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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2014 Movies: I guess this one's about identities?

She's The Man (2006) Andy Fickman
This was a good one from back when it was fashionable to make a teen movie based on a Shakespeare play. It was a time when Channing Tatum was probably half the size he is now, and when Amanda Bynes was still full of such laughter and promise. There are a lot of surprisingly on point jokes, and the movie is really snappy, like to the extent that it feels like a good chunk of this movie takes place in a montage. Amanda Bynes's dude voice is just so strange and awful.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Wow a totally competent and enjoyable Marvel movie! There's a lot of good writing about this one out there, so I'll just say I liked the political thriller and you can't trust anyone vibes enough that I didn't even really mind that its end message seems a bit confused or misguided. But then, who really cares about the political messages behind these things as long as the fights look good? Marvel has traditionally been aggressively middle of the road in terms of their politics, and this one is a good example of looking like you have something to say, without actually taking any sort of meaningful stance. Whatever, I thought that fight on the freeway was pretty dope.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) Alan Taylor
I don't even really remember what this one was about really. I know I watched it, but it's just like this empty space in my mind. And wow is Natalie Portman boring and unessential.

Josie and the Pussycats (2001) Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan
This is a genuine gem of that late 90s, early 2000's teen movie golden age. Very funny and sharp jokes at the expense of teenagers and capitalism. Pretty exciting whenever a movie openly mocks its audience, even more exciting when the movie can convince you that its laughing with you.

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) Stacy Peralta
A pretty good movie about the formative years of skateboarding, but I think it suffers from Stacy Peralta not really trusting himself yet as a filmmaker/documentarian. There are a lot of gimmicky and distracting transition effects, things like that, that he moved away from by the time he made Bones Brigade. There's also the problem of just straight interviewing his own friends on the Z-Boys team. The Z-Boys, amazing pioneers of skateboarding that they undeniably are, are unfortunately not the best at storytelling. Each interview sounds pretty much the same: "We were the only ones doing this, everyone else hated us, we were all best friends, this meant a lot to us, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta were amazing, etc." There's not enough about some pretty crucial things, namely the Z-Boy that apparently disappeared in Mexico, Jay Adams's prison time and addiction problems, and who Stacy Peralta was as a skateboarder. That last omission about Stacy himself is particularly frustrating because we get a lot of hype from everybody interviewed saying that Stacy was one of the best, but we don't really get any particulars, perhaps because they were reluctant to be too complimentary in front of Stacy or because Stacy was trying to be modest. Either way it feels like a big piece is missing from the story.

Single White Female (1992) Barbet Schroeder
An erotic thriller about a shitty roommate -- but it's not the shitty roommate you think (at least the way I was watching this thing)! Jennifer Jason Leigh is set up as the obsessed stalker/murderer roommate, but Bridget Fonda is pretty shitty too. JJL has obsessive tendencies, something about a twin she had that died or she murdered or something, and Fonda, not knowing this, brings her in to be her roommate to sort of pick herself up after a pretty bad breakup with her terrible cheating boyfriend. JJL gets a bit clingy and does some questionable things, sure, but it makes sense when you consider that if she didn't take some kind of action, Fonda would've gotten back with her shitty boyfriend and they would've moved in together, leaving JJL to try to figure out their Soho rent situation ON HER OWN. I don't even think JJL had a real job, and even though Soho was probably kind of shitty back then, shitty Manhattan neighborhoods aren't cheap. Anyway the real estate questions really affected me, more so than, I guess, the murder. Oh, this movie also features Stephen Tobolowsky as a sleazy rapist, so I guess there's that.

Backdraft (1991) Ron Howard
I'm not sure I have a whole lot to say about this one. Have Ron Howard movies always been this tedious? I'm trying to remember if I've ever seen any movies of his besides Apollo 13 (and I was down with Apollo 13, for the record), but I'm drawing a blank. Well, Backdraft works like a totally paint-by-the-numbers human drama. Nothing too surprising or exciting happens, really, which is a shame considering the movie's all about fires. I thought the bits where Deniro does his fire forensics examinations were pretty cool. It's a shame we couldn't have Keanu instead of a lesser Baldwin, but Billy will do in a pinch. Kurt Russell gets to play his own dad in the flashback sequence, and it's basically just him with a mustache, which I think is a tool that more movies should consider.

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