What I Watched August 2016

Movies

Crimson Peak – I skipped this movie last year because it was advertised as a horror movie. It isn’t; it is a gothic romance. There are some horror elements, but it is more slightly spooky than in any way scary. I loved it. The performances by Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska are all excellent. It also looks great, with Del Toro’s usual mastery of effects. This is everything I could have wanted it to be. I have learned my lesson about missing out on Del Toro movies. *****

Transporter Refueled – This movie shows just how much Jason Statham brings to the table. Ed Skrein is fine, but he lacks Statham’s charm and presence. This movie is fine, but it isn’t anything more than a competent action also ran. **

Blitz – This is Jason Statham doing more with less. There isn’t a lot original or great here, but Statham makes it just enjoyable enough to watch. **1/2

Suicide Squad – See Review here ***1/2

Star Trek (2009) – I picked this up out of the $4 bin at Wal-Mart after seeing Star Trek Beyond. I remembered it being a lot of fun and it is. The movie is very much about establishing the new cast as these characters, leaving little room for anything else. Still, like most JJ Abrams movies it is slick and enjoyable, even if it is a little shallow. ****

Cinderella – This is the Kenneth Branagh directed live action version of Disney’s animated movie. After seeing this and the Jungle Book, maybe these just aren’t for me. I never really like Disney’s Cinderella, and this version keeps all of the things I didn’t enjoy, such as the talking animals. It certainly looks great. **1/2

The Little Prince – This is two completely different movies smashed together. There are the amazing stop motion scenes out of The Little Prince, and then there is the thoroughly adequate CG animated movie filled in around it. I would rather this was just a straight adaptation of The Little Prince in the style of the scenes already in this movie, but what is here is disappointingly fine. ***

Hellboy – I didn’t much like this movie when I first saw it years ago. I don’t know what was wrong with me. It is a little slow to get going, spending a lot of time on the origin of Hellboy and setting up how the BRPD operates, but once it gets going it becomes a delight. ****

Back to the Future Part 2 – I know I’ve written about this movie before. It is great. *****

The Princess Bride – I know I’ve written about this movie before. It is great. *****

The Battered Bastards of Baseball – This documentary about Portland’s short lived independent minor league baseball team is a lot of fun. It’s got underdog stories galore and manages to be both sad and heartwarming. ****

Batman v Superman Ultimate Cut – Earlier this year I came away from BvS mildly positive about it. Still, I wasn’t rushing out to get the Blu-Ray and see it again, only this time 30 minutes longer. Still, I happened to see the Ultimate Cut and I am glad I did. The thirty minutes of added in fixes almost all of the movie’s plot problems. It actually lets the viewer into Superman’s head, so they can see how he came to goaded into this fight instead of just seeing Batman’s near deranged fury that got him there. It more strongly establishes Lex Luthor’s hand in setting all of it up. Why this stuff was cut instead of shortening the last fight scene or taking out some of the Easter eggs I’ll never know, but this three hour long version is a nearly great movie. ****

Blade 2 – Yeah, after watching Crimson Peak I went a little Del Toro crazy. This has some very Del Toro feeling moments, but it doesn’t quite work for me. I like a lot of the elements of this movie, like the vampire hunters – the hunters that are vampires – teaming up with Blade and some of the action scenes are great, but it moves to the end without doing much to play with the toys it painstakingly show off early. Still, it is reasonably entertaining. ***

Pacific Rim – This is another Del Toro movie with a lot of set up, but this time I find all of that interesting. I am already sold by the time it moves to the big battle scenes. I get the feeling that this is something of a love it or hate it movie, and I definitely fall on the love it side. It does a better job than most big action movies of establishing its world, even if that does come some at the expense of establishing its characters. *****

Kubo and the Two Strings – see review here. ****1/2

Before We Go – Chris Evans and Alice Eve are entertaining actors, but this movie is a slightly pleasant bit of nothing. **

The Lone Ranger – How is the train scene at the end of this movie so ridiculously good when the rest of the movie is so damn tepid? That scene is amazing, with the energy of the first Pirates movie, but the rest of the movie is just … there. **1/2

Hellboy II: The Golden Army – Much like the first Hellboy movie, but this one doesn’t need to spend the time on the set up, it just gets right to the action. Del Toro really outdoes himself with the action set piece and strange creatures here. All of the characters are just on point from the start and the team feels more natural than they did the first time. This movie is just a blast from start to finish. *****

Hot Fuzz – Still one of my favorite all time movies. There is never a bad time to put this on. *****

Sahara – Ughh, this is a mess. I think it was supposed to be fun, but it just misses the mark all over the place. It is an uncomfortable combination of other action movie ideas that just doesn’t work on its own. It is like a Bond movie where Bond has no mission or reason to be there. Also, it is just kind of dumb. *1/2

Jane Got a Gun – There is a good movie here somewhere, but it didn’t quite end up on the screen. The characters don’t connect to each other in what should be a very personal story. It hurts that the way it is told, mostly through flaashbacks, robs most of the emotional moments of their possible impact. **1/2

TV

Doctor Thorne – A reasonably well made adaptation of not especially well known 19th century novel. It isn’t great; it is not the sort of show to garner effusive praise. But it is a solid exercise that fans of the genre will enjoy. I certainly don’t regret seeing it. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? Honestly, though, it’s pretty good.

Poirot Series 12 – The second to last handful of Poirot mystery adaptations. They are still well made, though I don’t know that I like all the adaptation choices on the stories I know. This is still really good stuff, I hope to finish the series up next month.

Home Movies Season 4 – This isn’t the best season of this amazing show, but I really like the journey that Brendan goes on through this season. It is Brendan, at least somewhat, moving away from making movies. He is still working on them, but he is often distracted or disinterested. As much as I wish we had gotten more of this great show, the last season does a great job of tying things up and ending.

Marco Polo Season 2 – This show has a good cast, great production values and a fertile subject matter but doesn’t manage to tell a satisfying story with any of it. It has become clear that the title character is the least interesting part of the proceedings, but the show only rarely manages to capitalize on the dramatic potential of Kublai or his sons. Some parts, like Hundred Eyes, are great on their own but don’t really fit in with the rest of the show. I hope it gets a third season, but I hope that season is dramatically improved in the writing.

Stranger Things – I initially dismissed this due to my apathy toward anything horror related, but consistent good reviews got me to try it out and I am glad I did. It is a wonderful synthesis of all the things I love from the 80’s, but isn’t just that. It works with similar themes and subject and aesthetics to stuff like ET and It, but it is definitely its own show. Unlike most of its inspirations, Stranger Things has a lot of space to work with, which allows it to build more fully formed characters than that stuff. It gets to develop two sets of kids and several adults, leaving room for a handful of intriguing tertiary characters. It does a great job of slowly building tension but never feeling like it is wasting the viewer’s time. I have nothing but praise for this show.

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