A great man once said “You know what your problem is? It’s that you haven’t seen enough movies.” That man was either William Henry Harrison or Steve Martin. I get them confused sometimes, but I’m pretty sure it was whichever one didn’t defeat Tecumseh and his Shawnee warriors at the Battle of Tippecanoe (November 7th, 1811) while serving as Governor of the Indiana Territory. Either way, he was right. That is definitely your problem. Or at least one of them, because you have lots of problems. You loser.
Lucky for me, I don’t have as many problems as you. Plenty, but not as many. Mainly because I’ve seen a lot of movies. In fact, I’ve seen three in the ol’ thee-ate-er in just the last week. They were varied and interesting and ever so enjoyable. And I bet you’d just love to know which movies they were and my thoughts on them, wouldn’t you? Maybe write some humorous summaries, have some absurd photo captions, and top each review off with a wacky numerical score like in another awesome article I did? Well too fucking bad!
Nah, just kidding. Here we go, loser!
Gravity – Sandra Bullock versus outer space! With a supporting role played by the humorous Twitter ire of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Taking a break from her day job of adopting large black men who end up being awesome at football, our heroine is orbiting the Earth while repairing a vague device that is used in hospitals but apparently is now being used in space(?). The Russians fuck some stuff up because of course and then death happens to some other folks. Now cut off from mission control (voiced by John Glenn or possibly Ed Harris), Sandra and Danny Ocean have to find a way to get home without a spacecraft.
I doubt there’s gonna be much I have to say about this flick that most people don’t already know. It’s been a heck of a hit and deservedly so. It’s pretty nail-biting and other clichéd terms for tension-based thrillers as well. The minimal script is spot on and the effects are great. Clooney plays Clooney as Clooney because that’s what he does and Bullock, who conveys about 80% of the drama in this film in her face alone, is as great as expected.
My only criticism is the same that a lot of people seem to have about this film: the occasional heavy-handed imagery. Supremely heavy-handed. Like, Hellboy’s gigantic stone fist level of heavy-handed. Director Alfonso Cuaron is a great visual director and for most of this film it works beautifully, but the moments where he really throws the brick of symbolism through the window of subtlety were kind of jarring for me. Maybe it’s just because I’m a film nerd (not to be confused with a film douche), but it really took me out of the otherwise engrossing story when I was able to go “Oh, look, she’s in the fetal position in space. Rebirth. Yep. Got it. Move along, Alfonso.”
Overall, however, those moments are few and far between and I wasn’t too hung-up on them in the end. It’s a compelling film that, most interestingly, shows how movies based strongly on major special effects can still be strong stories. Looking at you, Michael Bay.
- Sandra Bullock: +6
- George Clooney: +4
- Effects: +5
- Sandra’s Character’s Backstory: A bit hackneyed.
- Vodka in space?: Nazdrovia, kasmonavt!
- IT’S ABOUT METAPHORICAL REBIRTH! DO YOU GET IT?: -2
Final Score: 13
Ender’s Game – Yes, I did end up seeing this, despite my earlier reservations based on author Orson Scott Card’s unending dickface-ishness. My justification for doing so comes straight from Harrison “Reprising Another One of My Iconic Roles in 2015 And Hopefully it Goes Better Than the Last Indiana Jones Film” Ford, who said of Card, “I am aware of his statements admitting that the question of gay marriage is a battle that he lost and he admits that he lost it. I think we all know that we’ve all won. That humanity has won. And I think that’s the end of the story.” Ford plays a military officer bent on doing anything for humanity to win in the film, so, you know, suck that shit, Orson.
The film follows the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a young future-boy destined to save humanity from outer space ants that want to steal our water. Or possibly future-water. Along the way he confronts friends and enemies, the emotional toll of war, and the moral implications of killing to save the lives of others. Plus Ben Kingsley had some crazy Maori face tats and there was a huge black sergeant yelling a lot and giving me flashbacks of OCS. Want more details? Read the book, you bumpkin. It’s quite good, even if you have to use your imagination to picture the young children beating the shit out of each other.
As for the film, it’s good. Not great, not mind-blowing, not spectacular, but good. Few things make me roll my eyes as hard as people who lament that “the book was way better.” No shit, dingus. There is never a way to encompass all the subtext and depth you can fit in a novel into a two-hour movie, so why the fuck are people still complaining? Let it go. This movie, in particular, is a faithfully abridged version of the original story. The young actors are all strong in their roles with the disappointing exception of the usually superb Abigail Breslin. She plays the extremely vital character of Ender’s sister Valentine in several pivotal scenes and comes across as meh.
The central adult actors are all great too, which, with Viola Davis and the aforementioned Ford and Kingsley being the main three, comes as no surprise. All the other aspects of the film are solid and enjoyable, so it’s hard for me to real pinpoint why the film didn’t wow me. As a fan of the book I was happy that it was a well done film, but didn’t feel as blown away as I’d hoped I would seeing this great sci-fi story put on film. It was like taking off a woman’s push-up bra and seeing a pair of nice B-cups. They’re still super hot and very nicely shaped, but you were expecting D’s.
In conclusion, this is a fine adaptation and a good flick. I look forward to the next film adaptation of a book I love, partially because it will feature Thor and the version of Abraham Lincoln who hunted vampires being forced to eat their friends. Wacky stuff. Oh, and fuck you, Orson Scott Card!
- Manipulative Adults: +6
- Reluctantly Murderous Children: +7
- Push-Up Bras: Are Sweet, Sweet Lies
- Faithfulness to Book: +4
- Barely Noticeable Forced Drone Warfare Allegory: -2
- You having a flashback on me, you bitch-ass Candidate?: No, Gunnery Sergeant!
Final Score: 14 (-1 because fuck you, Orson Scott Card)
12 Years a Slave – After turning against the Alliance and helping rebuild Serenity, The Operative is sent back in time to 1841 Saratoga, NY and eventually kidnapped by scumbags who sell him into slavery. From there a bunch of super depressing but predictable stuff happens, as well as a bunch more equally depressing but somewhat less predictable stuff. White people are portrayed in ascending levels of pure fucking awfulness from the kind-hearted Brad Pitt (playing Aldo Raine’s Canadian abolitionist grandfather, judging by his shitty accent) up to Michael Fassbender as an almost cartoonishly despicable psychopathic slave owner. Splitting the difference is Benedict Carrotbunch (or whatever). Oh, and Paul Giamatti is in there somewhere.
So yeah, this film is absolutely fantastic, as I’m sure anybody who’s heard anything about it is aware. The Oscar buzz a-buzzing around Chiwetel Ejiofor is well deserved because he is absolutely incredible. The rest of the cast is fantastic behind him, in particular the performances of Lupita Nyong’o as the conflicted favorite slave/lover of Fassbender’s character and Sarah “I Was Also in Serenity” Paulson as that same character’s vicious and vengeful wife. The head-on approach to the most despicable part of America’s history is done with a brutal honesty without relying solely on the physical brutality. Yes, there are the scenes of whippings, beatings, and death, but the point is never the gore itself (take note, George R. R. Martin), and much of it actually takes place off-camera. There is more horror in Ejiofor’s eyes than in the violence itself.
The script is downright poetic, maybe more so than realistic at times, but the strength of the characters and the earnest emotion with which the lines are delivered makes it feel just right. One of the most unexpectedly chilling parts for me was when I began to notice the subtle ways Ejiofor’s manner of speaking began to sound less and less elegant the longer he was a slave. Attention to the little personal details like that really drove the overall tragedy of the story in deep. Also, It’s worth noting that such an incredible and painfully accurate film about slavery in America was directed by and mostly starred people from outside the US.
Wherever they came from, they made a great film. Although Brad Pitt was kinda eh in his small but important role. Maybe he gave notes to Abigail Breslin.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor: Is Very Hard to Pronounce (also, +8)
- Script: +5
- Michael Fassbender: Must Have a “Creepy Sex Scene” Clause in All His Contracts
- Emotional Impact: +5
- Brad Pitt’s Hipster Beard: -1
- Michael K. Williams: Should Be in Everything. Ever.
Yes, it’s the end. Why would you even ask, loser?
There are some movies better than the books they were based on. The Godfather, and literally everything Steven King.
Also The Hunger Games.
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