Friday, March 21, 2014

Hey! We Saw... LOTS of Movies!

Ugh. Kind of got back-logged with these movie reviews... so much so that one of them is already out on DVD! So here is a few movie reviews all in one big wallop.

Warning: There are a few spoilers... but not so much that it will ruin the movie.

Inside Llewyn Davis

So... Inside Llewyn Davis... I didn't really like it. That assessment really just comes down to opinion. Like most Coen Brothers films, it was virtually flawless from a movie-making standpoint. It had a great soundtrack (I was especially happy to see Justin Timberlake perform folk music!) and they found a cast with great voices. That was the one standout of Oscar Isaac's performance, he can sing really well. The guy's got some great talent. I also must point out how great Carey Mulligan is as an actress. I have never seen her give a bad performance... she continues to amaze me. I didn't even know she could sing!

I think my biggest problem with the movie was that I found Isaac's character Llewyn Davis extremely unlikable. He was a total asshole. (I want to take a moment here to point out that I have never seen Oscar Isaac not play a dick on some level... Drive was the least asshole role in which I have seen him, yet he was still a bit of one.) 

The issue is that Llewyn was part of the blossoming folk scene in early 60's Greenwich Village of New York City. It was shown to be a community where friends helped get each other gigs or to scrape by when times were tight. And repeatedly Llewyn Davis acted to burn bridges and treat everyone like shit. Any sympathy I had for him, as he tried to be a solo act after the suicide of his partner, was squandered as he would behave like a self-absorbed, privileged jerk to everyone who tried to help him.

I also think the film missed a large opportunity with a subplot that ended up going nowhere. Davis discovered that a girl he had impregnated didn't go through with the abortion that he paid for. She never told him and was at that point living with her 2 year old offspring of Llewyn Davis in Akron, Ohio. So logically you would think that Davis would confront her and try to connect with his child... but no. He came close in one scene when he was driving through Ohio, but chose not to go to Akron. What was the point of including that, then? To me, that's just bad storytelling.

Furthermore, the climax felt underwhelming. Despite dealing with a myriad of bullshit and disappointments (which I will again add that he brings on much of it himself), I kind of feel like Llewyn Davis should have addressed his partner's suicide. I envisioned a scene where he was standing on the edge of the same bridge his musical companion had hurled himself from. Davis contemplates doing the same for a moment, but instead speaks to his dead partner, saying that he is stronger than him, he won't give up. Something along those lines. It would have shown me that there is something more to him, that keeps driving him to be a better person.

Instead, the movie has a cyclical plot, and in turn accomplishes something similar. It ends where it began. In doing so, you get the impression that each go around, Llewyn does a little bit better than the time before. This time he didn't let his friend's cat escape the apartment where he had crashed the night before. (Something that became a theme throughout the film that he was always trying to get the cat back... SYMBOLISM!) At the club, he sang the same song as at the start of the movie, but this time his performance was much better. You get the feeling that each time he takes this journey, Llewyn Davis learns from some of his mistakes and in turn does a bit better in his life. That aspect of the story I do like; there is an artistic element at work there that is relatable to all of us, even evoking the old adage that 'those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it'... and maybe someday he will learn the lessons he needs to be successful both as a musician and a person. But until then, Llewyn Davis will still be an asshole.  

And now for Jonny Prophet's contribution... heaven help us.

Jonny's Contribution - The entire time I had to watch this whiny asshole, I kept asking myself... what is that cat up to. You know, the cat that escaped the apartment? Man, I bet that cat went on some amazing adventures... and how could he not? It was New York City? Maybe the cat went to the Statue of Liberty or learned to drive a taxi! That was a great cat. So much better than that Llewyn asshole. I bet the cat was also a great folk singer too. I wish I could have seen those feline adventures, chasing squirrels and running from dogs and getting it on with other cats. That would have been a great movie. For shame, Coen Brothers, on throwing away such an amazing oppurtunity to make a movie about a cat.  

I like cats.

Thanks for that Jonny... wait, did you say you wanted to see a movie where cats do it? 


The Lego Movie

I freakin' loved The Lego Movie. It's about time we got another good movie in February (the first since Coraline!). The movie was really funny, had an original story, a great twist and a fantastic voice cast featuring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman and Will Ferrell.  

The animation was really good. I am a fan of anybody doing stop-motion animation, which sadly feels like a dying art. I can't imagine how long it took to shoot the movie, but the animators did an impressive job. There were also a lot of great little inside jokes about Legos themselves, such as the main character, Emmet, trying on different "looks" like new hair or hat accessories or different bodies until he finds the right attire.

The overall plot was amusing. The main characters traversed various Lego 'worlds' such as City, The Old West, Pirates, Space and the cleverly named Middle Zealand! There were lots of character cameos from the many Lego licenses like Ninja Turtles, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars,  Harry Potter and of course the DC Superheroes (as Batman was one of a main characters). I guess Disney didn't allow them to use any of the Marvel characters.   

See, this is the problem with reviewing a movie that I like... outside of a few sentences of praise, I don't have much more to say. I don't want to give away the twist, but I did think it was brilliant and fit extremely well with the very concept of Legos.

Could there be a sequel? I guess... the movie did leave it open for a sequel, but that could have been more of a joke than anything else. My guess is that there will be more Lego movies given the huge success of this one, but in a way I hope this one will be it. If another Lego movie has to be made, I hope they go with something completely original... new characters and new worlds. The Lego Movie was self contained and great for what it was... but unnecessary half-hearted "make-a-buck" sequels could ruin the franchise and sour the taste of the original. Making sequels to comedies run the risk of re-using jokes and wearing the very premise so thin that nobody cares anymore. (Sort of like what happened with Austin Powers.) Sometimes Hollywood just needs to know when to tell a joke and then leave the stage. 

And here is the Jonny response...

Jonny's Contribution: Legos are awesome.

Really? That's it? That's your review?

No. Also... What the hell is a Kre-o? 

Moving on. 


The Wing Rises 

So I have caught the latest final film from Hayao Miyazaki. I mean no disrespect by that, the man is a genius. It's just that he has said repeatedly that such and such film was his last, but his workaholic style always kept him returning to the drawing board. But who knows, maybe The Wing Rises will truly be the final one? So how was it?

I think The Wind Rises was uneven. It had the amazing animation you come to expect from Studio Ghibli, some great characters, good dialogue with plenty of humor thrown in... all of that was good. The problem is The Wind Rises suffers from the same problem that most biographical films are afflicted with... trying to cover too much with too little time.

You see, the lifetime of a person, broken down into the most important events and passions to drive a narrative, is still usually a lot longer than 120 minutes can adequately explain. So what you end up with is a choppy, jumbled mess of a plot. This one was better than some biographical plots I've seen, but it had some major problems.

The movie centers on Jiro Horikoshi, the man who pioneered Japanese aviation and invented the Zero plane, which ended up being used in the Second World War. But the story doesn't glorify war in any way, but instead the freedom, beauty and imagination of flight and the creation of the machines to take one into the sky. Most of the plot revolves around the rise of Jiro's career as well as the trial and error of designing a working aircraft. 

The subplot is what I have the biggest problem with. This of course is about the romance between Jiro and his love Naoko. The two plots really have no balance with each other. The love story feels stunted and skimmed over. It seems Jiro barely knows Naoko when he declares his love and desire to marry her. The script writer tried to tie both plots together, using her as the inspiration for Jiro's eventual success, but Naoko really seemed like an after-thought compared to the amount of time spent on Jiro's education and early years in aviation. 

There was one odd character. A German man, who came across very creepy, whom bad-mouthed Nazi Germany to Jiro while in Japan. He disappeared from the story almost as quickly as he came. I don't get his purpose to the overall story, except maybe to counter balance the idea that our hero was designing planes for use by the Japanese Empire, who would end up on the wrong side of history. I think the German was unnecessary. Jiro makes it clear his distaste for war and laments that the only way his creations will have enough funding to be built is if the military funds their enterprise. I will also add that Miyazaki has never been one to glorify war, represented often in his other films such as Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. 

One important thing that The Wind Rises got right was the imagination and wonder that has made Studio Ghibli's so cherished. Even this film, based on reality, found a means to create amazing dream sequences and fantastic imagery. Through these fanciful moments, one could understand the drive, passion and inspiration that Jiro felt about flying and creating works of brilliance to take to the skies. Despite my criticisms, this aspect alone makes The Wind Rises worth a viewing, as much as any other film Hayao Miyazaki has blessed us with. 

Jonny's Contribution: What was up with that German guy? He had these weird eyes. He haunts my nightmares! Germans are all creepy people! 

What the hell, man?! I'm German!

And furthermore, the very basis of this movie was flawed! Everyone knows that zeppelins are the way of the future! 

Please note, Jonny's comments are his alone and don't represent mine or any sane person's point of view.

There will be more reviews to come... soonish. Until then, Stay Strange.

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