GET ON UP

This sanitized biopic of James Brown’s tumultuous life has enough high points to make it worth watching. Especially the recording session of “Please, Please, Please,” where the Jewish old-school record company exec is trying to figure what the hell’s going on in his recording studio. (“What is this? That’s not a song! All he’s saying is ‘Please’ over and over!”) Another is the TAMI show where Brown is told that these English guys called the Rolling Stones are going to close the show instead of him. So what does he do? He goes out and SLAYS the audience (the clip I’ve attached is from that show) and leaves the Stones wishing they were following anybody — *anybody* — but that guy who just left the stage.

FF=1

STILL CRAZY

I went on something of a Bill Nighy kick after the Worricker trilogy and someone recommended this.  A fun if predictable film about the trials and tribulations of reuniting the 70s-80s hair band called Strange Fruit.  It has Spinal Tap moments but, like Nighy’s later film, Blow Dry, it follows the tried and true film formula (thoroughly skewered in South Park’s “You Got F’d in the A” episode) of trying to reunite or build a team for an event or competition; inevitably one key member can’t or won’t cooperate but comes through in dramatic fashion at the end.  Watch it for the performances – a great ensemble cast.

FF=1

KITE

I stumbled across this in the On Demand list.  Never heard of it.  Gave it a try because it stars Samuel Jackson, though that’s hardly a guarantee of quality.  My first thought was that these folks have been watching lots of Luc Besson, especially District B13. I mean, the teenage female assassin orphaned by criminals and out for revenge has got Besson all over it. (I later learned it’s based on an erotic anime.) There’s decent post-financial-holocaust world building and the graffiti-laden locations in Johannesburg are depressingly effective in telegraphing civilization in collapse.  Graphic violence and Besson fans will feel they’ve seen it before, but it offers an entertaining 90 minutes.

FF=1

OBLIVION

I watched OBLIVION and MOON back to back. I’d been told that the former ripped off the latter. Both are future SF and certainly have parallels, but Moon is a psychological drama while Oblivion is an action flick. The subject matter (I won’t spoil it for you) demands certain dramatic epiphanies that make the second acts very similar. Moon is a one-man show starring Sam Rockwell who could easily have played Tom Cruise’s role in Oblivion, but I don’t think the opposite would work nearly as well. (That sentence makes sense to me, hope it does to you.)
Oblivion FF=1
Moon FF=2
(Moon has a higher FF because the first act, though necessary to set up the rest of the story, is plodding)

BAD WORDS

…abound in this quirky film filled with quirky characters. Jason Bateman expends a ton of effort on playing a misanthrope and does it well. You have no clue as to why he’s entering these middle-school spelling bees. He’s softened by his relationship with an Indian kid who’s a fellow contestant. The film has its funny moments (the humor often has a rough edge – there’s a reason for the R rating – “Don’t look at me!”), but then it becomes a revenge flick. If you like dark humor, you’ll like this a lot.

FF=1

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Ten years after the events of the first film, we’ve arrived at a tipping point between the apes and a plague-ravaged human race. The subtext is human hubris and racism, but there’s no shortage of action and violence. A little family drama is folded in to “humanize” the apes, but that could have been achieved much better with just a dollop of humor. These apes are the grimmest damn creatures. Make one of them a lovable clown to lighten things up. (Of course, you’d have to kill him…)

FF=1

EDGE OF TOMORROW

I didn’t think I’d like this because it looked like Ground Hog Day rebooted as SF and, well, it starred Tom Cruise. My bad. I cut my writing teeth in the SF field, so I gave it a shot and am very glad I did. This is top-notch military sci-fi. Cruise and Emily Blunt deliver. Don’t try to think too much about the time shifting — it will break your brain. Don’t try to understand why alien HQ is beneath the Louvre either. Just go with it. Lots of action and scary aliens that are truly alien. FF=1

HOSTAGE

I missed this Bruce Willis vehicle when it was fresh back in 2005. It’s darker than I expected, and Ben Foster’s turn as the psycho goth named Mars is deeply creepy. A complex plot with two sets of bad guys and some nice twists and turns kept me into this film and my finger off the FF button. (Well, almost.)

FF=1

47 RONIN

Despite its logging 14% on the Tomatometer, I found this immensely enjoyable.  But then, I’m not a Keanu hater.  It’s a gorgeous film with amazing effects.  I wish I’d seen it on the Big Screen.  I don’t remember any witches and dragons in the original legend, but I welcomed the added dimension the fantasy elements brought to the visual table.  (As usual I FF’d through the battles and such.)
FF=1