Monday’s Movies: Catching Up

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Thanks to my local library, I’m catching up on some movies I missed while they were in theaters.  Here are some (hopefully) short thoughts on some of what I’ve seen lately.

Terminator: Genisys

tgOne of the hallmarks of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who was a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.   So it’s interesting to see Smith join the Terminator franchise in an entry that has a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.

Virtually ignoring the last two installments in the series, Genisys feels like a greatest hits of what made the first two James Cameron directed installments so much fun back in the day.  Arnold is on hand as the original Terminator and there’s a T-1000 running around as well.  But there’s also some heavy time travel mechanics involving destroying Skynet before it gets started (didn’t T2 do this already?!?).  There’s also a twist or two that the trailer (and the poster for that matter) pretty much gave away.

The result is a twisty, convoluted time travel story with lots of mayhem and stuff getting blown up thrown in for good measure.  Emilia Clarke is good as Sarah Conner and the story comes up with a good reason for Arnold’s Terminator to look older.  But I can’t help but walk away feeling like this one was a lot of sound and fury signifying very little.  As a popcorn movie, this one works fairly well but it’s not necessarily something I’m going to want to watch again nor do I feel like two more installments are necessary.

The Gift (2015)

thegiftSimon and Robyn move back to his old high school stomping grounds to get a fresh start — he’s starting a great new job and she needs a change of scenery.  While shopping for items for their new house, they run into an old acquaintance of Simon’s from high school, Gordon, who is also known as Gordo.

Overhearing their address, Gordo begins to show up with a series of gifts for the couple as well as a few skeletons from Simon’s closet.  Turns out that Simon wasn’t exactly a nice guy in high school — and he may not have changed much since those days.

Instead of relying on the spectacle of visual effects and over the top CGI, The Gift instead builds tension and drives along with a great script, well-built characters and solid performances.  Director and star Joel Edgerton brings an unnerving, you can’t quite put your finger on it but something’s up here edge to Gordon and his ever escalating encounters with the couple.

The script hits a few of the cliches from other movies about characters with apparently unhealthy obsessions.  But instead of merely going the route we expect, the movie zigs when it appears to be ready to zag and keeps building the tension and mystery as to just exactly what Gordon’s real agenda and plan could be.  Most of the film stays with Robyn’s point of view as she sympathizes with Gordon and begins to question if she really knows who her husband is and if he’s changed since high school.

It all culminates in a third act that is finds the rug pulled out from under the characters and our expectations.  To say more would ruin a lot of the surprises and the clever twists that Edgerton crafts as writer and director.

Trainwreck

trainwreckThere are times when I feel like my sense of humor is completely out of step with other people — especially while watching the last couple of Judd Apatow directed comedies.   Maybe it’s because I’ve watched them at home instead in a theater.  Or it could be that many of Apatow’s comedies of late have overstayed their welcome.

Trainwreck runs two hours and five minutes — and yet it feels like it could and should have been shorter.   I get the feeling like Apatow is to comedy what Stephen King was to horror novels in the 80’s — too big for anyone to suggest that maybe editing things might make the output stronger.

As a girl Amy and Kim were told by their father that monogamy is for suckers.  Of course, this was as their father was divorcing their mother, so maybe this advice wasn’t the best to build an entire lifestyle around.  Twenty or so years later, Amy is working for a men’s magazine (think a fictional version of Maxim) and refusing to fully commit to any of the men in her life — whether it’s her boyfriend or her series of one-night stands.

That is, until she’s assigned a story about Dr. Aaron Conners — a genuinely good guy who Amy finds herself falling in love with and maybe wondering if her father’s advice at a young age wasn’t misdirected.  Of course, since this is a romantic comedy obstacles will come up before (SPOILER alert if you’ve never watched a romantic comedy) the two reconcile before the closing credits roll.

While Amy Schumer and Bill Hader have some chemistry as Amy and Aaron, the best part of this movie is LeBron James playing a version of himself.  Hader and James play well off each other as James shares (surprisingly) kind-hearted relationship advice with Aaron and makes sure that Amy has good intentions when it comes to his friend.

Other than that, the rest of the movie isn’t much to write home about.

 

Vacation (2015)

James Griswold: I’ve never even heard of the original vacation.
Rusty Griswold: Doesn’t matter. The new vacation will stand on its own.

vacationThe dialogue quoted is pretty much the cleverest part of the new Vacation movie.  And it occurs very early in the film, so you know it’s all down hill from there.

Again, I can’t help but wonder if my sense of humor is out of step with other members of the modern movie going audience because I never quite laughed or chuckled at the new Vacation.  The idea of having Rusty take a page from his dad and want to relive the family trip to Wally World should work.  But it never quite all clicks.

Instead, there’s an over reliance on swearing and rude humor in an attempt to be funny.  Don’t get me wrong here — I enjoy some good creative use of foul language and crude humor can tickle my funny bone (I enjoy most of Kevin Smith’s movies and love the rental car scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles).  But it just feels like this one went for cussin’ and fart jokes instead of actually creating characters we could laugh with and enjoy getting to know.  And while Clark may have been a misguided man with delusions about the impact the family vacation would have, at least we could identify with him and his family in the first series of movies. That connection never gels here and as a result the movie doesn’t work as well as it could have.

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