What Social Life? – Movies 2014: November

Not a whole lot of movies this month. Mostly because the majority of what I watched was partial viewing (including Jaws, Ghostbusters [again], and a frankly bizarre mermaid movie which was left on during Thanksgiving dinner), and I’ve been sticking to cataloging movies watched start to finish.

  • Godzilla (1954) – Dir. Ishiro Honda
  • The History of Future Folk (2012) – Dir. Jeremy Kipp Walker & J. Anderson Mitchell
  • Danger: Diabolik (1968) – Dir. Mario Bava
  • Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus (2000) – Dir. Masaaki Tezuka
  • DeepStar Six (1989) – Dir. Sean Cunningham
  • Interstellar (2014) – Dir. Christopher Nolan: At the Henry Ford Museum’s IMAX
  • The Secret of Kells (2009) – Dir. Tomm Moore
  • Total Recall (1990) – Dir. Paul Verhoeven
  • Absentia (2011) – Dir. Mike Flanagan
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo
  • Hercules (2014) – Dir. Bret Ratner: Also saw the extended edition.
  • Mr. Jones (2013) – Dir. Karl Mueller
  • Almost Human (2013) – Dir. Joe Begos
  • Bloodsport (1988) – Dir. Newt Arnold: Fight to surviiiiiiiiiiiiiiive
  • Event Horizon (1997) – Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson
  • Never Cry Wolf (1987) – Dir. Carroll Ballard
  • The Stuff (1985) – Dir. Larry Cohen
  • Hard Target (1993) – Dir. John Woo: Van Damme KOs a rattlesnake.

Total: 18 (YTD: 196)

Remember when everyone said Captain America 2 was best movie of the year? Yeah, neither do they–perhaps too busy overpraising that raccoon movie. Winter Soldier does have the distinction of being the first Marvel movie to have proper fight sequences. Previous entries hemmed and hawed around giant blobs of CGI crashing against one another, with Avengers out and out discarding its main villain with a gag so we could go back to watching trillion dollar space worms brought down by plastic toys. Here, audiences get to see actual people delivering complete attack chains, with an emphasis on blocks and knife swipes. Captain America is portrayed as a human wrecking ball, knocking aside black ops nasties; Winter Soldier a Terminator, sniping and exploding before moving in to slice and smash. Even on the supporting edge, Black Widow and Falcon lay down suppressing fire, the former then taking high ground to drop hurricanranas on goons, the latter charging secondary villain Crossbones for a straight up fistfight. Yet, to say this is anything extraordinary would be a lie: this year has shown far better fight movies (The Raid 2–which came out the same week–and John Wick), and way better spectacle flicks (Transformers 4, Need for Speed, Interstellar), each loaded with surprising, personal details and character beats woven into the fabric of the action, where Cap 2 offers mere competence. The rest of the film is as cowardly as the Marvel series has been thus far. Pumping up audiences for anti-authoritarian cheers in a tale of compromised spy agencies, Cap 2 suggests throughout that perhaps leaving the safety and freedom of the world’s population to a select group with little to no oversight may not be the best plan, only to back off when the implication extends to the merchandising (Black Widow even tells a Congressional committee “You need us” before walking off with a smirk). Even SHIELD still exists at the end of the thing when by all accounts it shouldn’t (otherwise Marvel wouldn’t have the TV show). But, hack movies oversold as something great are a dime a dozen in the Hollywood landscape.

On the other end of the hack spectrum, Bret Ratner’s Hercules came and went with little regard (thought there is some controversy). Not that it’s particularly good: despite a huge portion of its theme being the line between myth and reality, the film still uses CG when it doesn’t need to (lots of Peter Jackson-style battle sequences), even when it’s established early on these effects are meant to signify when scenes are not real, an inconsistency which drags an otherwise charming Dwayne Johnson vehicle down. Johnson, typically, is the movie’s saving grace: Ratner smartly accentuates the actor’s physical presence, a massive frame draped in a cloak made of lion hide. Even without his comic relief nephew spinning tall tales of his Twelve Labors, Johnson’s Hercules is a larger-than-life figure in every frame he’s in, outright challenging the need for gods and myths when this flesh-and-blood man exists right in front of us. Johnson, like Schwarzenegger before him, is the special effect.

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