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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Quick Take 2: The last 10 movies I've watched

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 1:34 PM

We’ve been on a movie watching terror lately, and have hit a really solid patch in our Netflix queue. (For non-Netflix subscribers, you won’t know that lulls and sadness that comes when you forget to update your queue for a while and then you get movie after movie, day after day or these old, B-rate titles. Sure, when you tossed them into your queue, you were thinking, “Oh, I’ll never get to this. I’ll just add this in there and keep putting better movies on top of it.” But then sooner or later comes that inevitable week when you have gone weeks without updating your queue, and then you have hit deep, DEEP into your queue, those clunker titles having slowly clawed their way to the top, biding their time for months, and you go to your mail box to find Cairo Time, The Chosen One, When in Rome and The Last Airbender all one right after the other. Brutal!)


So, we hit that mother lode, deep-vein gold pocket of richness in our Netflix queue lately and there have been some mostly great movies that have found their way into our mailbox and subsequently our Kaleidescape system that I thought I’d run down for your reading pleasure. Here’s a quick review of the past 10 films we’ve watched, listed in most recent (Monday afternoon) to oldest. (Some mild spoilers inside each review, so skip the ones you don’t feel like having spoiled...)


Tangled - Lauryn has been dying – DYING – to see this movie. From the time she saw the first commercial she has been tossing her hair around and saying how long it was and that she was Rapunzel and that Rapunzel is her favorite princess, etc. We had a false start back in Alabama a few weeks ago where we went to the theater to see it but it was closed due to massive snows. So, I was off Monday and thought I would surprise Lauryn by taking her to the movies, just the two of us. “Kid’s” movies are definitely not just for kids anymore, and I am a big fan of Disney films. And John Lasseter – Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer – was involved (as he was with Bolt, another Disney winner) so I was hoping for good things. It was entertaining, and the voice talent was good (Mandy Moore did a really great job) and Flynn Rider was funny. And they managed to flesh out an interesting story from what didn’t seem like a lot of material to work with. No real standout songs, which is kind of a bummer in a movie that has a decent amount of stop and break into song moments. Definitely nothing as good as the songs from Enchanted. But still entertaining, and made way better when you’re sitting next to your own princess. Plus, a new trailer for Cars 2 that I’m hoping will be great. Best line from the trailer: “I’m Finn McMissile. British Intelligence.” “Well I’m Toe Mater. Average Intelligence.” You had me at Pixar!  7.5 out of 10.


The Losers -This is a classic, B-movie, evil CIA plot that needs to be overturned by some ex-military mercs wrongfully accused and disavowed and left for dead by their country. It is based on a comic book and designed to have a comic feel. In fact about 10 minutes into the movie Dana said, “Wait? Is this the movie? I thought we were still watching a preview.” It has that kind of jumpy, quick-edit cut feel. Some decent action and no giant “Oh, come ON!” moments of total unbelievability. (I don’t think that’s a word. Unbelievableness? No? Well, you get the point.) This is kind of like A-Team on a way lower budget with no real name stars. 7 out of 10.


The 39 Steps – This was a 2008 BBC made for TV movie that one of Dana’s friends said she would enjoy. And then Dana pulled the old, “You always make me watch your movies!” card on me And then I was like, “Oh, no! This disc is from the BBC. I think it might Region 2! I don’t think it will play!” To which Dana quickly countered,  “How can our $20,000 Kaleidescape not play a movie that their $100 DVD will? Hmmm?” Damn! So I had to walk the steps. All 39 of them. Now, it wasn’t bad, but when I’m watching a British movie I’m looking for one of two things: 1) James Bond. 2) Keira Knightley. And this movie was decidedly lacking in both departments. But Dana liked the decidedly British-ly named Rupert Penry-Jones and while I never need to watch it again, it wasn’t too awful. Though a totally unbelievable ending – she drowned! Wait! No, she somehow secretly survived! Guess they managed to bury a Draeger rebreather under the water where she jumped in so she could swim away without leaving any bubbles in the totally still like 4-feet of water. And, rubbing mustard on each other’s wounds? That’s what the British take for WWI era sexy? Bly me! 6.5 out of 10


Inception - I had been waiting a long, LONG time to see this. (Thanks stupid 30 day exclusive rental window!) Everything that I heard was how great it was and I’m becoming quite a Chris Nolan fan. I really liked Memento and loved the new Batman films. And I totally respect how Nolan isn’t afraid to make a deep and complicated and cerebral movie and not feel like he has to spoon feed an explanation to the audience. We had 5 other people over to watch it, and I have to say, it totally lived up to the hype. Going into the dream world, and then creating dreams within dreams, and changing the outcome of things, and the way that time continued to grow exponentially each level down… Deep and trippy and really interesting to watch. (I’ll be honest; there might have been a few moments at the beginning where I thought that the character played by Ken Watanabe was actually Iron Chef Morimoto...) Great cast where every character seemed to add something to their role and really gave great, believable performances. Also, this movie has some of the most explosive, low-frequency response I think I have EVER heard from a movie. Huge – HUGE!! – deep base from explosions and sonic tremors and just audio effects. Several scenes sounded like they were playing 10 – 30 Hz sine wave sweep tones where all you could hear was my Trinity sub just flexing every wall and window and chest cavity in the home. Great audio demo material here! Also the effects were so cool that after the movie you sat there discussing, “How’d they do that?” In a world where everything looks and feels so CG now, Inception felt analog and real. Plus, classic Nolan ending... Was he or wasn’t he...? Terrific! 9.5 out of 10.


Tron: Legacy – This was the first of two movies I saw at the commercial theater in like a 36 hour window. Unprecedented. Also, this was in 3D. If you haven’t read my post on my feelings about Tron in 3D, you can see that post here. So, taking away the 3D part of the movie, this film had some great visual effects and was mostly entertaining. I loved the light cycles and the disc fights. It took the best part of the original movies, and amped them up to the next level, much how the new Star Wars Trilogy handled lightsaber fighting. But there were a ton of holes in the movie that just didn’t add up. Tron suddenly changes allegiance at the very end for no apparent reason? Those Isomorphic Algorithms (ISOs) just appeared, then were all slaughtered off for...what? This seemed like a really important part of the movie that was just kind of glossed over. And Jeff Bridges said that time in the Grid was totally different than time outside; like a second in Tron world was hours on the outside. If so, why did he age so much? He should have only been in for like 4-5 months time if that was the case. Why was Olivia Wilde's character able to come out of the Grid to the human world? Why did that bartender guy have to be SO over-the-top flaming homo-gay? Why did those enemy Light Jets not fire until like way into the battle? Why was Jeff Bridges channeling the Dude for this role? All that “Hey, dude” and “Hey, man” just wore on me. Like the 3D glasses. Visually entertaining, but kind of a check your brain at the door and then don’t think too deeply about it when you’re done film. 7 out of 10.


Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – I’m not a big Shia Labeouf fan. I know, I know, he’s been in some massive films, but there is just something about him that chaps my craw. Maybe it’s his hair. But, I thought he did a really good job here, really dialing back the Labeouf part that seems to grate on me. Who I DO like is Carey Mulligan. Again, maybe it’s the hair. She was amazing in “An Education” (OK...another British film that wasn’t Bond of Knightley, but this was *really* good) and suitably handled the Kitty Bennett character in “Pride and Prejudice.” (Though, let’s be honest; that was a Keira Knightley movie. So, I can only rely on IMDB to confirm that there were actually other people in that movie.) This movie really deftly handled the job of bringing the Gordon Gekko character into the 21st economic century, and seemed incredibly current with the financial times. Giant $100 million bonuses, disintegrating mortgages, corporate failures and suicides, it had it all and delivered it in a fast-paced, slick, Oliver Stone style. (Honestly though, I would have liked to see Michael Mann do this film. I think it would have had a cooler edge to it.) What was kind of distracting…the David Byrne soundtrack. I love David Byrne – HUGE Talking Heads fan – but when EVERY song in the film is by Byrne, you start to notice it and it pulls you out of the film and starts to make you consciously aware of the music. Plus a nice throwback cameo by Charlie “I said pay me in heroin!” Sheen as Bud Fox for those of us who saw – and remember – the original film. 8 out of 10.


Salt - As I don’t like the Labeouf, I also don’t like the Jolie. Really, I don’t think she’s that pretty. Maybe it’s all the adopting and the pouting. Whatever. But, sorry, Angie, no Sciacca for you. You’ll just have to slum along with Brad Pitt. This movie is an obvious knock-off/twist on the Bourne films, with a lead that was written for a man, but re-written specifically for Jolie. Jolie is a sleeper – or isn’t she? – agent for the Russians suddenly activated to kick off a major government overthrow. Some really tense action and fight scenes and Jolie is believable as a spy on the run. Though there are only so many moving trucks and flying helicopters you can leap onto or out of going freeway speeds before you just think, “She’s dead. Like three times ago, she’s dead. OK, brain. Just sit back and enjoy the ride...” My biggest was with someone being a sleeper agent with absolutely NO contact with their handler for like 35 years suddenly deciding to instantly throw their entire lives away. “Look, I know we made a deal, but that was 35 years ago when I was like 5. Seriously, I’m not even sure you can enter into a binding legal agreement in still-Communist Russia at age 5. Plus, a lot has changed. The Russia I made this ‘deal’ with doesn’t even exist anymore. Plus, you guys are seriously behind on my monthly stipend. I’ve gone to school, got my papers and now I’ve got a great job. I have a family and a house and a DVR. My 401k is really bouncing back. I’m taking some cooking classes down at the Learning Annex and the new season of Survivor is getting ready to start. And now you want me to throw ALL of that away so I can go back and live…in Russia? Really? OK. Sure.” Also, I wasn’t at all surprised by the bump-bump-bum! reveal that Liev Schrieber was the bad guy, but I did like the whole secret President’s room under the White House. I’m a sucker for that. 8 out of 10.


The Other Guys - Take all of my dislike for Jolie and Labeouf, crush it together into a small cube, then reverse it a million percent and rehydrate it with awesomeness and that is how much I like Will Ferrell. He’s hilarious and when his brand of funny is really clicking, it’s great. Terrific opening scene with The Rock and Samuel Jackson. And Walburg does a great job playing off Ferrell’s straight man. Best – BEST!! – scene in the movie was the Tuna vs Lion speech. “The sound of your piss hitting the urinal; it sounds feminine.” If you haven’t seen this scene, well you need to watch it. Even if you HAVE seen it, enjoy an encore presentation on me. So funny. "OK. First off...a lion? Swimming in the ocean?" Will's logic is SO great. I'm watching it again right now! "Lion tastes good!" Plus Will Ferrell being the pimp, Gator. “No, it was a dating service. I just had this group of girls that I helped out. Arranging their schedule and handling their money and making sure they were safe.” “You were a pimp. And that was your stable!” High-larious! 9 out of 10.

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The A-Team - Check your suspension of disbelief at the door. This movie will try the bounds of your “Oh, come on!” gauge however high you think you have it set. But, if you can get past the fact that tanks can fall out of the sky without a parachute, redirect their flight with nothing but cannon fire, and then smash into the water at hundreds of miles per hour and drive away without everyone inside being turned into flesh-jelly, then you’ll be fine. The casting does a great job of recreating the ‘80s TV show, except for the Murdock character which I thought wasn’t a great fit. All the cliché lines, big explosions, giant story scope, and plenty of room for sequels. Grab your popcorn, jack up the sound and just let the Hollywood summertime wash over you in $100 million dollar bliss. 8 out of 10.


Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief  - We had this movie for a long, long time. Over three months. It was one of those that I just couldn’t get Dana to watch. (Though, we’ve had “I’ve Love You So Long” for coming up on SEVEN MONTHS!!! So, seriously, I need to get on the frickin’ ball and watch that thing. I could have probably bought it like 10 times over. No more screwin’ around...time for this movie to watch or get off the pot!) Finally, we were down to Percy or So Long and she acquiesced to watch with the disclaimer that there was a good chance she’s go to sleep. It was actually pretty good. I really like Greek Mythology and this served it up in a new and interesting way, weaving in old themes with modern flair. And usually when it is a teen-adventure film it can get a little, you know, but this didn’t. Though seeing Pierce Brosnan as a half-man half-horse Centaur? Not cool. Also, I like Catherine Keener, but it was like, “Well, your mom is dead. Bummer. Sorry! Well, time to move on!” Also, the whole stealing of Zeus’ Bolt wasn’t really fleshed out; how did it happen, Luke’s motivation seemed meh... I’m sure the book did a better job of handling/explaining this. Yeah, I know, this ain’t no Citizen Kane. Liked it way more than I thought I would, and would definitely watch any sequels to the Percy Jackson series. 7.5 out of 10.


Seen anything good yourself lately? Let me know what I’m missing or how your reviews of the above 10 would differ from my own. The comments box is there 24 hours a day; always open and ready to receive your pearls of wit and wisdom...

Categories: February 2011, Movies, Reviews

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1 Comment

Reply John Batten Jr
11:04 PM on July 8, 2011 
the other guys had a weak ending but the first hour was great.