Movie Reviews July 2015 part 2

I’ve sat on planes a lot and watched a bunch of movies. Here is the second round of reviews:

Focus
A yawn for that one: Will Smith plays a con man. That’s it. Some things he pulls off were cleverly thought out and the whole movie is a web of lies. It would have been more interesting if something in between had been “for real” for a change, since everything being constructed and a bunch of lies degraded into a pattern. You were just waiting for the next lie to be identified. Overall the movie lacked a purpose and the one-dimensional characters lacked goals. Since it was doubtful whether getting the girl was a goal or not that didn’t work as a goal either. The story and the characters got lost in the web of con extravaganzas. It was interesting because of those con extravaganzas but at the same time boring because the movie had flat characters that pursued nothing but constructing the next con trick. It’s another movie that in my humble opinion will soon be forgotten.

Into the Woods
What the heck was that? Whilst I have my issues with musicals anyway and usually find breaking occasionally out into song awkward at best, this thing did not only break out into song without reason, the story was one big disaster. They threw four or something fairy tales into one pot and Rapunzel was shaking hands with Cinderella. Uh? Half-way through the movie all fairy tales are told, but they do not live happily ever after, since suddenly Cinderella‘s pretty prince becomes unfaithful (eh? What? Where did that come from?) and the giants from the „Jack and the Beanstalk“ part of the story descend upon the land of the pretty to trample on a rampage. In total – what a crap! No clue what merit anyone saw in throwing several fairy tales together. No clue why so many big names (Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine etc.) played in that movie. And by the way, Johnny Depp as the „wolf“ from the Red Riding Hood part was outright ridiculous.
The whole thing is bizarre, the music mediocre, the story one giant jumble mumble that does not work. Why, oh why, was this movie made? Sorry, but the answer escapes me.

The Butler
This is a start-studded historic/character piece about the more or less true story of one of the White House’s butlers. Forest Whitaker plays the butler, and Oprah Winfrey his wife (I’ve never seen Oprah in a movie before, it was kinda weird to see her in that role, but she was actually pretty good). It’s more a recent history crash course than a movie with Presidents from Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, (Alan Rickman played him, wow! I only realized it was him when the credits rolled), and at the same time telling the tale of the suppression of black people with the help of the Butler’s at times radicalized son. The character of the butler held the history crash course quite nicely together. It’s not an overwhelming movie that won’t go into the DVD collection but it was entertaining to see it. John Cusak as Nixon was an interesting choice and I guess Eisenhower was one of Robin Williams last roles.
In general I find movies like that a bit tiring, since they are so „serious“. Biographies like that also have the tendency to lack a „decent“ story-ark. They are big in terms of the ground they cover but small as far as drama is concerned. Nevertheless, way more watchable than „Into the Woods“

Phantom
Those were the days when there was the cold war going on… U-boat movies are difficult to make, since they suffer from the two big u-boat movies „Das Boot“ (the excellent German WW2 movie) and „Hunt for Red October“. That said, Ed Harris plays the captain of a stone-age old Russian u-boat where a wonderfully nasty David Duchovny takes over, to almost trigger WW3 in 1968. It’s also based on somewhat true events, at least it says so in the beginning. The Russians have developed a cloaking device for their u-boats and test it on Harris‘ boat without his knowledge. They launch a missile even, but Harris saw to it that its detonator was disabled before it launched and thus maybe prevented WW3. Except for the first officer of the boat, everyone dies and Harris sends him on his way to „tell the people that it was only a few madmen who tried to trigger WW3 and not the regular Russian soldier“.
Harris and Duchovny did nice jobs and made the movie watchable, but apart from that the story wasn’t overly original, the closeness to „the truth“ questionable, and all in all it could have been more dramatic.

So, from all the eight movies I’ve seen on these plane rides to and from Europe last week most were crap, some OK, and only one gem = Whiplash. Actually, one gem in a puddle of eight isn’t that bad, right?
I’ll be flying to Europe again in two weeks, let’s see what I’ll watch then 😉

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