Here are the films I watched last month. I mostly keep reviews on my Letterboxd account now, but I archive them here every month as well. Various reviews may have spoilers.
★★★★★ : One of the best movies ever, I will love for the rest of my days
★★★★½ : Awesome movie, almost one of the best
★★★★ : Great movie, worth buying to own
★★★½ : Above average
★★★ : Average, not bad, but not great
★★½ : It’s almost just OK, but not quite
★★ : Pretty silly movie, meh!
★½ : Simply ridiculous movie
★ : Bad movie, what were they thinking?
½ : Woah! Absolutely awful, I feel dumber for having watched
La La Land (2016)
I enjoyed the music and the camera work with its wide angles and long shots. I liked what they were trying to do, but unfortunately it just didn’t work for me. The actors were not great singers or dancers. The story was meh. The characters were too naive and their dreams were too selfish to invite much sympathy, and their emotional conflicts felt very forced and relatively simple to overcome. Though the look and feel of the film was certainly something unique, managing to capture the charm of a classic studio musical in a modern setting, the overall story just didn’t live up to its potential at all.
Time of the Wolf (2003)
Like Haneke’s “Amour”, I found this to be continually engaging, as well as continually depressing.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Even by Marvel superhero movie standards, this was pretty bad. Bland characters, conflicts, dialog… nothing worthwhile here.
Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire (2017)
Not quite as bad as “Dragonheart 3”, but still a cheesy fantasy with silly cheesy fantastical nonsense. Had some interesting twists in regards to secrets the characters kept from each other, silly though they were, and the film gave me some interesting story ideas, so I’ll give it a little credit. But the dialog was very bland, and the story moved along very awkwardly, each new development in the story feeling rather a bit forced.
Cars 3 (2017)
The best Cars movie yet! Though the Cars movies have been my least favorite Pixar movies so far, so I’m not sure that’s saying much. It’s rather obvious from the beginning just where the story’s going, and it’s sometimes a bit agonizing waiting for the characters to get it when the setup is so blatant. Still, it delivers a good message… sort of (I still don’t like these movies that romanticize defining success as being better than others, but I guess that’s inherent in a movie about racing). And, like all Pixar movies, this had some good humor, made me laugh out loud multiple times. Overall, I enjoyed it, though it’s far from Pixar’s best.
Before I Fall (2017)
Interesting take on the classic Groundhog Day scenario, but too many of the characters were just too agonizing to watch, I had trouble taking them seriously. And I didn’t much care for the ending at all; I predicted it as a joke, and it wound up being right. Bleh!
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
I may have enjoyed this more if I didn’t have the far superior animated classic to compare it to; just about everything about this remake is worse than the original. The comical whimsy allowed by stylistic animation simply does not translate to live action. I can’t think of a change to the story / screenplay that didn’t make this retelling worse.
I felt the biggest problem with this remake was simply the pacing. In a well-made film, the tension rises and falls. After moments of intense action or drama, the audience is given a time to breathe and reflect before rising another hill of tension. Of course, you only notice subconsciously as your mind travels through the emotions. This film only had such rises and falls in tension in so much as it repeated the main formula of the first film, so I suppose it worked well enough for some. But for me, the whole thing just felt too rushed, and thus fell flat. Moments of tension (or even comic relief) weren’t given enough “breathing space”, so it felt like the characters were simply going through the motions, like a bunch of high-schoolers reenacting a favorite film. I think perhaps if they had ventured even further away from the source material, instead of trying to recapture the original magic, it may have felt more true to itself. Instead, it feels like a live-action parody.
The other big problem: These CGI characters are simply terribly designed. I imagine some concept artists thought they were being quite clever designing different parts of furniture to serve as different facial features, but the end result is that you can’t easily read emotions on hardly any of these CGI characters. This isn’t the fault of CGI in and of itself, but rather with the choice to represent the furniture as realistic as possible, without any white in any eyes. It just made almost all the CGI characters unsympathetic and dull.
Finally, Emma Watson just did not feel right as Belle. She’s too modern and independent. She saunters around like a modern young woman. Her character did not seem like the sort who would have any need of a love interest, so her love for the beast did not seem at all genuine. Just going through the motions of the source material. I don’t know whether or not they used autotune on her voice, but something about it doesn’t sound quite right. Didn’t care much for her singing at all.
Quite a few other problems, but these were the main ones, in my opinion. So, overall, this remake mostly just annoyed me. The animated classic is just so superior, this just feels like a sad parody.
I am, however, forced to give at least one star for the new songs from Alan Menken. I admit that I did enjoy those. They are probably the only thing I liked about this film.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
Completely stupid. And why does the main character move so unnaturally slowly? Far from being unsettling or atmospheric, it is just annoying and stupid. Awful film.
The Silenced (2015)
A Dog’s Purpose (2017)
Not really a bad movie, just way too cheesy for me. (Do you think the director likes dogs?)
The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
Good World War 2 film based on a true story.
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Overall a good movie. The ending was a bit anticlimactic, but it’s based on a true story, so what can you do? The spiritual aspect, with the main character having flashbacks at important moments, was well done. You can’t help but fantasize about the ancient wonders of the lost city along with the main character. Although it certainly does not make me want to travel.
I didn’t realize how long it was until it was over; I was constantly engaged for its 2+ hours running time. That’s always a good sign.
Billy Jack (1971)
Listen, children, to a story… It’s hippies and Native Americans vs stupid evil racists. The racists have got some racist cops and council members on their side. The hippies and Native Americans have their selective pacifism and Billy Jack, a violent vigilante with ninja skills. Who will win? Rather a cheesy film. It perhaps tries to have a good message, but just doesn’t quite deliver. The racism and little speeches about peace are just too blatant. The overall concept isn’t bad though, the overall film just comes off as a little too fake to really stir the emotions much. Anyway, watch it in the name of Heaven and you can justify it in the end.
Come watch, children, this old movie,
That was filmed decades ago
About some racist cops and people
And Billy Jack, who was their foe.
He had some cool ninja skills,
Protecting those on a reserve.
When trouble came they called his name,
He gave them what they deserved.
Go ahead and watch this movie,
Go ahead and rent the disc.
(Don’t watch an illegal copy,
Pirating’s wrong, and it’s a risk.)
Their won’t be many tears from your eyes.
(The writer’s just a bit of a hack…)
But when cam zooms out at the end….
You’ll remember Billy Jack!
There, I hope you like my song…
Was lucky to go to a special screening the day before its official release. Very much enjoyed it. It focuses on the journeys of three different characters, whose storylines merge in the end, both action-wise and temporally. (Nolan cuts across time quite a bit, as he likes to do.) The whole thing felt like almost non-stop action, never a dull moment. It is similar to The Dark Knight in that regard. It doesn’t quite have the wit of his other movies. I don’t think there’s one joke in the whole thing, it’s all very serious in tone. It’s a war film after all. Even so, the best bit of writing is a Churchill quote. But clever dialog really isn’t needed; the focus is on the action. The cinematography was also fantastic, and Hans Zimmer’s signature pulsing score adds wonderful tension. Overall, though it’s not my favorite Nolan film, it was a great film nonetheless.
Get Out (2017)
Fun movie, a lot more humorous than I expected. The premise is so outlandish and silly that it’s hard for any of the attempted suspense to actually work. It reminded me a bit of the Stepford Wives, where everybody in a small town is acting weird and creepy, especially the few black people. (If it’s trying to make a social statement about race, I have no idea what it is.) Overall, I give an extra star for the humor… but then I take it away for characters using bing… I can accept a lot of far-fetched impossibilities for the sake of story, but having characters using bing is just taking things too far!
Rather generic and forgettable action thriller. I guess I don’t find car chases all that riveting.
Black Butterfly (2017)
Decent little thriller about an alcoholic screenwriter who’s held hostage by a stranger in his own house until he finishes a new story. (Sounds a bit like “Misery”, but I never saw that movie so I can’t compare.) Why would this stranger be so interested in a story? And isn’t it interesting that he shows up just as local women are being murdered? What’s really at play here? Bum bum bum! Featuring very few characters and mostly one location, it could actually make for a pretty decent stage play.
The final “twist” in the final shot was a bit ridiculous, cliche, and obvious, but other than that, fun movie.
A Cure for Wellness (2016)
A man is sent to a remote spa, or “wellness center”, to get his boss. But something doesn’t feel right about the place, and he finds he has trouble leaving. Unfortunately the whole thing was a bit long-winded for the somewhat simple (and rather cliche, obvious, and ridiculous) explanation for what’s really going on at this wellness spa. Certainly establishes a creepy atmosphere though, reminded me of the superior film “Shutter Island”.