Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Summer Movie Report 2015

Here is my belated summer movie report for this year.  Sue and I saw six official summer movies. Without giving too much away, I give my basic reactions. 

Far from the Madding Crowd.  The performances were good, particularly the leads, Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.  Mulligan was much better suited for the Bathsheba Everdene role than Julie Christie who starred in the 1967 version. Still, I was a bit disappointed:  it wasn’t wrenching enough for a Hardy novel.   I might have liked it more had I not seen the truly excellent four-hour 1998 version produced by Granada Television and shown on Masterpiece Theater.

Mad Max: Fury Road.  This is an amazingly intense action movie.  At one point I found myself unconsciously raising my arms to ward off all the mayhem on screen.   That’s probably a first for me.  Charlize Theron steals the show.   I have a couple of complaints about the movie that prevent it from being my favorite movie of the summer, which we will leave unstated, since they would reveal too much about the movie.  As promised, no spoilers.   

Love & Mercy.  This was my favorite movie of the summer.  This is the story of Brian Wilson – played by two actors – told with surprising accuracy.  It’s a pretty extraordinary story.  Plus, we have the Beach Boys soundtrack.   Without revealing details, I found the movie extremely enjoyable.

Inside Out.  This was the Pixar animated film with Amy Poehler.  It was a clever movie and there were some extremely touching scenes, but, given the fact that it came from the guy who gave us Monsters, Inc. and Up, I was a disappointed here as well.  Like its two predecessors, I was expecting this movie to hit the ball out of the park – and it just didn’t do it for me.  On the plus side, some schools are giving a partial psychology credit for watching the movie.

Amy.  This is the documentary on the life of Amy Winehouse.  I liked it well enough.  One of the great pleasures of the movie is that it allows you to see and hear what a great talent she was.  As you might guess, nobody looks good.

Mr. Holmes.  If I was disappointed by Far from the Madding Crowd and Inside Out, I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Holmes.  Here, we see Holmes in his later years, and he faces issues that demand more than just observation and logic.  Ian McKellen was great as the aging Holmes. 

Overall, not a bad summer. 


James R said...

I enjoyed "Far From the Madding Crowd". "Mad Max Fury Road" was as good as a film could be that is about chasing people on motorized vehicles. I haven't seen the others yet. "Inside Out" was supposed to be the most insightfully clever movie of the 21st century and "Mr Holmes" a disappointment, so I'll be looking forward to seeing them.

My recommended summer movies are: "The Jinx" (a TV mini series on Robert Durst and murders that followed him around), "Time Lapse" (an fairly imaginative take on time traveling), "Wild Tales" (six shorts by Damian Szifron in Spanish about the situations human nature gets us into—There are no dull moments.), and finally, my favorite, I guess, "Clouds of Sils Maria" (more that I could understand so it must be brilliant, with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart).

Ted said...

I have seen none of these, but they are now on my ever-growing list. I've seen three movies this summer - a sad state of affairs. Two were "older" in other words, not in the theater. The first, a movie I highly recommend, is the Drop based on a Dennis Lehane short story. It is also James Gandolfini's final movie. Next, we finally saw Gone Girl. I didn't hate it, but the first half far outdid the second half. It just didn't seem plausible - too many perfect coincidences. I will say the acting was pretty decent and Ben Affleck certainly has come a long way from his Gigli days. Finally, we just saw The Martian, my only theater movie this summer (and it wasn't really summer since we saw it last week). I highly recommend it. Although I found parts of it a little hokey, overall I thought it was excellent. The only downside of the movie was it made me wish I had focused more on my physics and astronomy (not to mention botany). Oh well, maybe next life.

Big Myk said...

I pride myself on becoming familar with obscure non-popular movies, but I've never heard of any of the movies Jim identifies.

I am, however, familiar with The Drop and I heared that it was very good. It's currently on my Netflix queue (#193). I had heard Gone Girl was mediocre. I also heard that The Martian was good.

My retirement project of picking up on old TV programs that I missed has so far been incredibly successful. I started off with The Wire. Enough said, no?

Then, at Ellen's recommendation, we saw the first season of True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. I thought they kind of wimped out with a fairly conventional ending. But, otherwise, it was great. Also, see it just to pickl up some philosophy -- mostly Arthur Schopenhauer, with a little bit of Friedrich Nietzsche -- from the Rust Cohle character played by McConaughey. For example, at one point Cohle speaks of the hubris of bringing a child into the world, which he describes as "yanking a soul from non-existence" and "forcing a life into this thresher." Schopenhauer agrees: "If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence? or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood."

And, now we are watching Breaking Bad, which is as intense a TV show as I have ever seen.

James R said...

For Ted and his limited movie going: Patricia (my sister) told me a semi humorous, semi tragic little story this summer. When she had her first son, Joe, she broke down in tears, "I'll never be able to watch another movie the rest of my life!"

I pretty much agree with "The Drop" and "Gone Girl". I think I liked "Gone Girl" better because a can't remember "The Drop" as well. I'll watch "The Martian" when it comes out on CD.

As you know I don't like to know much about movies, other than how they are rated, before I see them, so, I didn't realize my movies were obscure. They shouldn't be, in my opinion. To be honest, they are not "Summer Movies" as Myk defined them. They were just movies I watched (on Netflix) this summer. I saw a lot of "slightly above mediocre" ones this summer, and that may be too high praise. My four listed (one is not really a movie), then, seemed that much better for all the chaff I had to sift (and sit) through.

A couple of others: I hesitate to list "American Sniper" because of Ted's review, but I was quite surprised when I watched it. My viewing was very different than anything I had heard. To simplistically describe what the movie meant for me: It was a character study of someone who had no idea what he had just been through, and the suffering that brought. The other movie I should mention (I'm not sure if it came out this summer, but that is when I saw it) is "Cut Bank", a pretty good "Fargo"-like movie.

Ted said...

I will just assume your positive review stems entirely from your low expectations of American Sniper based on my review - and we'll leave it at that.

TV shows are about all we have time for now, so we are always looking for a good one. Watched most of the seasons of the Wire, but have to get back on that and finish. I again will again say how much I love Parks and Rec (although the last season is definitely the worst, but still solid). I started re-watching Band of Brothers in fits and spurts and it is exactly as good as I remember.

For those of you with kids out there who occasionally peruse this blog and are tired of watching Dora the Explorer, I recommend the Backyardigans (you can watch it streaming off Amazon). Excellent kids show - and not terrible for parents either.

Finally, since we are giving recommendations here, I'll throw out a plug for some of my favorite novels - Alan Furst's spy/espionage novels that take place in Europe usually during the 1930s. Great reads if you can pry yourself away from the excellent movies and shows that have been recommended here.

James R said...

Despite feeling quite often that I'm wasting my time posting here, I wish to assure you that others' posts matter to me. I have just finished viewing all of Myk's "Summer Movies". I probably would not have seen "Love & Mercy", "Amy", and "Mr. Holmes" without his recommendation, and I would have been the poorer for it. "Amy" was often painful to watch, but by the end it felt like a very poignant movie. "Mr. Holmes" and "Love & Mercy" also surprised me—in good ways.

I also stopped into a bookstore, but couldn't think of Alan Furst's name, despite spending a lot of time looking in appropriate sections. I'll get one the next time I'm there.

Big Myk said...

I recently saw another movie that is probably better than any movie I saw this summer: Spotlight. Some of you don't want plot inforamtion before seeing a movie, so I'll skip that. But I can say this without plot sploiers. It has a 93 metacritic rating. It was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy who, as it turns out, wrote and directed a few of my favorite movies in the past 15 years: The Station Agent, The Visitor and Win Win. Spotlight is unlike any of these movies but it's probably McCarthy's best. The acting is great; of particular note is Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. Best of all, it manages to avoid all the mistakes that you would expect Hollywood to make in a movie like this.

James R said...

OK, I picked up "The Foreign Correspondent" today. I'll start it tonight.