Feb 8, 2015: Movies watched this week

Here are the movies I watched this past week:

The Cold Lands (2013)


Link: The Cold Lands

Summary: After his mother dies, a young teenager runs away in an attempt to keep his independence.

Thoughts: I’m not sure what they were aiming to create with this film. It felt meandering and pointless. The film begins with a mother and son, living in poor conditions in the boonies. While the mother is strict to the point of unbelievable ridiculousness (“You want a TV? No, haha! A violent video game? Of course not!” Wow, what believable writing!) and obviously has some issues, it’s also clear she means well and is trying her best. When she dies, so does all semblance of a story. The remainder of the film features little more than the kid wandering around the forest before meeting up with an older rogue-mentor who arbitrarily takes the kid under his wing, attempting to train him in the ways of the rogue-mentality, but the relationship has very little story substance, so no nuggets of wisdom are ever really offered between the two of them. And with some pointless nudity in the mix, we have a pretty waste-of-time movie here.

Clandestine Childhood (2011)


Link: Clandestine Childhood

Summary: A child attempts to have a normal childhood despite his parents being secret guerrilla soldiers who are attempting to battle Argentine’s military government.

Thoughts: Since the film is from the child’s point-of-view, we never really get much of the politics his parents are fighting for. (One familiar with Argentina’s history in the late 70’s and early 80’s would probably understand the conflict better, but I’m not one of them.) But one need not understand the political conflict to understand the child’s struggle to find and keep friends while never being allowed to reveal his real name at school, or use the phone at home, etc. Much of his story begins to revolve around his relationship with a girlfriend whom he realizes he can’t be completely honest with. The film does its best with the elements it includes, but by the film’s end, it unfortunately doesn’t feel like much. Overall, it’s an OK film, but I don’t think it stands out; there’s no strong theme to glue all the elements together, at least not one I saw.

Annabelle (2014)


Link: Annabelle

Summary: A member of the occult dies with an ugly creepy doll in her hands, which then becomes possessed and haunts its owner’s family.

Thoughts: A red crayon rolls out of a room; upon entering, the words “her soul” and random scribbles are written in red crayon all over the ceiling. It’s that kind of cheesy ridiculous laughable horror film cliche that this entire movie is made of. It’s not scary or even thematically interesting. The attempted jump scares don’t even make you jump. And yet this film had a budget of $6 million and made $256 million. That’s the most horrific thing about this film. Clearly the horror movie business is the business to be in.

Lucy (2013)


Link: Lucy

Summary: A woman is drugged with a drug that allows her to use ever-increasing percentages of her brain! As a result, she gains various super powers, which she uses to… do action movie stuff!

Thoughts: If one can forgive the ridiculous science of the premise, there’s not really much of a story besides action film action with super powers. Or at least I couldn’t understand what the story was supposed to be. Lucy sets out to stop the bad guys, who were injecting people with the drug for what purpose again? The film also tries to be profound about the profound truths about nature, but none of it really seems to make any sense, as far as I can tell. For example, after becoming super-smart (supposedly), Lucy says: “Humans consider themselves unique so they’ve rooted their whole theory of existence on their uniqueness. One is their unit of measure, but it’s not. All social systems we’ve put into place are a mere sketch. One plus one equals two. That’s all we’ve learned, but one plus one has never equaled two. There are, in fact, no numbers and no letters. We’ve codified our existence to bring it down to human size to make it comprehensible. We’ve created a scale so that we can forget its unfathomable scale.” Ah! How profound! Um… what the hell are you talking about?! And how do your profound insights make your super-powers possible? Eh, maybe I can’t forgive the ridiculousness of the premise; in trying to think about how I would fix it, I think I’d have to change the premise. It just doesn’t fundamentally make sense for these super-powers to be naturally inherent in every human brain, just needing drugs (or profound understanding?) to unlock them. Not that I don’t believe the human brain doesn’t have abilities humans have not yet unlocked (we do not yet understand how intelligence works); I just don’t believe these abilities include teleportation, time-travel, telekinesis, etc. The film does have some fun action sequences and some humor (wish there had been more), but not much else. And the Samsung product placement is really subtle, you probably won’t notice it, especially with what little portion of your brain you’re using.

Feb 1, 2015: Movies watched this week

Here are the movies I watched this past week:

The Return (2003)


Link: The Return

Summary: After their father, who’s been absent for 12 years, returns home, he takes his two sons on a fishing trip. But he does little to form a positive relationship with his children, treating them horribly, leaving one to wonder what exactly is going on with him.

Thoughts: A rather bizarre and sad film, with a touch of strange creepiness. Perhaps the father has PTSD? While the film shows him honestly trying to make a connection with his children, he’s far too easy to anger, and punishes too severely. He also seems to be on a mission having nothing to do with fishing that he doesn’t want to tell his children about. The tensions between the characters heat up and eventually lead to tragedy that just leave you bummed out. Depressing film. And there’s something really creepy about the way the camera moves at the very end.

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)


Link: Monsieur Lazhar

Summary: After their teacher commits suicide, a class of young students get a new teacher to help them cope with the tragedy. Drama ensues.

Thoughts: While the subject matter is certainly a tragic one, the direct and honest way the film faces the subject works very well. There’s not a lot of explosion of unrealistic melodrama, but the emotions are still palpable. It has the sort of subtle grace American films hardly ever seem to have. I thought it was a great movie. Certainly a sad film, but not depressing like The Return. There’s some hope in this one.

The Retrieval (2013)


Link: The Retrieval

Summary: Bounty hunters are forced to retrieve a wanted man, but the young 13 year old bounty hunter begins to form a friendship with the man he’s leading to his death. Inner turmoil ensues.

Thoughts: While the premise isn’t bad (though perhaps nothing new), I think the film had one big flaw that kind of made it boring: the emotional conflict is settled far too early. The main character (the 13 year old) clearly knows it’s wrong to lead the wanted man to his death. So watching him know this and struggle to confess for pretty much the entire film just doesn’t work, and the external conflicts are almost meaningless in the face of this problem. It would have been more interesting if the main character had definitively decided to turn in the wanted man from the beginning, and then correct his moral compass from their instead of having his heart in the right place from the very beginning. Also, parts of the story didn’t make sense. The bounty hunters trick the wanted man into following them by telling him that his brother is dying and wants to see him. You would think this would make them want to hurry their journey along. But they journey too slowly and even have time for a lost-love subplot, making it feel way too forced.

John Wick (2014)


Link: John Wick

Summary: After his car is stolen and his dead wife’s dog is murdered, a man sets out for revenge.

Thoughts: While the action is fun, there’s absolutely nothing at stake for John Wick, so the whole thing is emotionally bland. It’s like Taken except nothing worthwhile is actually taken. Wick is just angry and wants revenge. If he fails, who cares? No stakes.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)


Link: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Summary: A man who has the world’s best sense of scent sets out to learn the secrets of creating perfume, determined to capture the scent of beautiful women.

Thoughts: Very bizarre movie. Pretty disturbing movie. I really didn’t need to see a lot of the images in this film. People are cooked into meat pies in Sweeney Todd, and in this film, women are murdered to be turned into perfume. Yeah, that’s gross. And the climax of the film is just pure ugliness. But… if one can get past the disturbing premises and images, this is actually a very beautifully made film. The slow and patient way the filmmakers try to create the emotions that various scents give the main character is masterful. So I ended up really enjoying this movie, despite its more disturbing aspects.

Galavant: Season 1 (2015)


Link: Galavant Season 1

Summary: I brave and noble knight sets out to rescue his girlfriend from the evil king who kidnapped her, though he slowly finds himself falling in love with someone else on the journey. On top of that, characters enjoy breaking out into Alan Menken songs now and then!

Thoughts: It was very refreshing to see a live-action musical, especially one that featured actual original music and not just covers of already popular songs, and especially one that featured the music of Alan Menken, whom you’re already a fan of if you grew up enjoying Disney’s animated features of the 90’s. (He wrote the music for The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdinPocahontasHercules, and more.) That said, the show is almost completely ruined by the childish not-funny potty-humor-filled anything-goes writing. Though I admit some parts were funny, most of the attempted humor was just agonizing. (I did enjoy a number of the songs, though. Overall, the musical numbers are not on par with Menken’s film work, but some songs are quite good.) A fun idea, ruined. And what really stinks is that the season ends with big cliffhangers! But the writing was so bad, there’s a strong possibility there won’t be a season two! And even if there is, it will be torture to sit through another 8 episodes of agonizingly terrible humor just to get closure. Grrr! I hate when TV producers pull these kind of shenanigans. And for what? For a little bit of money. While we, the commoners, must grovel.

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)


Link: The Man Who Would Be King [Blu-ray Book]

Summary: A man pretends to be a god so that he can steal a small foreign isolated community’s treasures. But of course being a god goes to his head, and drama ensues!

Thoughts: The pacing was all messed up in this film; the setup was far too slow, the second act too rushed. I found myself really bored for much of it, until the tensions started to rise in the final act. Not bad, but not great. I think it’s snuggled in the “meh” area.