Boredom Movie Binge

I had written back before this site was even on Squarespace about binging movies while I was sick since I don’t normally have the attention span to feel like I’m doing a movie justice; I’m too busy being a millenial who needs to check his phone at least once every 45 seconds. On a somewhat related note, I just got a new phone (look for a post on that in the near future), and I’m not so sure about this whole Digital Wellbeing thing. That being said, I took a break from staring at the smaller screen in my hand a couple of weekends ago to instead stare at the much larger screen in front of my couch. I just randomly felt like hitting up some movies so I ended up powering through 5 of them in a single weekend. These are all fairly new movies having been released in 2019, and all with the exception of one are currently available on Netflix, with the outlier film being available on HBO. I’ve also not looked at any critical response to any of these films so we’ll see how well my taste holds up.

The Perfection

I had heard about this movie over the noise it generated from scenes in it being so visceral that they literally made viewers sick. Brandi had actually watched it on her own a few days after I saw those articles, though, and mentioned it to me one day. She said that it didn’t have the effect on her, but that there was one scene near the end that did make her cringe. When I ended up doing this marathon I braced for the worst… and it actually wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected from that perspective. There are some scenes where a character vomits, but it wasn’t really as nausea-inducing as some of the news articles would make you expect.

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The plot was at least interesting, and the ending goes in a very different direction from what you’d expect at the half-way mark. If you’re a fan of twists then you’ll find The Perfection fun if nothing else. The acting was fairly well done, though some of the dialog will make you cringe worse than the vomit scene. Also, Brandi was correct; there’s one scene right before the end of the film that is made my hair stand out, and it was physically difficult to watch. I won’t spoil it, but don’t let that stop you from watching if you think it sounds interesting otherwise.

The Highwaymen

Because the universe needed another film about Bonnie and Clyde, right? As someone who has read Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, though, I was at least interested in seeing a film possibly take a more realistic approach to the couple than the films which glamorized them. Burrough described them as:

“Murderous children who longed for the big time, Bonnie and Clyde have garnered an artistic and cultural relevance in death they never found or deserved in life.”

If you read the book, you won’t disagree.

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I also figured it was worth a watch since I’m generally a fan of Woody Harrelson… though much less a fan of Kevin Costner. Refreshingly, the film focus mostly on the unorthodox investigation of the two protagonists and the limitations of state-run investigations at the time that made the birth of the FBI at the time fairly important. It also emphasized the undeserved attention that Bonnie and Clyde received from the public as they evaded law enforcement while making a point of not focusing on them as individuals; you don’t even see the faces of either until the final scene where they are killed. I don’t think that’s a spoiler by this point, kind of like the ending to Titanic.

Triple Frontier

I admittedly hadn’t even heard of this movie; it just happened to show up as a recommendation from Netflix. Looking into it a little, it seemed to have a lot going for it. A cast that included Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal? Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, as an executive producer? That was enough for me to spend 125 minutes of my life watching it.

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At the film’s conclusion, though, I feel like the ensemble was literally the only thing that kept it palatable. The entire plot just felt wonky to me. A bunch of former special forces soldiers, most of whom seem to have a lackluster life after leaving the service, get back together to rob a Colombian drug kingpin while the greed of one of them absolutely ruins everything and ultimately costs him his life. I choose to think that maybe the film was trying to make a statement about how poorly the country takes care of the soldiers who have served it. Otherwise, Ben Affleck’s character makes me want to scream at the TV. The guy has just spent years failing in real-estate, but at the flip of a switch he’s screaming at everyone else to blow their entire plan for cleanly robbing this drug kingpin because the millions of dollars they’ve already stolen aren’t enough and he wants more? And then he crashes a helicopter because the money is more important than safety? And then he shoots villagers because the money is more important than someone’s life?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure if I had the opportunity for a bunch of money I’d want to take advantage of it, too. But I also think that for most people you’re going to hit a threshold where it’s so much money that the numbers no longer even make sense. For someone making less than $100,000 a year, if you’re suddenly faced with getting $50 million or $100 million, I’m sure you want $100 million… but $50 million would also make you set. Do you risk getting no money for a chance at an extra $50 million that you won’t have any clue what to do with?

At least the acting was good outside of one character being complete nonsense.

Deadwood: The Movie

As a fan of the Deadwood television series, I had been looking forward to this since it was announced. I had briefly considered re-watching the series, but coming off of doing that exact same thing for Game of Thrones (and look how well that turned out…) I didn’t want to do it again. I hadn’t done much research into the film, so while I knew that they were going to get the majority of the original cast back, I was curious how they would account for the time that had gone by; after all the series ended in 2006. Thankfully, the answer was that it simply took place about a decade after the series ended… which is good since I think the content of the show is a little too serious for them to a pull a Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

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To be completely honest, my inner fanboy was happy with the film the literal second that I got to see Ian McShane reprising the role of Al Swearengen. Keeping things relevant with the series, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it featured the return of George Hearst, now a United States Senator but still a full-time scumbag, in the Black Hills. I was happy that fans got to get as much closure as they would with the Hearst story without completely ignoring history. Hearst was never going to be killed in Deadwood (despite everyone pining for exactly that) since that isn’t what happened in real life, but it’s at least more cathartic than the series ending of “I guess he just got away with everything?”

The ending, however, was extremely sad. I won’t spoil it, but brace yourself. The only good part is that the entire movie builds up to it, so at least you won’t be caught off guard.

The Silence

The final film of my marathon, this one basically struck me as being spiritually related to my much-hated Bird Box. Instead of being unable to see, as was the case in Bird Box, the protagonists in this film can’t make noise due to some sort of prehistoric terror being unleashed on the world which preys on noise. I was hoping that it could use the same basic idea of Bird Box but not, you know, suck. Also, I said “use” rather than “take” because, much like Bird Box, The Silence is based on a novel. While the novel for Bird Box was released in 2014, the novel for The Silence was released in 2015. There’s no way the author for The Silence read Bird Box, stole the idea, and hammered out a novel in a single year, so let’s shut down that idea right now. Also, it starred Kiernan Shipka, aka Sally Draper from Mad Men, so I figured I would check it out.

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After watching the film, I can’t help but feel the same way I did after watching Bird Box. I’d really like to read the book, as I feel like the idea was interesting but the execution was poor. Even for a story that’s literally about flying monsters that have lived below the surface of the Earth in utter darkness who prey on sound being unwittingly unleashed upon the planet by some hapless cave explorers, so many things in the movie just felt like too much.

The hook to the story is that Shipka’s character became deaf after an accident. As a result, she and her family have overcome that by learning sign language. The entire movie is based on the idea that because of this, they can live in silence. Maybe there’s first-hand insight that I’m lacking, but this makes no sense to me at all. They know sign language and thus don’t need to speak. I’ll give the plot that; there are many instances where signing instead of speaking is hugely valuable to the characters. Other than that, though… I don’t think you just cease to make sound because a member of your family is deaf. At one point in the film the family posts up in a house they’ve stumbled across, and it seems like they stay there for a day or two in order to recover while Shipka and Stanley Tucci go out in search of medicine. How do you prepare food without making sound? How do you shit without making sound? What would’ve happened if grandma started to snore in her sleep? Thank fuck no one in this family has allergies.

On top of that, the film covers a matter of days after the creatures are first set loose; we’re not going into months of years. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it means that the core of the planet is actually filled with these creatures rather than iron because from a tiny hole in a cave there are enough of them to quite literally engulf entire cities. Seems legit. I wonder what they’ve been eating down there. Second, there are some pretty intense lunatics in the world, as the film’s main antagonist ends up not being the creatures but a weird cult which is obsessed with Kiernan because she’s deaf. This cult is pretty dedicated to silence as they’ve cut out their tongues. Because that makes sense on day #2 of the sound apocalypse, right? Jump straight to cutting out your own tongue… which still isn’t going to save you when you have to sneeze or you’ve got the shits. They’ve also done this before learning sign language themselves. They aren’t the smartest bunch anyway, because they’re obsessed with Shipka’s character due to the fact that, and this is a literal quote, “she’s fertile.” She’s also deaf from an accident rather than genetics. This is quite obviously the worst cult in film history.

Just like with Bird Box, I think the idea is interesting, but the execution of the film was just awful. I'll be curious if the book does a better job. It’s also worth mentioning that, despite the holes in the plot, I felt that the acting from Shipka and Tucci was especially good. Similar to Triple Frontier, I feel like the acting saved it from being a film I just stopped watching before the end.

If you’re looking to watch one of these films and wondering which would be best, I would say Deadwood: The Movie if you’re already a fan of the series. If you’ve never watched the series, though, then most of the film won’t make sense. Barring that, I’d give the nod to The Perfection for having the most interesting plot. Just pretend like some of the more cringe-worthy dialog didn’t happen. On that note, I’ll now return to my film-moratorium until the next time I feel like killing a few days since that’s apparently the only way I can watch movies. Stay pink!

Illness Movie Binge

I’ve been sick for the past week, and with a long weekend this past weekend I did what any sane sick person should do during cold weather: bundled up on the couch with blankets, a lot of tea, and watched movies. I’m usually too lazy to pay attention to a full movie, but given that I was camped out on the couch for entire days on end with a throbbing sinus headache, keeping track of the plot of a 2 hour movie was easier than keeping track of the plot for multiple television episodes. I ended up watching 7 movies across 3 days which is more movies than I watched through all of 2018. I’m not about to even come close to writing a review for each movie given how particular I get after doing so much film analysis in college, but I figured I’d jot down some quick thoughts on each of the films I happened to watch. Most of them were titles that were just added to streaming services I use. I watched each movie without looking at basically anything, from reviews to earnings so I could go into it as blind as possible, though with some of the more… popular recent titles (ahem, Bird Box) I had already seen a lot of chatter. For most of them I went back and checked that info out afterward, though.

I didn’t intend for this since I knew basically nothing about the majority of the movies I watched, but most of the live action ones had extremely small casts. Go figure.

It should go without saying but basically the rest of this post will contain spoilers. Skip a film if you don’t want something ruined.

Annihilation (2018)

I mainly watched this because I like pretty much anything with Natalie Portman, which already starts the bias train off on the right foot. I found the movie to be pretty entertaining. I liked the creepy, new-weird vibe that I assume comes from the novel it was based on (which I immediately added to my wishlist after watching this.) I thought the small cast did quite well, and they kept the tension on edge. The non-linear timeline, aided between Portman’s recounting of events as the basis for the film plus the characters’ self-proclaimed inability to keep track of time within “The Shimmer”, also made it fun to try to piece together what was happening. The end was trippy as hell (though not the trippiest of what I watched.) Before the very end I was tempted to think the idea of killing the alien being which spawned “The Shimmer” caused the whole thing to self-implode was a little too neat-and-tidy, but Lena and Kane’s ending scene where neither believes they are their true selves combined with the changing irises brought it back. I thought it was definitely worth watching, though I can understand how it flopped at the box office. I’m also curious where the story goes from here since I know there are two additional books in the series; I’ll be checking them out for sure.

If you like weird sci-fi that won’t always make complete sense and isn’t entirely explained, I’d recommend giving this one a shot.

Bird Box (2018)

I had heard a ton about this movie over the past month, not the least of which being the idiots doing the “Bird Box Challenge” and injuring themselves. I knew the basic premise of the plot, and I actually own the book though I haven’t read it yet. More on that later. I found the concept to be extremely interesting; otherworldly beings that inflict anyone (well… almost anyone) who looks upon them with such powerful emotions they’re compelled beyond control to kill themselves. The film started off just as promising, and the scene with Malorie and her sister leaving the hospital was truly intense. After things settled in at the house, though, the problems with the film began. There were just so many plot holes that the whole thing barely made any sense. Just the ones I happened to remember right now:

  • The harrowing trip to the grocery store went relatively smoothly aside from when the car was surrounded by the creatures, despite the fact that shots of the street prior showed complete chaos of wrecks and road blockages. How the hell would you actually drive through that with just GPS (the display for which is always delayed…) and proximity sensors is pretty rich.

  • After Machine Gun Kelly and whoever the woman he was with (most of the characters weren’t memorable enough for me to recall the names… that’s bad), they somehow continued to get food without the car? They lived in the house for YEARS, based on the age of the children. I don’t think they got enough supplies for that from a single trip.

  • When Psycho Dude (again, I don’t recall the name) made most of the house see the creatures and commit suicide right after the birth of the children, he opens the windows in the bedroom where Malorie and Olympia gave birth. Olympia destroys the window when she jumps out of it. Somehow this is later repaired without sight. Wut?

  • Malorie, Tom, and the children randomly relocate to a much more secluded house from which Malorie eventually departs on the river. How the hell did they get there? Was it that easy to just walk outside, not listen to the temptation of the creatures, and stumble upon it? I could maybe buy that, but if that’s true then it’s horribly contradicted later by the next point.

  • Why the fuck would you make someone look when going through the rapids on the river? When reaching the rapids, why not just land the boat and walk around them? When this initially came up, I assumed there was significant river travel after the rapids, though that obviously wasn’t the case since Malorie and the children run to the rescue location after (unsurprisingly) overturning their boat. The only thing that makes sense is the idea that getting onto land is just way too dangerous for the entire group, thus putting a single person in danger by looking is a safer bet. If that’s the case, though, then I have to ask again how the hell they randomly got to this house in the middle of nowhere. The continuity was just awful.

  • A last, more general point, but Malorie seemed to have an almost preternatural ability to see when blindfolded if it was really important. In the last mad dash to the doorway of the school for the blind, for example, she 1.) runs straight to the door, 2.) sets the children down right in front of the single step, and 3.) steps over it without issue. In the forest before that, she tripped over every fucking log in the place.

On the whole, I thought Bird Box was a great idea that was ruined by an absolutely awful movie. I’m still looking forward to reading the book in the hopes that it does the concept more justice.

Unless you’re literally dying to see what all of the noise in the media regarding this movie is about, I’d skip it.

IO (2019)

I knew literally nothing about this film going in, but it seemed sci-fi-esque and was new on Netflix. The concept was interesting, and not particularly far-fetched given the way the world is going. The beginning and end of the movie were pretty good, but I felt that the middle was really bogged down by preaching “Being alone is bad, m’kay?” As someone who is pretty lonely, I don’t particularly like that motif in films. People who are lonely already know this and feel shitty about it. People who aren’t lonely are like, “Yeah, whatever, that would suck.” We don’t need an hour about it. That being said, I felt that Margaret Qualley did a great job of portraying someone who was quirky and awkward from years of isolation in the interactions between Sam and Micah.

When I initially watched the film, I thought the ending was terrible. Sam decides to stay on Earth, removes her helmet in a toxic environment, and somehow lives. To me that just seems way too implausible. The film showcased how a queen bee had adapted to the new environment when it lived through the toxic storm. Bees live way shorter lives than people, though. Given that Sam had never experienced Earth “before”, we can figure that she can her father had been working on these projects essentially her entire life. I can believe that in a few generations of bees that mutations would occur to allow for this. A single person just randomly mutating to survive in a toxic environment? Yeah, no.

After thinking it over, though, I’m choosing to interpret the ending in a different way that makes me like the film much more. My thought is that Sam didn’t become immune to the toxic environment but that she actually died when the scene of her removing her helmet faded to black. The ending scene of Sam on the beach with the child is the final iteration of her recurring dream rather than reality. Maybe that’s macabre, but it makes for a much better film.

I think pretty much everyone should watch this one to develop their own opinion.

Close (2019)

I watched this soley because I saw Noomi Rapace was the star, and I’ve loved her since her work in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. After the opening scene of Sam saving the lives of the journalists in Sudan in true badass fashion, I was pretty stoked. The movie was off to a great start. When it switched gears to “babysit the bratty rich girl”, I may have audibly groaned. I maintained an affinity for Sam throughout the film just due to my bias for Rapace, but I literally spent the whole film wishing she would just abandon Zoe and move on. There were a handful of sick action sequences, but on the whole the film was a super generic “z0mg, gotta find who is betraying who!” film with the most predictable “plot twist” possible. I almost wanted to be engrossed by the generic plot just to distract me from how much I hated Zoe. The ending was also extremely anticlimactic with Zoe and Rima mostly holding off the lone gunman, who was the leader of the dumbest criminal organization on Earth until Sam could remember to stop guessing numbers that couldn’t possibly be the birthday for a teenage brat and get herself out of a locked room. Oh, and that gunman’s sole contact to their buyer was murdered by Sam like 45 seconds after the gunman and his contact spoke. So he wasn’t getting paid. That dude was straight up horrible at his job.

Unless you adore Noomi Rapace beyond all understanding, definitely skip this movie. Just watch The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for the 500th time… you’ll be better off for it.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018)

I took a break from live action films to weeb out for a little bit. This film is the sequel to 2017’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. It’s a sequel in the way that Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a sequel; they’re parts of a trilogy and just continue the unfinished story. The animation from all of these films is absolutely top-notch. I don’t watch dubs, but the Japanese voice actors did really well to my supremely untrained ear. The pacing for this film was much better than with the original title that was saddled with a good bit of setup. Beyond that, just everything was better, to be honest. The action sequences were more engaging with less “let’s do the same thing over and over for 15 minutes.” The plot is what takes it on the nose up until the very end, though, as everything is mostly straightforward as can be right up until the revelation that the Bilusaludo’s vision of “victory” looks quite different from what the humans and Exif envision. And yes, if you’re curious I recalled the name and spelling of the fictional race “Bilusaludo” when I don’t recall the normal, American names of the half-dozen characters in Bird Box. That should say something about Bird Box. I felt like Haruo’s decision between losing to Godzilla or sacrificing humanity to achieve a Pyrrhic victory was the first sense of emotional discord in the series beyond the general rage at Godzilla. Haruo’s swallowing of that rage in a refusal to concede Earth also set a terrific basis for the third film.

Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2019)

In easily the best film of the series, this one was truly enjoyable to watch. Building on the themes from the end of City on the Edge of Battle and setting up for the conclusion of the series, the film plays upon the idea that both 1.) people are never satisfied with what they have, 2.) hate breeds hate, and 3.) everyone has their own agenda. It was a little similar to the Bilusaludo reveal of wanting nanometal to encompass the Earth, but the Exif long-con to use humanity to summon their demi-god Ghidorah to Earth as an offering was unexpected… even if it was a little rich that both of the alien races helping humanity essentially turned on them within a span of a day or two. I also enjoyed the play on humanity’s own weakness for so easily falling into the claws of religion rather than looking at the logical conclusion that the Houtua’s work saved them from the nanometal, not a higher power.

As is so commonly the case in anime, the final confrontation between Haruo and Metphies was needlessly dramatic due to Haruo going by himself rather than just taking a few other people along with him, but oh well. The real ending was honestly pretty poignant with Haruo seeing humanity’s assimilation into the Houtua culture (which views “winning” as living and “losing” as dying) and realizing that he alone was keeping alive the hatred which allows creatures such as Godzilla to be created in the first place. Maybe it was just to drive the point home how strong his hatred was, but it was a little surprising to me how unemotional Haruo was in his final conversation with Maina or even the one before that where she revealed the Houtua have no word for “hate”, but it felt meaningful nonetheless when Haruo opted to kill himself to safeguard the future of humanity, even if it wasn’t the future he wanted.

It’s a bit of a slog to get through the first film and parts of the second, but I think they’re worth watching to experience the third. I’m not normally a Godzilla fan, but this was just a terrific anime film in general. If you do watch it, stick around until after the credits of The Planet Eater.

2036 Origin Unknown (2018)

By far the trippiest of the films I watched, I opted into this one just because Katee Sackhoff is the star, and I absolutely loved her in Battlestar Galactica. And when I say she’s the “star”, it’s a bit of injustice because she’s literally one of two actors with any significant screen time; the other actor gets maybe 10 minutes. She solo acts pretty much the entire thing, which is insane. When the film first reveals the mysterious cube on Mars, I was prepared for a shitty 2001: A Space Odyssey rip-off. It quickly turned into much more than that, though, as the film really explored the place of AI in humanity’s future and an almost Ghost in the Shell-esque questioning of the nature of one’s own reality.

I can’t even give a good recounting of the end simply because I don’t quite fully understand it yet. ARTI seems to have destroyed the Earth and all of humanity along with it, opting to use Mack as the basis for an android representative of what humanity could be as it leverages the cube to meet an alien civilization. While tons of people have theories about the film, I took most of it at face value. After Mack dies from suffocation when the Earth is destroyed, she sports the same injuries she had in the video to the android version of herself, though I can’t account for when that filming would have taken place given how little time there was between the assault on the mission control room by security forces, Earth’s destruction, and Mack’s death. My best guess is that Mack from the film is not the human Mack from the video, but that ARTI has been running this same simulation over and over as a sort of Turing test to produce the best possible android version of Mack that he can. Now that I know what happens, I really think I need to give this one another watch to make more sense of it. The fact that I’m willing to do that speaks volumes for the film, though. Despite a low budget and virtually no cast beyond Sackhoff, it was a fantastic watch.

If you like sci-fi and don’t mind a pretty cerebral ride, you owe it to youself to check this one out. Just be aware that you’ll likely feel pretty lost at the end and, like me, either want to watch it again or just feel like you wasted your time. Your mileage may vary.