Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The movies of 2018.

So many fascinating movies came out last year...and some, not so much. You do your best to avoid them, but sometimes, the bastards sneak up on you. Anyway...

10. Searching - What would seem to be another gimmicky 'all on computer screens' movie ends up a tense and enthralling piece of work, with a marvelous turn from John Cho.

9. Bumblebee - Clear action, natural humor and a compelling main character (Hailee Steinfeld in a nice softening of her Edge of Seventeen role) make for an engaging antidote to the headache-inducing previous Transformers movies.

8. Ralph Breaks the Internet - ...or The Emoji Movie: the Good Version; a wild, colorful - and effectively emotional - journey through the internet.

7. Aquaman - If you dropped Army of Darkness-era Ash Williams into a superhero movie, this is just what it would look like, and bless its visual insanity and sense of fun.

6. Widows - Not so much a heist movie as a rumination on the circumstances that would push people into committing one...and marvelously acted, to boot.

5. Ant-Man and the Wasp - Even more fun than the first movie, with stunning visuals and - of course - a strong sense of humor.

4. Incredibles 2 - The sequel we were all waiting for, nicely divided between impressive heroic action and domestic comedy.

3. Hotel Artemis - Even with its grab-bag of influences (Panic Room, John Wick, Assault on Precinct 13), one of the most vibrant and original films I've seen in a long time, with a cast to die for.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - An engaging distillation of the Spider-Man mythos and what it means to be a hero, topped off with a one-of-a-kind animation style.

1. Black Panther - One of Marvel's finest movies, introducing us to a world rich in visual splendor, colorful characters and exciting action. Wakanda forever!

The runners-up:

Avengers: Infinity War - Longer (and darker) than expected from Marvel, though the film does a sterling job in balancing its many characters.

BlackkKlansman - As deft a mix of humor, drama and incendiary social commentary as one would expect from Spike Lee.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? - The fascinating true story of celebrity biographer turned forger Lee Israel, splendidly acted by Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

Deadpool 2 - More conventional in its narrative than the original, but almost as entertainingly raunchy and fourth wall-intolerant.

Eighth Grade - Low-key comedy that ably captures the awkwardness of childhood, with a pair of fascinating new talents in writer-director Bo Burnham and actress Elsie Fisher.

The Favourite - Jet-black period comedy is definitely not for all tastes, but its biting humor and trio of sparkling performances make it entertaining.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - More of an adventure movie (and a horror movie) than the first one and quite a roller-coaster ride.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout - Another in the indestructible franchise, with some truly seat-edge-holding stuntwork.

Paddington 2 - Just as sweet, colorful and amusing as part one, with some of Hugh Grant's best-ever work as the villain.

Solo: a Star Wars Story - A little too heavy in fanservice, but still a lively and game attempt at providing backstory for our favorite smuggler.

Underrated: The Girl in the Spider's Web, The Grinch, Overboard and White Boy Rick

Overrated: Bohemian Rhapsody, Sorry to Bother You and Vice

Guilty pleasures: The Hurricane Heist and The Predator

My favorite things in movies - 2018:

Any scene featuring Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo in Bad Times at the El Royale, especially the excavation

The balcony dispatch in The Predator

The banter between Virginia Gardner and Jibrail Nantambu in Halloween

The car chase in Black Panther

The cemetery pursuit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Colin Farrell gets a ride home in Widows

David Oyelowo in Gringo

Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Dug's trip down the arena steps in Early Man

Elsie Fisher enjoys a banana in Eighth Grade

The escape montage in The Old Man and the Gun

The failed getaway in The Girl in the Spider's Web

The forest rescue in Venom

The Heffalump battle in Christopher Robin

The helicopter chase and cliff fight in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Hugh Grant in Paddington 2

Jack-Jack fights a raccoon in Incredibles 2

The saga of the Scorpion Bowl in Blindspotting

The texting montage in Crazy Rich Asians

That song appears in Proud Mary

Toby Kebbell checks his hubcaps in The Hurricane Heist

X-Force springs into action in Deadpool 2

Holy shit, was that...?

Eric Braeden in Den of Thieves
Melonie Diaz in Gringo
Rutger Hauer in The Sisters Brothers
Thomas Middleditch in Tag
Randall Park in Aquaman
Glynn Turman in Bumblebee
Matt Walsh in Widows
Isiah Whitlock, Jr. in BlackkKlansman
Bokeem Woodbine in Overlord

What a tragic waste...

Terry Crews in Sorry to Bother You
Christa Miller in Breaking In
Nick Offerman in Bad Times at the El Royale

Ah, something new has been added! I doubt I'll do this every year, but this year, I need to vent about dumb shit that characters did in movies that I otherwise enjoyed. Dumb shit that happens because plot is bad writing and these movies are guilty in the first degree.

Bad Times at the El Royale - So, that one guy was a military sniper and you pick near the end of the movie to reveal that? We only get a third act not because of any natural progression of the story, but because of a horny teenage girl? Why the flying fudge was Jon Hamm's FBI agent even there? How is Hotel Artemis considered the weaker of the year's hotel movies?

Blindspotting - It's the first day after probation and Collin is back to work, but the house he ends up at is that of Officer Molina who killed the suspect at the beginning. The showdown between them goes down in Molina's basement with Collin training on him the gun he took from his pal Miles (whose movie-long dumbassery deserves a post of its own). Collin's impassioned rap rant is seen by most people to be the highlight of the movie and while it's pretty decent, the thought that kept running through my head was...Oakland, CA must be a magical place for a Black ex-con to pull a gun on a White cop (in the cop's own house!) and suffer no consequences whatsoever.

Halloween - Dr. Sartain. Fucking Dr. Sartain. Not since the 'this nonsensical talk of ghosts is obviously the result of this girl hypnotizing everyone' dumbtard of Poltergeist III has a doctor character in a horror movie so obviously courted a malpractice suit*.

A Quiet Place - Let me be straight: brilliantly made, but...really, there weren't any boards to be used for the staircase that didn't have nails in them? And this 'creatures that kill by sound' world has been around for at least a year, so why bring something into this world that's guaranteed to make noise and get you all killed?

Random thoughts:

- A whole lot of misplaced forgiveness going on. Game Night received a ton of critical praise, even though its directors had previously done Vacation. I had no interest in Game Night, mainly because - that credit aside - it was seen as a comic variation on The Game and I'm not that high on the straight version of it, either, which was an Ashton Kutcher away from being an overlong episode of "Punk'd". Further, I was convinced that Dumb and Dumber To would've placed Peter Farrelly on some kind of permanent director's no-fly list, but he made a comeback of sorts with Green Book, even potentially landing him a chance at Oscar glory. My utter incredulity with this (expressed on Twitter in a thread about 'trailers that outshined their movies') led no less than New York Times critic Janet Maslin to drag me. And here I was hoping to piss off a critic because I'd made something that repulsed them, not because I dared to insult an Oscar-baiting racism drama that they happened to love, made by a guy who knew his career was dead otherwise. How wonderful it must be to be White.

- Something good about this 'hey, our leader doesn't give a crap about who he offends, so why should we?' society: no passive-aggressive guessing games about the assholes. They expose themselves, like when they make fun of people protesting about the not-at-all imitatable act of exploiting someone's food allergies, like they do in the inexplicably-geared-toward-children Peter Rabbit. Still, you have to wonder who the biggest protein-guzzler in this situation is: the writers who concocted this gag, the execubots who signed off on it, or the people who see nothing wrong with this. Okay, now that that's out of my system...

- Weird coincidence, #1: two movies where disparate strangers come to violent blows over the course of one night at a hotel in a far off time period and the whole thing was written and directed by a guy named Drew.

- Had absolutely no interest in Show Dogs, but - not gonna lie - the part in the trailer when the Ludacris-voiced dog said "This is ludicrous." made me laugh. Don't judge me.

- I'm sure that the Greg Berlanti-directed Love, Simon was a terrific movie for the young people (I didn't see it), but that the Greg Berlanti-produced "Riverdale" had a subplot in one of its episodes devoted to it felt like a step above Jerry Seinfeld shilling for Bee Movie on "30 Rock".

- The big twist of Pacific Rim: Uprising. Almost a year later, I'm not fully convinced I didn't dream it, it was so ludicrous (there's that word again).

- I admit that I can be petty about certain aspects keeping me from seeing movies, but seriously, I (literally) could not get around that White girl's Afro in Isle of Dogs.

- The hurricane finale of The Equalizer 2 is one of the most random, studio-notey moments I've seen in recent cinema. It plays like some executive Boss Baby was flipping around cable and randomly stopped on footage of a hurricane decimating some poor (as in unfortunate, not as in monetarily challenged) part of the world and thought, 'hey, this'd be a neat setting for a movie', leading to a hurricane being shoehorned into an action movie by a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum. You look at the scene and there is nothing to distinguish the setting, certainly not on the level of the first film's finale set at Totally Not Home Depot (wink). That shootout may as well have taken place at a high school pep rally for all the relevance the hurricane had.

- Compare this to The Hurricane Heist, which is - by any traditional measurement of goodness and badness - a much worse movie than The Equalizer 2, but goddamned if it's not a more entertaining one. Part of the entertainment value comes from the fact that the writers clearly sat down and said to themselves, 'okay, we got a heist during a hurricane and bad guys trying to get the good guys, so how do we take advantage of the scenario?'. This is a movie that utilizes (apologies in advance for quoting the guy who co-wrote Blank Check and Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot) the promise of the premise. One of the best movie moments of the year (as I mentioned above) was Toby Kebbell throwing hubcaps into the winds and one of them spears a bad guy in the chest, which is right up there with Catherine Trammell's free show in Basic Instinct as one of the all-time great 'instant replay that shit!' moments. (Wanted to see it in theaters, but I couldn't, so I rented it from Redbox...and I totally did instant replay that shit.) And speaking of Basic Instinct... (How's this for a segue?)

- Two low-brow comedy-genre hybrids referenced that scene in the summer: The Happytime Murders whose femme fatale puppet flash was actually plot-relevant (and Christopher Lennertz did a fine approximation of Goldsmith's music); and Deadpool 2, which actually licensed Goldsmith's "Crossed Legs" cue for the baby-legs scene.

- PG-13 f-bombs: Breaking In, Crazy Rich Asians, Oceans' 8, Searching, Venom and maybe my favorite, Mission: Impossible - Fallout.

- Weird coincidence, #2: two movies where a group of thieves plans to make off with a fortune in outdated currency, only for shit to go totally sideways.

- Every time I saw that scene in The Girl in the Spider's Web of the guy getting strung up - in the trailers and the movie itself - I said, 'Eat it, Kavanaugh!'. Never had the nerve to say it aloud, though.

- In Hotel Transylvania 3, Dracula zinged with Captain Ericka. It's said that you only zing once, so am I the only one who considered that she was a reincarnation of his first love, Martha? (Yeah, I probably am.)

- Weird coincidence, #3: two movies where a group of disparate women - some with criminal ties - get together to commit a heist.

- The post-credits scene of Venom introduced Eddie Brock to Cletus Kassady, who made a promise that 'Carnage is coming'. Between the message written in blood and Woody Harrelson's ridiculous wig, I was practically forced to say aloud, "Use a pen, Sideshow Bob.".

* - In comparison, Dr. Giggles was actually more helpful to the characters in his movie.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Now, when it comes to the use of obvious temp-tracking in movie scores - with rare exceptions - I don't generally mind it, mainly if the composer having to follow the temp puts a cool spin on the original music.

However, there's a recurring motif in Ken Lauber's score for Hearts of the West (for the pursuing con men) that's lifted almost verbatim from Nino Rota's Amarcord. There aren't even any cool variations on it; it's literally the same piece of music played about six times. It got really annoying after a while...and anything that could turn me against Rota's Amarcord music - even if it's tangentially connected - is the damn Devil. I don't recall seeing Lauber's name on any other projects...and maybe, there's a reason for that.


Saturday, January 05, 2019

The 'stick to an exercise regimen' one aside, I'm doing not too bad a job on my New Year's resolutions, so far. The trick is to work on stuff that you can conceivably change about yourself.

One I think I ought to work on is learning to cook. If I'm planning on saving money (another resolution), making my own meals is a good way to work towards that. While this town is full of great food, I'm not gonna have too much money if I'm eating out all the time. Besides, it helps the money situation if I have a job that pays better (yet another one!).


Sunday, December 30, 2018

This year has seen a number of impressive releases (which I will go into greater detail about in roughly a month's time), but there are still a number of soundtracks I would love to see released.

The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space (Shirley Walker)
The Adventures of Milo and Otis (Michael Boddicker)
Agency (Lewis Furey)
Animal House (Elmer Bernstein)
Demolition Man - complete (Elliot Goldenthal)
Down Periscope (Randy Edelman)
Fatal Instinct (Richard Gibbs)
Gymkata (Alfi Kabiljo)
High Anxiety (John Morris)
Hudson Hawk - complete (Michael Kamen and Robert Kraft)
The Jackal (Carter Burwell)
Jacknife (Bruce Broughton)
The Manitou (Lalo Schifrin)
The Man with Two Brains (Joel Goldsmith)
Mouse Hunt - complete (Alan Silvestri)
Silent Movie - complete (John Morris)
Super Mario Bros. (Alan Silvestri)
Take the Money and Run (Marvin Hamlisch)
Undercover Blues (David Newman)
xXx: State of the Union (Marco Beltrami)


Monday, December 24, 2018

Throw Momma from the Train: Who the hell was looking after Momma Lift while Owen was on his 'gotta kill Margaret' Hawaiian vacation? Did she even know he was gone? "Murder at My Friend Harry's" wasn't exactly a barn-burner, so no way Owen was able to make up a convincing story. (And who is supporting them financially? Did Owen even have a job? Who would hire him? My point of this tangent being that - maybe - Owen could've claimed a corporate retreat sending him out of town a few days...and now that I think about it, how could he even afford a trip to Hawaii on no visible means of income?!) Like Momma herself points out later on, he doesn't have any friends and I doubt that she was Miss Popular, so no one was gonna sit with her.

Hell, Owen probably didn't even need Larry to kill her. Just leave her alone a few days and the job would've taken care of itself.

Weird damn way to spend Christmas Eve, I'll admit, but the movie was on and - much as I enjoy it - some shit just pops into your head.

See, this is why we need the IMDb message boards back.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

I was just reminded that The Boss Baby was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year and not The Lego Batman Movie. Somebody's kneecaps need to be smashed into confectioner's sugar for that.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

I really ought to consider plotting out a story where an idyllic world is shaken up by non-idyllic visitors, like Pleasantville or Demolition Man.