So I’ve been going to see movies, I swear, but I’ve been having trouble finding time to write about them. I know, poor me, but life, she gets busy, no?
So in the spirit of not having much time, I proudly present:
CineFile’s Half-Assed Capsule Review Roundup!
Lucky you. Here we go!
Machete Kills (2013), directed by Robert Rodriquez
While I enjoyed the original Machete movie I don’t think I’ve thought about it since it came out and I’ve certainly had no real desire to see it again. It’s just one of those types of movies.
Well the sequel is even less of one of those types of movies. I saw it about two weeks ago and already I can remember very little about it other than how silly it was and also how tame it seemed to the first one.
One thing I liked about Machete was how it didn’t hold back on violence or nudity or whatever. It embraced it like a good exploitation movie should. It actually seemed like a rough alternative to glossy Hollywood action.
Well Machete Kills is more action comedy than exploitation knockoff and it suffers for it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some funny moments and some enjoyably over-the-top performances, notably from Demian Bichir, who really stole the show as the demented former-cartel leader turned radical. He’s seriously fantastic.
But overall the film is so ridiculous there is nothing to take away from it. It tries for nothing other than laugh-at-it type jokes. There’s no truly fantastic kills or set pieces, everything is set up to look throwaway and jokey. Which is fine, but I need something more, and we all know Rodriquez can do better.
Don Jon (2013), directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
It got kind of lukewarm reviews, but I actually really enjoyed Don Jon and found it to have a pretty refreshingly frank take on modern sexuality, porn and relationships.
It’s no masterpiece, but Gordon-Levitt’s Jon character was an interesting man to watch, because there’s probably a little bit of Jon in all of us modern men, whether we admit it or not. And it had a nice idea for comparing the reverse fantastical corruption of romcoms.
Maybe some older critics might not have personal connection with these issues, but for those of us who grew up with the Internet, there has to be at least a little recognition of these as real issues. And it’s a touchy subject right, because it has to do with pornography and sexuality and things we still don’t like to talk about very much.
So I like that the film had the guts to take on the topic, but also to do so in a lightly entertaining way, so everyone watching can relax a little and just let the issues trickle into the brain a little. Spoon full of sugar, that kind of idea.
I’m just saying if James Franco had made this, God bless him, none of us would have gotten anything out of it because none of us would have known what the hell he was driving at.
Anyway, it’s a breakthrough performance by JGL and the film shows he has chops behind the camera as well, and something to say, which is kind of rare.
Kid’s got promise.
Gravity (2013), directed by Alfonso Cuaron
It seems a shame to throw this one into a series of capsule reviews, seeing as most people seem to be losing their minds over this 3D extravaganza, but you know what? I think it’s kind of fitting.
Because to me Gravity was a slight film.
Listen, visually it is incredible, nobody is arguing against that. I went to the 3D IMAX showing and my eyeballs gave it five-out-of-five and two retinas up. They’re still talking about it.
My brain and my heart, on the other hand, have been arguing with my eyeballs about it ever since.
For all the visual splendour, the characters and the story seemed like afterthoughts. I get it, they’re out in space doing whatever, but then everything goes insane in some way I never really understood. Something to do with blowing up a satellite and it taking out every other satellite in orbit.
It’s not explained very well because it doesn’t matter. All that matter’s is the astronaut’s plight to find a way back to Earth.
And that’s fine too, except they turn Sandra Bullock’s character into a Hollywood fluff cliche about a woman who lost her child and now drives around listening to the radio all night. Why couldn’t she just be a normal astronaut who wants to get home? Why the cheesy, heart tugging back story? Seemed unnecessary and trite to me. It took me right out of the movie.
All I could think about during Gravity was how good Apollo 13 was. It’s a similar concept, only it’s a true story and finds its power in the reality of the situation and not in a series of preposterous extravagances. Ron Howard’s movie is clinical, grounded (so to speak) and tense. Gravity is mostly ludicrous. Beautifully ludicrous, but ludicrous none the less.
You another movie which does more with similar themes?
All Is Lost (2013), directed by J.C. Chandor
Here we have another film about the will to survive but instead of highfalutin speeches and massive set pieces, Chandor leans primarily on silence and the steadfast, logical determination of his central character to create his tension and turmoil. And it’s captivating.
All Is Lost is a fantastic film, largely free of dialogue and with a late-career highlight of a performance from Robert Redford as a sailboater (is that the right term?) up the Indian Sea without a paddle. And a hole in his boat.
This is another film where the possibility of death permeates every decision made. And in this film you really feel the weight of that decision because of the filmmaker’s grounded approach.
Knowing less about Redford’s character made the film all the more powerful, because by doing so he becomes an everyman. We have no idea why he is out sailing. We never learn if he is married or has kids or what he enjoys listening to on the car radio, primarily because it doesn’t matter.
The heart of the matter is that Redford is a human being with an instinct to survive. Watching him try to figure out how to is the entertainment of the movie. Watching him fail and succeed and seeing the emotions he goes through throughout it all is the power.
Maybe it comes down to the personality of the viewer, but I would take a film like All Is Lost over a Gravity any day, as much as I love grand, ambitious movies. All Is Lost is perfect at what it is trying to be, while Gravity gets lost in trying so hard to throw on a bunch of extra bells and whistles.
Characterization is always stronger through implication than explanation. Show, don’t tell.
All Is Lost tells nothing and is the stronger film for it, one of the best I’ve seen in some time.
Okay, there’s a couple more, but I might try to do a Horror Pledge 2013 roundup, which would include Carrie, and I might try to tackle Escape Plan on its own. Because, you know, Sly.
All of these films are in cinemas now. Except maybe Machete Kills, which disappeared almost immediately.