Movie Catch-up

I haven’t had much time lately — for watching movies or for writing — so this is a catch-up post of some movies I’ve seen over the past several months.  I’ve actually been a bit wary of posting my not-so-mainstream thoughts on some of these too. However, throwing caution to the wind, here goes …

Black Panther (2018)

I totally see how significant this move is. In March, Black Panther became the top-grossing superhero film of all-time in the US, as reported in TheHollywoodReporter, and it is still ahead of Avengers: Infinity War, domestically. The fantastic box office results should be a demonstration to the powers that be that a movie does not have to be dominated by white-skinned people to make money. With a predominantly Black cast and with the writing team (Joe Robert Cole, Ryan Coogler) and director (Ryan Coogler) also being Black, this movie puts the action in the fictional African nation of Wakanda and tells a story that places both heroes and villains firmly in that African world. I hope that this is a precursor to a day when movies can have casts as diverse as our society.

That being said, while I thought the movie was good, I didn’t think it was as great as I had heard it would be. To me, it was really a pretty typical superhero movie, but for the African themes and black cast. Nothing wrong with that, and my family enjoyed it a lot, but I was expecting something more.

Admittedly, three things may have coloured my opinion:

1. The older I get, the more that 3-D films and glasses make me motion sick. I spent the whole movie fighting nausea, as the camera had us zooming headfirst down a long tunnel or turning upside down. There was one point where I actually had to turn away to avoid throwing up. Maybe I should have opted for the 2-D version!

2. There were little kids (like maybe 3 years old) at this PG movie, one three seats over from me and one just in back of me, and both of them talked continuously throughout the movie. Why do parents let this happen? My younger son was a kid who didn’t get the concept of “indoor voice” in a movie, but I always at least tried to warn him beforehand and to keep him quiet during a movie.

3. I had heard so many rave reviews leading up to my seeing this movie, that I think my expectations were probably overly inflated. Again, I did like the movie…. just maybe not as much as many other people did.

Lady Bird (2017)

I was really predisposed to like this because I had enjoyed Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Laurie Metcalf in Roseanne. The acting was good and a lot of the scenes rang true in terms of not-so-perfect parent/child relationships — I have to admit that I saw myself and my son in some of the scenes, although thankfully he has never actually tried to throw himself out of the car like Lady Bird did! However, I unfortunately found the movie quite boring. I watched it on pay-per-view and noticed myself pausing the play several times just to see how much longer until it ended. Rather than being a fluid story, Lady Bird is a series of scenes from a short time period in the lives of the daughter and the mother. I feel that it could have benefited from longer scenes with more time to explore each situation. And I guess I really prefer a movie that has more of a plot, rather than just showing us a time period in a coming of age story.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

I really loved this movie, although I had my usual issue with black comedies. My kids tell me that this movie was hilarious, but I found it touching and sad, rather than funny. I have trouble laughing at a real person who was so certain that he was making an amazingly great movie — whereas it actually turned out to be probably the worst movie of all time. James Franco is great in this, especially if you see any video of the real Tommy Wiseau for comparison, and I totally understand why he won a Golden Globe for this performance. Franco also directed the movie and I appreciate that Wiseau is shown, not just as being comically deluded, but also as being someone to be admired for his fearlessness, self-assurance and belief in his dream. The relationship between him and Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco) is portrayed as a mentor/mentee relationship, even though with many flaws. Wiseau apparently watched the movie and was pleased, and reportedly his biggest complaint was that the lighting could have been better!

I haven’t seen Wiseau’s and Sestero’s actual film, The Roombut if it plays around here anytime, my son and I might just have to check it out! It’s become a cult classic. Will I find it funny in its awfulness… or will I just feel sad?

Nightcrawler (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal really threw himself into the full creepiness of this role, even to the extent of losing 30 pounds and looking almost skeletal. The movie is about a guy who turns himself into an accident-chasing freelance videographer, going to any lengths to get the money shot for the TV news. Gyllenhaal is totally believably and the movie is hard to watch but impossible to stop watching, as he goes from just filming the events to having a role in making them happen. The creepiness factor is right up there with One Hour Photo (2002), starring Robin Williams. Nightcrawler is very well done and really makes you think about the sellers and the buyers of “news” and entertainment.

21 thoughts on “Movie Catch-up

  1. Huh — I didn’t think Black Panther was typical of the other superhero films I’ve seen (admittedly about four total, because I’ve grown to dislike them). It had strong women characters, it wasn’t all action / CGI, and the color palette was gorgeous instead of being normal to blah. It also had a really legitimate philosophical conflict at its core. Add that to the cultural significance of the film for many of its audiences and it is hands-down the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I’d give it ten out of ten if it weren’t for Martin Freeman being in it (although one of my friends told me that that is apparently the reversal of the “black sidekick” device in a lot of these films). If all super-hero films were like this one I’d see way more of them.

    I love black comedies, but everything about The Disaster Artist repelled me from the story synopsis to the trailers, including but not limited to James Franco. Never say never but he is pretty much a red line for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did think the film was good and I definitely appreciated it for its cultural significance, but to me it was still fairly typical in terms of good vs evil (or misguided), superpowers, one-on-one fight scenes, saving the world from destruction, etc. I prefer the superhero films that are funny and light-hearted, like the Thor movies or the Ironman movies. There was some humour in Black Panther, but it had a more serious tone, and as you say, a legitimate philosophical conflict. Admittedly, the female characters were more developed here and had more interaction with each other. Most of the Marvel films have well-developed characters, both male and female, although more male than female. I enjoyed the hand-to-hand combat scenes in the water, which were beautifully filmed. I just didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I had expected to. And again being motion sick through a lot of it really hampered my enjoyment. (I’m not sure why they so many have to be 3D now.)

      As for The Disaster Artist, I watched it because my younger son was interested, having heard so much about The Room. I was really surprised by how good it was. And my kids both found it hilarious.


      • Are there superhero films that don’t have good vs evil as their primary conflict? I’m not usually even tempted to agree with the villain in a superhero film, and I actually probably sympathized as much with Killmonger as with Panther on this one. That was one of the big strengths of the film for me, that there were so many unappealing aspects of the “hero.”

        I don’t understand the fascination with Thor at all. I tried to watch one on TV and was bored after twenty minutes. It seemed like there was no plot at all and I found myself wondering why people were so excited about those films. (Also, I gather they are the reason that Tom Hiddleston is so popular and that also mystified me.) I’m not sure I even saw the end. Have not seen any Ironman — Robert Downey Jr is on my “avoid” list although not on my “avoid at all costs” list, like Franco.


        • I think they all have good vs evil, although usually there is some childhood trauma or something that at least makes me feel that I understand what happened and where the villain took the wrong path. Loki was always designed to be evil, but in the movies he has Daddy issues, particularly because Odin is not his real father and he always felt second-best. Or sometimes there is something in the conflict that one can relate to the real world. Like in X-Men, they are being treated differently and exploited and made to be on the outskirts of society because they are “other” or mutants, which you can liken to racism and racist policies in the real world. The “hero” often has unappealing aspects, too, like Ironman or Tony Stark is very self-centred and always there is the problem that they destroy as much as they save, through collateral damage.

          The Thor movies are funny — and of course it helps that Thor and Loki are attractive (more so than their real-life counterparts IMO). The Loki look reminds me of Guy of Gisborne, although Loki is more evil. Thor also has a strong female character in Natalie Portman’s scientist, Jane, and she and her assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings), have good scenes together. Again, the big appeal for me in the Ironman movies, is that they are funny, with lots of fast-paced sarcastic banter. I have to say that I didn’t go to see Avengers: Infinity War. I’m not a big enough superhero movie fan and I really don’t like the big multi-character extravaganzas like that.


          • Natalie Portman is in the Thor movies? I guess I missed that too, as well as the “strong woman” pieces. Not kidding — I remember a woman was in the film I saw and she was in love with Thor which was also inexplicable to me. But the whole film I found really unengaging overall, so I probably was distracted. I will probably go back to my usual “not seeing that unless a niece drags me” pattern until there’s a Black Panther sequel. I can’t imagine watching something like Infinity War anyway — by now you have to know the backstories of all those characters and I can’t imagine making such a significant time investment.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah that was Natalie Portman. Smart and take-charge, and does fall in love with Thor. Black Panther is in Infinity War from what I understand. Basically I think it’s all the Marvel superheroes. Too many in one movie for my taste.


              • I guess I didn’t notice the “smart and take charge” piece. But I might just have missed her; she tends to be in films I don’t see, other than Black Swan, which I thought was horrible. I mean, I really just remember that there was a woman who fell in love with Thor.

                The thing that sold me on Black Panther was the trailer, which just seemed so much more tight and charged and interesting than the other trailers I’ve seen. It had a palpable feeling of difference. I saw the Infinity War trailer several times and thought “you couldn’t pay me to see that.” I had also tried to read on the backstory of Black Panther before I went to make sure I’d understand the film, and I gave up after about four paragraphs, but I felt like the film was totally understandable without all the other stuff.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m chiming in really late here and I’m definitely in the overall minority column but I found
    Black Panther blah I couldn’t follow the characters, whose doing what and why, I liked the female characters as the best part of the film, it was way too long for me and one of
    the nieces and I were fidgeting in our seats
    20 minutes in (not a good sign for me when I
    fidget anywhere). I would like to see Lady Bird
    more out of curiosity than anything else and I’m not a fan of James Franco either even before the whole metoo thing w him came out earlier this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree w you on your Lady Bird review. I viewed it on my plane ride home last Thursday and although I loved Laurie Metcalf as the mom I saw shades of my mom when she
    attempts to compliment Lady Bird but it really
    is criticism (well at least from the perspective of
    a teen). Saoirse Ronan was good too but I thought the writing was kinda subpar and as much as I like Timothee Chalamet as an up and coming actor ( he uses his eyes to express
    himself quite well I think) he had very little to
    work with. The ending also disappointed me
    bec part of the reason I could relate to Lady
    Bird was become she was expressing her individuality which I tried to do in high school
    rebelling against a very conventional mom who
    wanted to keep me and my sis in her protective
    womb still. But then she says “I’m Christine”. The movie was autobiographical
    somewhat and at times bittersweet and Gerwig
    had a plethora of talent to direct maybe
    she just needs to improve her execution
    more. Apparently Little Women reboot is up
    next for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I had really been looking forward to it and I found it disappointing. I agree with you on the ending and I thought it kind of fell flat. Little women again? I hadn’t heard.


      • There are two actually — there’s one coming out this fall, and then Greta Gerwig is supposedly doing one next year some time as well. I haven’t seen one yet that I really liked (including the BBC one that aired this spring on US public TV).

        Liked by 1 person

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