2015 English gangster movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Twin gangsters do gangster things.

This was a frustrating movie as it really had potential to be something special with the pair of performances by the great Tom Hardy at the heart of the thing. The guy just fascinates me with everything he does, so while I was really not all that excited to see another gangster flick, I needed to see how Hardy tackled two roles. And tackle them he does! He scowls, he screams, he drools, he pierces, he eviscerates, he punches, he spouts, he spits, and he charms. I like his rapport with himself in scenes where both brothers are present, and the movie magic used to have them engage in fisticuffs is flawless. It's been a while since I've seen Freaky Friday, but I don't remember Hayley Mills punching herself.

Now that I think about it, I really want to see a movie where Hayley Mills beats herself up.

I imagine it would be extremely difficult for an artist to pull this off and make it look so effortless. I know the twin thing has been done again and again--even by the great Nicolas Cage--but what Hardy does to make these two characters actually two characters rather than just carbon copies of the same guy is amazing. There was never a moment in the movie where I wasn't convinced that I was actually watching two different performers who happened to look nearly identical play these Krays. It's not just the glasses and slightly-different hair either. It's subtle body language, lip curls, eyebrow movements. Hardy pulls a lot of tricks out to make this happen, and it works so incredibly well.

I like some of the writing, I thought love interest Emily Browning was really cute, and I always always love seeing David Thewlis. I had problems with nearly everything else--storytelling flaws, side characters who muddied things, weird music choices, a general lack of flare, some unnecessary scenes--but none of it was enough to make those Hardy performances not worth watching.

The Foreigner

2017 action movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: An elderly Jackie Chan hunts down the terrorists who blew up his daughter.

This isn't normally something that I'd see in a theater, but I saw the above poster and thought watching Jackie Chan fight a gigantic Pierce Brosnan might be fun. Not only did the above poster lie about their even being a gigantic Pierce Brosnan in the movie, but it's also not any fun at all. This is the least fun I've ever had watching a Jackie Chan movie. The story and its characters are derivative, there's nothing at all new with any of the action sequences, and the movie's tone is way too somber. Maybe I'm alone here (I definitely was alone in the theater, allowing me to enjoy the movie sans pants), but I don't want my Jackie Chan movies to be ultra-serious.

I'm not sure if Jackie Chan has it any more. If he doesn't, he's not a guy who has to make any excuses or apologize. The man is 63 years old, and considering I'm twenty years younger and can barely get out of bed in the morning, watching him do what he does in the limited action sequences here is remarkable. I assume he still does all or most of his own stunts, mostly bouncing off walls or slamming into the ground, and there's still a little of the old Jackie Chan in that body of his. He's still got that trademark wince, too, the little thing he does at the ends of some of his stunts to sell it to the audience. Sadly, he's just not the salesman that he used to be. Besides, there's only 3 1/2 action sequences in this anyway, and none of them show anything new to an audience of one hungry for fun action scenes or do anything old well enough to make up for it. Mostly, Jackie Chan just mopes around and sets up traps and explosives like he's Rambo.

Pierce Brosnan is probably capable of being a force even if he's not gigantic. His character here has all kinds of meaty potential, but it's never realized. Really, neither his character or Jackie Chan's character feels like he even needs to be in the movie. That's likely a problem.

I've grown weary of thumping and thunking techno music in these kinds of action movies. Is it because I'm old?

Alien: Covenant

2017 sequel prequel

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Following the events shown in Prometheus, more things happen.

I have some questions.

Why wasn't this movie called Covenant or the last movie called Alien: Prometheus? Consistency, Ridley Scott!

I have other questions, but I don't feel like asking them. They'd be spoilers anyway.

Halfway through this movie, I think I decided I was done with Alien movies. As my faithful readers know, I love the first one where Sigourney Weaver is walking around in her underpants. I didn't like the second one as much, but it's very good for the sci-fi action movie that it is. The third and fourth installments confuse me, and but I liked both of them a lot more than I liked Prometheus. This one's also better than Prometheus, although it's nearly toppled by its own ambitions, has too many characters for me to not care about, and has some really perplexing logical lapses. The movies are starting to become exercises in seeing how many different parts of the body aliens can pop out of and how gruesome it can look on the screen.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about something that's starting to alarm me. A while ago, I felt like the song "Beyond the Sea" was stalking me because it seemed to pop up in every third movie I watched one year. This year, there's a new song--"Take Me Home, Country Road"--that seems to be haunting me. This is the third movie from 2017 where "Take Me Home, Country Road" has featured prominently. That's right--I've completed a John Denver trifecta.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Logan Lucky were the other two, in case you're keeping score at home. That makes this the best movie of the year that features "Take Me Home, Country Road."


2017 sci-fi horror movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: People aboard the International Space Station get themselves a new pet. Note: This might be a film adaptation of the children's picture book of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd's Goodnight Moon.

In my search for movies to watch with my Bad Movie Club people, I come across rip-offs of Alien all the time. I'm not sure I've seen one that had the budget of this Alien clone. As with the others, this lacks the subtleties that make Alien a work of poetic horror minimalist genius.

There are a lot of characters, and the makers of this found actors to play them. They should have just gone with special effects though because there's not much done to flesh out any of them. Sure, they reveal that one of them becomes a father. One of them is brave and sarcastic. One of them waxes poetically about how he prefers being in space over being back home. One of them is a Russian woman named Ekaterina. There's an effort to make the audience care about these people, but the special effects and action sequences overwhelm anything remotely human in the story, and the whole thing just leaves you cold.

One of the Hollywood Ryans is in this. For this movie, it's the Ryan who spends movies yucking it up. Here, whichever Ryan it is yucks it up in space. Jake Gyllenhaal is in there acting all astronaut-y. I don't know who any of these other people are. It doesn't matter because once you know this is an Alien knock-off, you know most of them (or none of them) won't be around to see the closing credits anyway.

I'm not sure what movie magic was used to make the actors and actresses float around like they do in this, but my guess is pixie dust. The opening five minutes or so shows off the ISS and the humans inhabiting it with a continuous shot of them floating around while one of them yucks it up. It's an impressive start, really simulating that weightlessness for the viewer. There are a few nice moments--zero-gravity blood spurts, a jacked-up hand--but this unfortunately starts to get redundant, rerunning the same sort of ideas over and over again with a slightly-larger variations of the undulating monster. The ending would have nearly redeemed it, but the twists created by cheap editing tricks annoyed me more than anything else.

The reading of Goodnight Moon with dramatic music was not a high point.

Happy Death Day

2017 horror mystery movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A sorority girl is forced to live her birthday over and over again, each day ending with her being murdered by a masked individual.

What the hell am I doing with my life?

In my defense, I really only went to see this because I like the chairs in the theater and needed about 30 minutes of driving time to listen to a podcast. But still, I could have probably seen another movie.

This horror spin on Groundhog Day looked interesting to me, but I knew pretty much right off from the start that these characters were going to be too unlikable for me to want to spend much time with them. Jessica Rothe is cute for a sorority girl, especially if that's your thing. She's also as obnoxious as a Hollywood depiction of a sorority girl can be. As with Bill Murray's character, hers is a dynamic one, but the whole thing is handled superficially, and her character is so unlikable at the start, that you just never really end up rooting for her. The supporting characters, with the exception of the guy whose dorm room she keeps waking up in and the masked killer just because you really support his efforts after a while, are equally obnoxious. This is the type of movie that can make an old fart like me hate college-aged kids.

There are all kinds of opportunities for this movie to be clever, but it never takes advantage of them. I generally like the fun repetitious things in time-travel or time-loop movies like this, but they didn't really serve much of a purpose here except to remind us that she was indeed reliving the same day over and over again. The movie does make an allusion to Groundhog Day at one point, but instead of being something sneaky or clever, it just basically has a character saying, "Hey, this whole movie kind of seems like a rip-off of Groundhog Day, doesn't it?" It wasn't the first time I groaned audibly and rolled my eyes while watching this.

I'll give the movie this--it is unpredictable. You won't figure out who the killer is until it's revealed. Unfortunately, that's because the whole thing is stupid and doesn't make much sense. But wait a few minutes because there'll be yet another twist that makes even less sense followed by another twist that will make you wish you had just decided to stay home and enjoy some gluten-free pretzels instead.

The main character's name is Tree. What is there not to hate about this movie?

Mental note: If a movie's title is as bad as Happy Death Day, don't waste your time seeing the movie. Which does make me wonder: What is the best movie with a terrible title? Maybe I'll make a list at some point.

Hugo the Hippo

1975 cartoon

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The plight of the titular river horse as he and his hippo tribe fight off some sharks and are then forgotten by the people of Zanzibar they saved.

This is either allegorical or the product of a secondhand marijuana haze. Or maybe it's just the product of its time. There's a cheapness to the animation that actually contributed to the psychedelic. Things gets as trippy in chunks as the trippiest moments in Yellow Submarine, all sorts of colors and ideas coming together to make something that's not quite for children but not quite for adults either. It's not the kind of thing that's going to dazzle, but it's worth a look for fans of 70's animation or LSD-inspired lunacy.

At times, this seems as square as an animated movie can be. I mean, Burl Ives narrates the thing and sings at least two songs, and fucking Osmonds are involved. Ives had to have been confused with his work although maybe the talking reindeer and snowmen set him up for it. His narration includes nuggets like "Everyone knows the difference between animals and people. People take medicine, fight wars, and read books. Animals don't," that give the whole thing a naive profundity.

I didn't realize this was a musical until the second song. The opening credits, weird shots of animal faces, had a song where they were singing about what a "strange story" this was going to be. But then there was another song and another and another. I'm not sure what to make of the songs. The lyrics, as well as the dialogue for that matter, make it seem like this was translated poorly from another language and then dubbed, but apparently it wasn't. One song has somebody spelling hippopotamus like that Jiminy Cricket encyclopedia song. A song Ives sings called "You've Said a Mouthful" was especially wacky, including word play gems about eating the ox out of the oxygen. I half-expected to look up the songwriter and find out it was somebody who went on to bigger and better things, but Bob Larimer only did a few off-Broadway things and jingles for fragrance commercials in the 70s. "H-I-P-P-O-T-O-T-A-M-U-S" was apparently too much for the guy to overcome. There are a lot of songs here, so maybe he just shot his proverbial songwriting wad. The rest of the soundtrack is filled in with cheapo funk 'n' roll music.

Maddening editing in an early storm-of-sharks sequence, one complete with sharks who are smoking and wearing funny hats, made me believe I was in for a treat, and for the most part, I did really enjoy seeing what the animators had to show me. There were green-faced bad guys, psychedelic foliage and vegetables, a variety of animals, lots of hippos, an apple assassin. It's great trippy fun with something to see on nearly every inch of the screen, and I looked forward to seeing more from director Bob Feigenbaum. But alas, Bob Feigenbaum didn't do a single other movie.

That might have been the result of an unfortunate sequence in this where monkeys are used to satirize the Harlem Globetrotters, complete with "Sweet Georgia Brown."

The great Paul Lynde voices the main villain in this. It's a voice that will remind people of a certain age of villainous voices on Hanna-Barbera cartoons. He's perfect!

Apparently, this is based on an actual story about a hippo.


1972 psychological drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A woman spends some time with her imaginary friends.

This is a less coherent version of Polanski's Repulsion, but I still really liked it. It's not necessarily what you'd expect from Robert Altmann. It's moody, taking place almost entirely in one claustrophobic location--the main character's psyche, one of those pseudo-horror movies without any real monsters or ghouls but is nonetheless frightening. The quick disintegration of York's character's mind and her loosening grip on reality is shown in a way that is horrifyingly absurd. You know you're in trouble when you're hallucinating your own doppelganger, right?

Susannah York is great as the protagonist, and she also co-wrote the whole thing. She's seemingly in every shot of the movie and effortlessly carries the story and all of its abstract layers on her shoulders. It's a good performance, mostly because it doesn't seem like a performance. There's subtlety and realism rather than flashiness or bombast, and I think the movie's better because of it.

The real star of the show is the cinematography. Sure, there are too many shots of random knickknacks, especially during the opening credits which juxtapose York with a voiceover talking about unicorns with shots of various baubles around her house. I wasn't sure how the text of a children's book she was writing fit allegorically or metaphorically with what was happening in the movie, but that might just be because I lost interest and stopped paying close attention to any of that. But back to the cinematography. There are great shots where there's a choreography with these "ghosts" and human characters. Altmann uses the space of the house well. There's also a great sex scene, fuzzied by a mirror.

John Williams did the score, and it's good stuff--lots of atonal, unidentifiable noises that sound like instruments being dropped on a studio floor. It's not the type of thing he's usually associated with, but it definitely works with what's going on visually here.

I'm not even sure I knew this movie existed. Some Robert Altmann fan I am.

Blade Runner 2049

2017 sci-fi sequel

Rating: 15/20

Plot: One of Hollywood's Ryans tracks down replicants, including one that is apparently the actual offspring of two others.

Whether you like the story or the nearly six-hour running time or not, this movie looks and sounds fantastic. I'm not sure there's anything visually here that hasn't already been seen in tons of other sci-fi dystopian movies made in the time between Blade Runners, but director Denis Villenueve and his special effects team pull it all off so spectacularly here. It's definitely a spectacle, and with the Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score, it's a great experience for at least two of the senses.

I watched the original Blade Runner yet again to refresh my poor movie memory before seeing this sequel, and I still just don't love it like I think I'm supposed to. I think the main reason, other than hating it as a kid because I expected it to be something else, is because of how cold it is. It's just a chilly movie. That's probably the way it's supposed to be, and it's likely the appropriate tone a noirish sci-fi movie needs to have. But it just feels a little flat and lifeless. This sequel has a bit more heart, and I think that's why I ended up liking it more than its predecessor. I'm not sure I'm supposed to like it more than the first one or how I feel about that.

I'm not sure what to make of Jared Leto, some extraneous nudity (Villenueve must be a butt guy), and some implausible action sequences. I liked the new femme villainous badass Luv played by Sylvia Hoeks, some genuinely trippy effects, the CGI world-building, and both Harrison Ford (who's not in this as much as you might think) and whichever Ryan that is. There's also a wonderfully erotic scene that is a prelude to off-screen lovemaking that I thought was ingenious. Villenueve's made a sequel that is consistent with the 1982 Ridley Scott movie with its lugubrious tone, it's laborious pacing, and it's lumbersome length. I doubt this movie is going to seem nearly as original in 2017 as the original Blade Runner must have in 1982, but in order to succeed, the movie didn't really need to do anything original. It needed that consistency, and it needed to tell a story that seemed worthy of a sequel. I think it did both of those. It's not the greatest storytelling, but those visuals and sounds make up for that.

Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, crocodiles, and alligators. If Reynolds and Gosling ever are involved in a project where CGI alligators and crocodiles fight, I'm going to stop watching movies.

The Overnight

2015 comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: New-to-the-city parents make some new friends and spend the evening together.

I've never seen a pair of actors wear fake penises so enthusiastically.

There are likable things about this comedy, but it doesn't feel complete.

Silent Saturday: Wings

1927 romantic war drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: War and romance! And Clara Bow's boobs.

Clara Bow partial nudity and the screen's first man-on-man lip action! What's not to love about this first Best Picture award winner?

Clara Bow's hair is a lovely mess in early scenes. Here's a confession: The only real reason I watch so many silent movies is because I like the look of the women in them. I fall in love with an actress in almost every silent movie that I watch.

There's nothing special about the story--all love triangles and dogfights and 1920's melodrama--and the overly dramatic intertitles and the fact that I had trouble telling the two male leads (nondescript white dudes) apart bothered me, but I sure like the look of this film. There's some dopey, dated dogfight stuff, but there are also some really cool, creative shots. I loved the look of planes submerged by clouds and plane shadows, an almost dizzying shot of characters swinging, some neat split-screen war action, and a great tracking shot over the tables in a French bar. I'm not sure what I thought about a special effect that added superfluous bubbles, however.

Those bubbles did lead to my favorite intertitle in this: "Come wiz me--we will find ze mos' beautiful bubbles in ze worl'"

This was the first Academy Awards Best Picture winner, and it was also the only silent movie to ever win the award. Sunrise and Metropolis also came out in 1927 and were both better than this.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

2017 animated comedy

Rating: 11/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Two friends use creativity, pranks, and their writing and artistic talents to escape a mundane first-grade existence. Their tyrannical principal tries to break up their friendship, and they accidentally bring the titular superhero to life and use him to help save the world from a goofy-named villain.

I'm going to let Buster write this entry for me.

I like this movie because it's funny. when they find out the villans real name its funny. I learned that some people don't like laughing. The movie is like the books.But only some parts.

Well, that's as good as anything I'd write, I suppose. The only thing I'd add is that there's a lot of potty humor in this movie. I kind of like what the movie's about--the power of friendship and creativity--but I don't like seeing adults disrespected so explicitly.

Buster reads these books, and apparently, they've hurt her ability to write complete sentences, spell words correctly, and use apostrophes. She can, however, appreciate a good fart joke.

The Big Sick

2017 romantic comedy

Rating: 15/20 (Jennifer: 16/20)

Plot: A struggling comedian from one of the countries ending in -stan meets and falls for a heckler at a club, but his family's cultural background gets in the way of their relationship. Then, she gets sick, and he realizes that she's even hotter when she's in a coma.

I've been more emotional than usual the last month or so as I approach another birthday that I wasn't supposed to even have. I was supposed to die at 42, after all. I'm not sure if it's a third midlife crisis or if it's because my wife buys too many mugs, but I've been in lots of situations lately where I've just felt like crying for no good reason. I was in a grocery store a week and a half ago, and the sight of an overly-excited little girl clutching a box of fruit snacks nearly brought me to tears.

So this movie, borderline artificially sweet, got me a little weepy. I fell in love with the flaws of all of these characters and couldn't help but root for all of them. Though this is apparently only loosely based on the real story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily, there are enough universal truths within the movie's story to touch on ideas about love, cultural differences, family, relationships, and the importance of humor in dark times.

Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. I can't stop imagining these two getting it on.

This is the second movie I've seen the past year with a bunch of comedians as characters. They're not all central characters in this like they are in Don't Think Twice, but there's a lot of backstage riffing, etc. in this one. I think I've decided that I couldn't spend too much time with comedians.

Gerald's Game

2017 drama

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Kinky sex turns nightmarish as Gerald has a heart attack, leaving what's-her-face handcuffed to a bed with only a hungry dog that doesn't understand the safe word to keep her company.

This movie has a really dopey ending and treats child sex abuse in a juvenile way. I didn't like it. I spent most of the movie wondering about how many times she would have shit or peed the bed.

I also wondered if any of my sexual experiences were as good as this one.

It also has a scene that made me squirm, probably one of the most difficult things I've seen on the screen in a long time.


2016 monster movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: An alcoholic woman, after being kicked out by her boyfriend and moving back to her hometown, discovers that she somehow controls the movements of a monster wreaking havoc in Seoul.

Heavy-handed metaphors and questionable character motives angered me as it seemed like the movie thought I was some sort of dumbass. Nacho Vigalondo, the guy who did one of my favorite time-travel movies, disappoints again with a creative idea that is poorly executed and doesn't really have enough actual story to go along with it anyway. I didn't like Hathaway, and I don't think I ever like Jason Sudeikis who might as well be Bill Paxton because they have the same head shape and tendency to walk around with facial stubble.

It's labeled an action/comedy/drama, but it's too much of a mess to work as any of those. The monster effects are fine when the pair of monsters--the thing on the poster and a giant robot--aren't doing anything. Most of the scenes show them not doing anything in a darkened locale, likely due to budget limitations. There's more action with Sudeikis and Hathaway slapfighting in a park. I find it hard to believe that this is a comedy at all, and the drama is just too obvious to work. I never really felt anything for these sketches of characters anyway.

A more subtle approach could have taken this original spin on the giant monster genre somewhere. This, unfortunately, is just clumsy.

Silent Saturday: Peter Pan

1924 silent adventure

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A dangerously irresponsible man-child flies off with three impressionable children and takes them to Michael Jackson's ranch, a land filled with stereotypical Indians and effeminate pirates. Adventure ensues!

Fun special effects in this one with Tinkerbell, the construction of a house, and all that flight. Some scenes with static camera use were almost unbearably long, but there was a lot to enjoy with the effects. You also have to appreciate John's top hat, the crocodile actually eating Captain Hook (sorry for the spoiler), anti-medicine propaganda, what might be the first lesbian kiss in cinema history, some mermaid action, and the inexplicable appearance of an American flag. There's also a wonderful concluding intertitle that makes a claim about children being "Innocent, gay, and heartless." Heartless? What the hell?

Betty Bronson plays Peter Pan, this little incarnation of irresponsible joy. I suppose a woman has to play the titular fairy boy because it was part of a tradition, but I don't think it's something that Trump would be happy about.

There's a part of this movie that nearly made me drop it 10 full points to a 4/20. It was a breaking-of-the-fourth-wall moment where Bronson tells the audience to start clapping so that Tinkerbell doesn't die. I don't want my movies treating me like I'm a toddler watching an episode of Blue's Clues, and I refused to participate. In fact, I'm surprised that Tinkerbell didn't die. Luckily, it didn't seem like her life actually depended on my participation.

What saves this movie is Nana the Dog, a character played by a guy in an unblinking dog costume. It was fucking awesome! I looked up the name of the actor who played him, and the guy's name is George Ali. George Ali played Nana the Dog in Peter Pan and nothing else. He was also married to Helen Jerome who was an actress appearing in one television movie in 1946 and nothing else. I'm not sure if that's interesting to anybody but me, but here it is on the shane-movies blog.