Hey, more movies; I'm moving next week and it was time to start punching through at least some of the discs I just never got around to watching. Day 62 and counting of...whatever this is that you probably don't care about, Blu-Ray Backlog Edition...
Romy & Michele's High School Reunion - I like the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, but getting there is such a fucking chore with this. It's just...eh, it's amateur hour everywhere except the cast. It looks bad, the script is not funny, it feels more like a TV movie than an actual release. Another strong case of "Soundtrack is better than the film".
Chaos Walking - This is something new on Hulu with a bunch of familiar, famous faces. And hey, look, it's a "futuristic action-adventure". Hm, that's odd, because it sure seems like the past - when it comes to women, anyway - was often rapey, grim, and hopeless, and we're currently dealing with a present where those in power would like to make it more rapey, grim, and hopeless, and so what we really need right now is a "futuristic" movie where the future is rapey, grim, and hopeless, right? Barf. Totally leans on its one gimmick to get anywhere, completely stale otherwise.
Pocahontas - Wow. Leave it to Disney to normalize pedophilia. Let's just take that 11-year-old girl from the story and pretend she's a woman and make it OK for her to get romanced by Mel Gibson (excellent casting choice, in retrospect). The story is ridiculous (most of these are, but this is like Secret-of-NIMH level of pulling stupid things out of their asses), the art style is poor, the songs aren't any good, and of course there's really nothing to celebrate about colonizing the New World. Oh, and I feel bad for anyone who went to this high and then saw Grandmother Willow; that's gotta be some Nightmare Fuel.
Moonrise - I can't stand Dane Clark as the protagonist for this movie, but man there is some really interesting stuff here. The director was the first guy to win the Academy Award for directing, and you can see why with some of the scenes: the Ferris Wheel bit is a real highlight, for example. It's mostly the smaller characters who steal the show, though, and make this worth seeing in addition to the direction. Otherwise, this still screams "studio" in a lot of ways, like having the cliche of the old deaf guy, among other things, and yeah, Dane Clark is, uh, not good. But I feel like there's more here that redeems it than condemns it.
Night on Earth - if this had been more consistent, I think it'd go in the Awesome pile. It's well-crafted, but the problem is that the first few stories don't *quite* grab you, and then Roberto Benigni completely takes over the movie with the "Rome" section, and everything else just feels so lifeless in comparison to that segment that it's hard to feel like the other sections work. Each of the other 4 feel like the beginning or end of a separate movie that Jarmusch couldn't quite decide how to make into a full feature on its own, so he just went with this structure instead. The Rome section, on the other hand, would have made an incredible short film except for the baffling ending. Winona Ryder is pretty great in this, and I'd never seen Gena Rowlands in anything before, but it seems like Joan Allen has been doing the same act as her for years.
The Age of Adaline - Ugh, goddamn narration. This would still be fairly maudlin and sappy at times even without the narration, but it would still also be *better* without the narration. So little of what gets said there helps understand anything in the film at all, and yet, here we are, another dumb voice telling us shit that we could figure out by watching, because that's what a motion PICTURE is for... anyway. Blake Lively has certainly come a long way since the Green Lantern days, and she does a pretty decent job with this. I usually like Michael Huisman, but he's probably the least compelling part of the whole movie. Even Harrison Ford, he of the 5 Facial Expressions of Doom, is better. This had to be one of Ellen Burstyn's last roles, too, if not her last, and she's just great in it. It's also weird this came out the same year as 45 Years, and this very very very briefly mines the same territory as that film, though obviously not very well. But hey, not terrible.
Luca - This got me in the feels once or twice by the end, but it takes a long while in setting up effectively. The real turn of the movie is once Luca starts making some choices for himself; after that, it goes from so-so Disney fare to actually bringing the goods on some stuff. It's pretty honest and believable about how fragile friendships are at that age, and how little it takes to hurt the people you care about. The one-armed dad is kind of the best part of the movie, though, which is weird. But hey, at least it wasn't yet another fucking animal stealing the show like every other Disney movie ever. Wouldn't watch it again, but it wasn't a waste of time, either.
Eyes Without a Face - This is not a movie I love. Christianne's character doesn't make a lot of sense to me, mostly from the perspective of when she does - or doesn't - go along with the mad plans of her father. From that standpoint, she's as much a victimizer as a victim for much of the film, and so there's very little catharsis in the ending (or, at least her part). But this is a movie I respect. There is some massively creepy shit here, and it's so well-executed, from the surgery bits, to the montage of rotting faces, to the totally chilling performance by Pierre Brasseur and the equally otherworldly presence of Edith Scob, who embody both ends of a somewhat ridiculous premise and make it terrifying. Someone really should have pulled Almodovar aside and told him to pull his head out of his ass rather than try to reimagine this.
First Man - Maybe I'm just a rube for Damien Chazelle. I think I like this better than La La Land, though not by a lot. Ryan Gosling is pretty great in this; it's almost the polar opposite of his Blade Runner 2049 role, and he pulls this off at least as well, if not better. This will probably remind you of a few other space movies, but the film I found it drew from the most was The Tree of Life, as the portrayal of Neil Armstrong is very much like that of Father in Malick's movie. It's weird, too, that Chazelle's first two movies leaned so heavily on music and yet this has so little, but does it ever have sound: there's no shortage of tension from hearing the early NASA vehicles nearly rattle themselves to pieces on each and every launch or re-entry, both big and small. Claire Foy is also pretty great in this. Probably could have made the very bottom end of my 2010s list had I seen it in time.
Three Outlaw Samurai - I really didn't care for the first 20 or so minutes of this, as it felt like a straight rip-off of Yojimbo with 60s Japan's answer to David Duchovny starring in it, but give it time, because does it ever turn in on itself hard. I feel like the attempted romance/secret bit involving Sakura and the widow is a bit forced and not handled well, but the rest of this is just...whew. It's grim and bitter and cold and unjust, and it just gets bloodier and bloodier. Initially I thought you could almost draw a through line from Kurosawa to something like Lady Snowblood with a movie like this, but even this is harder-edged than Lady Snowblood, which at least tries to be mythical and grandiose in its vision. This is just gritty and uncompromising about how little choices matter in the face of societal apathy and cowardice, and how the only sense of honor that matters is the one you hold for yourself. Pretty fucking great.
Winner Winner, Food
Repo Man - Ho-lee shit. What a perfect shrimp fork right in the fucking eye of the 80s this is. Great performances, crazy and fun and weird from the first scene, a masterclass in what you can do with a low budget, and something sharp to say in every scene, even if it's just a white label with blue letters that says "CORN". If you grew up in the 80s and looking back on that era still makes you want to puke, well, you weren't alone. Alex Cox held the bucket for all of us and then splashed our collective vomit on the screen. Not as good as Videodrome, but then again, what is? This would still be an easy Top 10 of the 80s pick for me.