Movie Diary

a) 22 Jump Street
I worked an event a few weeks ago that had a long mid-day break, so I went to the movies and saw this since I really enjoyed 21 Jump Street. Of course, I had just read this Forbes list of the highest grossing comedy sequels of all time, which had only a couple movies that weren't absolutely awful and was all movies that were a pretty big dropoff in quality from the first movie. This is on the way to making as much money as those, though, and I'd say it was pretty good by that measure (maybe not as good as Ghostbusters II). The first movie just had a couple meta gags, whereas this one it was pretty much the whole movie, but it worked. Jillian Bell in particular had some great scenes.

b) Edge of Tomorrow
My wife and had a night out to ourselves while my mom was watching the kid, and this seemed like the best option when we drove by the movie theater, and I'm really glad we saw it. I've been saying for years that Emily Blunt just has great taste in projects, and between this and Looper and The Adjustment Bureau I'd say she especially knows how to pick high concept sci-fi stuff that actually has an interesting female character her for to play. It's also kind of a funny movie for people who don't like Tom Cruise to see -- the movie starts with him as this total coward who tries and fails to charm his way out of a tough situation, and then spends the rest of the movie getting killed over and over trying to redeem himself. The concept gets a little crazy at some points but if you just kind of buy in and go along for the ride, I feel like it's pretty successful.

c) The Counselor
It kinda fascinates me how Cormac McCarthy can write these spare, sparse, poetic novels like The Road but then he decides to write a screenplay that just feels like generic chatty action movie about drug cartels and shit like that. Except it's not, because it's also completely goofy and over-the-top, with Javier Bardem wearing crazy clothes and Brian Grazer hair, and Cameron Diaz fucking his car. It's pretty boring for long stretches, too, though. Is Michael Fassbender just a total non-presence or what? I feel like he's never made an impression on me ever, 5 minutes after he's offscreen I can barely even recall his face.

d) Enough Said
I really liked this. I feel like there are a lot perfectly good movies, some of them earlier efforts by Nicole Holofcener, that try to get at some small human details of a realistic story but end up being kind of unremarkable and unmemorable. This one really worked, though, in part because Julia Louis-Dreyfus was really great in a rare serious role, and James Gandolfini was sweet and likeable like he'd never really been in anything I'd seen him before, with the added poignancy of it being one of his final roles. When the big twist and misunderstanding that the movie pivots on comes around, it almost feels like an unwelcome plot device, like I'd rather it just keep ambling along pleasantly with these characters, but the way it all unravels and winds down is really well handled. There were also a lot of great little character moments with the supporting cast, particularly Toni Collette and Tavi Gevinson, that I feel like a lot of movies would not have made time for outside of the main story that made the whole thing resonate more.

e) The Wolverine
I guess it's cute to do a Wolverine movie with samurai and ninjas and stuff but it was all just too silly for me. I feel like Wolverine is only a good character when he's used in the right context, usually in a team with other X-Men, so putting him on his own for most of the movie is not as good an idea as it seems on paper. Viper was a good villain but it felt like she was barely in the movie.

f) Pain And Gain
This was so great, the first Michael Bay movie I've really enjoyed at all since The Rock. It incorporated some of elements of his other action comedies, but the true story source material and the way Wahlberg and The Rock really heightened the dialogue to the level of satire really just made the whole thing ridiculous and incredible. But I also like that what happened isn't 100% played for laughs and by the end, even as it gets more insane than I expected, you start to just feel how awful the characters feel right along with them, it's not one of those soulless 'dark comedies' where violence is transformed into pure slapstick.

g) Oz the Great and Powerful
It was so awesome when Sam Raimi liberated himself from the Spider-Man franchise and made Drag Me To Hell, and so depressing when he turned around and made this shit that makes me wonder if he could become the next Tim Burton, wasting his talent on big garish reboots of existing properties. There were a few scenes in this that were just great-looking and actually conjured some of the texture of The Wizard of Oz. But that movie is just one of film's great marvels to me, and the idea of doing anything with it with modern CGI just grosses me out. I totally hate watched this, fuck James Franco.

h) Vamps
As a reunion of Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone, this is inevitably anti-climactic. But to call this Clueless with vampires really isn't too far off, and Krysten Ritter makes a great sidekick. It's very goofy and low budget and the story doesn't matter at all, but it gets in some decent laughs.

i) Curious George
This is the theatrical movie that came out years ago, which my son is now a fan of (along with the old Curious George cartoons and books). It's really weird to see a version of Curious George in which Will Ferrell voices The Man In The Yellow Hat, and David Cross and Eugene Levy are there too. It's actually pretty funny, but it just feels vaguely wrong.
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