s just not fair that HE would be a slave.  Which, of course, we realize is true for EVERYBODY who is a slave.

Some of what we see, we have seen many times before.  If it’s a movie about slavery, it’s going to have whipping, and cruelty, and the occasional sympathetic white person, but this movie does some of those same things in a way that makes it really hit home just how horrible and bleak it all was.  Plus it pulls out a few scenes that were certainly new to me.

A few of the accents could have been better, and Brad Pitt’s character (or maybe just his appearance) felt forced, but overall the acting was top notch.  And hey, good to see Paul Dano step outside of the box and play a character unlike anything I’ve seen him play!

Overall, I guess you could call this a must-see, even if just to remind yourself of how bad things can be, and how crazy it is that people are capable of such horrors.  Seriously, this stuff happened.  Not that long ago. Ugh.


Her (2013)


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like it?  no...i LOVE your creepy mustache.

like it? no…i LOVE your creepy mustache.

If you’re like me, and there was ever a time that you had strong feelings for somebody you only knew through your computer, then you’ll probably relate to this movie.  Especially if it was back in the earlier days of the internet when all you had were a couple pictures, text via instant messenger, and, if you’re lucky, a voice on the telephone.  It was the voice on the phone that made it all the more real.  And in Her, a voice is all Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) needs to fall in love.

Can you really know somebody with just a voice?  Is being in someone’s physical presence necessary for a relationship?  Do you ever really know them, or are you just filling in the missing gaps with everything it takes to make them perfect?

I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s not perfect, but it seems very real…very possible.  We already live in a world where people walk in groups but don’t speak to each other.  All focused on their phones instead.  There’s a scene in Her where Theodore is walking through a crowd of people, all the while talking to his new operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) via a small earpiece.  You’d think he’d stand out as a crazy person, seemingly talking to nobody, but he doesn’t because just about every other person is doing the same thing.  A cacophony of conversations, none of which are directed at each other.  This movie is set in the near future, but that future might turn into the present sooner than we think.

Is that a bad thing?  Sure, Theodore has problems with relationships, but so have people for a lot longer time than computer technology has been around.  Overall, he’s a nice, reasonably normal guy, despite being called creepy by a blind date in the one scene in the movie that didn’t work so well to me.  But later, he and his new artificially intelligent operating system girlfriend go on a double date with a human-human couple, and they don’t think it’s weird at all.  In fact, most people don’t seem to have a problem with it.  Are we destined for a world where we reach a sort of pinnacle of self-centeredness, where we are in relationships with people who don’t actually exist, thus we’re essentially dating ourselves?  I mean, that’s certainly what’s going on in the awkward sex scene…

I thought Spike Jonze came up a bit short in the emotional department when he made Where the Wild Things Are.  Not the case here.  Maybe it’s due to my aforementioned experience in the internet romance world from many years ago, but I felt much more of a connection to the characters and their emotions in Her.  Phoenix does a great job, as does Amy Adams as Theodore’s mousy friend who is having her own relationship problems.  I wasn’t crazy about Johansson’s voice as Samantha, the operating system, but I got used to it.  The music is good, the cinematography is lovely, and Jonze does a nice job of creating a world that seems overly clean/sterile/pristine perhaps due to the lack of human interaction.

At first the plot about the operating systems getting so smart that they feel the need to move on to more important things than serving humans seemed unnecessary, but eventually I saw that as brilliant too.  I mean, if we’ve become so bored with actually talking to each other, there’s no reason to think the super-intelligent computers won’t get bored with us too.


Godzilla (2014)


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Drink me in, folks...

Drink me in, folks…

Liked it a lot, didn’t love it.  That’s the short version.

Of course, just liking it means it was so much better than the 1998 Godzilla.  I mean…SO much better.  The best parts definitely deliver the goods.

The positives:

  • Good story setup –  Ancient monsters are disturbed and go looking for radiation to feed on.  They grow big and destroy stuff.  Godzilla, in an almost mythological, Godly role, emerges to kill monsters and bring balance to the world.
  • The effects – Not too shabby.  Awesome at times.  Plus, you can actually see what’s going on in the monster battles.  It’s not a bunch of fast cutting to crazy angles that just confuses the audience and gives them a headache.
  • Serious tone – There aren’t many (or any, really) silly nods to the audience, inside jokes, childish stabs at humor, etc.  This isn’t like most blockbuster movies.  It actually takes the destruction of cities and rising death toll seriously, even if it involves giant monsters.
  • Some genuine emotional content at times, particularly the opening sequence.  Nice job, Bryan Cranston.

The negatives:

  • The best character isn’t in the movie very much.  The other characters are pretty dull.
  • Takes too long to get to Godzilla and the monster fighting. I don’t mind character development and a slower pacing, but only if it’s worth it.  In this case, as noted above, the characters don’t really build much.  I don’t even remember anybody’s name.  Pacific Rim was idiotic, but at least it knew what the audience came to see and had a robot/monster fight in the first 5 minutes.
  • Too many typical scenes of the military planning offensives, characters hoping to be reunited, then characters being reunited.  Very predictable stuff for the most part.

I like the direction Gareth Edwards had this movie going in.  It is definitely not stupid and obnoxious.  That’s a welcome switch.  I just wish he would have (or maybe could have – it’s only his first major movie after all, i’m not sure how much control he really had) made it even a bit darker and less predictable, especially at the character level.  Speaking of characters, I’ll say again, Bryan Cranston is great, and boy would I have liked to see more of him in this.  I guess Aaron Taylor-Johnson is convincing in the physical aspects of the lead role (I mean, he was Kick-Ass after all), but he’s not given much to do beyond that.

So yeah, cool fights, but not enough of them, and not early enough in the movie.  Still, worth watching, especially if you’re still trying to get the bad taste of Godzilla 1998 out of your mouth.


Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)


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I am happy...may cat and I are happy...

I am happy…my cat and I are happy…so happy…

Well, when I last experienced the Coen brothers, it was with 2009’s A Serious Man.  I did not enjoy that movie very much.  It was depressing, hard to follow, and not particularly funny.  At least, not to me.

So, this movie was bound to at least be better than that one, and it was.  But, it still suffered from some of the same issues I had with A Serious Man.  I guess the groove the brothers are in right just isn’t my groove. There’s no real plot or story line to follow.  It’s just the miserable life and circumstances of one man.  I like to think that the very end offers up some hope for Llewyn’s music to gain some popularity, but I’m really not sure.

What I am sure of is that the performance from Oscar Isaac is good, as is that of pretty much everybody in the movie, particularly Carey Mulligan.  Oh, and seeing Justin Timberlake as a 60s folk singer is pretty much worth the price of admission.  I also laughed a lot more during this movie than A Serious Man, so it earns some points in that department too.

I just wish there was a bit more of a story to follow.  I don’t always need a concrete story, but in this case, I wanted some sort of motivation to cling to.

At least, I THINK that was my main problem with it.  Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just not that great.  Maybe dismal doesn’t make for a great movie.  It makes for some good music on the soundtrack, but when it’s the main theme in a movie, it just kind of wears me down.

I guess I liked the light-hearted Coens better.  Though, I did enjoy Barton Fink, so…I’m confused by my tastes.  Oh well…