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Gravity

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****

Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris.

I usually hate Sandra Bullock. Like refuse to watch The Blind Side hate. Like once got dumped by a girl for throwing out her copy of Miss Congeniality hate. But she is not bad in this. In fact, I wanted her to survive her outer space ordeal. Perhaps not as much as I wanted the salty veteran astronaut played by George Clooney to survive. He provides an Oscar caliber performance as the ideal, realistic astronaut leader. Sandra Bullock definitely has her moments in this too, but the viewer is with her for so long and the film is so tense that it is hard to really appreciate her performance. In some ways it was like watching The Hurt Locker, but with fewer characters and less emotional power.

© 2013 WB.

© 2013 WB.

The real reason to see this film are for the amazing visuals. Some of the science does seems suspect, but I love Star Trek movies and I think it only makes a difference because the imagery looks so consist with how I have seen space shuttles, space stations, and space suits appearing in real life. I watched this in 3D and it did not seem to make much of a difference, but who knows, maybe that means the 3D was just that good. I understand why this has made so much money in theaters, since so much of the quality of this film is in its special effects. Then in terms of 2009 Oscar best picture nominees this was more Avatar than The Hurt Locker.

Elektra Luxx

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**

I’m afraid of ponies. But I am wet with indecent happiness for you.

Adrianne Palicki (Holly Rocket) & Emmanuelle Chriqui (Bambi Lindberg) somewhere in Mexico on vacation, © 2010 Gato Negro Films.

Adrianne Palicki (Holly Rocket) & Emmanuelle Chriqui (Bambi Lindberg) somewhere in Mexico on vacation, © 2010 Gato Negro Films.

That quotation comes from the best acted scene in the movie. It stems from Holly Rocket—Adrianne Palicki (“Friday Night Lights”)—telling her best friend Bambi—Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Entourage”)—that she has been lying about her dreams because she actually dreams sexually about her best friend almost every night. If this were an adult film, and both of those women play prostitutes*, it would lead to more than just a passionate kiss, but here the film was actually very sweet. Until a woman flushes and comes out of the bathroom stall, “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t wait any longer…” It is that poor sense of humor that brought me back to the realization that I was watching a weak movie.

Carla Gugino is Elektra Luxx, © Gato Negro Films.

Carla Gugino is Elektra Luxx, © Gato Negro Films.

This was clearly no media darling. This was not produced by a major film studio. So at first glance it was confusing as to why it had such a great cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Carla Gugino, Palicki, Chriqui, Kathleen Quinlan, Malin Akerman, and Timothy Olyphant. All of the female cast members (minus Akerman) returned from the prior year’s–2009–Women in Trouble. Sebastian Gutierrez wrote and directed that movie as well, it received similarly poor reviews, but had an even more star studded cast, that included Josh Brolin, Connie Britton and Simon Baker. But now there is a real life twist. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Bert Rodriguez, adores pornography and likes to review it and vlog about it. However, now that Gordon-Levitt has written, directed and starred in Don Jon, a movie about an attractive guy who’s addicted to pornography. Bert is not a ladies man, nor does he look amazing. He looks like this:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for real. © Gato Negro Films.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for real. © Gato Negro Films.

The movie is about as bad as he looks, and as nuanced as Timothy “I only showed one emotion, rage, during three seasons of “Deadwood” Olyphant’s acting. Therefore, while this movie takes a look at interesting topics, it fails to do so in an artistically effective fashion. This is a Lifetime movie with an amazing cast that presents the commercialization of female sexuality without demonizing the male sex.

*I did not realize this in the film itself, I thought that they were adult film actresses, but through the IMBb page on Women in Trouble I have inferred that they were not.

Captain Phillips

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*****

This is no longer a drill.

Elmi (Mahat M. Ali), Muse (Barkhad Abdi), Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), & Najee (Faysal Ahmed) on their little skiff off the Coast of Somalia, © 2013 Michael De Luca Prods.

Elmi (Mahat M. Ali), Muse (Barkhad Abdi), Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), & Najee (Faysal Ahmed) on their little skiff off the Coast of Somalia, © 2013 Michael De Luca Prods.

What happens when the best director alive works with a great actor and an amazing story? Captain Phillips happens. This film is in the league of United 93. Think about what that means. That is one of the best movies of the past decade, in fact, one of the best movies of all-time. To even discuss which of these is better tells you that this is a must see film.

The best thing about it has to be the acting. I say that because at no point during the film did I think, “wow, ____ is doing a great job of acting.” I felt like the four main Somalis were actually those Somalis! As the leader of those Somali pirates Barkhad Abdi has a ferocious, starving wolf look to him, but he was more than just a haunting visual, as he was more than just a straight forward villain or just a poor soul blackmailed into piracy. Muse is a victim of his circumstance, he looks thirsty, but he wants wealth far in excess of what he needs to survive. A fascinating choice in this film is to not show the warlord of Muse’s region of Somalia. While Elmi, the tallest of the Somalis, inflicts the most harm to Captain Phillips–Tom Hanks–his level of villainy cannot approach a warlord who commands his people to lives as pirates and who sends a message to Muse to return with Phillips or not at all.

MaerskLifeboat

The last choice I want to address is how Paul Greengrass, the director, chose to provide the full spectrum of Phillips’ ordeal. Greengrass gave enough time for Phillips and Muse’s team to spend in the lifeboat—almost an hour—instead having Navy Seals appear instantly. He showed Phillips before the hijacking, even before leaving Vermont—Phillips’ home. Greengrass lastly let the audience feel the impact of such an experience in a small, and human way. I cannot wait for whatever he directs next.

Machete Kills

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Machete Kills starring Amber Heard (Miss San Antonio) & Danny Trejo (Machete), © 2013 Quick Draw Prods.

Machete Kills starring Amber Heard (Miss San Antonio) & Danny Trejo (Machete), © 2013 Quick Draw Prods.

I am surprised at how not excited most people I know are about this movie. With comments attacking it for looking like a bad movie, I went into this expecting more of the same from the original Machete. But this movie is the tale of overcoming the odds. I mean, Danny Trejo is not a huge star and this is a sequel to a modern Mexploitation film from a Mexican director. Here are the steps that it took to arrive at Machete Kills.

© 1991 Columbia Pics. Co. El Mariachi.

© 1991 Columbia Pics. Co. El Mariachi.

  1. Robert Rodriguez has to become a director. See above.
  2. Rodriguez has to get a chance as a Hollywood director. See his remake of El Mariachi. 
  3. Rodriguez must have continued success, and then get in good by having a series of hits for a major studio. Like Spy Kids.
  4. Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino must become pals and both love 1970’s horror films.
  5. They have to make an homage to those films and convince theaters to show a packaged double feature! Those movies were known as Planet Terror and Death Proof.
  6. Within that combination the fake Machete trailer gets the most attention, thus leading to the possibility of securing financing to actually go ahead and make the movie.
  7. Then a bunch of stars have to sign on. Robert De Niro was in Machete! So was Lindsay Lohan! Less impressively, it reteamed the stars of “Nash Bridges.”
  8. BUT before we continue, we need to talk about how Danny Trejo wound up in the trailer within Grindhouse. Let us go back to the 1980’s and Folsom where Trejo became a jailhouse boxing champion.
  9. Trejo needs to get clean and become a sponsor who shows up to hang out in a parking lot with a former drug user who needs someone to support him while his coworkers snort some coke.
  10. Those coworkers have to be working on a movie set for Runaway Train, one of the writers has to be an ex-con named Edward Bunker who recognizes Trejo and sets him up as the boxing trainer Eric Roberts.
  11. Trejo has to succeed as an extra for a while before getting slightly larger roles in hits like Desperado, directed by Robert Robriguez, a remake of his indie-film El Mariachi.
  12. They have to hit it off and Rodriguez has to start called Trejo “Machete,” in fact, in Rodriguez’s hit children’s movies, Spy Kids, Trejo got to play “Uncle Machete.”
  13. The original Machete has to make enough money to secure financing for a sequel and the main actors, Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez have to sign back up to do it again.
Uncle Machete and the Spy Kids in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, © Dimension Films 2011.

Uncle Machete and the Spy Kids in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, © Dimension Films 2011.

All of that had to happen just to make Machete Kills. But the end of Machete promised not only his return in Machete Kills, but also in Machete Kills Again. So ask yourself, do you think that such a thing could happen? And if so, do you believe that it could take place…IN SPACE!? For that is how this movie starts off—with a mock trailer for Machete Kills Again…In Space. I thought that Robert Rodriguez’s hither to unknown love to Star Wars would stop there, but not at all. Mel Gibson’s Bond villain “Voz” also has a love for Star Wars as is shown by his mock Tattoine speeder.

I was not joking about the mock speeder.

I was not joking about the mock speeder.

Voz does not appear in the first hour of the movie, which is generally a bad sign for the quality of a movie when its villain is unknown for that long. That is the case here. It is as cheesy as Gibson himself is in this role. He was more consistent than his predecessor as villain Mendez–Demain Bichir–who spends a good 30 minutes with Machete trying to get himself killed. So this movie was wildly inconsistent, but occasionally very enjoyable. It was as much a waste of talent, as it was a wonderful collection of it. Jessica Alba’s return was pretty average, but Sofia Vergara was…actually not very good, but on the other hand Charlie Sheen—in his first role under his birth name of Carlos Estevez—was fine as the president, and the combination of Walter Goggins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas was actually pretty cool. And what can be said about Danny Trejo besides that he was totally f’n awesome.

**½

I thought that Machete don’t text?

Low Winter Sun, and current television shows

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I just finished watching Low Winter Sun. That took up 10 hours of movie watching time, but that is fine, because I do not only watch movies. In the past year I have also watched multiple episodes/seasons of The Walking Dead, Arrested Development, Dexter, Sherlock, Community, Parks & Rec, Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn 99, Agents of Shield, and some procedural shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, Castle, Common Crime Coverage, etc…  It has become difficult for me to chose what to watch, when to sacrifice movie watching time, and how to identify what my viewing goals are. 30 minute shows are convenient. Hour long shows are less convenient. 90 minutes shows are basically movies. There are many more movie actors whom I like than TV actors simply because movies are smaller commitments than tv shows in the long run. Breaking Bad is great you say? Well I will start by watching from the beginning then, but will keep putting it off indefinitely. So if there are good actors tied up in that show I have to wait for them to appear in other projects, like Argo for Bryan Cranston, and do not become fans of theirs. Whereas I can watch a movies like BrickLooperDark Knight Rises, Inception, or (500) Days of Summer and become a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan without realizing that he, like Cranston, appeared on a hit sitcom for years.

Just this Fall Malin Akerman, Andre Braugher, Jeff Garlin, Karl Urban, and Anna Faris have new shows that debuted. So those are some hard choices. It was easier in the late Summer.

Thanks to my movie watching enjoyment, I am a big fan of Mark Strong’s. When I saw that he, the pawnshop owner from Snatch, AND the captain from Castle were all in a remake of Strong’s English show of the same name, I had to watch it. It was good. It was as if someone made an English version of The Wire and then transported that to Detroit. At the end of this season finale I wondered how this could be a season finale and not a series finale. On the other hand, I think that my very inability to see where the show would head offers an opportunity for greatness, that the ratings will probably not allow. This differs from season 3 of Sherlock, in that it should not exist. Perhaps the same can be said for Agents of Shield with Agent Coulson, but only time will tell.

As for my upcoming movie watching schedule, I plan to watch Machete Kills, Captain Philips, and Gravity. On DVD I have Beginners and Something the Lord Made. I am also excited for 12 Years a Slave. Until then, I hope that this tv morsel tides you all over.

Con Air, or is this a satire?

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What do you think I’m gonna do? I’m gonna save the fuckin’ day!

That line right there is what I have hung my hat on for all these years when I argued that Jerry Bruckheimer’s Con Air is a satire. If I have been wrong then that line is a cherry on poop sundae. On the other hand, is it possible that it could be just bad enough to be good?

This is some how supposed to be taken seriously? No way.

This is some how supposed to be taken seriously? No way.

The only other examples of this quandary come from about the same time: Mystery Men, which spoofed a genre that basically did not exist yet; and American Psycho, which delved into the psychotic dreams of 1980’s Wall Street. I have been thinking about this, off and on, for days. I wish I had more to say beyond this.

**½ AWESOME stars.