Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Netflix Reviews (pt2)

Three movies I watched on Netflix this weekend while playing video games.
I ranked them least to most spoiler ridden.

            I am unsure, but I might have seen this, or just numerous clips of this before, and considering it was made before Disney bought the Lucas empire, both of those things probably lessened the impact of this content dramatically.  That being said this movie does have a very deep exploration of the nature of fandom in popular culture and the sheer size and cult like fervor that caused backlash against George Lucas in the last 15 years.
            I recommend this movie if you enjoy discussions of popular media as much as you enjoy popular media, especially if you like to pick apart different things (like me).  On the other hand, if you have heard enough about the prequels and the turmoil involved then you should give this a pass, because while its content does use "Star Wars" as lexicon for talking about broader ideas like marketing and the auteur theory... Mostly it is about "Star Wars".

I somewhat love this poster.  It very much captures the tone of the movie.
Odd Thomas (2014)
            The trailer to this is god awful.
            I kind of loved "Odd Thomas".  It is the sort of thing I would write (though, you know, markedly better) with a super sarcastic and self aware tone, coupled with a supernatural mystery that is tight and works. It is like "John Dies at the End" but with a better budget. I am so sad that do to legal troubles the movie will not be a franchise, but it makes me want to read the novels (which I found wonderful, thru the whole movie I kept saying to myself "this dialogue sounds like it was lifted from a novel", and I was right).
            The stakes of the conflict consistently raise, the effects are cool, and even in the context of a small town the locations of conflict vary considerably: Pool Party, junk yard, abandoned prison, mall, dinner, Church, etc.  It is cool.  Best comparisons I can make would be to "Jack Reacher" and "Constantine".

Shit poster. I do like that Anton Yelchin is becoming a big wheel in genre movies (Star Trek, Fright Night).

Oldboy (American version; 2013)
            This god damn thing has me confused.  I appreciate it on a technical level, though I have no affection for director Spike Lee so I am unsure how much of the credit should go to him.  Especially since I have heard this movie is so similar to what it is remaking.  It is one of the hardest R movies I have seen in a while with graphic violence, hard language, issues of substance abuse, and a LOT of sexual abuse.  I feel people should watch it because it looks pretty, and has some interesting ideas.  That being said... I kind of hated the story and I can only really explain why by making this section of the review full of spoilers for the movie, and a lot of the movie is built on a twist, so if you don't want it spoiled feel free to go watch the movie.  If I had to compare it to something, "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" because of the subject matter, and a similar unfulfilling twist ending ("Girl" was considerably better in overall plot), but a good technical side.  I should also say that there is a lot of good acting on the part of Elizabeth Olsen and Josh Brolin.
            Spoilers: The movie starts with an alcoholic businessman failing to land a client because he is a douche, not going to his daughter's birthday because he had to try and land a client, and then getting kidnapped.  He finds himself in a cell made to look like a motel room, with only the TV and regular deliveries of Chinese food to keep him company.  There he learns of the murder of his wife and that he is the open and shut suspect in the investigation, DNA evidence having been taken from him and planted at the crime scene.  He then spends the next 20 years in his cell trying to better himself, watching martial arts shows, training, and writing letters to his daughter that he plans to deliver upon his escape.  Then he is let go.
            He is then told by a mysterious voice to solve the mystery of his imprisonment and in return he will receive wealth and the means to secure his freedom and innocence in the murder of his wife.  Along the way he gets help from an old friend who owns a bar, a young nurse, and people from his past.  Turns out the vastly rich and powerful man who is responsible for his imprisonment was the brother of a woman the protagonist had bullied in school.  The Protagonist had reviled a family secret that had so shamed the whole clan that it led the patriarch to try to kill everyone, and only failed to kill the son.  This is because the son, much like the daughter had been in a long running incestuous relationship with the father and blamed the murder spree on the shame of the protagonist's revelation.  Honestly as far as motivations go it makes evil-sense even if it is not the logic of healthy Earth minds.
            But then the movie goes crazy.  The villain, as part of his ultimate revenge, reveals the full scope of his manipulations, that the young love interest of the protagonist, a woman he has already slept with, is the protagonist's daughter.  The protagonist then begs to be murdered while the villain kills himself, after that the protagonist gives his wealth and a letter to the daughter not explaining things, and then has himself locked up in the motel cells again.
            Here is the thing, this plan is just too elaborate and doesn't really make sense.  The villain sees the incest his father was committing as a perfectly healthy expression of affection, and only blames the protagonist for the public shame he cast on the family, so ultimately the plan results in the protagonist feeling private shame and being free of the societal scrutiny... See how that is backwards?  If the bad guy doesn't see anything wrong with incest, how can getting someone to commit incest a revenge?  Really, the plan should be to reveal to the protagonist his ideas that incest is okay, have the protagonist agree, and then reveal this to the public so he has to live with the same public shame, like the villain's family did.
            What is more, this movie takes place (this version) in the American South, incest is not quite as stigmatized, especially accidental incest.  It is pretty clear this is not the raping or indoctrination of a child into a sexual relationship, but the result of a massive misunderstanding... So a lot of blame is off the characters, it could be that the protagonist would be able to come to terms with it, and while sparing the daughter the confliction of it, breaks off the relationship like he did in the movie but not punishing himself (he was imprisoned for 20 years, I think he paid his dues ahead of time).
            Then there is the deity like levels of manipulation that the villain is able to accomplish.  His plan could have failed 10,000 times, at one point the protagonist is fighting 2 dozen people all of which are armed with the intent of killing him, he makes it out (with a bowie knife in his back).  If the protagonist had died, or been rendered comatose by trauma, would the bad guy have just shrugged his shoulders and forgot the 20 year tantric revenge plot?  What if the daughter had just died in car accident when she was 12?  What if the father and daughter not been attracted to one another?  What if the protagonist had just bothered to Google anything having to do with himself to instantly dispel one of the key plot points of what was happening?  It breaks credulity, keeping me from enjoying the movie.  Also, I kind of saw it coming, so..."bleh".
            In conclusion:
            Technical stuff = Great
            Story = Bleh

Lame poster.  But better.

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