Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Movies 2013, Survival

Survival Films
            Yes apparently I have decided to do an incredibly niche setting as an entry in this series of blogs.  Before I saw "Gravity" this was actually going to be Nautical Films.  Why are there so many movies about being alone and adrift?  Is it the economy?

Captain Phillips, or "Huh, there is some pretty good tension in there."
Overall: 7/10
Apparently the real Captain Phillips has been trying to ply this incident for personal gain which has resulted in him being somewhat demonized.... If I ever got kidnapped by pirates I would milk that incident for glory the rest of my life, so I do not understand the supposed hostility.
            There are parts of this movie that I was just fine with, and other parts that I was less enamored with.  Certainly the best thing is showing a lot of it from the perspective of the pirates.  Much like the Sports movie "Rush" there are two protagonists and their bouncing off one another is what the movie is about.  Character interaction is core to any movie which involves people being held in a tiny shelter against the world.  You have to know why people are doing certain things, and have an expectation of how others will react.  This movie nails that.
            I guess there are just long stretches in which I got rather bored.  I just didn't care about what was happening on the boat beyond a certain point, and seeing as I was alive at the time the actual instance was on the news I knew the ending.  Tom Hanks has some really strong acting at the end as he goes through shock while being treated, having just been held hostage and then covered in his kidnapper's gore.  There are other scenes that are tense, but it just didn't stay with me very much.  Overall I think it is a well made movie that other people might like more than I do, but it won't stick with me the way other movies have this year.
            Some people were saying that Barkhad Abdi is a breakout performer in this.  I do not really agree.  He is barely acting.  The nervousness he portrays is being interpreted as a trait of his character, someone who is using violence to try and make money but surrounded by hostile forces... people chose to see as acting.  Really it just seems like someone who doesn't act being in a movie.  He is nervous because millions of people are going to watch this movie for Tom Hanks but there are numerous scenes in which Barkhad is the focus of the scene, and he is probably worried he won't measure up.  And he doesn't for the most part.  He was cast because he looks like a Somali Pirate, not because he is a skilled actor.

All is Lost, or "I would be cursing a hell of a lot more than Robert is."
Overall: 7/10
Seriously, the main Character has no name, he is listed in the credits as "Our Man".
I should note the only reason I watched this is because it was the #1 of a film reviewer I like named Cecil.
            Ever wanted to watch a movie about an old man on a boat that is slowly sinking and the various processes taken to keep the boat afloat as long as possible before finally, ALL IS LOST?
            If you like survival movies with minimal dialogue, and a protagonist that has (Literally) no name and (effectively) no personality beyond an ability to learn to use a sextant use over the course of his ordeal... Well, you'll definitely like this one.  I could talk about it more, but there is not a lot of themes or story, I would just be describing what was happening, "he then patches the boat hull", "drains the cabin", "there is a storm coming", etc.
            It is worth a watch, I liked it more than "Gravity," because it cut out all the stupid dialogue and made things really relatable (MAYBE that is why.  My mood is fickle.  I imagine I will continue to cool on "Gravity" but this will remain at the medium-to-good level).

Gravity, or "All is Lost, but in Space"
Overall: 6/10
If this image were to talk without point then it would perfectly sum up the film.
            Much like "You're Next" I imagine this movie has much broader appeal than I am giving it credit for, but it is first and foremost a spectacle movie and it is in many ways too dumb for me.  I imagine this has a lot in common spiritually with "Life of Pi" which I did not see but was sold on its special effects. to a degree that dismissed the actor's contributions altogether.
            This movie foreshadows things well, you see something and it foreshadows something else happening later, I give it credit for that.  There are effects in this that blew my mind with how cool they looked and how exciting they were, watching in dead silence the complete destruction of the International Space Station (what could be considered the greatest monument to what multinational scientific efforts can achieve) I will give tons of credit there.  This movie is worth seeing, but I am just less impressed by special effects as a technical achievement unless they are used to complement a strong story.
            But there are some aspects I just found stupid, like Sandra Bullock constantly talking to herself.  Here is some SPOILER territory.  In the movie George Clooney sacrifices himself so that Sandra can continue working to get home, but at one point she runs out of ideas and decides to lower the oxygen and let herself go to sleep, she is then woken up by Clooney knocking on the spacecraft window and then opening the pod.  They then have a short conversation on how she can use the ship in a clever way to get to the next station which has a landing module... It is a hallucination, the oxygen deprivation gave her a Eureka moment in the form of George Clooney.  So here is my question: why not just do that all the time?  Have her talk to Clooney through a radio, under the assumption that he is still drifting in his space suit, giving her instructions, but it turns out the radio hadn't been working, that Clooney's voice was just her making sense of the situation and remembering her training, that way you would not have to watch her talking to herself the whole movie.  Actor's talking to themselves is not always an acceptable way to do things.  In Hamlet, the titular character talks to himself to reflect his internal discussion, there was no other way to get that information across in a play, this is a movie in which you could easily get around such things.
            More SPOILER, the movie could have ended with her just getting into the Chinese station at the end.  Showing her falling to Earth, swimming in water, and then walking on a beach was just unnecessary for the story.  Her arc was over with.  Some ambiguity as to whether she made it home would have worked in the movie's favor, but I guess they wanted people to have airtight closure... Though once you introduce the idea of hallucination, as you did with the Clooney ghost, you can no longer trust what is being shown on screen.  For all the audience knows she died in space and dreamed her trip back to Earth.  And really, by the time we are to that point you are almost bored by the idea of being in space.  No kidding the idea of jumping to another satellite is almost played out by the end of the movie.

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