Sunday, September 01, 2013

5 Movie Reviews: Elysium, Before Midnight, etc


Pretty much the defining standard of a badly written movie, this clunker is a mess of bad, unsubtle writing that drove me to distraction. You can see the script-writers behind every scene and every line of dialogue: "Here we need a scene that needs a female and a vulnerable child. Act vulnerable!" "Here we need a scene with tough guys in a poor neighborhood. Act tough!" And so they do, unimpressively and unmemorably.

A guy on Earth (all of whom are poor and live on a planet with no vegetation (where do they get oxygen?) is critically injured and so, like many others, makes a daring attempt to get to Elysium, a floating ring-world where all the rich people live in style and comfort with universal healing machines. Lots of punching, snarling, meanness, and crashes follow.

Like Skyfall and dozens of other bad movies that inexcusably didn't spend a teeny fraction of their production budget on someone who knows anything about technology, I was once again laughing out loud at the future of computer technology. I love when mankind's highest and most secure technology can be brought low by a couple of twisted wires (why are they still using wires, and why is every wire a universal access port to "the entire system", and why do all access ports universally use the same communication standard as every ad-hoc laptop brought to hack it?).

The basic plot points, while obviously supposed to have political metaphor, don't really make any sense; one example: healing technology is free, limitless, and consumes no resources; why keep it away from the poor people?


Before Midnight

This is a sparkling achievement that demonstrates that there is endless possibility for great movies, and they don't need a single special effect or action sequence.

This is the third movie in a trilogy from director Robert Linklater and actors/writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I don't recognize Ethan from anything else, but I remember Julie from her equally fine performances in Kieslowski's great Trois Couleurs trilogy. All three of the movies in this trilogy (both trilogies, actually) are can't-miss movies, and they should ideally be seen in order.

The movies are sequences of long conversations, some of which take place in real time without a camera cut over the course of 15 or 20 or more minutes. They are daring conversations that present real conversations about universal issues while avoiding anything cliche. They succeed by bringing the individual and his or her perspective into the mix, so that the conversations don't use the exact words that we might use but they sure seem to cover the same ground.

They are insightful and thought-provoking, fascinating, captivating, and at times highly charged and emotional. One of these movies is worth the rest of the summer's multi-million dollar special effect comic book adaptations and Pixar sequels combined.

Must-see. Be warned that this movie contains an extended topless scene, but it's not very sexual.

The Lone Ranger

Speaking of overproduced multi-million dollar special effect movies, this one, like John Carter, was not bad, certainly not as bad as the critics and box office results would lead you to believe. This movie is mis-titled, since it's about Tonto (johnny Depp), with The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) thrown in as his straight-man sidekick. Depp is fetching and he has some good lines; a lot of it was fun. The plot is ok: something about railway companies and money; it's about un-trust-able companions really, since the plot is not important.

It tries a little too hard, perhaps. But it's still better than Elysium.

Meh. If you must go out and there is nothing else to see.

Monsters University

An entirely unnecessary prequel that is wholly unoriginal and just not that captivating. This may have worked as a Pixar short. It's a straightforward story about a band of misfits and the same type of moral lessons driven home by Monsters Inc, which was a much better movie. Mike and Sully meet; they are not natural friends, but circumstances require them to team together with a bunch of other misfits in order to graduate. Cue the unlikely victories over the more deserving but arrogant foils.

It's not a bad movie. At least the ending is not bad.

Meh. Skip.

The Great Gatsby

Watching this solidified for me the problem with a whole bunch of recent movies: a director with an over-inflated ego. In this movie, as in Anna Karenina and most famously (and, paradoxically, least problematically) in Moulin Rouge, the director is so in love with himself that he treats the actors like scenery on which to hang the score and visuals. Instead of the movie being about the characters and the dialog, it is whiz, flash, sparkle, moving cameras, mirrors, paintings, and basically anything to avoid a single real moment of human interaction. The characters, when they appear on film, drop lines like they are part of the sound effects.

The result is all style and no substance, and I hate it. It's tiring, obnoxious, and the exact opposite of what a movie is capable of delivering. Like Anna Karenina, I abandoned this about a third of the way through.


ANG said...

Ethan Hawke: Dead Poet's Society, White Fang, Reality Bites, Gattaca, Training Day....(a partial list)

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Ah, yes, I remember his from DPS. Thanks.

SpiralChris said...

Ha, your reviews match my expectations. :) Well, except "Monsters University" where it matches my experience (I could find nothing else at the cinema to watch that week...)

pes 2014 said...

Completely agree with you on elyseum. Don't know what led me to think it could be a great movie. Very disappointing.

Haven't seen Before Midnight, but after reading you I most certainly will

Lone Ranger...hmmm I don't know, looks kinda crappy, as you say, I might watch it if there's no other option

I have a problem; I can't leave a movie before it ends as you did, The Great Gatsby was great originally, I must see it now even after reading your review. I'll get back to you with my opinion