Recent movies - May 2012

4 minute read

This would be movies I’ve watched recently, as opposed to movies that have come out recently, though most are relatively recent (past few years).

Contagion (2011) - Let’s have a pandemic! Wait, didn’t we already do that years ago in Outbreak? Anyway, here we have a great cast, good performances, reasonably good tracking and escalation of the story, but then it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere besides “let’s follow a few people while civilization crumbles due to pandemic”. Meh, just depressing. 5/10

Real Steel (2011) - Giant robots fighting! Yeah! I was expecting this to be more of an adult movie, given the PG-13 rating, but it becomes obvious it’s a kid movie quite soon after the kid lead is introduced. Fun, well filmed, the giant robot effects are excellent, and the setup is quite good. Unfortunately as it progresses the story falls farther and farther into “kid action movie” ruts, predictable and unrealistic, which is really unfortunate. By the end I just wanted it to end. 6/10 (includes +1 for giant robots!)

The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) - Damned sparkly vampires. I consider watching this series part of both an ongoing attempt to keep current with pop culture, and as prep work for when my daughter is old enough to enter the cult. Yes, I’ve watched all the previous movies; no, I have not read the books. Anyway, enough caveats… This movie is not great. I found some parts interesting and worth watching, and there were at times actual emotions being shown in this episode where previously the emotional range was mostly stuck in moping angst. At the end of the day, though, the story just doesn’t progress very far – it seems like 1/2hr of movie stretched over almost 2hrs. Maybe this is overdone fan service, maybe the book was badly split between the movies, or maybe just bad film making, but overall I found it slow and dull. 4/10

Underworld Awakening (2012) - Ass-kicking vampires and werewolves. Almost the polar opposite of Twilight, the Underworld series is lots of cool action sequences with few story sequences to carry the story. In this particular case there is a fair bit of story to cover - time has passed, the world has changed. Explaining this is not done too badly, and for the most part the story holds together, though it’s obviously more of a “4th in the series of N” plot as opposed to standing on it’s own. I should note that while it’s still just as fun to watch Kate Beckinsale kick ass in skin-tight latex and leather outfits, there is a bit more suspension of disbelief required that her character never ages – the original movie was 9 years ago, after all. All in all, fun but no depth. 6/10

Killshot (2008) - Mickey Rourke is a cold-blooded hitman. I liked this more than I expected at the beginning. Rourke’s Native American assassin is quite good - believably brutal and cold, following his code, getting the job done. The rest of the cast is adequate, though all are at times annoying (some because of story, some because of acting). The story meanders a bit, and there are some slow bits and a lot is predictable, but eventually it gets where it’s going. Not great, but not bad. 6/10

A Girl Cut In Two (2007) - Very French. I think I enjoyed the locations, look, and general atmosphere of this movie more than the rest. The characters seemed stereotypical and plastic caricatures, the story simplistic and uninspired, and overall I never really cared where things were going. I was surprised, for a French movie with sex as such a main thread, that almost all the sex was implied and not shown even in obscured ways – I wonder if this was a version cleaned up for North American release. In any case, the overall response I feel is “very French”, especially the ending. Perhaps I would appreciate this more if I grew up in France, but sadly at least in this case, I did not. 4/10

Stop-Loss (2008) - When young US soldiers come home from the Middle East. I was entirely prepared to not like this, the premise runs the risk of overplaying either the pro- or anti-war stances, not digging to far into character or going way overboard, or just not being interesting to me. What I found, however, was an engrossing story, with compelling characters and surprising depth, and involving performances. I was especially pleased with many choices made in the writing – there were several places it seemed inevitable the story would go based on standard Hollywood storytelling tropes, and it did not. Well done. 8/10

X-Men: First Class - In the beginning, there was Xavier. Watched this for the second time, as my wife and daughter had not seen it. Still enjoyed it, but it’s still not great. Character development for anyone not involved in the later story (previous movies) is limited, and generally speaking there’s a lack of depth and attention to detail in the story. It also really bugs me all the changes they’ve made to the X-Men franchise from the comics, as contrasted with some of the other comic franchises which have recently been made into movies. But still, fun to see all the familiar mutants, and as a whole it’s more enjoyable than annoying. 7/10