Watchin’ Stuff #30

My choice for movie of the week is a surprising one for me. I’d never heard of the real life people this was about and have no interest at all in racing, but I’d heard such good things about this recent (oh, 2013? well, it’s recent to me) Ron Howard film and I like the actors involved so sure, so I gave it a shot. Amazingly, it really did live up to the hype.

The plot moves along at such a consistently perfect pace and the script and characters are just so compelling and charismatic that there never seems to be a dull moment. In fact, it was one of those weird movies where it felt like it was about 4 hours long, but in a good way. It’s just a movie where there isn’t a single moment wasted and every scene was pretty much perfectly directed. Great stuff.

Seems like a good time to finally catch up on the Mission: Impossible series, since I haven’t seen any of them since the first one back in the day. The first movie was a decent enough 90’s spy action-thriller, but nothing particularly mind-blowing. Revisiting it today, it’s about the same. Decent, solid spy action with some semi-clever twists.

I think that seeing how ridiculous this sequel looked was the main reason I never kept up with the series. It looked stupid back then and it has a pretty bad reputation, so I just never cared enough to try it. Now that I’ve finally bitten the bullet, I can safely say that its reputation is pretty well-deserved. This is probably the worst example I’ve ever seen of a director being so horribly mismatched for a series. John Woo was just not right for a movie like this at all. Instead of a spy-action movie, it’s just Woo doing another goofy Hong Kong martial arts movie and it feels completely wrong here.

The spy elements, with the exception of the over-use of the rubber masks, are pretty much entirely discarded so Woo can force Cruise in the role of some Hong Kong martial artist type, and while Cruise can do action, he has no martial arts skill at all, so his fighting scenes are completely faked and you can literally see the wires as he performs physics-defying Street Fighter-style moves.

There’s this silly love-at-first-sight romance dominating the plot, where Cruise is madly in love with a character that he met on the same day, and it’s all just handled so horribly and feels so empty and forced.

The action scenes in the third act just fly so far over the top that it’s laughable. Cruise suddenly dresses up like a character from The Matrix and goes on a ridiculous motorcycle chase that again throws physics right out the window, and it all culminates in a yawn-inducing final martial arts battle where it’s clear that neither person involved actually knows martial arts.

They even replace the iconic theme song with some godawful X-TREME rock version. It’s just a confused mess of a movie.

The third one unsurprisingly completely ignores the previous one and goes right back to being a spy action-thriller. The action is still over-the-top and barely believable, but at least it LOOKS relatively realistic and Cruise returns to more clever, tactical version of Ethan Hunt instead of a bargain bin kung fu hero. I don’t always like the direction of J.J. Abrams, but this was a pretty enjoyable movie.

Another one from the horror garbage heap, Anthropophagous (a.k.a. Antropophagus) is another piece of baffling Italian trash. Nothing happens for most of the movie and when it finally does, it’s thoroughly unimpressive. The killer is supposed to be some kind of caveman or something, but he just looks like someone dumped a bowl of oatmeal on his head. The music sounds like someone is drunkenly pounding on an old Casio. It’s all just so boring and ugly. I’m really losing patience with these crappy old horror movies. I think I need to take a little break from these.

A new Netflix movie from the cast and creators of Workaholics. This is basically Workaholics: The Action Movie. If you were a fan of that show or just like a good dose of well-made offensively juvenile humor and 80’s action movie satire, this has certainly got more of what you need.

The trailer for this one looked pretty good. Goes to show you that you can’t always trust the trailers. The key-fingered demon did look pretty cool, on the few times you actually got to see him. Most of the movie is not only just filler, but it’s very familiar filler that felt way too similar to the previous movies. It’s not a terrible movie, but it adds absolutely nothing new to the series or the genre and feels like they’ve finally run out of ideas. Just another predictable haunted house movie.

This was an interesting one. A story about an angry metal teen girl who impulsively decides to do an occult ritual to get rid of her mother. Naturally, things don’t go well for anyone. It’s a very slow movie that shows very little of the evil presence, instead relying on building constant suspense around the mysterious effects of the ritual. It’s got a kind of Blair Witch or The Witch feeling to it, where there’s just this ominous aura to everything, which all slowly builds up to a very memorable ending. Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for this one because it reminds me of my own stupid teenage self, but I quite enjoyed it and I recommend it.

A strange movie that’s based on a play about a play about a murder, or is it a play about a murder over a play? It gets a bit complicated. Great performances from Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, though Dyan Cannon as the wife was a bit annoying. Anyway, it’s a convoluted, but interesting murder mystery with a bit of black comedy to it.

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