I haven't done a lot of blogging recently. To make up for it, I'm going to try and do quick capsule reviews of some movies that are in theatres now and/or not in so many theatres but in the buzz for awards season.
Thor: The Dark World
I didn't care for this at all. The first movie with a very odd superhero movie choice in Kenneth Branagh directing was a little off the superhero movie tracks, as interested in showing Chris Hemsworth in a tight tee-shirt as in endless superhero battles. Not this movie, As is so often the case, I tuned out and went to sleep when we got to the last half hour, because I knew it was just going to be another long, dull, over-CGIs, boring, been-there done-that fight scene. That said, I saw it with a client who enjoyed it quite a bit, as have most of the other people I know who saw it. Really?
If you think you might like this, you probably will like it. It's not good by many objective critical standards, but it has amiability to excess and delivers perfectly on its promise and premise. I rarely laughed out loud, but I certainly had a smile on my face.
Dallas Buyers Club
This movie, which is getting great reviews, was the second half of a self-made double-feature for me with Last Vegas. I enjoyed the "worse" movie a lot more, and didn't care so much for this critical darling. Yes, Matthew McConaughey gives an amazingly great performance in the movie, and in that sense and maybe in that sense alone, the movie is worth seeing. He acts up a storm, captivates the screen. But there's no dramatic structure to the movie. If I can make a comparison that not too many people are making, this is kind of like Catch Me If You can. It's a lovable bad guy being chased after by the feds. But in Catch Me If You Can, the stakes heighten as the movie goes along. Leonardo DiCaprio's character goes from doing small things to doing bigger and bigger and more outlandish things. There's also all the studio veneer in the casting, with Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken providing star level support, and Hanks in particular investing us in the movie's Javert character. But here, it's the same scene over and over again. The movie doesn't heighten as it goes along. In spite of the madcap energy of the lead performance, the movie itself sags. So maybe I was dozing during the portion of the movie where Jared Leto is engaged in some amazing sure-to-be-an-Oscar-finalist supporting turn. Honest! This guy's in all the awards buzz, and I can't remember a thing about him in this movie. The Javert character is incredibly dull and uninteresting, but Michael O'Neill made more of an impression on me for his "oh God, not this same FDA guy again" role than the guy who's going to get a Supporting Actor nomination.
Saw this with two clients and two other people from the office. Reactions were motley, from entirely satisfied (not more than that) to outright dislike. I was entirely satisfied. Nothing new. It's a bootcamp/biopic movie and you get a lot of the same notes. Training camp sequences and conflicts you can predict. But it was well-acted, never sagged. For some perspective, I read the original 1977 "Ender's Game" novella in 1981's Analog Anthology #2: Reader's Choice at the dawn of my sf-nal experience. I'm not sure if I ever read the novel-length version of the story, and no I never read any of the sequels. I don't know if my feelings about the movie would be different if I had more recent or adult memories of the underlying story. Insofar as the novella goes, I do think the movie does, at the end, get across the knife-twisting truth of Ender's final test, as I remember if from 32 years ago. And just to say -- I wasn't in favor of the boycott calls for the movie. That's a double-edged sword, for how many gay advocacy organizations would be super-duper thrilled if we decided to boycott gays? They could say correctly from our current perspective that the difference here is that Card was on the losing side of the historical trend, but nonetheless I think it's a very dangerous thing to start boycotting or ignoring artists -- and for the past 40 years Card has been an important and significant one -- on account of their political beliefs.
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.