#3: ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (*** out of ****)
(My pick.) Yeah, I’d never seen it. I was surprised by how lively, well-shot, and actually just good this movie is. Moreover, has anyone ever noticed the similarities it has to FIGHT CLUB? I mean, Fincher had to have been directly pulling from this, from the presence of Meat Loaf to the look of Rocky Horror (replicated exactly by Jared Leto’s “Angel” character). Anyway, I found the whole thing fascinating and highly entertaining. Plus, Tim Curry.
#4: THE BIG ASK (**1/2 out of ****)
(His pick.) Darren loves indie dramedies and I love Ahna O’Reilly so we watched this, newly on VOD this weekend. Really excellent acting and character work by all involved, and a nice, low-key, funny tone makes the whole thing feel pretty good. But It’s not brilliantly directed and is missing a crucial sense of visual style, and it’s yet another movie about a whiny white guy and his problems (in this case, his mom dying of cancer — cry me a river) so I could only care so much.
#5: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (*** out of ****)
(My pick). Look, I get it. I have a problem. I like these movies even though they break everything I know about good cinema. They are absurdly long, ridiculously silly, and genuinely mean-spirited at the core. But a part of me will always be a 13 year-old kid who loves this shit, so yeah, I still watch them. To be fair, even though this fourth entry is almost three hours long, it feels leaner and less bloated than the other three, and Mark Wahlberg is a breath of fresh air after the suffocating mania of Shia LaBeouf. Stanely Tucci and Kelsey Grammer also turn in better-than-expected performances. Plus, DINOBOTS. Whatever, my ticket for the next one is already bought.
#6: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (** out of ****)
(His pick.) Visually stunning but emotionally weak, HTTYD2 is a real disappointment after the fresh, exciting, and genuinely moving first film. The story is unfocused and comes to a screeching halt about halfway through. The narrative feels fundamentally broken in the way it jerks us from place to place and scene to scene. Characters spew unnecessary exposition in place of actual dialogue. The voice acting is stilted and sometimes just embarrassing. And even though the scope is bigger than in the first film, the world somehow feels smaller. It’s just a mess, though a beautifully-rendered one.
#7: V/H/S 2 (*** out of ****)
(My pick.) I was not a fan of the first film but I heard the sequel was an improvement. Boy is it ever. The anthology structure is back so the shorts vary in quality, but at least one of them (pictured above) is flat-out amazing and the others are all pretty solid too. I enjoyed that the film tackles classic horror/sci-fi creatures (aliens, zombies, etc.) and the “why is this being filmed” problem of most found footage is absent here thanks to lots of creative filmmaking.
#8: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (**1/2 out of ****)
(His pick.) Indie dramadies! I have a feel Darren will be making me watch a lot of these since he normally goes to see them alone. Like THE BIG ASK, I really enjoyed the characters and the acting but the story just feels like a trifle to me. I blame myself, because honestly everything here is well-executed. Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake Johnson make likeable protagonists and the film is well-paced and well-shot. It looses some steam in the second act but ends on an unexpectedly sweet note.
Lately I’ve felt like I haven’t been setting enough time aside to actually watch movies, so my husband and I decided to change that. Our agreement: we watch at least 30 movies over the next 30 days, alternating between his picks and mine. The only rules are 1) at least one of us needs to have not seen the movie, and 2) absolutely no complaining about each other’s choices.
#1: THE WARRIORS (***1/2 out of ****)
(My pick.) Yes, I had never seen THE WARRIORS. Beloved cult classics are often difficult because of the inevitable “you had to be there” vibe. Dated stylistic choices and moderate-to-bad acting are often also factors. I found it easy to overcome all of that with my first viewing of Walter Hill’s THE WARRIORS, which I enjoyed immensely for its sense of adventure and fun. It’s also loaded with fascinating editing and cinematography choices. I loved that the gangs seem to have nothing to do with race and everything to do with proximity. It actually had a lot in common with the second movie we watched…
#2. SNOWPIERCER (***1/2 out of ****)
(His pick.) If you want to discuss plot holes after you see this movie then I question why you watch movies in the first place. After a more-or-less realistic introduction to the world, Bong Joon-ho’s allegory comes blasting through and it’s clear from then on that none of this is meant to be taken literally. Sure, it preaches to the choir (of which I am a member), but it does so beautifully and with some surprisingly dark and hilarious twists along the way. I maybe could have done with a little less of the on-the-nose third act exposition, but whatever - it’s a fearless and audacious feast for the eyes and the soul (if you have one). Also, Tilda Swinton.