Thursday, January 1, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To?: Movies in 2013 and 2014

I guess the last time I checked in was just after seeing Man of Steel (2013), and, frankly, if I wasn't already about to bail on blogging for a while prior to seeing the movie, the third reel of Zack Snyder's Super-Opus might have gotten me to throw in the towel.

My movie-going is probably slowed a bit.  That's been partly a monetary decision and a work/life/occasionally-being-home balance issue.  And, I don't feel the need to see everything new that comes to the theater the way I might have once felt.

If you want to get me talking, ask me about this fellow

The curious thing about getting older is the mix of feelings that (1) you aren't really going to miss anything if you miss a movie, even a super popular one, and (2) you've kind of already seen this before in some form or another.  In fact, one of the most baffling things I keep reading is how crazy Guardians of the Galaxy felt, how staggeringly original.  Look, I loved GotG, but "a rag tag group of lovable scoundrels get together and stop a menace/ save the day" hasn't been a fresh idea since before The Magnificent Seven.  And if you need a space version - I point you to a dozen low-budget sci-fi movies from the 80's.  But... I guess they really haven't had one in a while, so it felt new to the current audience.

We'll talk a bit about the changes in audience expectations at some other point, but I saw a newish article today that outright stated that trying something that wasn't a complete cookie cutter picture was "trolling" the audience, that it was the studio's "hubris" to try something that didn't already have widespread pre-awareness, vis-a-vis Guardians of the Galaxy.

Y'all, that's just a @#$%ed up thing to say as a pop culture or movie writer.

As per my movie watching habits: I'm still watching movies off Turner Classic, cable, Alamo Drafthouse screenings of older movies, the Paramount Classic Film Series, BluRay, NetFlix streaming and now Hulu.  The Alamo Drafthouse even hosted Noir City Austin, a multi-day Film Noir Fest with Eddie Mueller.  Lots of channels for taking in movies.  And I've seen some great stuff that way.

And, honestly, I've missed writing about it.  And I miss being able to look at this site and review what I said about a movie I've seen (or even to check if I've already seen something I'm about to watch off cable).

To make the post overly long, I'll go ahead and talk about what new movies I saw in the theater with a sort of quick, judgey statement for each.

By the end of Summer 2013, I was a little burned out on apocalyptic destruction in my movies.  Y'all may recall that, prior to Man of Steel, I was also not a fan of Star Trek: Into Darkness, which ended with the destruction of San Francisco, which was our happy ending.  World War Z wasn't a patch on the book, and watered the whole thing down to a boring zombie movie.  I skipped Lone Ranger despite Stuart's championing of the film, and remember sort of just feeling deflated about half-way through Pacific Rim.  It seemed like everyone was trying really hard to assure me I was enjoying this, but...  I just wasn't.  Maybe if I was still in my 20's I'd find the end of the world to be a wackier good time, but I just found the whole thing depressing, with a nonsensical plot and boring ending.

And that was kind of where movies in 2013 broke me.  I'd really wanted to like all of those movies, and it just didn't happen.  Monsters University was okay, but not great.   I wasn't going in for The Wolverine no matter how much money they threw at the advertising, because I really don't think Wolverine works outside of a team, in comics or in movies.

Things picked up a bit with Gravity, which I thought of more as a 3D movie "experience", more than an actual movie I'd probably ever bother to watch again.  But it was fun, the way a roller coaster is fun, and was a reminder that the cinema can still provide some experiences that watching a movie at home never will.

Captain Phillips you could write a pretty solid thesis on as a movie that, much like Black Hawk Down, cast villains out of the extremely poor and Americans wandering into a situation they don't understand as our heroes.  Anyway, I had... issues, with that one.

And yet, I liked Machete Kills...  Go figure.  At least it kept surprising me.

We'll talk about The Hunger Games 2 some other time.

And, despite the fact that I am not one of your 7 year old daughters, I was a big, big fan of Frozen.  There's another thesis you could write on why this one resonated the way it did, but Disney did well by breaking from formula a bit, while still staying on point with form and having some of their best music in over a decade.

hey, parents!  How about we watch this another 40 times this week?

I got drunk at Anchorman 2, so it seemed really funny at the time, but I have no idea if that's true.  But the shark song had me in tears.

I didn't see Inside Llewyn Davis until I was on a place in June, but it was fantastic, and I will fistfight you if you say otherwise.  I watched Dallas Buyer's Club on the same flight, found it pretty solid, by the numbers Oscar Bait, but I liked it all right.  Followed that with Saving Mr. Banks, that was a well-intentioned mess of a movie where you could see the edges of a better movie that never materialized.

And then I wound up loving Wolf of Wall Street.  Enough so that I wrote about it on tumblr, which is an act of near madness.    Despite the terrific amounts of Amy Adams in American Hustle, I found the movie a bit of Scorsese-lite, and didn't understand why they bothered to change the real story, which was pretty interesting.  To its credit, the movie didn't push the audience in the same way as Scorsese, and so it received a warmer box office reception, so what the hell do I know?  Except I think we'll still be talking about Wolf of Wall Street in ten years when everyone's kind of forgotten American Hustle.

For 2014 movies, I was a big fan of The Lego Movie.  But, so was everyone, so I don't think that needs any explanation.  Grand Budapest Hotel really impressed me as Anderson's perfect storybook movie he's been trying to make for some time.  And I HIGHLY recommend Jodorowksy's Dune - the ultimate in unfulfilled wishes with the certainty that - had the reality of the movie materialized, it never would have matched the grandeur of the dream.

Because I am married to Jamie, I am legally required to see all Muppet movies, and was partial to Muppet's Most Wanted.

It is true that I went bonkers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Of the many directions the Captain America series could have gone once Steve Rogers was awake in 21st Century America, I think they nailed what I would have wanted as far as keeping Cap working through metaphors of issues currently facing America by having him hit things with his shield.

As I didn't like the recent Spider-Man relaunch, I skipped the sequel (attention comic nerds, past and present - we are allowed to do this).

Godzilla.  Woof.  That could have been better.    And the farther away from it I get, the less certain I am that it was really that much better than the 1998 version, except in a few key areas.  Also, the completely misleading advertising was a bait and switch that was always going to disappoint anyone who cared.  But I kind of enjoyed the few Godzilla battles they showed.

X-Men Days of Future Past was pretty good.  No real complaints and I enjoyed the sprawling cast and the story.  I'll probably go see the next X-Men movie, I suppose.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was better than it needed to be, and as thoughtful as the original Apes series.  Not something I expected out of the franchise in 2014 or out of a summer movie in today's environment.  Plus, the FX were outstanding.  I am surprised I haven't heard more about this the past few months.

And I may have liked Guardians of the Galaxy a bit.*

I was also a fairly serious fan of what Nolan did with Interstellar.  Again, I wrote about it on tumblr, if you care to see a bit of what I was thinking at the time when I saw it.

*I had a sort of spazzy thirteen year old's reaction to this movie.  We wound up seeing it twice in the theater and own the BluRay.  And I may have a Rocket Raccoon doll and t-shirt.  Maybe.


Leslie Loftis said...

Well I missed you and am glad to see you and your movie opinions back. I'd be interested in specifics on Saving Mr. Banks. Similiar reax for me, though I thought GotG was forgettable. I will have to check out that hubris article. It is hubris to deviate from the formula? [Insert eye roll here.] And I had no idea you were in Austin! I rarely make it to Alamo when I'm in town anymore, but if I do, I'll keep an eye out. I would've driven up to see Team America last weekend if that whole plan had gone through.

The League said...

Absolutely live in Austin! I'm been here off and on since 1984. Been here this last go-round since 2006, as a proud resident of the "South of the River" crowd.

I felt like "Saving Mr. Banks" somehow got turned into two competing costume dramas, one of which wanted to be a rural, Dickensian tale of woe and one a modern, corporate power struggle of art vs. commerce - and both detracted from the other. Frankly, I think the entire thing could have been more strongly served by severely cutting the flashback sequences to dialog-free short sequences and spend more time building up Travers by showing rather than telling via those lengthy sequences. It's a matter of taste, but I was clock-watching every time we flashed back to Australia.

I am not sure GotG wasn't forgettable summer faire, but it was fun, mostly kid-friendly forgettable summer faire. Right now the superhero movies are reaching a wider audience by presenting their worlds as dire and intense, and that's meant there's very little room for joy. As much as I am continually wowed by Nolan's Batman films, not everything needs to be that. And GotG managed to be basically an action-comedy, and that's new territory for a Marvel movie, even when RDJr is quipping.

I'm reading a bit into the article I linked to, but if you connect a dot or two, I find the statements by the writer bizarre.

And if you're ever in Austin or near the UT campus on a weekday, I work there, so let me know in advance and I'll say howdy.

Stuart said...

Everyone should be legally required to see Muppet movies.

mcsteans said...

What Stuart said.

It says a lot about what I want out of a movie these days that I saw Lego, Muppets, and GotG twice each in the theater and little else. It's not that I don't think Oscar bait movies aren't good, but the transparency can be a turn off and I'd rather not spend money to leave the theater completely depressed. I'm showing my age, I guess.

RHPT said...

I would recommend "John Wick" as a pretty good action movie to stream on Netflix. The premise is that a hitman comes out of retirement to take down the Russian mob to avenge the death of his dog.

The League said...

RHPT - SOLD. I will totally watch that.

Jake Shore said...

I can count the number of movies I've seen in the theater the last two years on two hands... barely. Partly because of life stuff, but there just isn't much out there that compels me to get a babysitter and lay down $30.

FYI, The Lone Ranger is squarely in the running for worst movie ever made.

I didn't see a lot of 2014 movies until they arrived on cable. I still haven't seen Godzilla, but the consensus seems to be that it was just OK, and would likely have been better had we not just seen Pacific Rim. I did manage to see Guardians and Captain America 2 in the theater. Loved both. LEGO was fun but about 1/2 too long. X-Men was well made, but utterly forgettable.

I'm not a great fan of Wes Anderson, but I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Of what I missed in 2014, the only thing people tell me I have to see is Interstellar. And I wanna see that Dune documentary.

It's just hard to get excited about movies anymore. Sequels, remakes, bleh. Even the Star Wars trailer left me unmoved.

The League said...

Whenever anyone tells me they didn't like Interstellar, I like to tell them "well, you have to be pretty smart or you're not going to get it". And that usually drives people insane. But I loved it. Can't wait to see it again.