Monday, July 22, 2024

One Good Point - Public Enemies

On paper, I should love this movie. I enjoy a good crime/heist/gangster movie as much as anybody. Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Ocean's Eleven, the whole spectrum of criminality has always been fertile ground for entertainment in my book. I also usually like Johnny Depp; he's charismatic, and does a good job of portraying morally grey/bankrupt characters. And Michael Mann directed it, a guy with Heat and Collateral under his belt.

But it was just not very good.

The pacing of the movie was jarring, with frantic moments that weren't set up properly or allowed to breathe, and then lingering scenes that felt like they didn't add anything to the story. Depp's portrayal of John Dillinger was fine I guess, but I don't think the movie did a good job of explaining why this literal mass murderer would've been celebrated at all. Through some additional reading, I found that people seemed to like that Dillinger was robbing banks, as the public trust in banks and the federal government was very low. You know what wasn't captured in the movie though? ANY OF THAT.

One last note: I did not like the video quality of this film at all. During many of the darker scenes in the film, the picture became incredibly grainy, to the point that I was wondering if there was something wrong with my television. But it wasn't that; it looks like was just a directorial/production decision, presumably as a way to make the movie feel more "old-timey." If that was the case, there's got to be a better way.

Anyways, I don't recommend the movie, but here's the traditional link!

Click here to see where Public Enemies is streaming right now!

Saturday, July 20, 2024

One Good Point - Barbenheimer

Ahh, the movie event of 2023!

What? What do you mean? Of course I participated in it... just not until 2024. What's the rush, right?

Barbie

First things first, full disclosure, any movie with a heavy dose of Margot Robbie is going to innately be more entertaining than movies without Margot Robbie. That doesn't mean I can't be objective, but there's a baseline value we're working from here.

Going into the movie, I was expecting a couple things:

  • Margot Robbie will look perfect. Check.
  • Ryan Gosling will be entertaining, but I won't like him as much as everybody else did. Check.
  • There will be a couple of jokes that are subtle and not laugh-out-loud funny, but I will laugh out loud at them. Kind of check (there was one).
  • There'll be 2-3 moments where the feminism of the movie feels like it overrides the story. Kind of check (there was, again, one).

Overall I enjoyed the movie. I thought that despite effectively portraying Barbie as a kind of clueless, blank slate, Robbie did a good job of making the character relatable. Setting big business against her did a lot of that legwork too. Gosling did well too, Ken just became the sort of antagonist that I have no patience for. Those of you who know me in the real world would be able to draw pretty simple comparisons to other folks who irritate me.

Hint: It's the same people who reduced the movie to that one heavy feminism scene and dismissed it out of hand.

Click here to see where you can watch Barbie today!

Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan is a serious filmmaker. I've only seen a couple of his films so far (including watching Interstellar literally hours before I wrote this!), but he's a very gifted storyteller. The Dark Knight is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, and you have to wonder if The Dark Knight Rises might've been even stronger if not for Heath Ledger's tragic death; rumors abound that the Joker might've played an integral role in that last film of the trilogy.

But we're not here to talk about The Dark Knight (this time). Oppenheimer was alright, but it was... something less than the other Nolan films I've seen. Not length-wise; it was very long, and you felt every minute, something that sets the movie apart from Nolan's best work. I think that impression wasn't helped by jumping around the timeline unnecessarily, and this might seem sacrilege, but I think Robert Downey, Jr.'s role could've been eliminated from the movie almost entirely and it would've benefited the story.

And somehow, in a movie about a literal nuclear bomb, the scope of the effort somehow felt not large enough? I'm not sure what it was missing exactly, but even after the movie ended, I felt like I was still waiting for *something* else to happen. It's entirely possible that it was a movie you gotta see in a theater, for the (spoiler alert) nuclear explosion; maybe that puts a bow on the story better than when you're in a living room.

I will say that the acting was tremendous, particularly Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt. I would've been happy to spend another half hour with Blunt's character. She seemed to perfectly capture a quiet  internal torment while absolutely eviscerating people who cross her. Florence Pugh was good, depressing, but that was the point. And Downey did well, too; I just think his part in the story wasn't necessary.

Tune in over the next couple weeks to read what I thought of Interstellar!

Click here to see where you can watch Oppenheimer today!


Thursday, July 18, 2024

One Good Point - Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Every time I told people that I was watching Battlestar Galactica for the first time, they were shocked that I hadn't already seen it. My Star Wars and Star Trek credentials would suggest that I would've definitely watched it long ago, perhaps even as the show was originally airing, but alas. Back in 2004 I was very busy... well, I'm not sure what I was busy doing. Playing a lot of Diablo II and Civilization II mostly, I think. But for whatever reason, I didn't watch a lick of BSG when it first came out.

But in 2023, after watching Katee Sackhoff kick ass in another season of the Mandalorian (which, screw you guys, I enjoyed season 3 despite its flaws), I finally saddled up and started watching BSG. I caught the first 1.5 seasons on Peacock in full binge mode, as right after I started, they added a note that the show would be leaving Peacock at the end of the month. It was June 27th.

I investigated some other ways to watch the show after it left Peacock, but ultimately my motivation petered out until earlier this year when I noticed it was available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. I started up again and discovered that I had apparently managed to stop watching right at a massive lull in the action; once I picked the series back up, the excitement ramped back up and I zipped through the rest of the four-season show.

There are a lot of things to like about Battlestar Galactica. The aforementioned Sackhoff is one of the biggest bright spots towards the back half of the show, but there are strong performances across the cast. And the premise of the show is fantastic. How would a small group of humans try to survive as a caravan of space-bound refugees, after a massive, near-complete genocide of their species? The idea is compelling, albeit bleak.

Unfortunately, I think this is a show whose whole comes up a little short of the sum of its parts. The individual characters are interesting, the twists are mostly cool, and there are some awesome concepts for the sorts of scenarios that would develop in such an environment. But the execution of these ideas ends up being a little bit of a disappointment. The characters are interesting, but the ways they interact sometimes feel wooden; a lot of the dialogue in the show had an unnatural sort of tone to it.

This is also a weird thing to complain about, but this show had some of the least believable portrayals of drunkenness that I've seen in shows or movies. I've seen drunk people, like, a lot of drunk people. The drunk people on Galactica seemed like sober people trying to act drunk.

HEAVY SPOILERS BELOW!

My biggest complaint, though, is with the culmination of the show. Any sort of science fiction property has the tall task of trying to explain how something impossible is possible. It doesn't have to be elaborate though; Jurassic Park found one idea that seems feasible enough to a layman (ancient mosquitos with dinosaur blood in dried amber), and they handwaved the rest with "cloning" and "computers." Done. Perfect.

From the very beginning of Battlestar Galactica, we had the question of how is Gaius Baltar seeing this image of his seemingly deceased Cylon lover when no one else is seeing her, and what's her purpose? We dance around the idea of Baltar having some kind of microchip in his brain, of him being a Cylon himself, or simply a fabrication of a traumatized mind. And in the end... angels? Angels is your explanation? And that's essentially the explanation for Starbuck too? But even with all of that, we don't get any actual meaningful vision or interaction with this "higher power," just a quick zinger at the very end of the show about how "he doesn't like" being called God. The whole thing felt cheap and lazy, and took so much of the air out of the show for me.

In the end, it was a fantastic premise that had some amazing moments and stretches, but in the end didn't live up to its full potential. I'd be absolutely game for a modern team giving it another try though.


Click here to check JustWatch and find out where you can watch this show right now!

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

One Good Point - Resident Evil HD REMASTER

 So far I've talked about a few movies that haven't really lived up to my hopes (or for which I didn't have much in the way of hopes, and matched that lack of excitement). Well, it's high time to talk about something that lived up to my hopes and then some: Resident Evil.

I've never been much for scary games, scary movies, scary anything really. I can appreciate some compelling horror/thriller content, and I do very much like monster movies, but spooky creepy stuff doesn't usually do much for me. But I have to say, after getting past my initial jumpiness at turning corners and finding zombies, the core gameplay of Resident Evil was a ton of fun. I enjoyed entering this mansion and slowly peeling back layer after layer, finding out new pieces of the story with each unlocked door and solved puzzle. As I played through it, I found myself already thinking about whether I might enjoy playing it again.

One particularly unexpected turn was that I actually enjoyed combat in the game. I've watched streams of Resident Evil playthroughs, and I had briefly played Resident Evil 5 at a friend's house, and I remember being frustrated with the controls. Having to stand still while shooting is not what I'm used to at all. But after just a handful of encounters in my first playthrough of this game, I felt the game provided a harrowing and enjoyable twist on combat, a stark contrast to most of the other modern adventure games I've played (Dead Rising, Grand Theft Auto, etc). The "clunkiness" of the controls are one of the prime examples of something being "a feature, not a bug." You're supposed to find the combat uncomfortable and frightening. That's the point.

I'm sure it's far too late to be able to offer much in the way of meaningful recommendations for this game; it's been out forever, and if you were thinking about playing it, chances are you already have. But on the off chance you haven't, I strongly endorse this game, and I'm looking forward to giving future games in the series a shot.


Click here to view this game on Steam!

Click here to view this game on Fanatical!

Monday, July 15, 2024

One Good Point - Ready Player One

This is one movie in particular that I'd been especially looking forward to finally watching. It didn't rise to Marvel or Star Wars levels of urgency, and I definitely had access to the movie a couple times via streaming services before I finally got around to it, but a movie about futuristic immersive video games and the evils of mega-corporations? Yeah, that's about my wheelhouse.

And it was... pretty good? In hearing about the premise, and in reading/watching the Hunger Games series, I was expecting/hoping for another story about young adults being thrust into the greater world, and that's sort of what this is, but there are a few too many cheesy moments that sort of break the seriousness of things. The massive final battle is the perfect example, where it's a climactic clash between good and evil, but the tension gets slightly dampened with the insertion of random pop culture cameos. That said, as a sort of popcorn action-adventure movie, it was enjoyable.

I also was kind of surprised at how uninteresting I found Ben Mendelsohn's villainous character. He's a great actor and I had high hopes, but he's sort of another symptom of the same disconnect I felt with the movie between gimmick and seriousness. Interestingly, I would've expected T.J. Miller's voicing of i-R0k to be too silly, but he did a good job of balancing the two aspects of the film. And Olivia Cooke's Art3mis felt like a character who exactly captured the essence of the movie's world.

My sister bought me the book like a decade ago, still haven't gotten around to that. But hey, maybe 2025 will be my year to catch up with reading. For now, it's full steam ahead with movies!

Oh, one more thing. This movie definitely made me want to finally follow through and watch The Shining, so that's on my 'high priority' list for the year. I watched the first five minutes sometime last year, at like 3:30 AM, and I decided that watching a scary movie right before bed probably wasn't the best call. My dreams are scary enough as it is.


Click here to check JustWatch and find out where you can watch this movie today!

Friday, July 12, 2024

One Good Point - John Wick: Chapter 2

Alright, time to make some enemies.

The original John Wick was a fine movie. I watched it many years after it came out (of course), after I already knew there were a couple more John Wick movies, so his survival wasn't ever in doubt for me, but even still, I thought it was just good, not great.

John Wick: Chapter 2 wasn't good.

I get that Keanu Reeves isn't known for his soaring soliloquies or his rapier wit, but his performance in this movie felt utterly flat. The plot had no rising action; you got dropped onto the track at full speed, stayed at full speed, and ended at... you guessed it, full speed. The action scenes were good, but there's a ceiling to how entertaining an action scene can be if it doesn't feel meaningful in the context of a story.

Maybe worst of all is that they try to give you little teases about some larger over-arching story, a High Table organization that promises to be even more riveting next chapter! Maybe someday when I'm feeling forgiving, I'll give Chapter 3 a try. But with my vast list of unwatched movies that I actually am hoping will be good, I'm in no hurry.


Click here to check JustWatch and find out where you can watch this movie right now!

Thursday, July 11, 2024

One Good Point - Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

 As was the case with my movie-watching experience, I'm immediately following up the second Fantastic Beasts movie with the third one. All of my information was fresh going into the third one, though it did take a moment to get used to Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald. He does a great job though, and while his portrayal is a bit different from Johnny Depp's, that's not where this movie falters.

Where this movie falters is in kind of basic storytelling lol. It's more complete than Crimes of Grindelwald, as it does have a definitive ending, and answers most of the questions you have lingering from the first two movies. But there are frankly too many instances where some problem gets overcome by "magic" or "beasts." And look, I get that that's the whole point of the series, right? It's a fantasy story, there's going to be some fantasy to it. It just feels like this movie comes up short when it comes to incorporating that human element that the original series was able to deploy so effectively.

I'm not mad at the effort, though. I think the world of Harry Potter has some room to tell interesting stories, and I'm always open to renewing compelling IP; I'll watch every live action Star Wars thing they come out with until the day I die. I wish this movie series was better, but chances are I'll tune in again when the next one comes out...eventually.

I thought about finishing this post with a ranking of every Harry Potter movie, as I do love lists. But I haven't watched a lot of those movies in a while, and we're in a "look forward" mode here. Eventually someday though, sure, I'll rewatch them all and put together a list.

I fucking love ranked lists.


Click here to check JustWatch and find out where you can watch this movie right now!

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

One Good Point - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

So to set the stage here, I enjoyed the full first run of Harry Potter movies. I'm good with magic, and I felt like the Harry Potter stories did a good job of balancing fantastical whimsy and human emotions and experiences. They were a little more angsty than they needed to be at times, but that's the deal with movies about kids/teenagers, right?

Fantastic Beasts is a series *not* about kids or teenagers, but rather about (unsurprisingly) fantastic beasts, as well as a couple of, you know, humans. This second installment, The Crimes of Grindelwald, was okay, but it felt very much like an interlude movie. It advances a few relationships, and gives you more time with the titular villain, but was ultimately not very satisfying, adding questions and offering few answers.

One other note I have, and it's something that comes up oftentimes for me, and I've noticed bothers me in many, many stories these days. Without spoiling specifics, there are a couple of scenes in this movie in which swaths of folks are killed, and these deaths seem only to serve the purpose of convincing the viewer (and/or the protagonists) that their enemy is dangerous. This can be useful if done elegantly, but for the most part I find wanton murder to be a frustratingly heavy-handed device for storytelling. I know for certain that's the reason it took me a while to come around to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it's still not my favorite aspect of the movie.

Anyways, Crimes of Grindelwald was fine. I don't think I would recommend unless you're a real Potter-head, but if that's the case you've already seen it anyways.


Click here to check JustWatch and find out where you can watch this movie right now!

Monday, July 8, 2024

One Good Point

So far this year I've been watching a lot more movies than I normally do. I have this massive list of movies I've been aiming to see for years, and with assorted inspiration, I've finally started to tackle that list.

In the spirit of getting myself to write more, I'm going to write tiny little "articles" about these movies that I watch. The premise I'm working under is "One Good Point," as in, my goal is to just try to say one meaningful thing in my mini-review, and then post it. I have a habit of agonizing over articles, watching them grow and grow until I've written six pages on Brett Saberhagen. And I mean, I like doing that too, but this can be a small thing. That's how we build skills, right? We practice.

So! Coming up soon (hopefully), a flurry of small articles about the many movies (and a few shows) I've watched this year.

I'll still do my end-of-year rankings; I'm a man love who loves a Top 5 list, and you couldn't stop me from doing that. See you soon!

One Good Point - Public Enemies

On paper, I should love this movie. I enjoy a good crime/heist/gangster movie as much as anybody. Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Ocean's ...