AMERICAN ULTRA

This could have been good. I loved the setup and the back story, but the execution is so over the top that it overcame my considerable powers for suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I know it’s a spoof of sorts, but even a spoof has to maintain an internal logic, whacked though it may be.) I didn’t use the FF button because the film kept getting crazier and crazier and I wanted to see how far wrong it could go. (It went very, very wrong.)

FF=0

THE MARTIAN

Space geek that I am. I loved this movie. I had my doubts as it began — with an atmosphere of less than 1% of Earth’s, you can’t have an Arabia-style sandstorm on Mars. There just ain’t enough air to do any damage. But since it was a single incident necessary to set up the plot, I let it go and sat back and enjoyed the show. From there on it was a gripping tale of man against the elements. Sure, Watney has lots of grit and guts, but he also has a brain which he puts to use. This film is a testimony to critical thinking: Okay, we have a problem; lets step back, look it over, break it down into pieces, and start solving it bit by bit. Watney doesn’t emote toward solutions, he thinks¬†toward them. So do the folks back home on Earth. So do his fellow crew members.

But I’m still trying to figure how it won in the comedy category? It had a couple of funny lines, but it’s NOT a comedy.

FF=0

THE INTERN

If you called this film vapid, sappy, cutesy, cliched, and totally devoid of dramatic tension, I wouldn’t ague with you. But the chemistry between DeNiro and Hathaway is so engaging, you sit there and drink it in. A total feel-good film.

FF=0

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2009)

This is the original Argentinian version (recently remade with the same title sans the initial article). It shifts back and forth between the present and past as a Buenos Ares ex-investigator probes an old rape-murder that was solved but never fully resolved. (I won’t say more than that about the plot.) Because it’s a procedural, the pace is, shall we say, deliberate. But you don’t mind because the performances and direction are so on the mark. A good story, well told, with a wrenching denouement.

FF=0

PAN

I’m not saying I enjoyed this simply to be contrarian. I truly did. Perhaps all the bad reviews made me expect a bomb but Pan turned out to be spirited fun. I didn’t recognize Jackman as Blackbeard, nor Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. One fly in the proverbial ointment was the portrayal of James Hook. I can buy him being a good guy and Peter’s ally in the past (an interesting twist, in fact) but trying to make him an Indiana Jones/Han Solo clone (even down to the nick-of-time return after a supposed desertion) did not work. Wrong actor, perhaps. Too dark for little kids, however.

FF=1

ANT-MAN

Probably my least fave Marvel hero back in the day, but what a fun film. Action, adventure, some laughs from the comedy sidekicks, some suspense, lots of bad science — what more can you ask? Paul Rudd was perfect as the hero, Corey Stoll (he really should play Lex Luthor someday) lacked only a mustache to twirl as the villain, Evangeline Lilly was beautiful in her black bob. But the science was =so= bad. The number of atoms in the human body averages 7×10 to the 27th power. The Ant-Man technology works by reducing the space between atoms. Yet somehow it reduced all those atoms to a sub-atomic quantum particle? Uh-uh. Here’s the deal: For the sake of the story I’ll buy your wild premise, but then you’ve got to be consistent within that premise. Also, if you can reduce the space between atoms, you reduce size but not weight (think of compressing a pound of feathers into the size of an egg — it still weighs a pound), yet he’s able to ride on the back of an ant? Still worth seeing. Forget all my BS and enjoy the film.

FF=0

TRAINWRECK

I enjoyed the raunchy, feminist twist on the traditional rom-com in the first hour. The magazine scenes and the muscle-head boyfriend were laugh-aloud funny, and who knew LeBron could act? (Sure, he was playing himself, but that’s harder than you might think.) The 2nd hour, though…back to formula. (The cheerleader scene had me wincing.) Promises not kept.

FF=0 (I wasn’t watching alone)

TOMORROWLAND

Okay, world, I can see lots of reasons to dump on this movie (not the least of which, Space Mountain being somewhere in the background all the time) but its vision, its heart…I don’t know…maybe I have a psychic link with Brad Bird…I mean, Iron Giant, The Incredibles… they spoke to me. And this speaks to me as well. Right from the get-go, when a very young Casey says she wants to go to the stars, and someone says, “But what if nothing is there?” And she turns to us with this beatific expression and says, “What if EVERYTHING’S there?” I thought my heart would burst. I can’t tell you how I miss that.

That’s the way my country used to be: optimistic. Reach for the stars. No more. Now it’s minimize the downside. Cut your loses. I find myself falling into that mindset as well. It’s the all-is-lost zeitgeist. You know, “Yeah, well, everything sucks, but hey — that’s the new normal. Deal with it.”

Tomorrowland is a tonic for that. The critics killed it, but they’re purveyors of the we-totally-suck mindset. The new America doesn’t want you to dream, it wants you to look to the government for all your answers and solutions. Tomorrowland says, Look to yourself.

FF=0