Random Movies: Best to Worst

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the exact same magic as Star Trek (2009). J.J. Abrams reinvigorates a dying franchise while honouring everything people loved about the original, bringing back the old cast, and creating new characters that everybody likes and cares about. It’s got the kid from Attack the Block, it’s got some awesome English girl I’ve never seen before, it’s got great costume design, it’s got callbacks to the original movies, it’s got funny jokes, it’s got way too much adrenaline, it’s got shocking surprises – and just like Star Trek, the bar was set so low, and I was so prepared to be disappointed, that I am pleasantly surprised and excited by every single frame.

Despite my disappointment with Star Trek into Darkness, I’m looking forward to the next Star Wars movie. I’ve never felt that way before.

Mistress America

It’s impossible to avoid comparing this to Fances Ha, because it’s another movie that’s carried by Greta Gerwig being weird and charming, and it’s from the same director. It’s a good movie, but it’s not as good as Frances Ha. It’s kind of like this character is just an older version of Frances, and it’s interesting, but it doesn’t have the same novelty.

Paddington

I really thought this was going to suck and I grudgingly watched it over Christmas only because that’s what my family was doing, but it was a surprisingly good movie. It’s a children’s movie, absolutely, but it has a gentle kind of humour that really works for it and the CGI bear is incredibly cute. Plus, the heart warming message about how refugees can be part of our families and communities has landed at a really appropriate time.

Dear White People

Dear White People isn’t a bad movie, but it’s impossible to avoid seeing it as a watered down version of Do the Right Thing. The entire point of the movie is to explore racial tension on an American college campus as it slowly leads toward a riot, and the movie definitely brings ideas to the table that we usually don’t see in film – like the fact that people who identify as both gay and black have a different experience with what it means to be both of those things – but it’s much less confrontational than Do the Right Thing. That could be a reflection of how the cultural dialogue about racism has changed or it could be that Justin Simien is not as interested in asking hard questions as Spike Lee was.

Sicario

I reviewed this for Bitch Flicks, and the upshot is that I found it disappointing. The big twist in the story is that the CIA doesn’t give a shit what happens to anyone outside the USA, which… I think everyone already knew? Like, does anybody watch the first half of the movie believing that the CIA is on a mission to do a big favour for Mexico?

Once you get past that, this is a movie that’s all about race and nationality but doesn’t care about either of those things. We never get to know the characters that well, and Emily Blunt kind of gets shafted because the protagonist she plays only exists to witness how awesome Benicio del Toro is. Also, her black sidekick gets shafted because he’s just there to witness how awesome she is.

The action is a really tense and the score is good and creepy but this is ultimately one of those have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too movies where it’s supposedly about how terrible violence is, but really we’re supposed to enjoy all the violence.

In Bruges

In Bruges has been on my To Watch list, like, ever since it came out. And, over Christmas, I finally watched it. I guess it was okay. Between this and Miss Julie, I have also finally understood who Colin Farrell is. For a long time, I thought he was the same person as Colin Firth and, when I read all this stuff on the internet about how hot he is, I thought, “I… guess? If you’re into dads? I didn’t realize this was a type so many women were attracted to!” Now that I’ve seen him quietly brood over his sins or whatever, it makes more sense.

Maggie’s Plan

I was tragically out of town for most of TIFF, but I managed to see and review this on the weekend I came back. It’s funny and it’s an interesting mirror to hold up to gen-y, but it’s also kind of forgettable. Plot summary for those who don’t know: This is the one where Greta Gerwig breaks up a marriage only to find out that the guy is kind of a loser, so she makes a plan to get him back with his ex-wife.

Equals

I saw Equals the same weekend as Maggie’s Plan, and it was much more interesting to me, even though I think it kind of backed off its own premise. Basically, it takes place in a future where everyone is emotionless, so experiencing what we would consider normal emotions means you’re mentally ill. And the movie is a good allegory for mental illness, except that it never presents any down sides to it. It’s kind of like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, in that it seems to deny even the possibility that people can have very serious challenges and limitations, instead suggesting that the only problem is how they’re judged by others. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that’s not true.

The Deep

I refer here to the 1977 scuba diving movie where Jacqueline Bissett wears a see-through shirt with no bikini top or bra, because it was a different time.

This movie is obviously very troublesome in many, many ways. Like, the two white characters who scuba dive immediately trust some white guy who seems like he’s screwing them over, but they immediately mistrust some black guy who seems like he’s being nice to them. And then the black guy turns out to lead a group of voodoo drug dealers and they make Jacqueline Bissett take off her shirt and then rub chicken feet all over her while she screams. And Nick Nolte gets into a fight with Jacqueline Bissett at one point where she quite reasonably tells him she doesn’t want to get caught up in some undersea heroine deal, and he’s like, “I do things because I feel them! That’s who I am!”

But, as an artefact from the 70s. As a glimpse back at what someone thought would make a good movie back then. This is very interesting. It’s also interesting that it continues The Poseidon Adventure’s fascination with shoving its actors underwater. I feel like this must have been a new thing they learned how to do in the 70s, and that’s how it got popular.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, The Deep teaches us that acceptable scuba diving attire includes bathing suits, mesh shirts, wet suits and whatever random clothes you happen to be wearing that day.

Lucky Number Sleven

This erased itself from my memory as soon as I saw it, but I think it’s a partly homophobic comedy about race horses and revenge.

Magic Mike XXL

There were 20 minutes at the start of this where I was prepared to let bygones be bygones and like XXL. It seemed more fun and less heteronormative than Magic Mike for a second. But then the rest of the movie happened, and the characters gave me a patronizing lecture about how women need to feel beautiful, and demonstrated with their actions that the way to make a woman feel beautiful is to use her as a prop in your dance routine by throwing her around like a sack of potatoes. While still mostly wearing your clothes. And flexing like you’re in a rap video. That’s not sexy to me, and it’s a lot more physical contact than I would want from some guy I don’t know who I paid to do a dance. Having Jada Pinkett there doesn’t make that less annoying.

Cake

Jennifer Anniston is so good in Cake. She’s so good in Cake. It’s worth seeing for that. And only for that, because the story is kind of stupid. I’m just going to keep comparing movies to other movies and say that this is an inferior version of Rabbit Hole, in that it’s introspective about how someone deals with grief but also kind of blunt and obvious about it.

A Little Chaos

I think this one erased itself from my brain while I was watching it, but I think it’s a period piece about some woman who builds a fountain at Versailles, and has an affair with a married man, and everyone loves her because she’s a Mary Sue so awesome. It is unclear to me whether this woman actually built a fountain at Versailles in real life. The only part that stayed with me is the ending, where Alan Rickman stands completely still while his courtiers do an awkward dance around him to celebrate how glad they are about the fountain. RIP Alan Rickman.

Time Lapse

This is a movie about three roommates who find a camera that takes pictures of the future and then use it to make themselves miserable by being stupid idiots. The part that bothered me most was when they used the camera to gamble by showing themselves the winning race horses each day. Like, I’ve never placed a bet in my life and even I know that, if you had a magic way to know the winning horses, you should try to stagger your bets  and lose once in a while to avoid arousing suspicion. Or you could wait for a big lottery jackpot and use the winning lotto numbers instead. Or you could go to the casino and memorize the numbers that come up on the roulette wheel. You could do a lot of things besides place winning bets with the same bookie every day.

The other part – that didn’t bug me as much as the horses, but still – was the part where they all just decided they understood the rules of how the camera worked, and then a scientist showed up half way through and (rightly) called them dumbasses, because there was no evidence to support anything they guessed.

Like, it was a cool idea, but I wanted to slap them every time they did anything, because they’re so dumb.

Get Hard

Will Farrell’s going to jail and he hires the guy who washes his car to teach him how to be tough in jail and then he doesn’t go to jail. A lot of the jokes are about rape, and some are This Isn’t Offensive Because I Know It’s Offensive but, thankfully, it erased itself from my brain before I was offended.

Image: Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Disney | January 29, 2016