Monday, May 16, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 3

Featuring the films and show:
The Jungle Book (2016) ***½
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 3 (23 23-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ***½
Can’t Stop the Music (1980) no stars

Ah man! I have fallen behind again. This site has gone into the crapper, but I’m doing it, man.  I’m blaming the two year old. If I have any readers left, you’re just going to have to hang with me until he’s… I don’t know… 12? Anyway, These were the non-Ebertfest movies I watched and a TV season I finished during the two weeks I was watching the Ebertfest films.

I thought the latest live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” was quite impressive. I really wasn’t sure what to think going into it. I didn’t think it looked good from the trailers, but the early buzz was that it was great. I loved the Disney animated version and just didn’t know what to think about seemingly live action animals talking. It’s the lowest form of family filmmaking.

I was struck while watching these animals talk to each other as if it’s actually something that happens in nature that CGI has come so far that it’s wrong to look at a movie like this as a live action movie. This is an animated movie, almost entirely. It uses actual live action elements with the frequency and artistry of the cartoon elements of the original “Pete’s Dragon”, another live action animated update coming from Disney this fall. But it’s the live element that is really foreign here and needs to be assimilated to the CGI we’re seeing, which has become just as dramatically artistic as hand drawn animated movies once were. The CGI here is remarkable.

More importantly, director Jon Favreau proves himself to be a master of the action format. This is not because he puts together a great many incredible action sequences here, which he does, but because he works in so much character and story development around them and everything so naturally works together. It doesn’t feel like exposition/action/character development/action/background with foreshadowing/action. It all flows in and out of each movement naturally and you almost don’t even realize you’ve found yourself in an action sequence until you realize that you’re grasping your arm rests a little tighter than you had been ten minutes earlier.

The underrated television police comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” wrapped up its third season fairly quietly and little earlier than most of the full-length season shows. While I cooled on this show slightly during it’s second season, the third really impressed me. What might’ve originally been seen as an Andy Samberg vehicle to launch him out of his SNL days has really become completely an ensemble comedy, even to the point where guest stars seem greatly steeped into the ensemble of the show. I especially liked Jason Mantzoukas’s three-episode arc as a long time undercover cop who has difficulty assimilating back into normal life after a years long assignment in the mob. I so want his character to be added to the cast as a regular next season. They probably don’t have the money for such a move without losing another regular, and I can’t imagine whom this show can do without.

I rewatched “Avengers: Age of Ultron” for the first time since seeing it opening day last year to prepare for the opening of “Captain America: Civil War”. I liked it better this time around, which probably has more to do with being better entrenched in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year than last than the movie actually being better than I initially felt it was. You can read my original review here. The MCU definitely benefits from multiple viewings because there is so much going on and the filmmakers have so much new information to launch out there with every subsequent movie. If you’re willing to put in the time for Marvel, it can be more rewarding than just viewing the films in a more casual nature.

Finally, thanks to my allegiance to the podcast “How Did This Get Made?” I was fortunate enough to inflict upon myself the Village People origin story movie “Can’t Stop the Music”, which is indeed a gloriously terrible movie. It’s so bad that it’s subject, the Village People, are relegated to supporting roles, and not ones big enough to be considered necessary to the plot. How do you make a movie about a group of people that isn’t about them? And I haven’t even mentioned Caitlyn Jenner’s involvement yet. So, I’ve done that with my life now.

Here are the tweets.

4/17
‪#TheJungleBook is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema, grand spectacle that doesn't sacrifice the source material. ‪#DLMChallenge No. 99

4/21
Biggest take away from season 3 ‪@Brooklyn99FOX, ‪Jason Mantzoukas must be added to the regular cast. ‪#pimentolives

4/23
Backlash is a funny thing. I've heard people take down ‪#AvengersAgeofUltron lately, but it still seems good to me. ‪#DLMChallenge No. 104

4/23
"Introducing Bruce Jenner" opening credits for the Village People's ‪#CantStoptheMusic. Time is fickle and funny. ‪@HDTGM ‪#DLMChallenge No 106

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—Ebertfest 2016

Featuring the films:
The Third Man (1949) ****
Crimson Peak (2015) ***
Grandma (2015) ****
Eve’s Bayou (1997) ***½
L’inhumaine  (1924) ***½
Northfork (2003) ***½
Body and Soul (1925) ***½
Love & Mercy (2015) ****
Blow Up (1980) ***½

I watched as many of the movies featured during the Roger Ebert Film Festival, as I do every year. One day I’ll make it back, but until then I’ll have to make do with streaming and rental services. I was not able to see the movies presented at this year’s festival that are still scheduled to be released this year. Those include the unofficial festival opener, “Everybody Wants Some!!”, but I have no doubt I will catch up with that one and the others I missed as soon as they become available to me.

I opened my Ebertfest with Carol Reed’s post-WWII thriller “The Third Man”. Part of my own collection of films, I’m surprised it took Ebertfest 18 years to get to this one. It’s a film that has been analyzed ad nauseam, so I won’t attempt one here. Instead I’d like to discuss its unusual score comprised entirely of zither music composed and performed by Anton Karas. It’s an unusual sound for a thriller. At first it seems almost out of place, like it belongs in a much more lighthearted plot. As the movie goes along, however, the music informs its unique feel. “The Third Man” is no ordinary thriller as it depends more on the absence of its threat than the presence of one. The zither music eventually becomes an identifying factor of the film’s unique feel and impact. While it seems alien and strange at first, by the final fade out, it’s hard to imagine any other type of music accompanying this story and these images.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 1

Featuring the films:
The Look of Silence (2015) ****
Pride (2014) **½
Foxcatcher (2014) ****
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931) ****
Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986) ****

Wow! This was a very interesting week of movies for me. Only five this time as I continue to fall further behind on the DLM Challenge, but what a great collection of films they were.

First was this year’s Oscar nominated documentary “The Look of Silence”, a companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s other Oscar nominated doc “The Act of Killing”, about the men behind the Indonesian death squads responsible for the genocide of their own people. The new doc looks at a family of one of their victims. A man who lost a brother is given the opportunity to confront his brother’s killers. There is no Hollywood revenge plot here, but what does unfold is a fascinating look at human nature and the way people react to genuine evil.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Final Week

Featuring the films and show:
Before Midnight (2013) ***½
The Quest (1996) *
Monterey Pop (1968) ****
You, Me and the Apocalypse, season 1 (10 45-min. eps. 2016) ****
Cradle Will Rock (1999) ***½
David Gilmour: Wider Horizons (2015) ***  

OK. I really am trying to catch up. I was also at a loss at how to label this week since most of the week took place during March, but most of film watching during it took place over the first weekend of April. You’ll just have to make do.

It was a mostly good week, if it weren’t for the second JCVD movie in a row watched for the podcast How Did This Get Made?. A couple weeks ago I discussed “Bloodsport” and for his directorial debut, “The Quest”, you can pretty much just transfer those thoughts over because the two movies are exactly the same. I mean there are some minor difference, like the fact that “The Quest” takes place in the 1920s and that it’s rated PG-13, but other than those insignificant details, pretty much the same movie.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 4

Featured films:
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955) ***½
The Adventures of Tintin (2011) ***½
Batkid Begins (2015) ***
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ***½
Superstore, season 1 (11 24-min. eps., 2016) ***
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum (1966) **½

For my thoughts on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, please refer to my full-length review. Before it was released, I joked that when I watched “Batkid Begins”, I had seen the only good Batman movie I would that week. This assessment was based on the negative buzz surrounding BvS. Despite critical derision, I actually enjoyed that movie. It didn’t have the heart of “Batkid Begins”, the documentary following a Make-a-Wish kid’s day as his favorite superhero.

That fourth week of March was also the week that started out with the tragedy in Brussels. I had a difficult time finding a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that I felt was actually honoring Belgium, so I went for Steven Spielberg’s underrated animated “The Adventures of Tintin”, based on the comic books of Belgium cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the name Hergé and based his title character in Brussels. The comic books were something I treasured as a child and Spielberg’s vision is a near perfect adaptation of Hergé’s work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice / ***½ (PG-13)

Bruce Wayne/Batman: Ben Affleck
Clark Kent/Superman: Henry Cavill
Lois Lane: Amy Adams
Lex Luther: Jesse Eisenberg
Martha Kent: Diane Lane
Alfred Pennyworth: Jeremy Irons
Perry White: Laurence Fishburne
Senator Finch: Holly Hunter
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot
Wallace Keefe: Scoot McNairy
Anatoli Knyazev: Callan Mulvey

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Zack Snyder. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Running time: 151 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality).

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been critically reviled. I expected to be in the critic’s camp on this one. I hated, hated, hated Zach Snyder’s “Man of Steel”. I revisited it a couple of weeks ago. It did not improve upon a second viewing. I’ve rarely approached a film with such dread as I did BvS. I have rarely been so pleasantly surprised. Ben Affleck is all the Batman and Bruce Wayne I wanted him to be. Henry Cavill is given a little more to do with Supes this time. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane even receives a little character development. And, I think even the critics who hated the movie think Gal Gadot kicks ass as Wonder Woman.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 3

Featuring the films:
The Covenant (2006) *
Bloodsport (1988) *
Good Will Hunting (1997) ***½
Big Game (2015) **
Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (2016) **  

Truthfully, it was not a good week of films in The Well. As such, I believe this week’s entry will be brief (This will also hopefully allow me to catch up again, since I’ve been running about a week behind for the month of March).

Renny Harlin’s Abercrombie & Fitch-inspired teen witch horror flick “The Covenant” and the world’s introduction to Jean Claude Van Damme “Bloodsport” were both watched expressly for the podcast “How Did This Get Made?” Needless to say, they were both just awful. The action adventure “Big Game”, from “Rare Exports” director Jalmari Helander, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays the POTUS being hunted in the Scandinavian wilderness, and the Netflix original “Peewee’s Big Holiday” each have their admirable aspects but just didn’t quite get there in terms of overall recommendation.