Current Movie Capsules

Because not every movie is really all that noteworthy.
Discussion: 

There are a fair amount of movies I see that I just don't have that much to say about. I used to just let them pass without comment, but I'm going to try giving short reviews, so that they don't totally vanish, and in the interest of filling out the archive. In the future, this page will live under "Now In Theaters" and be updated periodically. Eventually the movies will move to their own individual, albeit short, reviews. I might also include videos of low remarkability. Let me know what you think.

LINCOLN
I was not excited about this, but vaguely curious given the talent involved and I wanted to see what angle Spielberg and company took to make it interesting, emotional and involving. The fact is, they didn't. It's a total snore. I was sitting there lulled, as it goes on, and goes on, surprised only by how pretty much no effort is made to give it an emotional hook or get us much interested in the sweep of history. It seems to be made for the sole purpose of being shown in high school history classes. And to somehow shore up Spielberg's career in "important" Americana.

The performances are good, of course. Daniel Day-Lewis is excellent as Lincoln, and gives the familiar figure a life and personality, although one that is not all that interesting or magnetic. The movie turns on a moral quandary of Lincoln needing to extend the Civil War in order to pass the 13th Amendment, which will outlaw slavery. If the war ends, which it is ready to, no one would be interested in passing the amendment. The reality is even less interesting than it sounds. The main action of the movie consists in talking to various people, trying to get them to vote for the amendment, and vaguely amusing speeches on the floor, with a great deal of huff-puffing. We all know how it ends, so it's just sitting there, in that lulled, not-altogether-unpleasant state of suspended animation until it gets there.

Those who like to look at beards of various types will be amply rewarded, and perhaps the audience with the greatest amount of interest in following the film. We also learn that the past was quite smoky. Those who note that actual African-Americans are rarely onscreen, and given little to do but gape at the magnanimity of whites, will find support for their position. Throughout, there are a fair amount of whites, including Lincoln, who are passionately against slavery on moral grounds and... honestly, I never felt it. It never quite rang true, which is part of why what should be the moral thrust of the story is just a steady trickle. There is also a notable scene with Lincoln chatting with Grant on a porch, sunlight shining on them, while the sun is clearly, visibly, in the SAME SHOT, shining in the opposite direction. Come on, man, we're expecting at least professionalism!

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Argo
It was the Friday before Hurricane Sandy arrived, and the subways were going to shut down the next day, and I was sitting in my apartment at 8pm when suddenly I said: "What am I doing? I need to get OUT of this apartment while I can!" (I ended up stuck there for the following eight days.) And what I ended up doing is going to see Argo.

This movie is directed by and stars Ben Affleck, and concerns a plan to rescue seven people hiding out, separate from the whole hostage drama that made greater news. Affleck turns out to be a very effective director, and the opening infiltration of the embassy is extremely exciting, and the rest of the movie wildly entertaining. Even though you know the ending, you are drawn in and held in suspense, as we enjoy nice shots like a plane slowly moving aside to reveal cars in chase. The characters are engaging, there are surprises and twists, and the whole thing is just darn fine entertainment--so all-round good one is tempted to knock it, or distrust it.

The ploy that they think of to get the hostages out is that they're making a schlocky sci-fi film, making one hope that there might be a bit more comment on movies versus politics in terms of creating narratives and selling illusions, but it only goes so far. Which is fine, because the rest if the movie is just a plain old good movie.

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Seven Psychopaths
I saw In Bruges pretty much against my will, given what hideous trailers were created for it, but ended up liking it quite a bit. It had a much greater depth than one was led to believe. It was because of that movie that I wanted to see this one, also written and directed by playwright Martin McDonagh This time the trailers made it look good, and the movie blew.

The story is set up with Colin Farrell as a screenwriter with a buddy, played by the always-welcome Sam Rockwell. Maybe one day Rockwell will get to play a different character, but he keeps doing the same one quite enjoyably. Rockwell and Christopher Walken have a scam whee they kidnap dogs, then return them to claim the reward. One day they kidnap the dog belonging to gangster Woody Harrelson, and the film goes from there.

At the beginning, the film will be going along and introduce a character, when suddenly the frame will freeze and it will say "Psychopath No. 3" or suchlike. It is meant to be fun and breezy, but one is sitting there for the first forty or fifty minutes saying "This film is going nowhere. It's not funny. It's not gathering any momentum. These characters aren't interesting. This story is not interesting. It's just kind of still and static." So you're just sitting there watching images unfold with absolutely no involvement. Then, in the second half, things start getting meta. Like, really, really meta. For example, one character says he would write a screenplay which would start as an action film, then the characters would go into the desert and talk. Then all the characters go into the desert and talk. Then there's talk about how movies have violent showdowns, and the movie has a violent showdown. These are just two examples of many. A friend of mine who saw it and didn't like it cited all this meta-ness as being too in your face and just making him roll his eyes. Me, I stopped caring after the first half was such a chore, so the movie was dead to me by the second half. Either way, total bummer.