Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Some Netflix Reviews

Four Movies I watched on Netflix this weekend while playing video games.
I ranked them chronologically.
(I also watched 13 episodes of "Sword Art Online" which is a strangely engaging).
            Three of these movies (all but "Monsters") came from recommendations from a critic I enjoy called Cecil Trachenburg, who has a show called "Good Bad Flicks" on the Agony Booth.  He tends to suggest movies that flopped in the box office or are relegated to the ghetto of genre fiction (lot of horror, sci-fi, and some fantasy).  Watch him.

"Strange Days" (1995)
            High concept science fiction about the idea of downloading other people's memories and experiencing things, like romance, lust, murder, or even the death of the person whose memories you are feeling.  This is also the "future" (2000) as envisioned by 1994, so HOLY COW RACISM.
            I feel like people should watch this movie because it is a really cool concept, it doesn't pull punches with violence or sex, it is engaging.  Problem is the super-super political bent that has nothing to do with the premise.  There are two plots that end up crashing into each other in a silly way, a murderer who forces his victims to watch their own murder thru his eyes with a live stream of his actions as he does them (AWESOME) the other has to do with finding the memories of a girl who saw police murder a very prominent rapper/community-organizer... and the potential resulting riots that might come of those memories going public (RODNEY KING, TOOKIE WILLIAMS, and TUPAC SHAKUR all in one).
            This movie has an interesting main character, a lot of cool tricks with mirrors and first person perspective, and a really good premise.... Crazy person plot.  there is also a mystery with enough real actors to make you wonder at who is doing stuff.  If they had focused on either the racial politics or the murder mystery the movie would have been infinitely better.  It is much like many movies nowadays in that it is two movies shoved together.
Awful poster.  Just fucking awful.

"Gattaca" (1997)
            This is a high concept science fiction movie about a world in which genetic engineering has allowed people to proof their children against genetic defects like color blindness, baldness, and heart defects, this also has the byproduct of making children "better" than their non-tailored counterparts, kids whose parents did not like mucking with their child's DNA.  This follows a guy who is trying to get into a space program and since he is not genetically engineered he is near sighted and has a heart defect, so he has to steal someone else's identity.
            This movie is interesting, there is a murder, it has a lot of commentary on society and how it likes to tamper with people... But it has a fundamental flaw with the premise.  The main character should not be an astronaut, he has a heart defect, that would DQ people from terrestrial jobs, let alone going into space where everyone depends on the person next to them to keep them safe.  He is putting others in danger for the sake of his pride.
            There is also a super-Orwell premise in this universe.  Much like Googling an employee to make sure they haven't been in the news for burglary, this movie makes DNA sequencing look like an ultra routine procedure that is required just to enter the building of the space program.  They also over emphasize certain things, like all of the people who are not engineered are relegated to janitors because of discrimination, but that only makes sense to a point.  I can understand not letting the heart defect guy going into space, but he is still a genius with laser like mental focus, he could work as an astrophysicist on Earth.  So the idea of him working as a janitor is silly.  You have the technology to scan a person's DNA every time they enter the building like they were swiping a key card, but you don't have Rhombus?  The point of advancing technology like this is to make people do less work, not to strata people... There is also not a lot of minorities in the movie, which I guess is supposed to be a subtle thing... Maybe?  It is worth watching because it has some positive messages about putting unfair expectations on children, discrimination, and... the positive aspects of identity theft.
Bad poster, with three more faces.  Here is some fan art for comparison.
            Southern Gothic Horror.  A hospice worker goes to help take care of an elderly stroke victim and gets caught up in a Hoodoo plot to... Something.  The plot twists and twists, and the ultimate end of them story is a rather nice change of pace from my typical fair.  It is not incredibly scary, but there is a cat and mouse game, and tiny little revelations of information that add up (in my opinion they added up, I was not giving this the full dissection treatment as I was playing "Age of Empires" while watching, maybe I missed a glaring plot hole).
            I could definitely see some "spell it out" writing at certain times.  A character does something that is a twist, the protagonist says what she thinks is happening, that way the audience has a temporary, "Oh, that's what's happening".  Having the audience just watch what is happening and thinking about it would be too complicated, got to make sure the popcorn munching masses can follow along.  Though I was legitimately surprised by the end... So I would recommend it.
Slightly better poster, but with that annoying floating head looking gormless.
And you of course need an eye, can't be a horror movie without eye imagery.
"Monsters" (2010)
            Mexico is infested with Old Ones.  Monstrous Spider-Squid-Fungus that have wrecked all kinds of shit.  The US has built a wall (the largest structure ever built by man) to keep the monsters out, but has left Mexico a war zone as the military tries to keep the damn things from spreading.  That is the backdrop, the main characters are a photographer (war correspondent) tasked with retrieving and getting home with his boss' daughter.  The two of them are damaged and taking a tour of the Monster infested Mexican countryside.
            This is the movie that got its director his job making the 2014 "Godzilla".  I liked "Monsters" a lot more.  The issues with this one have more to do with budget than characters.  The two protagonists are fine, they emote well, have depth, they have a goal.  They are in a situation that is perilous.  The movie does not have the money to show a lot of monster action.
            I hated the cutaways from action in "Godzilla" because that was what I was there to see, instead the movie was cluttered with boring and meaningless humans who accomplished nothing.  This movie is about characters with the backdrop of monsters.  The monsters are not really what I am there for.  you could replace monsters with a flood, a tsunami, or a war and you would get the same story... The difference would be that the metaphor would not be a metaphor, it would just be a movie about the thing.
            The monsters in this movie (I think) are a metaphor for the drug war.  Mexico is torn apart, America builds a wall, but American intervention and conflict stirs up the monsters even more.  In that context this story (while preachy) is on point.  "Godzilla" had no such coherent undercurrent, and thus sucked more, though it had the money to do more.
            Monsters will probably bore most people to tears because (like I said) the budget is small, so there are some bad actors, there are seems showing on some special effects, a lot of the money shots are off screen.  If they had the money to show more stuff and better actors it would have been an 8.  If it had done that and not been as preachy it would have been a 10.  It might still be worth watching if you like slow burn stuff, like the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" for instance.

More dynamic poster.  Kind of "District 9" -ish, but somewhat humanized by the leads.

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