Flash Reviews, Pt. 12: July!

1 July 2016-31 July 2016

Welcome to another installment of Flash Reviews, where I share brief snapshot reviews of the movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read and occasional other entertainment I’ve consumed since the last time I did this. Usually once every two months or so. WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead, so just watch out. Not super detailed spoilers, since these are just snapshots, but the better you know my tastes, the more likely you’ll be to find something spoiled.

 

TOP PICKS

Since these will be installments of my intensive summer, media consumption, with overwhelming amounts of films and a decent amount of books, consumed, I figured I’d pick out my Top 5 or so movies and my top book. So here goes, in no particular order.

MOVIES

Batman the Movie (1966)

Captain Fantastic

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Tickled

Ghostbusters (2016)

BOOK

A Short Stay in Hell

 

FILM

Les Miserables (1998)

A solid film. I prefer the later musical adaptation, but think there’s merit to this one. The performances are quite good and are interesting in relation to those in the musical film (and probably to the text itself, but I haven’t read it to know for sure). The ending is interesting thematically. Powerful story of forgiveness and redemption.

The Big Lebowski

A goofy, madcap caper of a film. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman are stellar. Not my favorite of the Coen’s oeuvre, but I can see the appeal. It’s a little loosey-goosey for my tastes. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t watch it with great frequency. Worth experiencing, for sure.

Ephraim’s Rescue

A powerful story told in ways that diminish the power (voiceover and non-linear structure). The script is somewhat laughable and the acting is meh. Yet, something still touched me—I think one of the lines towards the end, where Ephraim is questioned about being so good and able to bless all these lives and responds by saying he’s just like other men, but he can do great things because he tries.

Independence Day

A supremely silly movie. A very enjoyable one, but silly and crammed with genre tropes. Jeff Goldblum holds the film together. Without him it wouldn’t be worth watching.

Knight and Day

Until the end I thought this was a particularly dumb and sexist action thriller. But it ended up subverting most of those expectations (still somewhat problematic) in surprising and humorous ways.

The BFG

I really enjoyed this. Ruby Barnhill, who plays Sophie, is brilliant (might have something to do with her being a delightfully precocious young British girl). The last 30-45 minutes of the film are great—from where Sophie and the BFG work together to create the dreams until the end. The scenes at Buckingham Palace are particularly great.

Saturday’s Warrior

My second time seeing this and it was much like the first (except that I could sing-a-long this time!). Still so so so cheesy. Yet earnest. Does it gloss over problematic stuff? Sure. But it does a decent job of humanizing both the parents and children on either side of a faith divide.

The Three Musketeers (1981, animated)

A short film from my childhood that I hadn’t seen for years. Fun to go back to. Odd and funky, but featuring some delightful songs that I have run through my head every now and then to this day.

Source Code

Like a cross between Vantage Point and Inception with some Déjà vu thrown in there. I thought it was quite enjoyable. Not incredible, but entertaining and does some interesting things with a fairly novel concept.

Interstellar

My first time watching this since the theater and it held up remarkably well. It still feels a bit like three vignettes spliced together, but that lends some to the charm of the film. There’s an emotional core to the film that is unusual for Nolan and sometimes the dialogue feels a bit too on-point, but there’s some profundity in there that resonates with me.

Unforgiven

A brutal film. Gene Hackman is incredible. Some solid lines. I was a bit underwhelmed, but there’s a lot to think about thematically and narratively along Western genre conventions and with ideas of forgiveness, invoked by the title.

The Musketeer

An entertaining, if silly, adaptation of The Three Musketeers, focused more than usual on D’Artagnan. The dialogue is meh and most of the performances are underwhelming (Mena Suvari does better than most and Tim Roth is a deliciously, over-the-top villain). But the choreography is great and the action sequences (while absolutely impractical and ludicrous) are pretty fantastic.

Die Hard

A classic that holds up remarkably well. A solid action thriller, with quite the collection of surprisingly well-rounded characters (Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Hart Bochner, and of course, the delightful Alan Rickman). The action is solid, the story’s decent, and it is an entertaining jaunt.

Serenity

A great movie that is a solid cap to a fantastic TV series—Firefly. Classic Whedon with solid action, witty banter, characters you love and hate to see go.

Thelma and Louise

I really enjoyed this. I think it shows the feminist alternative to Fight Club, or at least explores the same problems, but from a female perspective rather than male. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are exceptional and Brad Pitt and Harvey Keitel are solid additions. The final sequence is brilliant.

Tickled

I have no idea how to really respond to this. It’s one of the weirdest, most bizarre, yet entertaining and uncomfortably hilarious film experiences I’ve ever had. An adventure that should be experienced, but with others—a documentary about competitive endurance tickling and a web of intrigue that is uncovered.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I quite enjoyed this. Great fun. The music is used to excellent effect throughout. John Goodman is phenomenal in his small role, George Clooney is delightful, John Turturro is excellent. It’s pretty episodic in nature and the overarching plot is far less important.

Noah

I really enjoyed this. Yeah, it’s not really grounded in the biblical narrative, but I think it explores some interesting aspects of revelation and God’s communication with mankind and the messiness of that prospect. Also, the music is great. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson are all solid. There were some surprisingly moving moments.

Trapped by the Mormons

Wow. A delightful, bizarre, hilarious experience. A 1922 silent, anti-Mormon film. Ridiculous, but wonderful. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it incredibly worthwhile.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Really, really funny. Seriously. I was quite skeptical, but was thoroughly entertained. Kate McKinnon is hilarious. Kristen Wiig is great, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones (neither of whom I usually find that amusing) were solid contributors to the ensemble. And Chris Hemsworth? A fantastic stereotype-subverting performance that is a true delight to behold.

Not to mention lots of nods to the original and some pitch-perfect cameos. My, admittedly low, expectations were enthusiastically exceeded.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Solid. I thoroughly enjoyed it—I didn’t really “grow-up” with this one, but have seen it a number of times. The similarities between it and the 2016 version stuck out as I was watching (since I’d watched the new one the night before), but they both still stand on their own and I think may work better in conversation with one another.

The Bourne Identity

One of the greatest action films ever. The Bourne trilogy stands above most other action-thrillers in terms of plotting, acting, writing, and not to mention stellar action sequences. This is no exception and is structured as not only a great stand-alone film, but also a fantastic introduction to the trilogy. Matt Damon is incredible. The music enhances the mood throughout the film. Just great stuff.

The Bourne Supremacy

Not quite as good as Identity. The action is a little-muddled with the ‘shaky-cam’ stuff, but still a solid film. The last scene is a nice ending, but Pam’s actions seem a little out of character (until the events of Ultimatum sort of clarify them).

The Man Who Wasn’t There

A pretty stripped down film in most respects. A sort of slow-burn, character-study, murder mystery. I am enthralled by the film and drawn in, but not enamored by it. It was fascinating, but not amazing. I’m not quite sure what was missing, but it’s still a fine film.

Star Trek Beyond

An entertaining, space action romp. Not as good as the 2009 reboot (maybe better than Into Darkness? My feelings on that one seemed to shift pretty dramatically with each viewing and I haven’t seen it for awhile, so hard to compare). I still think the casting was pretty spot-on all around, with all the major players doing great work. The villain felt a little whatever, just your run of the mill, bland, bitter space-dude. There’s a nice balance of hand-to-hand combat and space battles (with some crazy stuff early on against the Enterprise). The music that’s featured in the trailers and felt totally out of place, takes a fitting role in the film (that I think retroactively makes the trailer better, not great, but better). Sure, there are lots of kinda coincidental things that come together for everything to work, but it was fun.

The Illusionist

An enjoyable movie. Less intricate than The Prestige, but still enjoyable and the resolution is quite satisfying. Edward Norton is solid.

The Robe

I enjoyed this more than I thought I was going to. A fairly quick moving film, especially given how I usually feel about the pacing in older films like this. Some interesting connections with Risen, which I saw earlier this summer (since both essentially tell the same story, though come to significantly different resolutions).

Underworld

Not a great film by any means, but an entertaining one that plays with some interesting mythology (of vampires and werewolves). Clearly inspired by The Matrix stylistically. Some cool (if ridiculous and over-the-top) action sequences.

The Bourne Ultimatum

My favorite of the Bourne films. It has some great globe-trotting action sequences, with Bourne doing all sorts of innovative stuff, like he does. The story is satisfying (if structured oddly in relation to Supremacy with the first 90min or so taking place before the final scene in Supremacy). It also features one of the most rewarding “gotcha” sorts of conversations between Bourne and Vosen. Sooooo good. The end features perfect usage of Moby’s “Extreme Ways” (used well in both Identity and Supremacy, but perfectly implemented here).

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

A beautiful film. Great stories weaving into a great story of the power of music. Definitely worth watching.

Captain Fantastic

Wow. This was incredible. Heartfelt, moving, hilarious, heartbreaking. Viggo Mortenson is captivating. The music is wonderful and the final sequence with a cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” brought tears to my eyes (of just an overflow of all sorts of emotions). A story of family and belonging. Of grief. Of loyalty and love. Of finding or creating your place in the world. Something truly special.

Batman the Movie (1966)

This movie may explain much about me. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t have this as part of my life and I am so glad that it still enriches it. Is it the campiest thing you’ve ever seen? Probably. Is it absolutely, gut-bustingly hilarious from start to finish? Undoubtedly. The ability of all the actors involved to deliver their lines with straight faces, not to mention such earnestness, is a feat worthy of recognition. Everything is so earnestly absurd and I love it. Every. Single. Minute.

Stardust

There were some cool ideas here and a sort of Princess Bride vibe, though it falls far short of the near-perfection that is that film. I enjoyed it, but probably won’t go out of my way to watch it again.

 

BOOKS

Bleak House

I ended up enjoying this quite a bit, though it is slow going initially (some of that was probably due to trying to cram large sections in and not allowing myself to enjoy the wit of Dickens’ prose). Lots to like here and though it is massive and labyrinthine, those characteristics are a nice addition to emphasize the narrative concerns with the legal suit.

Nothing New Under the Sun: A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes

Not a happy book, but I think a useful on. Lots of good and needed wisdom here, buried in a little bleakness.

A Short Stay in Hell

Wow. This was powerful, thought-provoking stuff. Frightening, but thought-provoking. I would recommend it for sure.

Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology

Lots of thought-provoking stuff here. I’m not sure that I agree with it all, but I think it is worth thinking about. Some of the essays are far denser than others, but I think for anyone interested in Mormonism and possible theological evolutions, this is a must read.

Neverwhere

A delight. A pretty quick read that has an innovative premise and a wonderfully British sensibility (fitting for being set in London). Great urban fantasy at its best.

 

Past Installments here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, and Part Eleven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Flash Reviews, Pt. 12: July!

  1. Oh my goodness, I love Stardust. Charlie Cox is just so standout in that one. It’s such a charming, fun film, though a bit different from the book (a Gaiman classic). I wonder if you would like the book more.

    Like

    1. I’ll need to check it out. I’ve been (very belatedly) delving into Gaiman’s stuff and have American Gods on my list, so I’ll throw Stardust on there too.
      Yeah, I think all the comparisons to The Princess Bride may have set up impossible expectations, since it was indeed charming and fun.

      Like

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