I Am Number Four

i-am-number-fourLet’s see… I’m an alien super-human hiding out on earth, being pursued across the galaxy by ruthless creatures determined to destroy me. What would be a good plan…? Maybe train to fight? Maybe learn all I can about my history from my bodyguard? Maybe go deep underground and try to connect with my similarly positioned compatriots? Nah… I think I’ll enroll in high school, and date a cute human girl. Yup, that sounds like a great idea. The results from there are fairly predictable… the movie is only saved from utter disaster by a few moments where it drifts into pure camp, poking fun at itself.

Life of Crime

life-of-crimeMeh… not bad, actually. Not great though. This is not a movie that’ll leave any lasting impression. Actually, I can hardly remember any details… but I do remember that it had a couple ridiculous moments that elicited a minor chuckle. Plus, while the ending was unrealistic, it was a bit fun (that is, provided I’m remembering the ending properly, and not confusing it with some other similar “caper movie”). I’ve surely seen far worse efforts.

Date Movie

date-movieWow. This was so bad, it was hardly believable… I only kept watching it because I couldn’t actually believe what I was seeing – surely it had to start making some kind of sense at some point… Nope. Seriously, did anyone involved with this “movie” think they were doing something to be proud of? I just checked, and the writers of this one are still actually working. How is that possible?

Also, I’d just like to point out that “references” are not the same as “parody”… just because you make a reference to some other movie, it doesn’t mean it’s even remotely funny.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

hot-tub-time-machine-2Because so much was left unexplained in the first installment, we needed another one. The first movie was pretty dumb, but it was kind of a funny-dumb, and had a good bit of 80s nostalgia if nothing else. HTTM2 is kind of dumb-dumb… the 80s nostalgia is gone (#2 takes place mostly 10 years in the future), and we’re left with only raunchy bits… strung together with a few one-liner jokes. I wasn’t sure if I was laughing at the content, the stupidity, masking my inner-cringe with laughter, or laughing at myself for even paying half-attention to what was up on the screen.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apesWhile this movie had a lot going for it, I just couldn’t get into it for some reason. Perhaps that was because the central conflict in the movie seemed too contrived. There really wasn’t a good reason for the apes and humans to fight – they could have easily worked something out. It would almost have been better without the whole “we need a dam for a power plant” thing, and just have the motivation been pure hatred and racism (which there was plenty of anyway). It didn’t help that I was watching this on my newly broken iPad – so had to watch between the cracks… that kind of takes the joy out of anything.

One thing – I do like these sequel remakes better than the 1970s Planet of the Apes sequels. (Though, the original Planet of the Apes will always remain the best.)

John Carter

john-carterSure, this movie was kind of stupid, but it was mostly watchable… mostly. If you’re 22 years old, and hung-over on the couch on a lazy Sunday… this is just the kind of movie for you. I guess that means it could be “the new Beastmaster” or something. What’s crazy is the amount of money they dropped on this. Why did it cost so much? Plus, it would have benefited from a better name. “John Carter” doesn’t tell you anything about the movie – just makes it sound dull.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

hobbit-3While I do enjoy all these movies on some level – just for the action & fantasy – it was simply too much. Too much action, too many extreme situations, too many implausible situations, too many special effects, too unlikely of a romance… and on and on. I’d be curious to see these 3 movies edited into a single ~4 hour movie with all the fluff edited out. It might actually be pretty good.

The Monuments Men

the-monmuments-menIf you watch this movie and expect massive heroism & big action… you’ll be disappointed. As it is, the bits of action and tension in the movie are contrived. More likely, an actual story like this one plays-out in offices and on the phone – it’s kind of hard to dramatize that on-screen. Now, I wonder… this was surely 90% “made-up”. Is it better to make a watchable movie about an historical event with lots of invented drama, or make a movie that’s as accurate as possible, but likely unmatchable? Or just no movie at all? It seems these are the choices we have. I’m not sure any of them are good ones.

The Judge

the-judgeWhile this movie was technically fine – decent writing, good acting, and all the rest. I just couldn’t get into it. The whole situation just seemed too contrived. I mean, the wayward (yet successful) son is the only one who can save his curmudgeonly father? Also, the movie takes place somewhere in central Indiana, but the son lives in Chicago. These places aren’t too far away, yet it’s portrayed as world away. The son could have driven down there “for the day” if he wanted. Yet, he’s shown as being away from his kids for lengthy periods. It’s stuff like this that just keeps me distracted.

St. Vincent

st-vincentThis was one of those movies that I wanted to hate, but couldn’t. Nearly all the characters are screwed-up people, yet they work somehow (Melissa McCarthy in particular had some good bits). By the end, I was right there with them singing the praises of St. Vincent (despicable as he was).

Also, I liked the plot twist where the main character has a stroke. This comes out of nowhere, and sends the movie in a different direction… but that’s exactly what such a thing does.

The Book Thief

the-book-thiefThis one starts light, gets dark, then darker… and darker still. And all the while, you’re thinking it’s about to turn around and give you a happy ending. Well, life doesn’t have a happy ending I suppose (spoiler: we all die). And this movie drives that home pretty thoroughly.

Still, if you manage to look past the dreary outcome, there’s a lot of love and life among the gloom. Life’s not all bad… right?

The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand-budapest-hotelWith movies like this, I almost don’t care what happens. It’s just a joy to watch each scene unfold. It’s probably been 2 years since I watched this, but I can still see that model climbing the mountain. I can still see Gustav (Ralph Fiennes) sitting on that train, thinking. I can still see the hallways… the carpeting… just the feel of the place. Sure, the plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that was exactly the secret sauce.

The Way Way Back

the-way-way-backSure, it was a predictable coming-of-age summer flick (complete with a loathsome step-dad). But, there was just enough edginess and originality to make this worth while. For example, the beach party scene – where we see the adults acting like kids and the kids being the adults (somewhat)… That scene could have been done straightforwardly, but they put just enough of a twist to keep you engaged. Other little things helped too – I liked how the assistant manager at the water park wasn’t your stereotypical “hot babe who secretly loves the water park owner, but is worried he isn’t serious enough”, but instead the kind of person you might imagine as that person in real life. Plus Steve Carell plays a great creep.

Inside Out

inside-outPixar’s latest tug at our heart-strings. As with most of their movies, it’s a little unconventional, a little predictable, a little original… and in the end, it all manages to work. I’ll have to say though – there’s a whole wealth of material if they’d take this movie to the next level and see what’s in everyone else’s heads. It’s likely a lot of that would be x-rated, but I’m sure Pixar could figure out some way to make it cute… right?

Finding Vivian Maier

finding-vivian-maierA well-done documentary about a fascinating woman. Vivian Maier was a nanny for most of her life, with a mysterious past, a bizarre personality, and a knack for taking extraordinary photos of everyday life. This would have been an interesting documentary even without one photo, but the photos aren’t just a cute side-note. They’re really good – and there are tons of them. I really don’t care what kind of mini-industry the person who found these photos has made for himself. If it wasn’t for his careful eye, all of the photos would have been lost to history. In my opinion, he deserves whatever he gets (monetarily) from them.

Meet the Patels

meet-the-patelsThis documentary is about an Indian-American (from India) trying to find someone to date & marry. It’s basically an exploration of the Indian dating scene, from arranged marriages in India to the parental-fax-net dating service here in the US. I just wanted to grab this guy by the shoulders and tell him “dude, marry the girl you love, no who your parents think is right”. Of course, if he’d done that, there would be no movie. So, I have to wonder… was this guy so crass that he had his true-love wait for a year while he made this movie?

One interesting side-note… much of the filming in this movie was admittedly dreadful (done by the director’s sister), but that didn’t detract from the story much at all. It might have even given it more authenticity. Funny how that works…


pixelsThis movie got completely ripped to pieces by anyone who bothered to say anything about it. Sure, it was horrible. But, it wasn’t as horrible as it was made-out to be. A couple of the characters were… no wait… the special effects were… no, not that… the plot! Nope. The writing? uhhhh… ok, maybe it was kind of irredeemable.


ant-manSuper-hero movies are all the rage… so the powers-that-be are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Ant-man? Sure, why not? While I’m sure true comic aficionados respect Ant-man for all the right reasons, many of the rest of us look a bit sideways, saying “really?  Ant-man? And he can not only shrink, but control ants too? How does he do that again?” There were a few fun moments in this, but overall it was just kind of really well… stupid.

What did it for me was one particular sequence that I can best describe as “action fatigue”. When the hero first shrinks, he get thrown into about 5 death-defying sequences, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back… it’s completely ridiculous. The scene would have been much more powerful if he shrunk and just had to sit there and think about what has happened to him. He’s never allowed to think, just react. And we never get to think about it either… I felt like I was watching a boardroom brainstorm sequence where every stupid idea was brought to life in one overwrought ugly sequence.

Jurassic World

jurassic-worldThe third (?) installment of this series, and guess what happens? Despite all precaution, the dinosaurs run amok and kill lots of people. A few characters realize they were being stupid jerks (they live), and others never stop being jerks (they die). Sure, it was fine for mindless entertainment, but enough is enough. This story is told.

I thought it was interesting how they create a genetically-engineered dinosaur because “the crowds were bored with regular dinosaurs”… Was thjat directed to the mindless throngs who flooded theaters when this was released? Were the movie makers issuing a cry for help? Or did that one just whoosh over everyone’s heads? I just don’t know.


hootWhen I was 10, this movie was exactly what I was looking for – a misfit kid teams-up with a cool tough-girl & mysterious wild child to save some owls from a greedy unscrupulous developer? Yeah – bring it on! Of course, I’m 45 now… But in a moment of weakness, I reverted back that that old me, and selected this from the airplane movie list while flying over the Atlantic. Well… It’s about as you might expect – it’s pretty cheesy, totally predictable and a lot of borderline cringe. 10-year-old me would have loved this.

Holiday Inn

holiday-inn Sure, it’s another predictable 1940’s-era Hollywood holiday movie. The plot of all these movies is to figure out “who is going to marry who?” That’s usually set-up in the very first scene, and predictable by the second scene. Of course, there’s always little more – and in this case it takes the form of a country Inn open only for each US holiday – with a song & dance numberfor each one (unfortunately, they skip Arbor Day).

At least this one has a couple crazy elements to keep it interesting… a black-face number, some fire-cracker tap-dancing, and hey, it’s Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby – if nothing else, it’s interesting to see what made these guys such a big deal.

Le Petit Nicolas

le-petit-nicolasA gaggle of young boys stumble through life – getting all the details wrong, but all the big lessons right. Each of the kids is a bit of a caricature – either of some standard type (the tattle-tale, the kid who eats too much), or of their adult counterparts. At times the adults act hardly more grown-up than the kids… If you want to see an overly-cute movie that will tingle your better senses, just sit back, relax and smile for a while.

Love & Mercy

love-and-mercyWhat a pleasant surprise. This is the crazy story of the brains behind the Beach Boys – Brian Wilson. And it’s Brian’s brain at the center of the story. It’s hard to tell the story of a genius slipping into madness without overdoing it. This movie takes an inventive approach – alternating between different parts of Brian Wilson’s life, using two different actors to portray him. Both actors do a great job, but Paul Dano especially nails the subtle special weirdness. If you want to see a story of genius, madness, despair and redemption… check it out.

And a bonus: you might just find a new appreciation for the Beach Boys music.