Feed on
Posts
Comments

L.J. Says

Oblivion is a beautiful sci-fi masterpiece that explores the familiar yet relevant themes of identity, love, and the nature of humanity…until you think about it.

Early in the film, Jack (Tom Cruise) is low on parts to fix the various drones that somehow manage to breakdown at exactly the right moment for a new plot point to occur. So instead he uses chewing gum, which I assume is laced with electrically filtered unicorn tears, to fix one of them. And that right there is the perfect metaphor for what this movie is. It’s a story that doesn’t have the parts it needs to work, so it’s constructed out of pieces of other films and held together with duct tape and spit.

There are several times when characters, both good and bad, should do something or should have done something way sooner in order to succeed at their objective and/or prevent needless injury or worse. Why didn’t they do those things? If you work in Hollywood and your answer is, “because that would make the movie only 40 minutes long,” then you just won a new scholarship to enroll back in story school. Because that is nothing more than an excuse for not giving enough of a damn about your narrative to understand its own internal logic. (Incomplete sentence intended.)

Oblivion wants us to think it’s a sci-fi action/adventure flick with a brain. And maybe that’s an apt description since it’s believed that we only use about 10% of our brain. Then again, that particular notion tends to be espoused exclusively by people who have neither spoken to nor read anything written by scientists who study that organ. But what do scientists know anyway? Bunch of lousy dropout hippy nogoodniks if you ask me.

I won’t spoil what, I guess, amounts to the existential and emotional thesis of the film (though it’s probably not that hard to figure it out). But I am very curious to see how other people react to it. I haven’t seen or heard much discussion about the message of the film, perhaps because it doesn’t really warrant it. I will say that the kind of conclusion it draws seems both emotionally simplistic and ethically dubious. The kind of moment the film is trying to go out on only works if you had spent the entire film in the bathroom and walked back into the theater to catch the last minute and a half… Also, if you’re in the bathroom that long you should probably see a doctor.

So that’s Oblivion. It’s a film that loves to raise questions but it sure doesn’t want you to think too much about them; because the people who made it sure as hell haven’t. It’s sad when a film isn’t smart enough to know how stupid it is.

C+ (I added the plus because 10% of my brain liked the pretty visuals) P.S. Where the hell did Tom Cruise find gum?

Courtney Says

Those who’ve gotten to know me through the podcast have probably figured out that I’m pre-disposed to enjoy a film such as Oblivion. By “a film such as Oblivion” I, of course, mean a conceptual sci-fi action flick with OTT visuals and music. These components very often combine to create something I will love. It’s like my grandmother’s caramel cake recipe. It’s infamously tricky to do well, and, as such, about 30% of the time the result is amazing, mind-blowing, best-thing-you’ve-ever-eaten-in-your-life perfection. About 50% of the time, it’s good, not great. The final 20% of the time, the result is barely edible.

I expected Oblivion to fit comfortably into the middle category of “good, not great.” I was intrigued by the concept–which I previously had told L.J. looked kind of like a high-octane version of Moon (BOOM!)–and the visuals did look pretty cool from the marketing materials. So how did Oblivion shape up? Well…

Oblivion lives up to its potential in the area of visuals. This film is a feast for the eyes, with some breathtakingly beautiful and simultaneously haunting imagery. It also has a great sci-fi score; the music is reminiscent of 80’s techno sci-fi music but has a decidedly more modern feel. It’s sweeping and intense, and effectively amps up the drama.

Unfortunately, it really needed to do just that, because Oblivion fails in some really crucial ways. The story presents the audience with a world ending conflict, but somehow never manages to make the stakes feel all that high. Part of the problem is with character development; the film only bothers to do any character development for Tom Cruise’s role. Granted he’s the main protagonist and gets the vast majority of screen time, but the secondary characters really needed some more attention. Another problem is the generous amount of plot holes.

(Side Note/Call to Arms: The sci-fi genre is chock full of hole-ridden story lines, and we as fans need to stop silently allowing leaky narrative. The time has come for fan-girls and -boys to stand up and demand seaworthy plots.)

Regardless, I can think of other films with plenty of plot holes, which still manage to sell their conflict more successfully. The point I’m trying, unsuccessfully, to make is this: from my perspective, the main reason this film fails is due to shoddy performances and a couple glaringly bad decisions from the filmmakers–which I suspect were actually mandated by the studios.

I will quickly note that Tom Cruise’s performance was serviceable, though nothing special. Olga Kurylenko is a complete nonentity. They could have cast a potato to fill her role and gotten the same performance. Morgan Freeman totally phoned in his performance. The one exception to this parade of bad acting was Andrea Riseborough. Hers could almost be called a breakout performance. Also, if you plan to watch Oblivion in the future, you should pay attention to her eyes. Her pupils were extremely, painfully dilated in virtually every single scene, with one key exception. It’s seriously unsettling, but provides some great, subtle context for her character.

(Another Side Note/Call to Arms: Tom Cruise is now 50 years old, and his two leading ladies are aged 33 and 31. Age-ism in Hollywood has always been gendered, but it’s beyond time that we stop accepting as rote 20 year age differences in our films.)

Beyond the lame performances, there were also some seriously questionable filmmaking decisions, which massively harmed this film. First and foremost are the incredibly hokey, explanatory voiceovers that start and end the film. These elements are out of place in the context of the rest of the film and serve little purpose other than to explain the movie to the apparently dim-witted audience. The other unforgivable decision is the conclusion. The filmmakers almost managed to write a gripping and emotionally relevant ending, but it seems as though they chickened out. The ending we are left with completely neuters the rest of the story.

The resulting film is beautiful and sometimes fun, but uncompelling . Ultimately, Oblivion is a missed opportunity. C+

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

We attended Doug Loves Movies live at the Gramercy Theater on April 2nd, 2013, featuring Jim Gaffigan, Kamau Bell, Pete Lee and Graham Elwood.  For fans of DLM, you might get a kick out of L.J.’s name tag, which earned a mention in the show (around the 1 hr 14 min mark):

snakesonabane2.jpg

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

armyvsoz3.jpg

(Warning: the following post contains spoilers for Oz the Great and Powerful and Army of Darkness. If you haven’t seen Oz yet, and plan to do so, give us a bookmark and come back once you’ve been entertained and/or disappointed by that film-going experience. If you haven’t seen Army of Darkness yet…than I don’t even know who you are anymore.)

I didn’t really seek it out, but somehow I found myself at the theater, opening weekend, for a screening of Oz the Great and Powerful. I’ve never been much of a The Wizard of Oz fan. I was always more of a Labyrinth guy (though, ironically, they both share a very similar plot line and structure). And yet there I was. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing the film, but about halfway through it hit me — Sam Raimi has remade Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness was my first exposure to Sam and Bruce Campbell and the dead that I quickly learned were most evil. I then experienced the rest of the trilogy exactly backwards. I really enjoyed Evil Dead 2; and Evil Dead 1…well, it’s cute that they tried. But Army of Darkness was truly my first love, and as such, I’d recognize it anywhere; and I very much recognized it here. Surely Sam knows what he’s done. But did this happen as an amusing accident? Or did he knowingly and deliberately make what amounts to a $215 million, family friendly, 130 minute long wink at Evil Dead fans?

Maybe you think I’m reaching. Maybe you think this new Oz movie merely contains a few coincidental echoes of Sam Raimi’s previous work. Maybe you think there’s no such thing as a massive underground conspiracy keeping the REAL truth about cats and dogs a secret (that Thurman, Garofalo flick was a cover up). Well you’d be wrong. I have evidence. Behold — a spoiler filled list of thirteen tropes and plot points that both movies share:

Key:

    1. Army of Darkness
    2. Oz the Great and Powerful
  1. An extreme time and/or fantasy world displacement for the protagonist (à la A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).

    1. Ash is transported to a fantastical medieval age complete with demons, magic, and a wizard.
    2. Oz poses as a wizard after being transported to the Wonderful Land of Oz, which possesses witches, magic, and a colorfully overproduced aesthetic.
  2. The protagonist is a self-absorbed, cowardly, selfish, womanizing prick who occasionally demonstrates he has something akin to “heart of gold”-like tendencies.
    1. Ash’s selfishness mostly manifests with his self-preservation at all costs mentality.
    2. Oz’s selfishness is displayed mostly with his lust for gold, as well as a few sociopathic tendencies.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-teaser-photos-hi-res-005.jpg

The protagonist sets off on a quest to save the realm.
Ash is sent to acquire the necronomicon which will help them to defeat the deadites.
Oz is sent to kill the Wicked Witch.

The protagonist seduces an extremely impressionable/gullible innocent woman under the false pretense that he is the chosen one spoken of in a prophesy and has come to save them.
Exhibit A: Sheila.
Exhibit B: Theodora.

The protagonist unwittingly/incompetently sets in motion the events that lead to the creation and empowerment of a great evil.
Ash misspeaks the magic words while taking the Necronomicon from its pedestal, which brings about the rebirth of his now gruesome evil doppelganger, who in turn raises an army of the Dead.
Oz thoughtlessly scorns Theodora who, in her despair, allows herself to be manipulated and tricked by Evanora into eating a magic apple. The apple transforms Theodora into a more powerful and evil witch – more powerful and evil than Evanora herself.

The Protagonist’s beautiful, sort of but not really girlfriend is transformed into a hideous and evil version of herself by the film’s main villain. (This and the previous trope are very much tied to each other.)
Evil Ash turns Sheila into a deadite.
Evanora transforms Theodora into the ugly, and very green, Wicked Witch of the West.

There is a montage of scenes depicting the protagonist preparing a ragtag group of unlikely warriors for the final confrontation.
Ash shows them how to make new weapons, and teaches the villagers and peasants how to fight (albeit in a somewhat comical and unconvincing fashion).
Oz gets the pacifist inhabitants of Oz to build what will be an elaborate rouse (à la The A-Team/The Three Amigos) to defeat the evil witches and their minions.

army-of-darkness-2.jpg

The Protagonist brings scientific knowledge from his time period/universe to give the good guys a tactical advantage.
Ash teaches the wizard and blacksmith how to make black powder for explosives.
Oz teaches the tinkers how to make black powder for fireworks.

The protagonist conspires with a local craftsman on a secret project.
Ash and the blacksmith create a death coaster from the car that transported there with him.
Oz and the Master Tinker build a hot air balloon similar to the one he was in when he transported to Oz.

The protagonist’s futuristic/otherworldly black powder projectiles demoralize the enemy.
Ash’s explosive arrows greatly intimidate soldiers in the dead army to cartoonishly comedic effect.
Oz’s fireworks frighten the witches and their army.

The protagonist flees from battle at a critical moment in what looks like a shameful display of cowardice to his allies.
The castle is invaded and Ash is seen escaping behind the castle walls.
Once they’ve entered the castle, Oz leaves the resistance to execute the plan on their own while he fills up his new balloon with gold from the treasury.

Just when the situation looks to be at its worst, the protagonist surprises everyone when he reemerges with some crazy contraption to turn the tide against the enemy.
Ash, in an explosion of wooden door shards, reveals himself riding his secret death coaster, complete with giant spinning blades of death, and easily mows down any deadite that dares cross his path.
The new Wicked Witch shoots a fireball at Oz’s balloon as it sets off with its expensive cargo. The Balloon hits the ground in an explosion of fire and gold. Shortly thereafter, the prototype of the famous giant floating head projection of Oz appears and intimidates the hell out of everyone.

And finally, zombie dinosaurs rise from their prehistoric graves and eat the brains of orphans… and non-smokers – but that’s mostly a political statement. Zombie dinosaurs are very upset about the legislative restrictions forced upon the American smoker by their tyrannical government oppressors. (I assume anyway. I never actually made it to the end of these films. Too scary.)

Well, I think I’ve both made my point, and wasted a fair bit of your time with trivial nonsense. You’re welcome.

Those are the parallels I thought of anyway. Please feel free to comment on this post if you think of anything I missed.

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I am of two minds about this flick, and these two minds have been waging a violent war since last night’s screening. My head hurts… 21 and Over is, in many ways, your quintessential post-Hangover debauchery based comedy. It’s seriously sophomoric, more than a little misogynistic, and full of gross-out gags and moments meant to shock the audience into laughing. It presents and glorifies an exaggerated reality of college kids being reckless dumb asses. I say exaggerated reality but perhaps I should call it an exaggerated wet dream, because the female characters in this film seem to have been written by the same person who pens those infamous Penthouse letters. They are completely unbelievable, but then so are most of the characters and plot events in this film.

It should be obvious by now that my rational mind wishes fervently I could dismiss 21 and Over as an idiotic exercise in translating male fantasy to the big screen. Unfortunately for my rational half, there’s another part of me that kind of enjoyed watching it. I laughed quite a lot and, in fact, thought this was funnier than The Hangover. Mind you, I didn’t think The Hangover was particularly funny (seriously overrated, in my opinion). And based on the hackneyed advertising, I was pleasantly surprised to find some semblance of actual character development. By the end, I was kind of even rooting for these morons (except for the boring love-sick one, he sucked).

Ultimately, I probably laughed and cringed in equal measure, but if you go in expecting and accepting a large amount of stupidity, you’ll be rewarded with a fun bit of entertainment. In other words, channel your inner teenage boy and you’ll have an okay time. C

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I am of two minds about this flick, and these two minds have been waging a violent war since last night’s screening. My head hurts… 21 and Over is, in many ways, your quintessential post-Hangover debauchery based comedy. It’s seriously sophomoric, more than a little misogynistic, and full of gross-out gags and moments meant to shock the audience into laughing. It presents and glorifies an exaggerated reality of college kids being reckless dumb asses. I say exaggerated reality but perhaps I should call it an exaggerated wet dream, because the female characters in this film seem to have been written by the same person who pens those infamous Penthouse letters. They are completely unbelievable, but then so are most of the characters and plot events in this film.

It should be obvious by now that my rational mind wishes fervently I could dismiss 21 and Over as an idiotic exercise in translating male fantasy to the big screen. Unfortunately for my rational half, there’s another part of me that kind of enjoyed watching it. I laughed quite a lot and, in fact, thought this was funnier than The Hangover. Mind you, I didn’t think The Hangover was particularly funny (seriously overrated, in my opinion). And based on the hackneyed advertising, I was pleasantly surprised to find some semblance of actual character development. By the end, I was kind of even rooting for these morons (except for the boring love-sick one, he sucked).

Ultimately, I probably laughed and cringed in equal measure, but if you go in expecting and accepting a large amount of stupidity, you’ll be rewarded with a fun bit of entertainment. In other words, channel your inner teenage boy and you’ll have an okay time. C

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I cannot express in words just how excited I was when I found Safety Not Guaranteed on Netflix Instant. Oh sweet ecstasy. Okay, that’s a little too much but I was psyched! I had been looking forward to this movie with grand expectations. I am, after all, rather fond of Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson and I thoroughly enjoyed the trailers. Add to that, the genre classification of “science fiction comedy-drama,” and you’ve got a flick almost perfectly designed to appeal to me (and about twelve other oddballs).

So I made my popcorn and settled in for what I was sure would be a magical couple of hours. At this point, I must remind you, my dear reader, that expectations are often the enemy of enjoyment. Such was the case here. I had such high hopes and they were utterly dashed. I found Aubrey Plaza’s performance to be clunky. I thoroughly disliked Mark Duplass as the supposedly endearing mad scientist. I was completely disappointed with the filmmaker’s lack of attention to narrative or genuine character development. This film is filled to the brim with wasted opportunities that left me feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

But let’s take a step back. The truth is, Safety Not Guaranteed is not a bad film. This film contains some beautiful moments that come from a perfect marriage of writing, design and performance. Jake Johnson, in particular, delivers a lot with his underdeveloped character, and the writers make some daring and unexpected decisions along the way. Unfortunately, all this is marred by a high level of amateurish underdevelopment. The story and concept are only half thought-out. The characters never achieve three-dimensionality. The editing is loose, as though the film were delivered before the editor had a chance to polish his work. And finally, the film offers a conclusion for only the main plot. Any secondary story lines or characters are left hanging. Perhaps this is by design, but to me, it feels like the filmmakers ran out of time and/or ideas. So, while the film has some wonderful elements, as a whole it just doesn’t work. Of course, take everything I say with a grain of salt; this review might have read very differently if not for dashed hopes. C

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I cannot express in words just how excited I was when I found Safety Not Guaranteed on Netflix Instant. Oh sweet ecstasy. Okay, that’s a little too much but I was psyched! I had been looking forward to this movie with grand expectations. I am, after all, rather fond of Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson and I thoroughly enjoyed the trailers. Add to that, the genre classification of “science fiction comedy-drama,” and you’ve got a flick almost perfectly designed to appeal to me (and about twelve other oddballs).

So I made my popcorn and settled in for what I was sure would be a magical couple of hours. At this point, I must remind you, my dear reader, that expectations are often the enemy of enjoyment. Such was the case here. I had such high hopes and they were utterly dashed. I found Aubrey Plaza’s performance to be clunky. I thoroughly disliked Mark Duplass as the supposedly endearing mad scientist. I was completely disappointed with the filmmaker’s lack of attention to narrative or genuine character development. This film is filled to the brim with wasted opportunities that left me feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

But let’s take a step back. The truth is, Safety Not Guaranteed is not a bad film. This film contains some beautiful moments that come from a perfect marriage of writing, design and performance. Jake Johnson, in particular, delivers a lot with his underdeveloped character, and the writers make some daring and unexpected decisions along the way. Unfortunately, all this is marred by a high level of amateurish underdevelopment. The story and concept are only half thought-out. The characters never achieve three-dimensionality. The editing is loose, as though the film were delivered before the editor had a chance to polish his work. And finally, the film offers a conclusion for only the main plot. Any secondary story lines or characters are left hanging. Perhaps this is by design, but to me, it feels like the filmmakers ran out of time and/or ideas. So, while the film has some wonderful elements, as a whole it just doesn’t work. Of course, take everything I say with a grain of salt; this review might have read very differently if not for dashed hopes. C

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I am such a sucker for quirky dramedies. You should know this about me, because it definitely colors my perception of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. I’m certain a lot of people would despise this flick, but to me it’s brilliant.

It starts with an intriguing concept: what would happen if we knew the world was going to end in a few weeks’ time? Would people still do their jobs? Would they stay in their current relationships? Would previously stable, responsible adults start doing heavy drugs and having orgies? Seeking a Friend answers these questions with a healthy balance of humor and gravity, realness and absurdity. Cameos from Patton Oswald, TJ Miller and Gillian Jacobs are the comedic highlights of the film. Steve Carell and Keira Knightly also turn in respectable performances, which work to sell the audience on their budding friendship. They make for a rather charming pair of dysfunctional characters.

Overall, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a sweet vignette of a movie, which managed the balancing act of the dramedy surprisingly well while simultaneously delivering a unique perspective on the human capacity to face the end of the world. B+

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

I am such a sucker for quirky dramedies. You should know this about me, because it definitely colors my perception of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. I’m certain a lot of people would despise this flick, but to me it’s brilliant.

It starts with an intriguing concept: what would happen if we knew the world was going to end in a few weeks’ time? Would people still do their jobs? Would they stay in their current relationships? Would previously stable, responsible adults start doing heavy drugs and having orgies? Seeking a Friend answers these questions with a healthy balance of humor and gravity, realness and absurdity. Cameos from Patton Oswald, TJ Miller and Gillian Jacobs are the comedic highlights of the film. Steve Carell and Keira Knightly also turn in respectable performances, which work to sell the audience on their budding friendship. They make for a rather charming pair of dysfunctional characters.

Overall, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a sweet vignette of a movie, which managed the balancing act of the dramedy surprisingly well while simultaneously delivering a unique perspective on the human capacity to face the end of the world. B+

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

On Friday, Kevin Smith announced via Twitter that Clerks III will be his last film before retiring from the medium.  Smith says the project will be a go if and when he gets the thumbs up from Jeff Anderson, who plays the abrasive Randal Graves in the Clerks movies.

My first response to this news was basically, “not this old song and dance again.”  How many times is Kevin Smith going to tell us he’s planning to retire?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the man’s work.  I even liked Jersey Girl, which is not a popular thing to admit.  But seriously, he needs to stop announcing his retirement.  Shortly before he went on the Red State tour, he was suggesting on various Smodco shows that he was done making movies.  Then when Red State premed at Sundance, Smith officially announced that Hit Somebody would be his final film before retiring from the movie biz.

Then last week, Smith announced that Hit Somebody was going to be produced as a miniseries on the small screen.  While details about this new deal are still pending, Smith has since suggested this change has left a hole in his intended ten-piece filmography (that is, if you ignore Cop Out, which Smith is only too happy to do).  It would seem the long speculated-upon Clerks III is to be the remedy.  Much as Clerks II followed Dante and Randal in their thirties, the third installment will check in on the duo in their forties.

Of course, all this is dependent upon Jeff Anderson coming back for another round of Randal, but the news is certainly positive for Kevin Smith fans.  Personally I’d prefer another Jay and Silent Bob story, but that’s neither here nor there.  Really the only thing that bothers me in all of this is the retirement issue.  It seems as though Smith is becoming the boy who cried wolf.  “No, this time I really mean it!  I’m totally going to retire after this next one.”  What happens if he comes up with another story he wants to tell after Clerks III?  Think McFly, think.

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »