Tag: movies

The Last Jedi Teaser

Looks like it could be good. For the record, my one sentence review and ratings of the previous films, with links as appropriate to my own site.

Star Wars: Classic, brilliant. 10/10

Empire Strike Back: Best of the series. 10/10

Return of the Jedi: Bit of a letdown, but still fine. 8/10

The Phantom Menace: Has its issues, but I can see the good movie beneath them. 8/10

Attack of the Clones: See above. 8/10

Revenge of the Sith: Best of the prequels, easily, although Williams’ music does about 90% of the emotional heavy lifting. 9/10

The Force Awakens: The new characters are the best part. 9/10

Rogue One: Very different but very good war drama. 9/10

Trailer looks good so far.

The Hell?

I wasn’t watching; just following on Twitter. But in a year which saw one of the greatest teams of all time blow a 3-1 NBA finals lead, saw the Indians blow a 3-1 World Series lead, saw Hillary Clinton blow the most winnable election in history, saw an astonishing upset in the BCS title game and saw … sigh … my Falcons blow an unprecedented Super Bowl lead, La La Land not only lost the Oscar they’d been guaranteed for two months but lost it in astonishing, humiliating fashion.

Honestly, the idea that we’re living in a simulation grows more likely every day.

The Oscars and The Lying Ground

A few thoughts from last night’s Oscars:

First, I thought Chris Rock’s opening monologue was quite good. He lampooned the boycotters and the self-righteous while still making some great jabs at Hollywood’s genteel racism.

Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.” That’s how Hollywood is.

It isn’t unusual for Rock to take on race issues head on from both sides. He’s always had a bit of a conservative and contrarian streak in him. He recently talked about how he won’t play college campuses because of political correctness run amuck. His routine last night reminded me of this spot on How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police (language):

The worst moment of the night was Joe Biden coming out to thunderous applause to lecture the rest of the country about how to prevent sexual violence. I don’t object to the message. I do, however, object to it coming from a Vice President known for unwanted touching of every woman in reach, a party that happily overlooked sexual predation by a President and the message being cheered by the same Academy that gave Roman Polanski a standing ovation.

Clean up your own house, guys. Then you can talk to the rest of us about what we should do.

Joe was out there because Lady Gaga was about to perform her song from The Hunting Ground, a supposed documentary about sexual violence on college campi. But The Hunting Ground represents everything wrong with the debate, from getting basic facts wrong to threatening their critics. I’m glad it didn’t get any awards.

As for the ceremony itself, it was way too long and self-indulgent. I only had it on as useful background noise while I wrestled kids into bed and processed gamma-ray burst data. The only Best Picture nominees I had seen were The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road, both of which were very good.

The Obligatory Star Wars Trailer Post

I have no idea if the film will be any good or not. Like the prequels (which I enjoyed more than most) it has a towering legacy to live up to. And I’m not sure I trust JJ Abrams. That having been said, the trailer pushes all the right buttons. For two minutes, I felt like I was a 11 years old again.

You can also watch John Boyega and his family react to the trailer. Boyega, like all the cast, is under strict edict not to disclose any details (he famously tweeted that his dad was making him wash all the dishes as punishment). So his reaction to the reveal of him holding a light saber is priceless.

I bring this up not just for Star Wars. I bring it up because of Lee. For those of you who don’t know, Lee worked in special effects. One of the films he worked on was Attack of the Clones. I think Jim may know the details, but Lee had a moment when he too realized his name was on a Star Wars movie. And I imagine his reaction was quite similar, whatever one thinks of the quality of the movie.

Star Wars is the closet the USA has come to creating a complete universe like Middle Earth or Narnia. It’s more fantasy world than sci-fi world. Let’s hope that Abrams is worthy of the legacy.

Movie Review: American Sniper

I just saw American Sniper on DVD. You may remember that this film caused some controversy early this year for supposedly being pro-war and portraying the Iraqis as savages and monsters. A planned screening at the University of Michigan was scotched because students complained that it was “anti-Muslim”.

First things first: the film is very good. Clint Eastwood’s directing is sharp and clear. Bradley Cooper gives an astonishing subdued performance as Chris Kyle. It is tense, well-paced and definitely worth your time (although it is definitely not for children as it features some brutal violence).

I can also report that the political aspects are massively overblown. As with Eastwood’s previous Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers (and the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker) the politics is subdued if it exists at all. It focuses heavily on the experience of the soldiers, both in the war and when they get home. While Kyle says he is not haunted by the people he killed (only the people he failed to save), the film hints that this is not entirely true. Cooper’s nuanced performance and Eastwood’s excellent direction suggest that the Kyle’s battle wounds go deeper than he lets on. But it’s not hammered home. It is not broadcast with screaming banners and clunky dialogue. You have to watch and think.

And I think that’s what bothers many liberals about the movie. They wanted a movie that would portray Kyle — a sniper who likely claimed over 200 kills — as a monster. They wanted it to get into what a mistake the Iraq War was. And that it was made by the man who gave a memorable anti-Obama speech at the 2012 Republican convention only exacerbated that need. But the movie steadfastly avoids politics (just as Letters avoided any politicizing about the Japanese Empire). You can draw whatever conclusions you want — that the war was a mistake or that the war was a good idea. But the movie cares mainly about the stress, the terror and the cost that our soldiers endure.

(As for the movie not being sympathetic to the Iraqis: it actually does get into it a little, especially one brutal sequence that demonstrates clearly that many Iraqis were caught between a rock and a hard place — wanting to help the US, but facing horrific retaliation if they did. There are scenes showing the heavy cost the war took on the Iraqi people. The main antagonist of the film is also humanized a little, showing his family and hinting at a past. But because the movie is mainly concerned with Kyle, these things are subtle and again require you to watch … and think.)

There’s a line from the movie Black Hawk Down, another excellent war film, that I’m fond of:

When I go home people’ll ask me, “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?” You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.

That quote is the key to understanding American Sniper. It’s a good movie. It might even be a great movie. You should see it. And stuff the politics.

Star Wars Trailer 2

We’re back after some technical issues. The good news is that we may soon be getting some more technical help from my brother, who does this professionally.

To celebrate, here is the new Star Wars trailer:

I don’t want to be optimistic but it’s hard not to be.

I’ll have some more posts tonight and tomorrow on Iran, taxes and how stupid our media is. And this weekend will see the first Science Sunday

The Best of Lee: Team America, World Police

Given recent events, I thought it would be nice to link up Lee’s post on Team America: World Police where he responds to the negative review from Roger Ebert:

Particularly important quote:

Is there any doubt that if this were a two-hour Bush bashing fest Ebert would have found it a brilliant piece of political satire? Ebert, who is usually pretty astute when it comes to these sort of things, is so blinded by his political opinions that he missed the entire point of the film. Team America represents America itself, Roger. This point is so blatantly obvious that only Ebert’s willful ignorance can explain his inability to see it.

During the end scene in North Korea, when Gary is doing the dick/pussy/asshole speech, he is obviously talking about America. The point of the speech, and of the film itself, is that America is a giant, blustery, idealistic 800lb gorilla. Often times we do things and we fuck them up horribly, but as it stands right now we’re the only country able to do them. In one priceless scene, Hans Blix confronts Kim Jong Il, ordering Kim (under authority of the United Nations) to give him unlimited access to his compound to check for WMD. “Or what?” Kim asks. Blix then replies sternly, “We’ll get really, really mad. And we’ll send you an angry letter!” The point here is one that I have made many, many times on this blog. You can only threaten action so many times before you get called on your bluff. The UN, without american power, is utterly impotent to deal with threats. And while America might not be the most diplomatic nation sometimes, we’re the only ones who can get the job done.

Think about “red lines” and other such empty threats Barack Obama has made.

He also gets into why so many celebrities, including Ebert, hated the film so intensely.

When I write a post I leave myself fully open to getting torn a new asshole. People can immediately leave comments telling me what I clueless douchebag I am, and occasionally they’re right. These celebrity morons, however, are never, ever challenged on their bullshit. Sean Penn goes to Iraq and returns to be treated like an expert on the subject. (You know, I went to the zoo once, but that doesn’t mean I can speak authoritatively on elephants or giraffes.)

The reason Ebert doesn’t like seeing pampered, self-righteous, egotistical celebrity morons being made fun of is that he himself is a pampered, self-righteous, egotistical celebrity moron. He only sees nihilism in this film is because he cannot imagine a world in which his opinion is not important, and by tearing down people who have the same opinions as him you are, by proxy, destroying the very reason he exists: to tell other people what he thinks. The difference, of course, is that in the area of film Ebert speaks with authority. In the area of social commentary he’s just as much a bloviating, self-righteous dick as I am. But when you’re used to people kissing your ass telling you how brilliant you are, being cut down to size can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Read the whole thing, as always.

Ebert Gone

Roger Ebert has died. As you can probably guess, I didn’t see eye to eye with Ebert on politics. In fact, the first post I ever did for the old Moorewatch site was a rebuttal of many of the things Ebert said in his Sicko! review.

But as a film critic, I thought he was great. From my “Ebert is wrong post” (which has some language I’m not proud of, but won’t flush down the memory hole):

Roger Ebert is one of the great film critics (check out the insight of the last two paragraphs of today’s review). There are very few who can get a general audience excited about art films and Ebert is one of them. He’s never been a kaffeeklatsch critic who just wants to sit around with other critics and discuss Citizen Kane. He wants everyone to be excited about great film. He’s turned me on to a number of great films, notably Grave of the Fireflies.

Grave of the Fireflies, by the way, if you are ever feeling too happy and want to feel awful for a couple of days. It is a great film. And like many great films — United 93, for example — I can only watch it every few years.)

One of my favorite Ebert reviews was one I disagreed with. He wrote a long review of Return of the King justifying his three-star rating and explaining why he thought it was good but not what it could have been (I can’t link right now as the Sun Times server is flooded). I didn’t agree with him but I saw his argument and respected his opinion. I love articles that make me think and make me say, “I think you’re wrong, but you make a good argument.”

What was really fun was when Ebert would return to a movie and re-evaluate it. He liked The Big Lebowski, but later added it to his Great Movies list. The same with Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There are probably a dozen movies I would place an all-time great list that I wouldn’t have seen had Ebert not flogged them.

He wrote thousands of reviews, multiple books and a well-trafficked blog that touched on everything including politics. Roger Ebert loved movies and his love was infectious. He was a gifted writer, a gifted critic and a critical voice in understanding film over five decades. RIP.

Friday Five: Holiday Films

It’s been a while, so let’s go with your five favorite holiday films. They can either be so sentimental that you need an insulin shot before watching or so cynical they make Machiavelli seem like a pollyanna. You can also be very loose in your definition (I ran across a list that had “Die Hard” as a holiday movie. Yes.)

My five?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: I saw this in the theater long ago and have rarely laughed so hard. As time has gone on, the jokes have stayed just as funny but I have more appreciated the movie’s heart. John Candy and John Hughes at their best.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton’s movies are a lot more sentimental than they are generally giving credit for.

Miracle on 34th Street: The original.

Bad Santa: I like this movie a lot, but mainly put in here to break up the treacle of my previous and next choices.

It’s a Wonderful Life: So sue me.

What are your five?

Friday Five: Guilty Pleasures

I’m a bit late with this today but figured we can use the mental health break as we close in on the election. Today’s five is movies that are guilty pleasures.

By “guilty pleasure” I mean a movie you know is not a classic or enriching or a “feeelm”. You might even go so far as to say you would be mildly embarrassed to be caught watching it. But it will be warming your DVD player more often than, say, Citizen Kane. Or if you’re channel surfing and find it, you’ll stop. It’s something you put on when you want to turn the brain off.

My five?

Kick-ass: This may not quote fit the category but, to quote me:

I have this rated 7/10 and that’s probably my ego insisting that I can’t like it as much as I do. This was just so much fun to watch. I know Roger Ebert and others were appalled by a young girl spewing profanities and murdering roomfuls of bad guys. And if I took it seriously, I would be too. But the movie is so ridiculously over the top, so obviously satirical, I was able to enjoy it on its own terms. I hope we see a lot more of Chloe Moretz, who is utterly charming.

Moretz was also excellent in Hugo.

The Mummy: Roger Ebert famously said of this: “Look, art this isn’t. Great trash, it isn’t. Good trash, it is.” It’s ridiculous and silly and bit impossible. I’ll watch just about anything with Rachel Weisz in it, but this is one of my favorites. It’s absurdly fun. Brendan Frasier has probably been in more guilty pleasure movies than anyone in Hollywood.

There’s Something About Mary: My dad sent this to me out of the blue for Christmas one year. It’s not art by any means. But it’s the Ferrelly Brother’s best so far. It understand the principle rule of gross-out comedy: having a basic sweetness about the characters.

Commando: I debated putting Predator here but that movie has too much going for it. Commando, by contrast, is just dumb. Arnold blows away about six hundred guys because they kidnapped his daughter. Dumb dumb dumb. And totally unashamed. And I probably watch it about once a year with a grin.

Young Sherlock Holmes: As a Holmes fan, I should be outrageously outraged about this. But it has a great sense of fun. My brother and I loved this as kids and used to re-enact the mummy sacrifice scene with my sister’s dolls (she didn’t think was such a hot idea).

Honorable Mentions: A host of 80’s films: War Games, Real Genius, the Last Starfighter, Goonies. If it was made in the 80’s and has cheese spilling out of the camera reels, I probably like it.

What are your five?