War Machine (2017, David MichĂ´d)

Oh no, Brad Pitt looks sad. I’m guessing all the fun light comedy from the first half turned sour when people started dying in whatever war this is. Then Rolling Stone writes a mean article about their squad, and smartass Topher Grace argues with another guy. Pitt, using a toned-down version of his Basterds accent, says goodbye to his men and flies off to be fired by the President over the article, according to a cheese voiceover, everything moving just as slow as it can. Nice closing-credits Blues Explosion song, tho. Netflix is now making their own prestige pics with major movie stars from the director of The Rover, but I still read reviews instead of just watching whatever they place in front of me, and the reviews said nah. Speaking of which…


Beasts of No Nation (2015, Cary Fukunaga)

UN blue-helmets disarm a large troop of child soldiers to slow doom-music. The rescued kids have trouble adjusting to the peaceful community, are tormented. These prestige pics, nothing really happens in the last ten minutes, it’s all boring epilogue. Time to switch to something more disreputable.


Clinical (2017, Alistair Legrand)

Another “netflix original,” this one a mystery/horror by Michel Legrand’s legrand-nephew. I don’t like to speculate on the first 90 minutes of these movies, but from the screens flying by as I fast-forwarded, it appears that 75% of this movie is conversations inside a house, then in the last quarter there’s some home invasion action. When I hit play, there’s a conversation in a house in the dark. Jane is being tormented by a disfigured, possibly incestuous torturer backstory-expositionist. Our lead kidnapped psychiatrist is Vinessa Shaw (lead prostitute of Eyes Wide Shut), who escapes and beats hell out of her captor (Kevin Rahm of the Lethal Weapon remake) then rips his face off. Between the psychiatry angle and the face removal, it looks like someone has been watching Silence of the Lambs.


Spectral (2016, Nic Mathieu)

Ah good, an action movie with a dingy blue-brown color palette for a change. Guns with thick cables attached making a whiny powering-up sound, it seems we are in sci-fi action territory… ah yup there are spectral aliens in clone-pods. This looks like a Starship Troopers sequel with ghosts. Pretty cool effects – a good guy set off a superbomb that accidentally freed all the spectres, then another guy pulled their power cord leaving them all suspended and slo-mo evaporating. “They’re not alive… they’re not dead.” Science-hating dude who I’m going to assume is Jimmy Dale of World War Z discovers some brain/nerve experiments controlling the spectres and murders them all. Writer George Nolfi directed The Adjustment Bureau and wrote Oceans Twelve.


Doctor Strange (2016, Scott Derrickson)

Everyone in the city is frozen except Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch. BC flies into space, protecting himself from a galaxy-god in a time-loop with a magic shield – speaking of which, how come everyone on the internet is so conflicted about Patty Jenkins directing this week’s superhero movie when they gave this thing to the director of Hellraiser: Inferno? “Pain’s an old friend,” says a frankly unconvincing BC, trying to channel Hellraiser. He tricks the god into sparing Earth, then some underlit Infinity Stone sequel-setup mumbo, and I skipped to the awkward cutscene with Thor.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny (2016, Yuen Woo-Ping)

Hero-style, it looks like a soldier did something great in order to get close enough to slay the king. Outside, all hell breaks loose, Michelle Yeoh and her team versus an army, with some really nice wall-stepping, float-jumping, sword-thwacking action. “Now you will join your beloved, Li Mu Bai” – this looks like a killer movie, but this rebels-vs-kingdom stuff seems out of charaacter with the romantic original. Also, like an idiot I changed the language to Chinese then changed it back when I realized the movie was shot in English. Anyway Donnie Yen defeats Lord Whoever, and our heroes return to the mountain Zhang Ziyi jumps from in the original.


Hyena Road (2015, Paul Gross)

How can I pass up the Canadian war movie that was the subject of Guy Maddin’s Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton? Looks like some shit is going down, and the Taliban is fighting back hard. Whoa, a soldier got his legs blown off then crawled away. Music and camerawork all seem like the usual mediocrity. Then the lead guy authorizes his men to blow him up in order to take out the bad guys, after some military types shout numbers and codes at each other very emotionally (“three! niner alpha!!”). In the end we see that the Canadians died for a noble cause, that the good guys are good indeed, and war is necessary. I failed to spot Maddin playing a dead body. Writer/director Gross was a lead actor in Slings & Arrows.


Special Correspondents (2016, Ricky Gervais)

Forgot about this until it showed up on a favorite critic’s “worst of the century” list. So it’s a fake-kidnapping-turned-real-kidnapping comedy-turned-drama, with Gervais and that Hulk guy Eric Bana. I think Gervais is on drugs, singlehandedly shoots his way out of Ecuador to Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”. Hey, it’s America Ferrera and Kevin Pollak, then the movie peters out. “This is like the end of a movie.” “A low-budget movie, maybe.” Remake of a French film with Omar Sy, which is hard to picture.


Zootopia (2016, Disney)

We watched the first 15 of this once and it was insufferable so we quit, then it won an oscar. So let’s check out the last 15 – maybe that’s where all the better-than-Kubo stuff is hiding. Good bootleg-Disney-movies joke… then we’re in a meth lab on a train, odd. “Doug is the opposite of friendly… he’s UNfriendly.” Uh oh, the sheep mayor is the bad guy, with a speech about teaming up to defeat the predators, which doesn’t sound so bad really, then she turns our fox hero evil with drugs, sort of, then a final speech about how we have to understand each other and improve the world. I forget that award voters translate “best animated film” into “cutest message-movie for kids”.

Magical, delicate-looking stop-motion retelling of the Little Prince story, in which I guess he leaves his beloved rose, wanders some asteroids meeting strange adults, then crashes on Earth’s desert where he trades wisdom with a stranded aviator. Surrounding this, in a more Pixar-like CG animation style, is a sort of Little Prince Expanded Universe, in which eccentric Jeff Bridges tells the story to a neighbor kid who’s being meticulously groomed to be a serious-minded adult. When Bridges is sick, the girl flies into space to find the Little Prince, who has been corrupted by adulthood. You think of the Little Prince story as a fairy tale and the grey-cube grown-up CG world as reality, so it’s fun when they merge into one adventure at the end. Life Lessons seem pretty uncontroversial: protecting your inner child and holding onto important memories, but it’s all told in a pleasantly unusual way. This movie was dumped onto Netflix, but we drove an hour to see one of its rare theatrical screenings, and it was worth it for the gorgeous stop-motion scenes alone.

I recognized the director’s name from the great animated short More, which also features lead characters with colorful inner lives trying to break out of conformist grey-box worlds. All-star cast but the best voices were the non-actor kids, except for Bridges, and I’ll give credit to Ricky Gervais as “the conceited man”.

Girls season 1 (2012)

“I don’t want to freak you out, but I think I might be the voice of my generation… or at least a voice… of a generation.”

I loved this. Most comedy shows look sloppy, like Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, The Thick of It, I assume as part of the improv/spontaneity/rewrite routine of ensemble comedy, but I love them anyway because of the actors, the characters, the writing. But this show has all those things plus a strong visual style.

I know Lena Dunham from Tiny Furniture. Best friend Marnie is Allison Williams, daughter of NBC News anchor/30 Rock guest-star Brian. British friend Jemima Kirke was also in Tiny Furniture, and her hyperactive virgin cousin Zosia Mamet is daughter of David. Lena’s boyfriend Adam Driver is the bass-voiced guy who says “outer… spaaace” in Inside Llewyn Davis. Marnie’s now-ex-boyfriend is Christopher Abbot of Martha Marcy May Marlene, Lena’s boss/Abbot’s best friend Ray is Alex Karpovsky, also also of Tiny Furniture and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Derek season 1 (2013)

The episodes follow a formula: Story setup, negativity and unappealing behavior, suspicion that the whole thing is exploitative of the aged residents who barely get any lines, gradual story resolution featuring Derek-provoked awkwardness, then beautifully compassionate Derek comments that leave me extremely happy and wanting to watch more episodes. Sometimes it’s too Derek-glorifying, like Gervais is compensating for his infamous The Office character by playing the most inspirationally compassionate character he could dream up, and the ending’s a total tearjerker but I think it’s setting up Derek’s dad for season 2. Regulars: Derek, Hannah, handyman Dougie (Karl Pilkington), gross hanger-on Kevin and volunteer Vicky.

Peep Show season 1 (2003)

The longest-running show by Mitchell & Webb (of two other self-titled shows, plus Bruiser and the new Ambassadors). Never seen these guys before, but I like ’em. Mark/Mitchell is the guy with the steady job and Jeremy/Webb is the outgoing slacker roommate. The show’s gimmick is a first-person camera, swapping frequently between the two guys plus other people they meet, accompanied by voiceover of their thoughts, all quite well done.

Mitchell:

Webb:

Olivia Colman of Look Around You and Hot Fuzz (“Accidents happen all the time. What makes you think it was MUR-DUR?”)

30 Rock seasons 6 & 7 (2012-2013)

Still a good show, even if it stopped being a great show. Tina settles down with Cyclops and adopts babies. The show is cancelled, Baldwin becomes CEO of GE and appoints Kenneth president of the network.

We missed Tina Fey’s new Muppets sequel. Tracy Morgan did a voice in the Boxtrolls, was reportedly in a critical car crash this summer. Jane Krakowsi has a star-(and Adam Sandler)-studded sci-fi video-game comedy out next year. Jack McBrayer (from Macon, not Stone Mountain) is in They Came Together (and hopefully Wreck-It Ralph 2). Scott Adsit’s on some of the Adult Swim shows I’ve been missing and voices the inflatable robot in Big Hero 6. Judah Friedlander played Toby in American Splendor, appears in lots of horror sequels. Alec Baldwin’s upcoming films are still confidential or unconfirmed (there’s still hope that Boss Baby will fall through). Toofer’s got the lead in a drug-addict drama, Cerie appeared in horror Nurse 3D, Grizz has a show called Common Sense Police, Dot Com is in a romantic comedy about food in NYC which Katy will definitely watch on netflix someday, Lutz is a writer on Seth Meyers’s talk show, Jonathan does voices for two current cartoons, and Dr. Leo Spaceman is on Suburgatory and Archer.

I liked this. From the plain look (courtesy of Mike Judge’s cinematographer) to the relaxed line deliveries to the dated mid-tempo pop songs it seems like they set out to make a lightly pleasant comedy and have succeeded there. I liked the comedian supporting characters (Louis CK, Jeffrey Tambor, Tina Fey) and the comedian cameos (Jason Bateman, John Hodgman… Ed Norton?). I like how they presented religion as an outright lie and didn’t back down from that. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie, but I wouldn’t say there are more than two studio romantic comedies a year worth watching, so this is in rare company, probably higher up than the Will Ferrell thing with the Spoon soundtrack

image

But most of all, I’m sorry I watched this without Katy. I’d had a bad day, there was no heat in the house, and as night fell and I got colder, I thought a comedy was in order. This was on my laptop, and I watched it. Without Katy. Sorry!

image

All the IMDB knows about Ricky’s codirector is that he’s from L.A., younger than me, and married to a nude singer.