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i'm will dennis. these are my movie reviews and thoughts. i don't proofread before publishing so forgive the editing or lack thereof

Month: July, 2016

ZOOLANDER 2 (2016)

Plane movie!

Not great and I suppose not surprising. Feels like they got together, riffed, then put it together in editing. Lots of shot reverse shots that not only make the comedic timing suffer but make it feel constructed as well. 

Some solid jokes but overall the story is weak and the movie as a whole is forgettable. It’s more callbacks to ZOOLANDER than establishing new comedy ground. 

Was watching on a small seat-back screen, but a lot of the cinematography seemed overblown, cheesy, and cgi heavy. 

More pop culture cameos than possible to count. The novelty and the humor with them run out quick. 

Will Ferrel delivers the best energy of the movie and he shows up way too late. Penelope Cruz adds little and Derek seems especially stiff. Most of his punchlines are miss-saying phrases (i.e. kkk instead of aka) but there aren’t a lot of well thought out gags. 

Derek’s son in the film seems to overact and doesn’t provide the comedy that could have been. 

Overall it felt overbudgeted, sliced and diced, and lazy. Too bad because so much great comedic talent and brand. Would have preferred to see them leave the old story in the dust and start fresh, all the callbacks make me just wish I had watched the first again. 

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)

Plane movie!
Not a fan. Omniscient perspective but highly limiting the amount of info given to the audience. How long can you watch a situation unfold and wonder what’s happening? It turns from mysterious to annoying to boring – frustrating viewing. 

I suppose there’s a rational to let viewers “observe” a story as it unfolds with no handholding but I think it’s weaker storytelling. It’s hard to empathize with characters and understand the importance of certain moments without context. It’s find to keep the situation and world building unexplained and mysterious for the first 10-15 but then help us get on board with the characters and their mission. We can’t if we’re asking “what the fuck is going on.”

The worst part of the limited explanation in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is that when the pieces come together they’re not in some masterful way – it’s just, like, ok he’s an alien and I guess this is all a metaphor for letting your kids grow up and move on?

There was a lot of promise initially with the cult and FBI and the parents and Alton, but it doesn’t really pay off. 

You realize Alton can listen to invisible waveforms which eventually leads to him going home to live with his invisible type residents. 

It’s an interesting idea – the same way there’s light waves or sound waves we can’t see there could be people or beings living amongst us we don’t see. But if that was the goal the execution could have been better than a boy and his father on the run trying to get to some set of coordinates. 

Why or how they needed to get to that location was never fully revealed so the duration of the film you’re watching them rather than feeling like you’re with them. 

Adam Driver is always a great watch. The main character (the Dad) is good but a little dense and not emotive enough for my taste – especially when the story isn’t explicit. A subtle actor coupled with an under-told story leaves you with a bunch of moments of “Huh I wonder what he’s feeling right now.” Kirsten Dunst was also a surprise to see – and I thought distracting. 

My favorite moment was when they were stuck in traffic and roll up to the empty pick up – signaling that Alton was captured. 

I would have been interested in another telling that focuses on the dad’s friend who’s the state trooper and has only been with Alton for 3 days – tell the story from his perspective and let us take that ride. 

The omniscient perspective does little if you’re simply using it to build unsatisfied mystery. Furthermore, it’s annoying and I find disrespectful to the watcher. Impress us with story, not by making us figure out what is a very simple story for ourselves. It’s putting the form before the story. 

Also had some beef with the set decoration and style – did this take place in the 90s? There were pay phones and no cell phones. Why did it take place then? 

Felt like one of those times when too clever came off as not clever at all. 

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)

Plane movie!
Loved it. What makes it work is maintaining a limited perspective so that you only know what Michelle knows. As soon as the car wreck happens, you discover her predicament and the world as she does. 
Coupled with a few good twists – when we actually see a woman infected and trying to get in flips the story on its head, then back when we realize Howard likely kidnapped and killed a girl, when Howard kills the other guy, and when it turns out to actually be aliens – it makes for a super fun ride. 

It never comes off as too clever or “gotcha” because it’s just slowly revealing information – done expertly. 

It reminds me of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED in that the end reveals that the films universe is the most fantastical of all the options. In both we assume we’re in some sort of familiar reality based on our world and the climax says in fact this is a scifi universe. In theory it seems manipulative but in practice it feels spectacular and satisfying – instead of having some super complex logic for explaining the circumstances, it’s revealed that the circumstances themselves are extraordinary. In that way I think the audience feels respected and not like they’re watching a film that’s a magic trick than then explains itself. 

The climax of this had me so wrapped up. From the point where Howard shoots the other guy until the end it was flawless. What I loved is that it wasn’t just the climax and resolution but it was also continuing and revealing more story information – so it was gripping on multiple levels. “Will she get away!?” “Oh shit it’s aliens!?”

I’m not sure if there’s any relation to CLOVERFIELD – another alien movie. Or if this was its spiritual prequel. If no relation the title seems like a strange choice. 

I love Howard’s arc of going from crazy to not crazy back to crazy then to extra crazy and dangerous. 

Some nice character development too that doesn’t feel heavy handed – Michelle at the end decides to stay and fight instead of run away, which is what she always did in the past. 

I forget how much fun a great thriller can be. 

HOW TO BE SINGLE (2016)

Plane movie!

An ensemble cast of charming white twenty somethings that tries to do a bit too much and ends up doing too little. 

An attempt of exploring the time between relationships when self discovery and self definition is supposed to happen, but it ends up feeling like a string of character arcs that while charming at times, are a veneer that never really dig into the the issues. 

Every character is standing in their own way, but in such a self evident way that it comes off a bit ludicrous and “gee whiz poor me”. There’s little character backstory or development so while time passes in the film world and things change, the change seems more circumstantial than personal to the characters. 

The cast is charming which I think makes it work, with a few legitimate chuckles and lot of improv-banter that feels familiar to the point of stale. 

While it attempts to highlight some of the difficulties and complexities of modern dating, everything is a bit too surreal and studio-driven to have any of the comments land or be taken seriously. 

It has the vibe of a chopped and diced production, with scattered scenes and loosely overlapping character arcs where at times it’s unclear if they’re all friends even though they’re at the same party. 

It’s also not great I imagine for there to be two writing teams credited, with one of them being the producer. 

On plot: the passing of time was very poorly handled. It’s such a crucial element to relationships and break ups that to have it clumsily addressed (we know it went from summer to winter then to spring, I suppose) and aside from one “3 months later” title card we’re given very little. 

If you’re inviting an ex of 4 years to your Christmas party with a new girlfriend you moved in with within 6 months everyone in the equation is a sociopath. 

As the above example points out there were some moments that felt a bit too Hollywood and the suspension of disbelief for what should be a very relatable experience didn’t hold up. I more grounded telling with more nuanced and dynamic characters was needed for buy in and would have heightened the comedy. 

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL does a great job of taking you through the relationship, and break up and getting into the absurd realities of what loneliness feels like. HOW TO BE SINGLE is too heavy handed and plot driven to resonate in the same way – comedically or emotionally. 

Give us real situations and real characters because a fun movie can only be so fun if you fee like you’re watching a shell of a person rather than whiny shallow archetypes.