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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Nicsperiment's Early Summer of 2017 Movie and TV Mini-Reviews

It's that time of year again. The time when I take stock of all the movies and TV I have lately seen, and write a two sentence review of it for The Nicsperiment. Of course, just one sentence on The Nicsperiment is like two or three paragraphs anywhere else, and will surely have you saying “What did I ever do to deserve this?” in a good way...of course...
This is one of the rare times I am including re-watches on this list. This recent Tom Cruise Mummy movie that I will likely never see reminded me of how the 1999 Mummy with Brendan Frasier is a perfect action/adventure/comedy hybrid, and the best Indiana Jones movie in the last 20 years. I remember being supremely disappointed in the bigger isn't always better sequel, The Mummy Returns, but now it is a sort of post-Y2K/pre-9/11 relic, and I felt like I owed it a second chance after 16 years. I also gave the third movie in that series a try, as I had never seen it. Also, obviously, I recently saw Alien: Covenant. I realized afterward that Alien: Resurrection was the only film in that series I haven't seen, so I watched it, and gave the supposedly better “Assembly Cut” of Alien 3 a try, as well (I'd already seen the original cut). I think the rest of this stuff is pretty much all new...or at least, recent.

Alien: Covenant -- 7/10
I don't get why it is so hard to make a great, modern alien film--you have the greatest movie monster ever conceived, and an outer space setting, and instead, this is just a decent, violent, mostly enjoyable  sci-fi film that doesn't even take advantage of its setting. Instead of capitalizing on the terrifying isolation of space, or going all in on action, Ridley Scott essentially does a retread of Prometheus with slightly more competent, but still profoundly stupid human protagonists whose stupidity drives the story, and scenarios that were more fresh in the 1930's, like "Is this the good twin, or the evil twin?"--c'mon 20th Century Fox, VALUE YOUR PROPERTIES!

Alien 3 (Assembly Cut) -- 4/10
Makes an incomprehensible, bad movie, into a comprehensible, overlong, bad movie.

Alien Resurrection -- 6/10 least it's better than 3? I'm glad they went all out on the creatures, but this is kind of just weird for the sake of weird, with little substance.

The Americans: Season Five -- 9/10
Races headlong to its Season Six conclusion at a glacial pace, like a car crash in slow motion. By the time this ends, The Americans might very well go down as the greatest show of all time.

Arrival -- 7/10
Ah, sorry. I mean, it's a cool idea and all, and it's beautifully shot, but it's so damn hokey.

The Boss Baby -- 4/10
Of all the kids movies I have been to over the last seven years, this is not one of the better. Fart, fart, puke.

The Fate of the Furious -- 4/10
Disregards everything that made the last three films so fun--the family aspect is completely missing, and without Paul Walker, it may never be possible to recreate it. The action is incompetently filmed, cutting every time the frame gets interesting, mangling the unbelievably awesome stunts the crew pulled off--and making them look like CGI when they were actually real...this is a huge disappointment.

Get Out -- 10/10
In my personal opinion, horror is the best genre to get across deeper metaphors about humanity. That the dude from Key and Peele was able to do this better, scarier, and more hilariously than anyone in a good decade is a revelation--more movies please, because with great power comes great responsitrillitrunce.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- 9/10
I've heard this film accused of having "too much heart." I'm not sure what that means--I love this tale about a makeshift family of lovable losers just as much as I did the first.

It Comes At Night -- 7/10
It's a nihilistic post-apocalyptic thriller being advertised as a horror film--and one of the most depressing films I've seen. I thought I figured out its purpose, then realized that if that was what the film was going for, it contradicts itself, and though it is quite well-made, one of the three other people in the theater besides me very reasonably requested a refund after it was over.

It's Always Sunny in Phildelphia: Season Twelve --7/10
Starts out with some episodes that give the impression this season will be an all time great, and there are a couple more midway in that vein, but overall, it ends up being a very average season. Hope the break helps.

John Wick -- 8/10
It's basically a live action cartoon where Keanu kills 'em all for killing his dog, mostly using a gun. I can't wait to watch the second one now.

Kong: Skull Island -- 7/10
It realizes it is a big dumb monster movie, and never ascribes for more than that, achieving well what it set out to accomplish, with big monsters smashing lots of stuff real good. Nice bit of pathos for the John C Reilly character, too, just to make sure you care a little bit.

Legion: Season One -- 9/10
Probably the most head-tripping Marvel adaption on screen, beautiful to look at, and seductively addictive, though the jury's out as to where the journey will lead.

The Lego Batman Movie -- 8/10
It is so stupid, and it is so funny. It may betray the character just a little, but who cares when the laughs come this fast, and what's happening on screen is so entertaining...afterall, Lego Batman, by this point, is his own character.

Logan -- 9/10
Considering how badly these Wolverine movies have been squandering the greatest character Marvel ever created, it is shocking how well they put him to bed here. Finally liberating the character to create the bloodbaths and swear-storms previous films have only hinted at feels refreshingly real and sobering, rather than exploitative, measuring the cost of Logan's life, yet without quite making you want to jump off the Golden Gate.

The Mummy Returns -- 7/10
The first hour is incredible fun, more fun than I remembered, but the second is a "bigger isn't necessarily better" retread of the first film, featuring notoriously lousy CGI. However, The Mummy Returns seems positively restrained compared to today's wall of CGI blockbusters, is luxuriously shot, stays focused, and features an excellent score...also all things the majority of today's blockbusters seem to be missing.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor -- 5/10
And this is what a Mummy movie looks like post 9/11--the colors are muted, the fun is missing, everything that made the series special is lost, or at best, downgraded. At least The Mummy Returns had the courtesy of making one side of its climactic CGI battle human.

Nocturnal Animals -- 9/10
Incredibly spellbinding film, with a hypnotic score, great performances, and one of the better novel within a movie metaphors I've seen, directed with style to spare by Tom Ford. So entrancing.

Split -- 7/10
It's not as good as his first few films, but Shyamalan has now created two fun, competently made films only he could have written and directed in a row--and it connects to a past favorite. Bring on the next one--Shyamalan's back!


Azure Ides-Grey said...

I completely agree about the Lego Batman movie! I actually only saw it a couple of weeks ago, but I can't stop saying good things about it. Similar to what you mentioned, there are so many clever quirks about it. I don't watch many movies but I'll probably watch that one again. Long live LEGO.

Nicholas said...

The way they animated The Joker's despondent face when Batman tells him that he does not care about him has got to be one of the most sublime things I have ever seen. I laughed so loudly and for so long, I am quite sure my family wanted to remove all association with me.

Neal (BFS) said...

Nicholas, 7/10 for Arrival? 7/10? That's just... you need to hand over your reviewing credentials now, mister. ;)

But okay, you can have them back for Lego Batman. I agree with you there, so much fun, even if it's not as good as The Lego Movie. Though I think the funniest point for us was the opening with Batman commenting on the logos... that got us giggling and laughing like almost nothing else in the movie (aside from the monster nonchalantly running away after taking out Sauron's eye).

So, umm, how bloody is Logan? I don't mind some blood, but I've kind of gotten away from things that get too gorey. I'll roll with it if it's like Saving Private Ryan and has other stuff to it, but I do get nervous about it (and I know Private Ryan isn't as bad as some get these days).

Working on a blog comparing the Guardians movies and Wonder Woman, so I'll let those cover my thoughts there.

Nicholas said...

I almost feel the need to apologize for Arrival, but it just didn't hit me the way I think it was supposed to. I loved the first hour, loved the cinematography. loved the performances, the casting...etc. However, I'd say around 70-80 minutes in, I started getting restless with the same three sets (spaceship interior, grassy field, humans' tent), and my mind started wandering to the effect that I deduced the rest of the movie, including the big twist involving Jeremy Renner and the daughter to the degree that I was not moved when they were revealed...which might make me a monster. I don't generally figure out movie twists, but when if I do anymore than five minutes before they are revealed by the film, I uh...I don't know, I feel a little short-changed. The moral implications of having a child you know will die young is interesting...I mean, metaphorically speaking all human action in the face of eternity is...bah, nah, I felt the emotional component was kind of manipulative...I don't know. I just didn't love it. I'll stop talking about it now.
Logan is bloody, but it's not like guts get strewn all over the screen for two hours--it's just the logical conclusion of razor sharp claws making contact with human flesh--and really, Wolverine gets the worst of it. I would honestly say that the film is more emotionally bloody than physically bloody. I mean, it's quite bloody, but not as bloody as Private Ryan, and it certainly has a lot to offer (there's a digression halfway through the film entirely based on community and conversing that gives the film a lot of its weight, and for the majority of that, the claws do not come out).
Exciting to see the Guardians and Wonder Woman blog. Saw Wonder Woman Sunday with my two, and we loved it (though it could have ended 20 minutes sooner and spared us the generic CGI battle).

Neal (BFS) said...

Ah, well, as you know, I've had a story about if a person should choose to remove emotional pain from their lives entirely, rather than deal with it (still dealing with revisions on that. I've started and stopped 3 times now, thanks to moving, etc.). So I definitely found that interesting... it's probably a movie we'll buy eventually: a big litmus test for how good a movie is with me is if I'm willing to buy it, ie, watch it enough times more that the money is worth it.

But twists can be odd things for how they affect people, and everyone reacts to them differently. As I'm pretty sure we've discussed, Jessica often looks up how a TV series, movie, or book will go and enjoys being able to relax then and just see how the story is working toward that. Me, I like first initial reaction I have to things, and then the ability to think about how they got there, and, if I liked it enough, to actually see that in the future.

But yeah... how a person reacts to the twist can flavor the rest. With Shyamalan's The Village, for instance, we remember people feeling like the twist was lame and therefore the rest of the movie was lame. But for us, it deepened everything, revealing so much about human psychology and the rest of the movie's themes. But if someone felt like it made the more horror/terror focused earlier scenes inapplicable, then I can understand why they don't like it. So I dunno, your restlessness probably didn't set you up well for where the rest of Arrival went, whereas we both were still pretty connected, and so... it umm, connected for us. Heh.

I forget who reviewed it on the Roger Ebert site, but they didn't quite feel the setup paid off the ending (though they thought it was interesting). Other reviewers felt differently, as did I, so it's definitely a bit divisive there for quite a few people.

Blog post is up, my first "Someone Is Wrong on the Internet." Because you can never have too many opinions on the internet! :p (you'll have to tell me if you like the final line of the blog, I thought it was a bit silly on the first write, but it's stuck with me as I've revised).