Like a much improved Ready Player One, stupider but better in every other way. Or it could be this year’s Valerian, but in that movie you felt the hugeness of its universe, and this one feels like a video-game future city full of NPCs, with only ten real people who keep bumping into each other. Anyway, I heard Rodriguez made a campy, awesome sci-fi comic action flick with producer James Cameron and his Avatar effects team, rushed out to watch this in 3D, and was greatly rewarded.

Sam Adams in Slate:

There are moments so purely ingenuous they make you laugh with a mixture of disbelief and glee, like when Jeff Fahey shows up as a redneck bounty hunter who keeps a pack of cybernetic hounds on hand. It’s goofy as hell and borderline inexcusable at times, but it’s also kind of glorious.

Stupid Matt Damon has money problems (you can tell because he stays up late at a cluttered desk frowning at an adding machine) so he decides to get small. His wife Kristen Wiig decides against the idea at the last minute, then he loses his palacial house in the divorce, moves into an apartment below hard-partying Christoph Waltz whose housecleaner is Vietnamese dissident Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau of Treme, Inherent Vice). These three hitch a ride with Udo Kier to the original small colony led by Dr. Rolf Lassgård (A Man Called Ove), which is retreating into a mountain to wait out the impending human-caused global catastrophes. Stupid Matt Damon decides to go with them, then decides not to, then convinces Ngoc Lan he’s in love with her.

Katy says it’s like they asked each actor what they’d like to play (“a sea captain!” “a hard-partying smuggler” “a one-legged humanitarian”) then wrote a script around it. It tries to be a bunch of things at once, not so successfully, and there are awkward and obvious bits, but I appreciate the ambition, and Christoph Waltz looks like he’s having the best time. Second movie we watched theatrically in a row to feature Laura Dern.

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz, not Michael Fassbender – I think of each as “the guy from Inglorious Basterds,” so get them confused) is a socially inept worker bee who doesn’t hate his video-game-reminiscent job, just hates having to come into work, so he gets permission to work from home on a special project from management (Matt Damon): proving “the zero theorem”. He’s aided/annoyed by Waltz’s direct supervisor David Thewlis, party-girl-for-hire Melanie Thierry (The Princess of Montpensier) and whiz-kid Bob (Lucas Hedges), who calls everyone else Bob so he doesn’t have to remember names. As Leth’s video therapist: Tilda Swinton – between this, Trainwreck, Snowpiercer and Moonrise Kingdom, she has really gotten into comedy lately.

Kinda about a search for the meaning of life (or a disproof of its meaning), with sort of a Dark City ending. Shot on the cheap in Romania.

Thierry at Leth’s glorious, delapidated-church home:

Sadly (so sadly) Mike D’Angelo might have put it best: “Like a relic from an alternate universe in which Brazil was made by an idiot.” Written by a creative writing teacher from Florida, it’s got its moments, but the story and characters and entire movie seem to add up to nothing (maybe the film proves its own theorem).

Leth and Bob at the park:

Sure sure, I can slightly, vaguely, ever-so-minimally agree with some specific charges of political incorrectness and racial insensitivity I’ve read from online critics who would apparently prefer that Richard Gere make more movies instead of Tarantino. But Django Unchained was so awesome that even Katy loved it. Seems looser and less purposeful at times than his other movies, but that’s hard to say without having seen most of them in a long time.

Bounty Hunter Christoph Waltz (giving just as delicious a performance as in Inglorious Basterds, but this time as a good guy), the only non-racist in the slavery-era American south, frees Jamie “Django” Foxx from slave traders so Foxx can help identify and kill the Brittle Brothers. I figured from the trailer that they’d be more important, but they’re killed off a few scenes later with barely an introduction. Django stays on with Waltz, learning new strategies for killing villainous white men, until they come up with a plan to rescue D’s wife Kerry Washington from the estate of Leonardo DiCaprio. Many monologues follow, and when Leo gets wise to the scam, Waltz kills him (“I couldn’t resist”), leaving turncoat house-slave Samuel L. Jackson (the movie’s most hilarious performance) for Django to finish off. QT cameos as a doomed Australian.

A couple of quotes contradicting anything negative I said in the first paragraph:

Slant:

[Samuel L. Jackson] reveals himself as the film’s true enemy, a totally indoctrinated subordinate whose slave-subject mentality is so deeply inscribed that he acts out his master’s cruelty and viciousness even in his absence. He hints at the more complicated idea that the kind of violence Django trots out with decadent aplomb in the film’s finale is learned from white folks, a notion implied with more subtlety in the relationship between Django and Schultz. In visiting the film’s most protracted, and ultimately fulfilling, scenes of vengeance against a black man, Tarantino stumbled into his most intriguing social-historical corrective: a full-on reconsideration of classically defined algebra of Civil War antagonism, a counterintuitive take on the well-worn rivalry that pitted “brother against brother.”

A. Nayman:

Once again, in this deceptively baggy, ultimately precisely structured movie, the surface effect belies what’s going on underneath. The sight of two black men locked in a battle to the death at the behest of a white overseer is a tip-off to script’s true conflict. The expression of hatred on Jackson’s face as Django rides up to the inevitably named Candieland transcends the jokey Spaghetti Western posturing — it’s genuinely unnerving.

The opening and closing shots of children conspiring at a great distance from the camera remind me of the final shot of Cache – this could be its comedy sequel. Besides those shots, it’s set in a single apartment. Based on a play (duh) by Yasmina Reza, which won the Tony a couple years ago. Amusing little real-time drama where world-class actors portray friendly, enlightened parents whose behavior soon degrades until they seem worse than the kids. If that piece of minor irony wasn’t the point of the film, then I’m afraid I missed it.

Set in “New York” in the home of Jodie Foster (whom I haven’t seen since Inside Man) and John C. Reilly (haven’t seen since Walk Hard), whose son was nailed in the face by the son of Kate Winslet (last seen in Contagion) and Christoph Waltz (Water for Elephants). Waltz is a terribly important lawyer always on his cell phone, Winslet can’t hold her liquor (there’s a lot more throw-up in this movie than I expected), Foster is insufferably liberal and Reilly the opposite. Or something – there’s not much to it, and the trailer gave away too much, but watching the actors is total fun.

A. Nayman in Cinema Scope:

The only thing more pretentious and transparent than the behaviour of Reza’s straw men and women is the playwright’s own notion that she’s revealing something about human nature. The simplest way to point out what’s wrong with this material is to say that Carnage is exactly the sort of acclaimed easy-bake drama that its own characters would probably hustle to see: a hot ticket for patrons eager to be reduced to social stereotypes and howl like hyenas at the “keen-edged” observations of their own foibles and frailties. … Where a director like Sidney Lumet or, God forbid, Sam Mendes might have felt this high-end horror-show in their bones, Polanski seems triply unimpressed: with the characters’ regressive lunacy, with Reza’s pride in hoisting them on their own petards, and with his own easy grace in crafting a watchable welterweight prestige picture.”