Finding Dory (2016, Andrew Stanton)

Dory starts to remember things about her home and family, goes on an adventure, discovering she was born at an aquatic park. The others follow, and all are assisted by a couple whales and an Ed O’Neill octopus.

I told Katy it felt good, but not necessary – Matt Singer nails why:

Like so many of the studio’s previous features, Dory is a story about the unbreakable bonds between parents and children, mismatched partners bonding over the course of a long adventure, and the pleasures of a team working together to achieve a common goal. After 21 years, that formula is still very satisfying. But it also feels more like a formula than ever before.


Piper (2016, Alan Barillaro)

Dory and The Good Dinosaur have started an upsetting trend where the opening short is better than the feature. I’m probably biased because I love birds, and especially love watching sandpipers, but this story of a baby sandpiper learning to deal with the surf is the greatest film of all time. Director Barillaro has been a Pixar animator since A Bug’s Life.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, Dan Trachtenberg)

Fun, twisty thriller. I probably never want to watch it again, and I probably still don’t want to watch the shaky-cam action prequel, but I didn’t regret renting this.

Mary E. Winstead (Ramona Flowers, the girl with hair like this) is in a car crash and wakes up chained to John Goodman’s basement. But wait, Goodman is a nice guy who rescued her on his way to his massive emergency shelter and outside the world has gone to hell. But wait, she hears a car overhead and there’s a person outside and Goodman denies this is possible. But wait, that outside person is crazy and wounded and is trying to get into the shelter, proving Goodman’s point. Goodman’s neighbor John Gallagher (Short Term 12) is also in the bunker and says Goodman’s on the level and John isn’t a creepy sex fiend and he talks like a normal sad guy about his daughter. But wait, Gallagher says the girl in the photo isn’t Goodman’s daughter. But wait, Mary suspects Goodman is the one who caused her car crash in the first place. But wait, before she confronts him about this, Goodman sheepishly admits that he crashed into her in his haste to get to the shelter.

All this back-and-forth is resolved in the best possible way: Goodman is right about the extinction-level event outside AND he’s dangerously crazy, so Mary has to fight her way out of the bunker then fight Cloverfield aliens, which I assumed would be more Godzilla-like, not floating spaceships with Hellraiser tentacles.

Obvs produced by JJ Abrams, but directed by Trachtenberg, whose previous film was a fan-film short for the video game Portal (he was also key grip on Phantasm OblIVion). Written by a Narnia editor, a G.I. Joe associate producer and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. That is a fucked-up lineage but man the actors are so good in this.

M. D’Angelo:

What if you got trapped in an elevator with your abusive ex-boyfriend and you’re a hemophiliac and OMG your ex-boyfriend is a vampire! Come on.

Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985, Miller & Ogilvie)

“I was a cop, a driver.”

That settles it: the even-numbered Mad Max movies are brilliant and the odd-numbered are just alright. This was mostly a time-wasting attempt to turn Mad Max into a trilogy. I had pretty decent memories of this from watching it on cable in the 1980’s, back when I didn’t know the rules of franchises and licensed properties and believed that all crossovers were possible, imagining Indiana Jones: Beyond Thunderdome, or Care Bears: Beyond Thunderdome. Two bears enter, one bear leaves.

Max is introduced as The Man With No Name, tying him to Eastwood’s trilogy about a loner character who keeps getting in the middle of other groups’ fights. The gyrocaptain returns, making him the only character (not the only actor) besides Max to appear in multiple movies. Over the closing credits I thought “We Don’t Need Another Hero” wasn’t as great a song as I remembered, but then it got stuck in my head for days.

The language is great anyway, with references to the pocky-clipse. But the movie’s a mess – it’s the one in this series where I least understood the characters and the stakes. Bartertown ruler Tina Turner and thunderdome champ Master Blaster are villains… or are they? I liked Master Blaster – The Mighty as a warrior. The tiny Master was Angelo Rossitto (in movies since the 1920’s) and Blaster was Paul Larsson (billed just under John Larroquette in Altered States). The action scenes were still believable, and very well filmed.

Thunderdome MC spinning the wheel of fate:

Max’s death sentence, before being rescued by the tribe of children:

If true, IMDB trivia comes in handy for once:

George Miller lost interest in the project after his friend and producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash while location scouting. That may explain why Miller only handled the action scenes while George Ogilvie handled the rest. The film is dedicated to Byron Kennedy.

NxNW-reminiscent finale:

Captain America 3: Civil War (2016, Anthony & Joe Russo)

One of the better Disney/Marvel superhero movies (not counting the X-Men, which are almost all better than the infinity-stone saga, or whatever we’ll ultimately call these things). After a few civilian deaths are caused while saving the entire planet from certain destruction, everyone is angry at the superheroes and propose they be commanded by the UN instead of by an absent Sam Jackson (maybe he’s dead – someone mentioned the collapse of SHIELD?). While this is happening, Captain America’s old buddy The Winter Soldier (I missed the last movie, but he seems to be a Manchurian Candidate version of the Captain with an iron arm instead of a magic shield) is framed for killing an African king. The Captain wants to check in with his friend before antiterror squads kill him, but Iron Man says no, we have to let the UN tell us when/where to intervene, and an Avengers-rift is formed – a loud, punchy rift! These guys solve all of their problems through punching. Also it’s a three-hour movie with few interestingly-shot action scenes and no memorable images (no wonder it opened with a Bourne sequel trailer).

So, let’s see, UN Iron Man is joined by his buddy War Machine, Black Widow, Vision, the dead king’s son Black Panther, and a newly-recruited teenage Spider-Man

And the Captain is joined by his buddy Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Ant-Man. So it’s six on six. No Thor or Hulk or Loki or Gwyneth Paltrow this time.

I guess the Captain’s team wins – it’s his movie, after all, and Black Widow defects at the last minute, War Machine is badly hurt, and Black Panther is pretty cool about accepting the truth that Winter Soldier didn’t really kill his dad, but in a weird twist, Iron Man is angry when it turns out Winter Soldier actually killed HIS dad. All this mayhem was somehow orchestrated by an anti-superhero crusader called Zemo, who despite his supervillain name is just a regular guy.

These Russo brothers made the last Capt. America and I guess are making the next two Avengers. Before all this happened, they were best known for You, Me and Dupree. I would’ve already covered most of these heroes in my Avengers 2 writeup but I apparently chose to make a point about how forgettable a movie it was instead. New (to me): Winter Soldier is Sebastian Stan (The Martian), Black Panther is Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in 42), Spider-Man is Tom Holland (The Lost City of Z, Broadway’s Billy Elliot) and the evil Zemo is Daniel Bruhl (the nazi war hero/actor in Inglorious Basterds).

Jen Chaney:

[Civil War] doesn’t contain a moment that enables the audience to emotionally relate to the characters the way Spider-Man 2 did. It entertains, but it doesn’t transport to the degree that, say, The Dark Knight or even Superman: The Movie did … it’s a sign that the bigger the mob of infighting superheroes gets, the more difficult it becomes to leave a space in the crowd and let the audience in, too.

Mission: Impossible 5: Rogue Nation (2015, Christopher McQuarrie)

Neither of us could recall what happened in any previous Mission: Impossible movie, but it didn’t seem that important. Confusing exposition scenes – afterwards we wondered why the secret accounts stored in the data vault protected by the underwater red box coded by the prime minister’s biometrics had continued to accumulate massive funds for the hypothetical secret project, when the PM thought the project had been cancelled, and if someone was routing that money counter to the PM’s wishes, why he wouldn’t have stored it somewhere more accessible. But the rest of the movie is fab action scenes and Simon Pegg quips, and that’s what we came for.

Evil Simon Pegg:

McQuarrie also cowrote Edge of Tomorrow, directed Jack Reacher. It’s a less distinctive-looking movie than the others, and less ecstatically wonderful than part four. Whichever film critic said this was equal to Mad Max: Fury Road was high. Action scenes could’ve been more coherent looking. Gripes aside, a solid movie with good shootouts and motorcycle chases, an intense-as-ever Cruise and his great comic sidekick Pegg. Jeremy Renner is reduced to a talking head, Ving Rhames is barely in the movie, and Alec Baldwin plays their boss. Swedish newcomer Rebecca Ferguson (Queen Elizabeth in a recent British miniseries) is the latest in a string of interchangeable M:I women, working for three different sides and looking stylish doing it. Simon McBurney is a slimy head of british intelligence and our evil mastermind is Sean Harris, the punk rock geologist in Prometheus, who looks upsettingly similar to Simon Pegg. Katy was annoyed that they keep referring to the IMF (“Impossible Mission Force”) and also mention the World Bank (related to the real IMF).

Definite proof that Pegg and Harris are different people:

M. D’Angelo: “[McQuarrie] found, in Rebecca Ferguson, the first woman to make a real impression in this boys’ club. Every time she removes her shoes, look out.”

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (2015, Joss Whedon)

Nick Pinkerton, quoted by Nathan Silver last week:

Re-watching [A Nos Amours] gives the frustrating awareness of how comparatively petty many of the experiences I have — and have had — with movies are, how a diet of mediocrity accustoms me to betraying a natural expectation that art can expand its frame into the world I’m living in; the sad truth is that most films evaporate the moment we emerge from the theater, vanquished by the more engaging muddle of life.

Movies vanquished by the muddle of life this month include Love, The Wolfpack, Actress, and Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.

Evil Dead double-feature

Nice intro to the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse, a free outdoor double-feature at the nearby Sokol Ampitheater. I’ve seen these a bunch of times, but not lately.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Still more horror than comedy, but some over-the-top punishment and gore got chuckles from the crowd. Screened in its original 4:3 (I hadn’t realized there’s aspect-ratio controversy, but apparently Raimi advocates a cropped widescreen version). Don’t think I’d noticed before how great the music and sound is on this movie.

Cheryl is attacked by trees then possessed by demons and locked in the cellar. Shelly’s possessed next, dismembered by Scott. Linda gets possessed and finally she and Scott and Cheryl are all tormenting Ash, who takes no meaningful action until about the last 15 minutes when he beheads one of them and tosses the Necronomicon in the fire, causing the rest to decompose.

Evil Dead II (1987)

I love how ten minutes into the movie there’s only one living character and he’s possessed by demons. Fortunately two archaeologists and two local rednecks soon show up in order to get possessed and torment Ash some more… and of course Henrietta is discovered in the cellar. I wish this hadn’t been screened with singalong subtitles over the scenes that somebody found quotable, but it wasn’t too distracting. Bobbie Jo starred in the recent We Are What We Are remake and Ash’s girlfriend Linda married Steve Guttenberg.

The first Evil Dead came out the same year as The Howling, Scanners and Possession, though sequel-mania had already hit the genre, with Friday the 13th 2 and Omen 3 and Halloween 2. Raimi made the disappointing Crimewave before joining the sequel craze with Evil Dead II in 1987, which was my Year Zero of horror, with Hellraiser, The Gate, House II, Elm Street 3 and The Lost Boys.

Cowriter Scott Spiegel later made Intruder (“gore galore” says the IMDB review). Appropriately, Evil Dead II cinematographer Peter Deming shot Cabin in the Woods (and Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway!). Looks like Raimi hasn’t made anything since Drag Me to Hell, and those rumors of an Evil Dead remake and TV series never came to pass.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972, Robert Fuest)

Happy SHOCKtober!

In early September I assembled a list of SHOCKtober contenders. So many promising horror films! Since it looks like my Mets might be in the postseason threatening SHOCKtober screen time, and since I’m usually a month behind on the blog anyway, I went ahead and started watching them, beginning with this sorry sequel to one of my faves from last year.

Phibes with raptor:

Opens with a full recap of the first movie, in case you missed it. And even though Vincent Price is embalmed and buried at recap’s end, sure enough he’s waking up right afterwards. This one’s got an interesting concept at least, as Phibes has taken his revenge for the death of his wife, but she’s still dead, so now he’s going after a fabled fountain of life beneath some ancient Egyptian tomb. Better, Phibes has a rival – an archaeologist named Beiderbeck (Robert Quarry, star of Count Yorga, Vampire, with a silly voice but okay sideburns) who has survived for centuries with a small vial of eternal-life water and now seeks the source.

Phibes jacked-in:

That all sounds promising, and Phibes 1 was heaps of fun, but I wasn’t feeling it this time. Less well shot (DP Alex Thomson later worked with David Fincher and Nic Roeg), less well written (Fuest cowrote with Robert Blees: Frogs, High School Confidential), and less interestingly designed (lot of people talking in front of plain white walls). Slower-paced scenes and a vaguely shabby feeling. I do enjoy when Price “speaks” by plugging a guitar cable into the jack in his neck, but the characters who move their mouths might as well have done the same, with all the dialogue-editing blunders I caught. The hapless cops from the first movie are even more hapless here, Terry-Thomas reappears as a new character, and minor characters are dispatched regularly via scorpion, snake, raptor (unconvincingly), sandblasting, crushing, telephone, etc.

Mouseover to see how one gets killed by telephone:
image

IMDB trivia reveals arguments, power struggles, rivalries, changes “for budget reasons” and a final script composed of two separate scripts “sort of stuck together”. So the movie’s disappointing but I guess it’s surprising it turned out as well as it did. Nice ending: Phibes floats away with his wife’s coffin on the enchanted river singing “Over the Rainbow” as time catches up with Beiderbecke outside, suddenly aging him to death faster than Bowie in The Hunger.

Phibes with Vulnavia with sousaphone:

There’s a new Vulnavia (Valli Kemp) since women are interchangeable. First dead archaeologist who attracts police attention is Hugh Griffith (Polanski’s What? and Fuest’s The Final Programme), dead guy’s cousin is Beryl Reid (The Killing of Sister George) and Beiderbeck’s woman is Fiona Lewis (Liszt’s neglected wife in Lisztomania).

The Last Ten Minutes vol. 15

The Cobbler (2014, Tom McCarthy)

Just morbidly curious about The Station Agent director’s latest. Did anyone realize while making this that shoe “soles” and human “souls” are homophones? Wonder if that might be useful. Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station) is asking Adam Sandler out, then hey it’s Steve Buscemi! “Pickles preserve you… they give you strength” – I’ve been saying this for years. Wait, Buscemi transformed into Dustin Hoffman, am I getting this right? Sandler is not a good dramatic actor, hasn’t anyone realized? Oh, “walk in another man’s shoes,” I get it now.

Saw IV (2007, Darren Lynn Bousman)

Checking my notes, I believe everyone except maybe Orson Macfadyen was dead at the end of part 3. And here’s Orson, one of many dudes running with guns down dark corridors, while some other dudes die in a trap room. I think Donnie Wahlberg and Orson just died, then a victim turns out to be the mastermind (a la the original Saw) and leaves some dying guys locked up in a factory, and Dead Jigsaw promises more sequels – but not by Bousman, who moved on to New Year’s Day and Repo! The Genetic Opera after this. From the writers of Feast, the Piranha remake-sequel, and possibly the next Halloween.

Saw V (2008, David Hackl)

How does Dead Jigsaw continue to star in these movies? Prequel? A couple’s hands are being sawed up while Scott Patterson (a Scott Bakula type from the last sequel) plays a tape and dudes with guns walk through dark corridors to the same copy-and-paste drumbeat music and metallic sound effects as the last movie’s last ten minutes. Bland-looking Costas Mandylor escapes a trap room while Bakula Type gets crushed inside and a Matt Walsh type triggers a full-movie flashback, lucky for me. Hackl worked on all of Bousman’s Saw sequels and did production design on Lexx.

You’re Next (2011, Adam Wingard)

I hated Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die but heard last year’s The Guest was good, so catching up with the one that came in between. Soap star Sharni Vinson is looking all beat up, stumbling around till someone shoots her with a crossbow. Enter a couple of assailants, killed with knife and blender. Sharni’s boyfriend AJ Bowen was in on the home invasion plot, arranged to have his family killed so he’d inherit, but the girlfriend’s not buying his boring story, haha then she’s shot by the cops.

Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero (2014, Kaare Andrews)

Skinless girlfight, hurting each other in ways this underlit beach scene can’t quite afford to explain. Then one guy has a gun and it’s boring, and Dr. Sean Samwise Astin kills that guy just slowly enough to give him a dying monologue, and I think maybe Samwise escapes with the virus. Good work interweaving explanatory scenes through the closing credits to make viewers stay through ’em. The director made “V” in The ABCs of Death, which was also boring, and the writer did a Hitcher remake and a When a Stranger Calls remake.

Man With The Iron Fists 2 (2015, Roel Reine)

Came across this while searching for Iron Sky, had no idea there was a sequel to that middling action film. It sure enough stars RZA and his iron fists, but instead of Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, this one’s got a lotta Thai actors, poor CG effects, and more than one guy screaming “noooooooo!” Climactic fight has RZA fighting a bad guy with iron legs. The director made a couple Death Race sequels and a Scorpion King sequel.

Iron Sky (2012, Timo Vuorensola)

Blonde woman stops a nazi from blowing up the earth, electrocuting him in an absurd way then stabbing his head with a shoe. Meanwhile a buncha Star Wars stuff is happening outside, after which a woman in a feather suit accurately says “well that was disappointing” and the Star Spangled Banner plays ironically as world leaders tussle, then LOL nuclear war. Damn, missed Udo Kier. Glad to see there will be a sequel featuring him and Tom Green.

Renaissance (2006, Christian Volckman)

That Sin City cartoon with Daniel Craig. Wow, it’s a disaster – nice frames, but the motion and editing and acting (cheers, Romola Garai of Amazing Grace) are slow and weird. Very few shades of gray, mostly pure black and white. Trying to figure out what went wrong, so I forgot to pay attention to plot. Two of the writers did a Jean Reno thing called 22 Bullets. Volckman doesn’t have lots of credits, has forgotten to make any more movies since this one.