Best TV Show That I Just Watched

Best TV Show That I Just Watched
Parks & Recreation

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Good Tries- #135-90

Some of these films have a great idea that loses steam by the end. Others  have an awful idea that is helped way more by its cast than it should be. Others can't quite overcome issues with their scripts. These are all films that have more than one or two things to recommend them, but there are usually one or two issues with them as well, so they are not quite disappointments, but they do not work as a whole.

135- Mr. Turner- While this received several well- deserved Oscar nominations for Production Design, Costuming, and Cinematography (and one undeserved nomination for Score)- this film can be summed up like this- I'ma  jerk, nobody really likes me, I'm a jerk, but I' love my father, I'm a jerk, now my father dies, I'm a great painter, but I'm a bigger jerk now, and I keep becoming a bigger jerk with my amazing talent and my dad now being dead, I become the biggest jerk, but I'm a great painter, but I'm a jerk. No connection to the characters , insight into the characters, and no reason to like anyone makes this a total misfire.

134- Annie- Why must this be remade? And why, if it is going to be remade, does it have to be changed so thoroughly and only keep certain songs recognizable? By moving the story into the current day, the film turns itself into a pretzel to try to shoehorn in the basic generic plot. Foxx is actually quite good, as is Wallis, and Byrne radiates joy in her side role, but Diaz is miscast (I sense a trend with Diaz the last few years) and the update just doesn't quite take. Charming in fits and spurts, it could have been much worse, which means it also could have been oh, so much better.

133- That Awkward Moment- Do the filmmakers really know what goes into a relationship? As far as that goes and the ins and outs of the dating scene, there is not an ounce of truth or humor in this film. However, the cast (Miles Teller, Zac Efron, Imogen Poots, Michael B Jordan, Mackenzie Davis) gives it their all and creates a sense of camraderie, friendship, and raucous fun, even if their characters really only do things because the script tells them to and not because it is how any actual human being would act or react.

132-Ouija- Another film where characters do things only because the script tells them to- If you think that your friend was killed by an evil spirit that came from a ouija board, why would you get your friends together and try to contact your dead friend and other spirits with the same board? Idiotic. However, some of the cinematography, lighting, and shots capture some very creepy moments that still linger in my head. I have to give it some credit for the mood that it creates.

131- Labor Day- Over a 3 day weekend, an escaped felon takes a woman and her child hostage and the divorced mother falls in love with the felon. This is based on a book and I have to believe that the book creates a more believeable reason for these characters to fall in love. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin almost make it work, but the central conceit is a little much- especially when a peach pie ties the relationship, and the whole film, together in a very cheesy  and creepy way.

130- Let's Be Cops- Again, the film is stranded by the central conceit. Two guys dress like cops to go to a costume party and then like the feeling of power and authority that it gives them, so they keep dressing in the fake uniforms and going after dangerous criminals. Had this all taken place in one night when they could not get out of the uniforms, were away from their house, etc. this may have worked. But, as the days go by and the threats are worse, the excuses to keep getting back into the uniforms get weaker and weaker until I just did not buy them continuing the charade. Some very funny moments, but the concept wears itself out by the end.

129- Endless Love- A very generic teen romantic drama remake with amazing performances by Bruce Greenwood, Gabrielle Wilde, Joely Richardson, and Robert Patrick. The cast makes the emotion of the story work. I just wish that Alex Pettyfour was not so bland as the "exciting" love interest. This should be much lower on the list, but the cast makes it work much better than they should.

128- Under the Skin- This film is showing up near the top iof many lists, and I understand why. I can see what this film's fans see in it. However, for me, the exact same things that people love in it, is what makes me not feel so great about it. It stars Scarlett Johannsen as an alien who kidnaps men, takes them back to her place where she... does something with them as they sink into an oil slick type pool, never to return. If you want to talk about a mood piece- this is that film. There is not so much plot as there is a feeling and a mood. SJ does a great job at mainly acting with her face and registering the bits of emotion there, but at the end, I just didn't feel anything emotional.

127- Third Person- Paul Haggis wrote and directed this multi character film which stars Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Maria Bello, Mila Kunis, kim Basinger, Adrian Brody, and James Franco. All of the characters are connected in some way and that way is meant to be a surprise. After figuring out the purpose of the film and its characters, all that was left was the acting, which is quite good, but still, not enough to save this 2 1/2 hour long film from needing more than its main concept to drive the film.

126- Ride Along- Ice Cube and Kevin hart made sparks fly onscreen. Their chemistry is the reason this film works at all. Otherwise, everything else about it, is cliched and a pale rip off of scenes from other films- the most notable being a PG-13 version of the Beverly Hills Cop strip club scene where Eddie Murphy threw off the planned robbery. Had there been anything original, this film could have been tons of fun, as it is, it was funny for a one time viewing.

125- Words and Pictures- Gerard Butler, as a literature teacher, bets Juliette Binoche, playing an art teacher, to an intellectual battle at their school as to which is more important- words or pictures. A very intriguing idea is hamstrung by a generic romantic subplot between the teachers, an over-the-top characterization with Butler as an alcoholic and generally not a very nice man- and nothing more to give its audience. Better as a conversation starter than a film.

124- Son of God- a 2 1/2 theatrical version of the telling of the story of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem using footage from the tv miniseries of The Bible. Exquistely produced, but there is nothing new on display. The stories are told in a fine manner, but nothing special. There is no new way of telling any of the stories or bringing in the characters. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, it is also very long with no need to be. It feels every one of its minutes as they tick by.

123-Purge- Anarchy- Frank Grillo gives an intriguing performance as a man on a mission during the one night a year where murder is legal. yet, along the way, he stops to help several other stranded survivors who need his help to make it through the night. It is better than the first Purge and creates a more unified premise, but there is nothing interesting that happens with its characters, other than Grillo as Seargeant.

122- Magic in the Moonlight- I will admit right off the bat, that I am not a fan of Woody Allen films. However, I was hoping that Emma Stone and Colin Firth could help this film along. While they did help it along, the premise of the film again was foreshadowed waaaay too far in advance and there was nothing interesting or intriguing in any of the relationships. And Firth wooing Stone was just a little strange.

121- No Good Deed- This is a fine little thriller for its first 45 minutes but then it runs out of places to go and loses steam. Idris Elba escapes from prison and finds his way to Taraji P Henson's home where she is alone with her 2 kids while her husband is on a trip. A fine rainy day watch that will be everywhere on cable over the weekends in 2 years, but not interesting enough on its own merits to make a concerted effort to watch.

120- Dracula Untold- I thought the first 45 minutes of this film were crap, the middle half hour ok, and the last 25 minutes or so were amazing! But, after all was said and done, I would not recommend this film as a whole. Dracula is a misunderstood warrior who gets powers to help those he loves but the power overtakes him and he becomes the monster we know. Had they left in an entire subplot about who the man in the cave actually was and why he offered the power to Dracula, it may have helped the film immensely, but, as it is, it is just okay.

119-Noah- I have to give it to Aranofsky- he tried. There are some interesting thoughts here- the rock monsters being the right size to help Noah build the ark, the wood coming from the Garden of Eden, the acting is fine and well done, but the film does not hang together as a whole and is not religious enough for those wanting a religious story, but too much so for those wanting a purely "fairy tale" version of the story. Along with some strange survivor's guilt sequences nothing can quite save this film as a whole, but, as it is, an extremely interesting misfire.

118- Think Like a Man Too- This is a generic bachelor/ bachelorette party set in Vegas. Will the bride and groom make it to the altar? Will they find things out about themselves and each other that may put their pairing in jeopardy? Yes, of course. But the cast is winning and game for whatever the script throws at them and, sometimes, in this kind of a movie, that is all you need.

117- Tusk- Kevin Smith's second horror film is about a man who is kidnapped and put into a walrus suit by a crazy man living in the depths of Canadian wilderness where no one can hear him scream. Michael parks and Justin Long are great as the main duo as are Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez as Long's partner and girlfriend. Johnny Depp is also good in his role, but the scenes with Depp go on far too long and are the most unfocused of the film. The concept of the walrus "suit" is also never fully made clear (to give away more would be to spoil it), so the ending does not hit as hard as it might have otherwise. I liked this film for all of its faults, but for others, it may end up on a worst list.

116-  Giver- The book is amazing and, in the book, they are able to disguise certain things which will become major plot points without any difficulty. However, in turning this book to a movie, things which are hidden on the page become immediately obvious as soon as we are shown the world, and other things which seem to work on the page, once made literal, just seem stupid. I still love the book, and the film is amazingly well produced and acted with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in commanding roles, even Taylor Swift is good in a very small, but hugely important role, but this is one book that just should have stayed on the page.

 115-Interview- This is the film that freaked out North Korea? Really? I love the fact that Seth Rogen and Adam Greenberg do not hold back on their comedy. I love that they take insane plots and make them even crazier. No one can say that these guys do not get to put what they want up on the screen. However, for me, their films are all very hit-or-miss with the misses overwhelming the hits. But, when it hits, it hits hard- such as the scene with the tiger. But, when it misses, it zooms by and keeps going. I give it a higher rating than I might simply for the chutzpah that these guys have to make the films they want. In Hollywood, that counts for a lot.

114-Hundred Foot Journey- I am going to be killed for this one almost as much as I am for the ranking of The Hobbit, but I stand by it. This film about an Indian family that opens up an Indian restaraunt across the street from a famed French restaurant in a small town in France has nothing behind it. The old woman (Helen Mirren) who runs the French eatery does not initially get along with the Indian family, but she finds that the son is a great chef in his own right and she takes it upon herself to teach him the French ways of cooking. This is the most amiable film of the year- however, it tries so hard to not be anything more or less than amiable that it gets stuck in one storytelling gear of which it can't escape. The food looks amazing (be ready to eat after watching this film) but I felt nothing for any of the characters or any interest in how it got to where it was going to end, so, therefore, its lower ranking on the list.

113-Unbroken- The story that this tells is amazing. But it only tells half of the story. And it focuses on the torture. This is the true story of an Olympic gold medal runner who goes to WWII, is shot down over the Pacific, survives 47 days in a raft, is then taken to a Japanese POW camp and endures much torture before the end of the war. As far as the movie goes (excepting a paragraph before the end credits- that's the story. It doesn't tell of the toll these events took on him when he got home and how he eventually healed and actually forgave his captors and turned his life around after being ina  massive state of PTSD for many years. So, he survives the torture and apparently Jolie, the director, thinks that the survival is the story. Unfortunately, the film feels more like torture porn than an uplifting story about survival and forgiveness. The movie looks good and is technically well-made but, like most of Jolie's projects, it is all about the suffering and not the hope.

112-Pyramid- This is a found footage horror film about a group of archeologists who find a special pyramid buried in the sand and, in a rush to go inside before they get thrown out of the country during a civil war, they go in and meet up with a still alive and roaming Anubis and his evil meat-seeking jackals. This is actually well-paced with some decent scares, but the darkness and the found footage  tend to make this way too dark of a film, especially near the end, and the effects are not very convincing. Fine performances from Denis O'Hare and Ashley hinshaw, though, who give this movie more than they probably should.

111- Good Lie- This tells the story of a group of young adults from Sudan who get seperated from their family and friends when they get a chance to relocate to the US. While nowhere near as manipulative as it could have been, it still hammers you over the head with its message and there are a few too many "fish out of water" sequences where we laugh at, not with, the misplaced youths. The actors all do their jobs well, especially the Sudanese who are actually either from the area or 1st generation US Citizens, along with Reese Witherspoon and Corey Stoll.

110- Get On Up- The story of James Brown, the hardest working man in show business- and the title could also go for Chadwick Boseman, who plays Brown and who also did a great job as Jackie Robinson last year. Boseman gives an amazing performance as Brown and it is sometimes like you are watching the Godfather of Soul himself. However, the estate would not let Boseman sing, so the actual tracks of Brown are used and the lip syncing is obvious. The story is all over the place and told in such random snippets that, had I not known much about Brown, I may have been lost wondering what happened and when. I would still highly recommend this for Boseman's performance alone, but just be ready for the mess that surrounds him.

109- Blended- The first half hour of this Adam Sandler/ Drew Barrymore film is boring and very unfunny and stretches the audience's patience very thin. By the time the duo and their families reach Africa (which I am not sure where they filmed since we rarely see the actors actually interacting with any scenery) and start working on becoming a "blended" family in the vein of The Bradys, there are some good laughs and some nice heart warming moments, but then the end bogs down again and gets to become tiresome- especially since we all know where this is going. Is it worth seeing? Depends on your level of enjoyment of Sandler and Barrymore- I say yes, but just barely.

108-Saints & Soldiers- The Void- This has the same issues as the other Saints and Soldiers films- it is a little too on-the-nose with its dialogue, a little too obvious with its plotting, and there is almost no suspense, however, the sincerity of the filmmakers comes through and the entire film works because of it. Do not expect great cinema, as I believe the first one was a triumph of low-budget filmmaking, and go for the emotions and you will be satisfied.

107- Best of Me- This Nicholas Sparks movie almost makes it based on the cast alone. Almost. Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden come back to the small town they grew up in for the funeral of a common friend who brought them together originally and rekindle their teenage romance, even though she is married. The casting and chemistry is good and Liane Librato, as the young Monaghan is electric and Gerald McRaney as the common friend is very good as well. But, the movie starts to fall apart the further it goes along (she is upset that her husband has a major drinking problem and she no longer does- please pass the wine in almost every sequence, thank you) and the actual ending is so bad it almost turns the bend and becomes a riot, but as it is, it is just one of the worst endings ever- which is also telegraphed from a mile away. Cast is Fantatic but otherwise, it stumbles severely along the way.

106- If I Stay-  Chloe Grace Moretz proves that she can almost carry a film by herself even with a ludicrous premise, but she can't quite do all the heavy lifting herself and it crumbles underneath her. She plays a senior in high school who has everything going for her until her family gets in a crash and everyone dies except for her, and she is in a coma, and now must decide whether to die and be with her family or live and become an accomplished cellist with a great shot at prestigious college ahead of her and a boyfriend too good to be true. Hmmm- I wonder what she will choose. Moretz is great, as is Mirielle Enos and Joshua Leonard as her parents, but the film never gives us enough reason to truly believe that she may choose death.

105- Life of Crime-  In a low budget film that has a story that is a prequel to Jackie Brown, but with a younger cast, this kidnnapping heist comedy is very reminiscent of Ruthless people (a woman is kidnapped and her husband wants her out of his life anyway so he refuses to pay the ransom. Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, isla Fishcer, Yasmin bey, John hawkes all do their darndest and the story is never boring and amusing at least, but the pace is never quite right for this film to work fully.

104-Homesman- For the first 3/4s of the film, this is a very good western, but then the story takes a  weird turn and it never fully recovers. Hilary Swank plays a pioneer woman who accepts the responsibility of taking 3 "crazy" women back east so that a local pastor can contact their families and get them the help they need. She meets up with Tommy Lee Jones (who also directed) as a scoundrel who agrees to help her in exchange for his life. Again, very well done, but after the story turn, I could never quite get back on its wavelength again.

103- Trials of Cate McCall- I saw this because I will watch Kate Beckinsale in anything and she, and the rest of the cast, including Nick Nolte, was very good, but the script really could not have felt more forced. She is a recovering alcoholic lawyer who is trying to get readmitted to the bar and recover custody of her daughter. She takes on the appeal of a woman who says that she is wrongfully convicted of murder. The melodrama in this film is almost smothering and it feels like the writer felt like she had to pile as much into this woman's life as possible, and it almost became laughable by the end, especially when, with that much happening, there is not enough time spent fleshing out all of the important character threads.

102- Grand Budapest Hotel- This is a Wes Anderson film in which he is screaming "Look at me! Look at me! Look how quirky I am just to be quirky? Ain't I a little devil?" This film is a flashback set in a flashback set in a flashback. Each one has its own theatrical aspect ratio. It randomly switches into stop motion animation. It wants us to feel for the characters, at least a little, yet laugh at them and with them, yet doesn't make any of them really appealing, in my opinion. While the film looks great and the costumes and sets are immaculate, I ended up only laughing a couple of times but not getting into the story at all.

101-Sabotage- Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the leader of an elite DEA team who, after a major bust and millions of dollars goes missing, each starts dying in random ways. Did the team take the money? Is one of their on targeting them? If not, then who and why? Arnold does a great job of playing a not so good guy wjho may have overstepped the boundaries. The film is very dark and gritty and I liked the resolution and the acting. However, it can be felt that there was about a half hour too much trimmed in the editing stage as there are leaps in time and logic and characters that come and go for large sections of the film- telltale marks of a studio taking over the film. I would be willing to hazard a guess and say that if I could see a director's cut, this would be up much higher on the list, but as it is, it sits at number 101.

100- Million Ways to Die in the West- When it is funny, this film is very funny. When it gets to be too crude or when it ambles along in 'genial' territory instead of 'funny', it becomes very lugubrious and needing time cut out. I must admit that I liked this film except for its excesses. I have not liked Charlize Theron this much in a film since Italian Job and Liam Neeson has just the right amount of goofy gravitas in his role, but the film just ambles more than it speeds along, and the pacing kills it.

99-Judge-  Robert Downey Jr goes home after his mom dies and discovers that, on the night after the funeral, his father, a small town judge, may have struck and killed a man who, after he was given a lenient sentence, killed a woman. Was Duvall trying to exact justice? Did Downey Jr make out with a woman who could be his daughter? What mental illness does the brother have that everyone has to keep giving him expository dialogue? How do the home movies really come into the story? (hint- they don't).Duvall, Downey, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dax Shepard, Vera Farmiga are all good in a film that really goes nowhere, bites off a lot more than it can chew, and strives for a bittersweet ending that it hasnt earned. The actors are always worth a watch, but this film is another 2 1/2 hour glacial mess.

98-Jersey Boys- The Broadway play has a pacing that can't be topped. Clint eastwood's first film of 2014 can't top the pacing, makes it a little boring to finally get to the creation of the Four Seasons, cuts many of the songs that helps move the story and plot along in exchange for dialogue sequences. This makes an amazing play into something not bad, necessarily, but lackluster, to say the least.

97- Night at the Museum 3- While the "secret of the tomb" is not much of a secret and the issue is resolved quickly and easily, this is more about visiting some old friends for the (supposedly) last time and enjoying hanging out with them- and for 2 cast members in particular, it will be their last times on the screen. Mickey Rooney has a very small cameo and Robin Williams, as in the other 2, plays Teddy Roosevelt. A nice send off for Williams, a hilarious cameo near the end of the film (with theme music and everything) make this an enjoyable time waster.

96- Bears- Great cinematography and a fun narration by John C Reilly are really the only things to recommend this DisneyNature film. The "story" is not as fascinating as some other documentaries and that makes this 90 minute film feel much longer.

95- Mockingjay Part 1- Although I am ranking this, in my mind I can't really judge this film fully as it is literally, one part of what may be a great film. The ending is not so much an ending as a stopping of the film, a good screenwriter could have easily trimmed this down to about 45 minutes to an hour and there is no reason to drag this story into 2 films. But, what is here is good, it just is not all here.

94- Divergent- Shailene Woodley is great in the role of Tris, but the allegory is a little too thick and the story really makes no sense (you are born into a faction, can choose to go to another faction, unless you're divergent, in which case you have to hide), and the finale seems like a forced climax to the story. The ending is not an ending as much as a franchise builder, but the first hour and a half of this film is very entertaining. It is too bad the film gets weaker as it goes along.

93- Fury-While this is a very well-made World War 2 film following a tank crew. I felt it was too long, and followed too many other war cliches story-wise. The battle scenes are engrossing, but, unfortunately the actors can't rise above the 'been there done that' script.

92- Dolphin Tale 2- I understand what they were trying to do- tell the continuing true story of Winter while also talking about the truths behind the scenes of the actual aquarium and how hard it is to truly care for the animals- especially when you care for the animals. The young leads acquit themselves the best, other than the animals, of course, but the top-line names of Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman feel shoehorned in, and Harry Connick, Jr is given a role that would be tough for many to pull off. The actual scenes of the animals are fantastic and the highlight, but, unfortunately the behind the scenes of the aquarium just don't translate into interesting screen time. It might have been the script or the direction, or both, but it didn't work anywhere near as well as the original.

91- Monuments Men- A fascinating true-life story that doesn't work as a whole the way it should and it also suffers from wildly different tones that don't mesh well together. It tries to be a serious war film, with a lot of comedic scenes, and drama, and action! But MASH, this ain't. It also hurts it that the cast is really only together a few times and then they are separated into different "missions". That may be how it was in real life but in this film, it just doesn't quite get over these 2 major issues. The actors all do their jobs, but, again, it might have been the script or the direction, but for some reason, this just didn't land like it should have given this amazing story!

90- Amazing Spider Man 2- I still absolutely love the chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. I think Sally Field as Aunt May is perfect. I think Andrew Garfield is a really great Peter Parker. Hearing this film in Dolby Atmos was fantastic! The concept of Electro being mad at Spider Man for not remembering him is a little too off for a major villain to me. Bringing in green Goblin at the end to be the catalyst to kill Gwen Stacy was one villain too many, although, if they wanted to bring him in for the final scene for Peter to get his mojo back, I could have been okay with that. But bringing in Paul Giamatti as Rhino was one villain too many (maybe even 2) and it was waaaaay too long and set up too many disparate plot threads that would have needed 5 or 6 more films to sort out or 1 amazingly awful, hastily written one. There was so much good here that just didn't quite come together. It is too bad we will never see what could have been and if they could have gotten it correct the 3rd time.

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