Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Saw This!! Two Pair, Two Pair

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our all-too regular feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of movies they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. Downloads come, downloads go. They slip in and fade out. How about a pair of "kids movies" and a pair of movies in bunkers?

Inside Out, 2015, Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen (Monsters, Inc.) -- download
Goosebumps, 2015, Rob Letterman (Monsters vs Aliens) -- download
Air, 2015, Christian Cantamessa (writer of video game Red Dead Redemption) -- download
400 Days, Matt Osterman -- download

There used to be a world where we knew anything from Pixar would be great, at least in comparison to anything from Dreamworks Animation, which might be OK. As of late, I have been finding Dreamworks as often a notch above Pixar, almost a tag team event. How to Train Your Dragon and Megamind were incredible for the former, but does anyone even remember Home came out? Up and Brave seem forever ago and the rest, by the latter, were sequels. I hoped that Inside Out would be the return of Pixar, but in all honesty, found it very meh. Charming but meh.

The elevator pitch is great. You have four people inside your head, at a control room console, representing your primary emotional states: anger, sadness, fear and joy. Oh, and disgust. Is disgust even an emotional state? And no, Eddie Murphy is not one of the characters inside Riley's head.

Riley is the adolescent main (human) character who is uprooted from her mid-western home to San Francisco; Dad's new job. Puberty is coming and the emotions are having a tough time coping. There's been upgrades to the equipment and Joy does not have as much control as she once did. Then Joy screws something up and has to go on a quest to save Riley's delicate psyche.

Is this movie a metaphor for a terrible mental health care establishment?

Kent loved this movie but I never connected. For one, I couldn't sidestep my annoyance with there only being five emotions representing everything for everyone. I was hoping they might show some people who have five different primary emotions, or at least a couple of competing ones. The world building, inside her head, is quite good but since I had not connected to the main story, I wasn't as awed as I should have been.

Again, a great elevator pitch: Goosebumps is a movie about the writer of the famous children's horror book series. Yes, a movie about the writer but the twist is that he wrote the books to contain the horrors within. Annoying teen boy comes along, releases said horrors and hijinx abound.

Jack Black plays the author RL Stine, who is hiding in plain sight in Delaware. Nobody really knows what he looks like so he gets away with being weird and cranky. Until horny teenage boy Zach meets his housebound daughter and becomes enamoured. Zach thinks dad is not just weird but abusive and breaks into the house to release Hannah, but instead releases a yeti from a book. The ink is magic and contains the monsters that RL Stine wrote into existence. Then another monsters is released, and then.... them all.

It could have been a great movie if it either contained itself to a few monsters being released or had really accepted that ALL of them had been released. We only ever get to see a few, even though a horde of varied monsters is literally rampaging all over town. For some reason, there are very few casualties. I know I know, kids movie.

The movie is very forgettable, almost to the point that I have no idea how the re-contain the monsters went about. It wants to be the Gremlins of our age but really just feels like an overblown Scooby Doo episode. The best bit of the entire movie is music teacher Jack, played by the real RL Stine, walking by in the background.

Speaking of forgettable, I am the audience for those genre blog posts that promote the new Straight To movies and want their audience to be as excited as they are, but really are probably just paid-for promotional posts. Sometimes, and just sometimes, a really good underground indie genre movie only ever finds its way out via the Straight To market. But most often, it's just a very meh movie. Air and and  400 Days are two such very meh examples. Yes, word of the month. Been a long but not very committed winter.

Air is a bunker movie staring Norman Reedus, still looking and acting exactly like Daryl minus the biker vest and crossbow, and Djimon Hounsou. Holy shit, I spelled his name correctly without seeing it spelled out 5 minutes before. They are two guys doing the maintenance run in a longrun cryo bunker. Something happened to the world and everyone important is underground in cryo stasis. Every 6 months the maintenance guys wake up, check in with everyone else (via 1980s bad terminal computers), make sure everything is working as it should be and then go back to sleep themselves.  When the air up top finally cleans up, they will wake up the sleepers and repopulate the planet.

This time they fuck up. One of their own sleep tanks is burned in an accidental fire. This is the climax of some paranoid tension between the two guys and leads them to violent odds against each other. As a bunker movie, the key stress should be about what it is like up above. But this movie wants it to be between them.

A well done movie with a great script would have us on edge, dialling into the frustration and impotence these two men feel. Conversations would be tense, tight and have us choosing one side or the other. An average movie has us disliking both of them and not really care what is going on. Hounsou shows some potential but Reedus has slipped into the type casting of his most famous character, which leads me to believe he knows this, and will be be meeting Lucille very soon. If you don't watch The Walking Dead, you won't know what that means.

400 Days is just another wonky bunker movie that is weird for weird's sake. Seriously, the premise is pretty decent, as a crew is locked up under the idea of testing long term isolation for a future spaceflight by some Space X style venture. Brandon Routh, Caty Lotz, Ben Feldman and Dane Cook are the crew.  What? Dane Cook? Yes, a serious tense movie starring Dane Cook. They should have stuck to casting people from Arrow and The Flash.

Initially its all well setup, well played out. The bunker doesn't look much like a spaceship but they play it out like they are in one. They are supposed to ignore all outside interaction, but for delayed communications, as if they were really on a 400 day deep space journey. There is the usual tension, sexual and otherwise, as there is only one woman. Testosterone, loneliness and duty to the mission are the key elements of tension. Expected. Well done.

And the someone bangs on the hatch.  And then they have to go outside. That is when it just goes wackadoodle, which would have been fine if they had hinted at some sort of explanation to the strange situation into which the crew is thrust. Present ideas, ask questions, formulate conclusions. But nope, just more wackadoodle on top of more oddness with no explanation or resolution. Its like they just gave up on the story and went with weirdness. Totally pissed me off as it contributed nothing. Still makes me grumpy.