Friday, May 27, 2016

I Saw This!! Big Heroes, Little Heroes

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our 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. But we can't not write about a movie cuz that would be bad, very bad. Bad bad bad.

Spectre, 2015, Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) -- download
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014, Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles) -- Netflix
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 & 2, 2014-2015, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) -- download
The Good Dinosaur, 2015, Peter Sohn (directorial debut but voice, animation, etc. in plenty of animations, and yes, the face of the kid in Up) -- download
The 5th Wave, 2016, J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) -- download

OK, Spectre, that opening. That pan of the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City lasts four minutes, reaching into the crowd and plucking out Bond, waxing nostalgic back to Live and Let Die. We follow him into a hotel as he trails a Bad Guy, and then casually out onto the window ledge to get a good vantage point. It's not a real continuous take, but it sure is dramatic and gripping. I just wish I could say the same about the rest of the movie.

Spectre follows up Skyfall the way Quantum of Solace followed up Casino Royale. They are bookended together in plot and focus. But Quantum was more tense, as if Bond was on edge the entire movie. I am not sure what emotion I got from Spectre, but for cold rage. I need to see it again, probably back to back with Skyfall but it fell flat for me on first viewing. It seemed more a denouement of the current Daniel Craig run than a shocking reveal of the organization for which the movie was made.

Again, need to see again. Should have seen it in the cinema.

Speaking of falling flat, this was my second attempt to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Baysplosion reboot. The first time, I fell asleep on the sofa, at least twice. And yet again, only a couple of months after seeing it again I still don't remember much about it. There was a snowboarding scene with a humvee and a cracked shell and turtle lips and Megan Fox? Oh, and Monk as Splinter?

This time I barely remember much more? I remember I really liked William Fichtner as the Bad Guy (but not the Shredder) and really didn't like Will Arnett as the annoying sidekick. This is a kid's movie through and through, where the actual plot really doesn't matter. As long as the dialogue moves it forward, gets laughs and... well, I don't know, doesn't bore kids? It was as forgettable, unremarkable and boring as my first sleepy half-viewing.

P.S. I am ok with turtle lips. They reminded me of those 90s images of the turtles that Michael Zulli did back in the 90s, but less beak and more... lip? Anywayz, if I liked anything about the movie it was the hulking nature of the turtles. It was just an impressive touch.

After the first movie and a bit, the Hunger Games movies have become more about the reluctant hero and PTSD than about anything else. The rebellion story rises to the forefront, as it must be, despite the main character's dislike for it all. Yeah yeah, metaphor about being the figurehead in one person's war only to become the same for another fanatic. I get that, but for the stretching of three books into four movies, I wanted there to be more. I wanted growth.

These final movies (from the 3rd book) take on the final push to the capital. The rebellion led by District 13 (no parkour) is going to liberate the Panem and make President Snow pay. Katniss is not a direct freedom fighter, more the on-air personality that represents the rebellion. They literally green screen in shots of her in heroic situations. They get she doesn't want to be wrapped up in this but still need her, considering her fame. She has lost much; her home, her friends and even her place as the winner of the Games. Yet, she doesn't fit in well with these soldiers.

Part 1 picks up from the last movie, Katniss being rescued and introduced to the properly post apocalyptic District 13. She's a gigantic underground bunker, all that's left when the Capital destroyed her during the last (failed) rebellion. The Capital claims District 13 was destroyed as retribution but is probably aware she's still around, albeit in a much more prepared form than they know. Everything about District 13 is eerie, from her leader Alba Coin to the drab Orwellian uniforms. But she is reunited with friends and family, so there is some levity to raise Katniss from her 3 movie lasting funk.

But Katniss never fully buys into this whole rebellion thing. Everyone wants to use her. Nobody seems to care about collateral damage. I just wished the stories would have tightened up on one focus or another. Go for a depressing movie about a damaged figurehead hero or go for an exciting action war movie. They mashed the two together and it didn't gel for me.

The funny thing is that I am not exactly sure what I wanted from this ending. Maybe a change in style and tone? Let Part 1 be the second guessing and depressing tone, while letting Part 2 shift gears entirely for a proper war movie? I guess I was just tired of the drab.

I wanted these movies to make much more of an impression on me. I love the post apocalypse genre, even this diluted YA version. But the  tone of the movies always feel like something is being held back.

Another year, another CGI from the big two studios that we didn't even notice come and go.  The Good Dinosaur comes from Pixar/Disney (as opposed to Disney Disney or Dreamworks) and much much better than it was marketed as. Was it even marketed? I don't remember; no time to rest on your laurels guys.

This movie is about an alternate timestream where that comet that killed the dinosaurs is bumped off course and slides right past the Earth. Dinosaurs are given time to evolve and us pesky little mammals are there, but still primitive. The story begins in what must be the Stone Age? Lacking hands probably impedes them from doing a lot of things, but they get the job of building and agriculture done.

This is one of those movies where the story is by the books, but the animated backgrounds are so astounding, I wonder if it was just one long expensive test of the new rendering toolset. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie and the growing up of a young dinosaur, along with his furry little human helper. But the story was very familiar, as if animated stories only have so many to draw upon.

Speaking of YA fiction (well, I did a few paragraphs ago) there are the PA ones and there are the alien invasion ones. Surprisingly, there is only one main vampire one. But I digress; how else am I exposed to much of YA fiction if but through those chosen for film production? And if the writer of the vampire one did her own alien invasion one, which required Romeo & Juliet overtones and it did well, then there need to be more. Thus we have The 5th Wave.

This movie is both apocalyptic and alien invasion, as waves 1 through 4 involve EMP elimination of electricity, devastating tsunamis, deadly plagues and aliens masquerading as humans. We breeze through all these things as main character Cassie's recollections. TL; DR is that her family have been killed but for her brother, she escaped, is trying to find her brother and gets mixed up in the alien plot to use human children against the rest of the survivors, i.e. a 5th wave. Humans are pretty much dead after the first three, and will probably die off, but sure get fancy about the final elimination, you are aliens after all.

How do they R&J it? Well of course, there must be an alien hiding in a pretty human boy who had a "i just met you but I love you" moment when he saw Cassie. She doesn't trust him but he saves her life. In the end he ends up helping her find her brother. The movie does nothing to convince us there will be something between the two, or that there are possibly more aliens who have misgivings in killing all humanity. But it blows stuff up and moves on. Not a very captivating movie that barely plays the notes of its own genre.