recent movies

Some micro-reviews of stuff I've seen recently:

Black Mirror: A British 3-part near-future-scifi thing. The first episode, with the Prime Minister and the pig, is fantastic. The second, about game shows, is kind of ham-handed, and the third is basically a rehash of the theme of Strange Days (but that's one of my favorite movies, so I'll allow it). The pig one is really great, though.

Sherlock: The new BBC Holmes adaptation is fantastic in every particular. It alternates between being incredibly faithful to the books and going off the rails in entertaining new directions. My only complaint is that I thought the Moriarty character was cartoony and kind of sucked. Everything else about it, especially Irene Adler, was great. I also enjoyed the first Robert Downey Jr. movie (haven't seen the second), but this series is way, way better.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.: I finally watched all three of the Swedish versions (I haven't seen the Hollywood version because every time I see a remake, it's a mistake) and the first one was pretty good, but the sequels were completely stupid and borderline nonsensical. Also I understand that the original title was "Men who Hate Women" but shouldn't it have been called "Writers who Want To Rescue Tiny, Angry Girls"? (How many times did a character say "she's so small, like a little girl?" Five?) The reporter character was such a Mary-Sue in every scene it was cringeworthy. The second two movies are composed almost entirely of scowls and sighs interrupted by the occasional unbelievable fight scene with a magical albino ogre.

Limitless: I actually really, really liked this, even though there were plot holes you could drive a truck through. I mean, seriously, you just got hold of a drug that makes you smart, and the first thing, the very first thing you do is something other than finding a way to secure a continuing supply? This is basic "your first wish is for more wishes" stuff. Also, when he didn't pay the mobster back, I didn't even notice because I thought "of course he paid the mobster back, they just didn't bother mentioning that because not doing that would be so stupid", but no, the whole movie hinges on these two moronic decisions and almost lost me because of it. But it was fun anyway. I also really liked the "smart-vision" visual effect; it reminded me a bit of how they handled that in Brainstorm.

In Time: Likewise, a really enjoyable movie with some truly epic plot holes. In particular, how am I supposed to believe that someone who has successfully spent the last 50 or 100 years preventing their clock from reaching zero would be capable of getting so distracted that they just happened to let it run out and drop dead? This happens more than once and it's crazy. Also the hyperinflationary economic controls seemed more than a little confused. But, a fun flick nonetheless.

Triangle: I didn't know anything about this when I started watching it, and that's a good way to go in. It starts off seeming like it's going to be a "stranded at sea" movie, then it starts looking like "ghost ship", then maybe time travel, but really it turns out to be [REDACTED]. The structure of it was interesting enough that when I got to the end, I went back and watched the beginning again to see how it all fit together.

Apollo 18: This was like watching the last 10 minutes of The Blair Witch Project over and over again. In space. Absolutely nothing happens, and then they're eaten by shaky-cam, the end.

Super 8: This was kind of cute. It was basically a remake of ET, but JJ Abrams is less of a schmaltzy, pandering hack than Spielberg is, so it came out better.

Cowboys and Aliens: This is a thing that happened. I think I enjoyed it while it was on, but now I can't actually remember a thing about it, except blue LEDs and Harrison Ford scowling a lot.

Drive: Speaking of scowling a lot, was this some kind of dare, to see if you could make a movie where the lead never moves his face even once? Was this movie actually about Ambien? It wasn't bad, but man, the flat affect of the whole thing was kinda goofy. I guess it's not the first time "vacant" has been mistaken for "deep".

The Thing: Ok, technically it's a prequel, not a remake, except for, you know, having the same plot as the previous movie, and worse effects. Spend the time you would have spent fast-forwarding through this reading The Things by Peter Watts instead.

Captain America distinguishes itself by being a movie about killing Nazis that doesn't actually have any Nazis in it. It has nothing to recommend it. It was the "Muppet Babies" version of Inglorious Basterds.

X Men: First Class is a dimwitted remake of X Men starring Wesley Crusher instead of Jean-Luc Picard. (And I mean Wesley, not Wil!) So if that sounds like a good idea to you, by all means.

Immortals: I'd have assumed that I wouldn't give a shit whether a Tarsem Singh movie had a plot, because they're just so damned pretty, but this movie was awful and boring. He was really slumming here.

My Name is Bruce: You might be under the impression that Bruce Campbell is incapable of being anything but charming and funny. This will break you of that.

Underworld 4, I guess? I remember liking the first one, but there aren't enough vinyl catsuits in the world to make this one watchable. Also: Precocious Child.

Similarly, I tried to watch The Three Musketeers, the "steampunk" one, because I was exceptionally drunk and Milla Jovovich is in it and there are blimps. It seemed like a solid line of reasoning at the time, but evidence suggests that there is literally not enough alcohol in the world for me to make it through the first fifteen minutes.

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19 Responses:

  1. Enid says:

    Thank you for this! Adding to my "to see" list.

    I felt Drive was about responsibility and what one person owes another; the many forms of debt. But I agree with your comments on it as well.

    • I loved Drive so hard. I read the lead character as a throwback to the classic Eastwood Westerns; almost autistically detached from normal human interaction, and with a rigid moral code.

  2. Yeah, I pretty much agree with you on the Writers-who -like-to-write-badass-girls-as-bisexuals franchise, except on two things.
    a) How in hell did you manage even halfway through the second film?
    b) I actually recommend the Fincher version. It's creepier and some key scenes have better momentum. That being said, I guess everyone says that Lisbeth is toned down. Not so.

  3. Will Sargent says:

    The Fincher remake of Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is worth seeing, if only because it's so beautifully done; the actual story is streamlined down, but the Reznor soundscape and the cinematography makes the whole world viscerally cold. It's like watching The Ring compared to Ringu -- yeah, the Japanese version makes more sense, but damn if you aren't haunted watching The Ring for the first time.

    • MattyJ says:

      I agree on this. The Fincher version doesn't add much to the story and takes a different angle on the relationship between Blomqvist and Lisbeth. But it's got the usual level of craft that Fincher brings to everything. It's beautiful to look at and listen to.

  4. DFB says:

    I disagree about Limitless because the protagonist's mistakes drive home an important distinction between intelligence and wisdom. Other plot points played into that distinction as well. But you're completely right about the problems with In Time, which could have done with at least a few dozen fewer puns, too. A quick script brush-up could have saved it from all those flaws.

    • jwz says:

      I don't buy that at all. He was able to assimilate and integrate what he saw and heard well enough to bet correctly on the stock market, but he couldn't see three chess-moves ahead to realize that running out of pills might be a problem, or that people get angry when you owe them money? I'm not buying your "wisdom" distinction, either. It's not like the pills just made him good at math.

      • DFB says:

        Consider that his second use of his new skills after writing was a relationship that put him at considerable risk, and then what happened with the blond. I'm sure the book it's based on is an allegory about amphetamines.

        • Q says:

          I'd agree that it imparted genius but not self-control. However, not paying off the mobster was tough to
          swallow, and also losing his supply to the lawyer. The poor behavior with women and additional risk-taking seemed to be drug side effects, ok, but 'forgetfulness' while on the drug didn't seem to be a side effect, quite the opposite. He did seem to lose track of time sometimes on the drug, which I guess could explain the not paying back thing, but it wasn't clear.

          Still, yeah, if you just suspend a little disbelief, it was a good and interesting moving to watch.

  5. Nick Lamb says:

    The (BBC) Sherlock Moriarty does kinda suck yeah. Sherlock was a bit fan service heavy in places too, and Irene Adler is an example of that - a better writer would have decided to cut away from that closing scene and let fans come up with their own happy ending, but not Moffat apparently who figures if we're watching TV it must be because we don't have imaginations of our own. But overall I was pleasantly surprised more often than I was disappointed, it kept me watching and it sold well, so that's nice for everybody involved.

    I am now inclined to see Triangle and to avoid Apollo 18 more than before.

    • jwz says:

      When watching Sherlock, it's definitely worth your time to pause it and read the newspapers that zoom by in the cut scenes. They're pretty funny.

      • phuzz says:

        The beeb have just finished showing a TV version of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which performs a similar trick of taking small parts from the books, but mainly weaves it's own narratives.

        It'll probably show up in the states soonish, I quite enjoyed it, but I'm sure people will be along shortly to tell me why I'm wrong.

  6. tkil says:

    I watched In Time and The Three Musketeers [on a Plane Blimp] on a recent transatlantic flight. (And the remake of Footloose, and Abducted, and... gah.) Didn't bother jacking in for the audio. At least most of those had pretty moments... and I wasn't bothered by plot holes.

  7. MattyJ says:

    Rather than critique JWZ's taste, just wanted to mention Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Just saw it and it's pretty amazing in an understated kind of way. If you don't like documentaries then you won't like this one, but Jiro is an interesting guy at the top of his game at 85 years old. Similar feel to Note By Note or Sweetgrass if anyone has seen those. Best movie I've seen since The Muppets.

  8. Rick C says:

    "I guess it's not the first time "vacant" has been mistaken for "deep"."

    Oh, like Jason Statham? The man emotes as much as a brick.

    • Wibble says:

      ...Deep? I don't think Jason Statham has ever tried to be deep, or even had aspirations of such. He's basically straight up said that he's amazed he has a career, and that his M.O. is the acting equivalent of a holding up a big "will kick things for food" sign for as long as he can.

      • Rick C says:


        I did not know that. (And having made my original comment, I have to say I've willingly seen more than one movie where he's the main character.)

  9. DaveL says:

    I have to say I loved the moment when Sherlock says to Watson, "I see you've been in Afghanistan." That was worth all the lame gay jokes and the twee.

  10. Alex says:

    Drive - is Ryan Gosling playing a man too stupid to speak, or is that him? Also, seriously heavy dose of Teal-n-Orange. I'm inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt as being good-quality kitsch.