Tag Archives: Netflix

Snowpiercer

There are only two things you actually need to know about Snowpiercer.

  1. What happens in the movie is this: Captain America fights a train. …well, okay, everyone in a train, not the train itself. But I’m not joking. If you want to see a movie where Captain America fights a train from one end to the other, this is that movie.
  2. The premise of the movie is this: What if we actually listened to scientists about global warming and the looming danger to our species, and did something about it, and the thing we did was seed the sky with some kind of science chemical that would lower temperatures, and we did this seeding via the contrails coming out of planes, and the end result was that oops, over-correction, the world is completely frozen now and has been for the past 17 years, and everyone is dead except for this one train full of people.

I’m not even kidding. The premise is don’t listen to the science on global warming, or we’ll all die because of chemtrails. I’m not sure a movie has ever made me this angry this quickly. It was less than two minutes in!

Anyway. If you can get past that (and maybe you shouldn’t be able to), the rest of it with the train-fighting by Steve Rogers[1] is mostly entertaining; I think the highlight is the truly surreal sushi dinner, but there’s also all the fighting and shooting and dark humor about classism and religion. Taken as a whole and with a different initiating event, I might have liked it quite a bit.

Also, though, it doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about how any of it works. Like, nevermind the why of it, if you just accept that the planet froze and there’s a train going around the world with the last survivors of humanity on it? And also there are sharp, militarily enforced divides between the haves and have nots? No part of that survives really any scrutiny at all. So, y’know, turn your brain off.

[1] Okay, I may have exaggerated a few times. It’s not literally Captain America, it’s just Chris Evans in a slightly different role than normal. That said, I didn’t think Knives Out had Captain America as a murder suspect, so.

Bird Box

An unfortunate true thing about Bird Box is that it is highly comparable to A Quiet Place. Both are post-apocalyptic, both deal with unknowable, alien(?) menaces that cannot be opposed, both focus on a small number of survivors plus children trying to find a way to improve upon the new circumstances that they have already survived.

The reason this is unfortunate is because A Quiet Place is so much better. I mean, that’s fine for me! But it’s unfortunate for Sandra Bullock and Netflix. Because the thing is, Bird Box isn’t bad. The wrapper story about a woman and two children blindfolded in a rowboat going down a river is creepy as all get out, in part because there’s no way to tell what the hell is going on and in part because Bullock really pulls off her caretaker on the edge of terror role well. You can’t even really tell if she likes the children, only that she’s going to keep them alive if she can, even though there’s no threat the camera can see that would explain why she’s worried. Which adds to the creepiness, like I said.

But where Bird Box really shines is the main sequence, told in flashbacks as they drift downstream, where first the apocalyptic incident is revealed, and then a group of people hunker down in a house to try to wait it out. It is… huh. I just realized that it’s basically an extended homage to[1] Night of the Living Dead. Which is even worse news for Bird Box, because now it’s a mash-up of two superior movies, and it really serves no purpose at all.

I still liked it, but… man. That’s harsh.

[1] or rip-off of, if you prefer
[2] Man, people knew how to write movie taglines in the ’60s.

Moana

Today while I was working from home, Mary turned on Moana. I saw half of it once, and the first act twice since then (all of these because I have three nieces/nephews under the age of five). This makes it kind of hard to review, and probably I shouldn’t, but it would feel good to do something on time for once, I guess.

Anyway, she turned it on as background noise to hanging out with her mom, since my TV shows are too loud or something. Result: as soon as the neighbor started lawn-mowing near the “all is lost” part of her hero’s journey (which probably has a name I could look up, but here we are), I missed some of it I guess. But kid movie, so I can’t pretend I don’t know what happened on a review scale.

So, right, Moana. A polynesian chieftain’s daughter learns that she has been chosen by the ocean to go save the world from a whole bunch of death and destruction caused by a trickster demigod named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and she goes out on a boat to make things right. Also, there are songs.

It had some pretty silly long fight scenes to make it long enough I guess, and/or kids like that kind of thing, but as I alluded before, it’s a pretty tidy Campbellian archetypes story, with a climactic revelation that I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. And the songs were pretty good too. If you like that kind of thing, Disney usually does alright, right?

Hush (2016)

I’m excited by the Olympics, because it apparently means nobody is airing any opposing television, which means I have time to watch movies! Hence Hush, the random horror movie on Netflix I picked to watch a few nights ago when Mary had already fallen asleep but it was very early.

Premise: deaf-mute lady author in the woods. Later, a guy in a creepy mask shows up and stalks her, because sometimes shitty dudes with crossbows gonna be shitty. Then, seventy minutes of ratcheting cat and mouse tension. Tiny cast, ironically great sound editing, and otherwise, either you like this kind of thing or you don’t, y’know? Obviously I do, and this was an excellent example of the genre with basically nothing to disrecommend it.

 

Bright

When I was in LA in mid-December, I saw posters everywhere for a Netflix movie called Bright, starring Will Smith. It was to be released in like a week, but I had never heard of it before that weekend. No idea why, really. I mean, I suppose the fact that 90% of LA billboards are advertising for the screen instead of like 20% here in Dallas could account for part of the reason?

Anyway, it looked interesting. See, it’s the modern world as we know it, except orcs are the stand-in for the downtrodden classes, elves are the stand-in for the wealthy and powerful classes who don’t want to be bothered with having to acknowledge that there even is an underclass who got a raw deal, and humans are the stand-in for, y’know, whoever fits in between the two extremes I just detailed. Oh, also, there was a Dark Lord a long time ago, and people hate orcs because they were on his side then. Institutionalized racism at its finest, folks!

And, frankly, that’s the problem with the movie in a nutshell. Someone decided that, oh, cool, we can highlight the massive race and class problems in America by using fantasy race stand-ins! …and then they didn’t really do anything else with the idea except point at it over and over again. For example: at one point, cop Will Smith and his orc partner (who is the first ever orc policeman, and if you guessed that both every orc and every cop hates him, then you already see my point here) are interviewing some hispanic folks in a house, and they’re speaking Spanish, which Will Smith knows and the orc does not. But it’s okay, because Will Smith doesn’t speak orcish when they’re in the orc gang hideout, and, oh, wait, why do elves speak elvish and orcs speak orcish, but humans have all the same languages we’re already used to since it’s regular earth? It’s possible this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it’s just so damned shoddy!

Anyway, yeah. Buddy cop movie with high tension between the nominal buddies, and there’s a lot of magic floating around via all-powerful wands that most people can’t touch without just exploding to death, and of the people who can, mostly they’re only elves, but also the world is so shitty that people would go ahead and grab a wand anyway if they were just laying around because hey, if you don’t explode, cosmic power is yours for the wishing. And I’m pretty okay with that as a setting, but man, the clumsily (and, worse) lazily-handled race stuff ruins the whole thing for me.

But I hear it did well and there’s a sequel, so maybe they can focus on Dark Lords and magic next time, or at least have someone set them straight on how to not build ridiculous caricatures that we’ve all seen before. (I should say: the opening credits of the movie highlight the tensions and problems of both their world and ours extremely well, so much better than the plot or dialogue ever came close to.)

Last Shift

Mary was out of town for a couple days last week, so at one point I pulled a random movie off my Netflix watch list, which as will surprise nobody is like 90% horror. Last Watch was good as a mood piece, but very hard to make sense of if you find yourself paying the slightest bit of attention to the plot.

See, there’s a rookie cop, and it’s her first day (well, night) on the job, and she shows up at the precinct, only to find it empty of everything except office furniture and fluorescent light. Which, that was maybe cool when I was playing Resident Evil 2, but not for a movie? But it’s okay, soon someone else shows up to tell her she has to man the station overnight, until a hazmat team shows up to take away unsafe materials from the evidence room, after which the whole place will be shuttered and she’ll take up normal duties at the new station down the street built to replace this one.

So, fine, she starts her solo last shift at the station, and then… well, y’know, there’s a movie in there somewhere. And it’s appropriately creepy and jumpy and chock full of variously predictable and unexpected events. Y’know, a horror movie. The problem is, by the time I got to the end of the movie, I found that the premise retroactively made no amount of sense whatsoever. So if that would bother you, then don’t do it. If you could mostly get by on the mood part? They did a good job, other than the writing!

Would You Rather

MV5BODE3OTY0MzAtYWQzMy00MDdiLTlkOTItNzY1NWNjY2ZkNjBhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMjk0NjI@._V1_SY1000_SX679_AL_The difference between rich people and poor people, in a nutshell, is this: if you are rich, you can spend your money any way you want to. You can hire personal painters or musicians under the patronage system, or you can make bums fight on camera, or you can throw elaborate annual dinner parties for groups of strangers, where eventually they will play a high-stakes children’s game for your amusement. If you are poor, you can hope you find the rich person who wants to improve the atmosphere of the world to be your patron, but most likely you’ll only find the other rich people instead. Good luck!

Would You Rather capitalizes on a grimly plausible premise and a consistently recognizable cast, to maybe rise above what could have been a by-the-numbers entry into the gross-out subgenre of horror. I mean, it’s pretty by the numbers; they establish a heroine early on, and her impossible situation is of course very sympathetic, but the will she / they or won’t she / they is played out to good effect, the whole movie long. (Even the people who obviously will are characters that I found fascinating rather than mono-dimensional cardboard.)

That said… it’s still a cheap horror movie of functionally no social or historical value.

State of Emergency (2011)

MV5BMjE5OTI5ODY5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM3MjUzNw@@._V1_Last night was random Netflixing night. Well, semi-random; I was choosing from my pretty long queue list, but still. The result was the fairly disappointing State of Emergency. See, a county somewhere in the southern tobacco belt has been quarantined after an explosion and people going crazy with rabies-like symptoms. (You know, zombies.) From there, we focus in on one man’s travails while trying to survive.

The problems were manifold. Random failures for irrelevant plot points to make any sense whatsoever[1]; undeserved character development, just for the sake of having some; acting that occasionally rises to the level of professional; briefly highlighting the zombie menace as some kind of mystery to be solved[2] and then failing to in any way go about solving it… the list goes on.

Long story short: don’t watch this. There are much better options if you need a dose of zombiepocalypse.

[1] Example: news broadcast in which an audio feed of an embedded reporter with soldiers is overlaid by random images of helicopters flying around, soldiers standing around, or an ominous explosion cloud pluming into the sky. This is all fine, but suddenly due to predictable circumstances the audio feed cuts out. That’s accompanied by the stock, looped footage that had nothing to do with the audio feed also cutting out, to a generic test pattern and “feed lost” on top of it. This has no bearing on anything at all, but the lack of attention to making the least bit of sense was repeated again and again, and it’s hard to really take a movie seriously when they’re getting little details so very wrong.
[2] As opposed to the correct way to deal with zombies in most movies, which is to treat them purely as a setting choice, no different from “at the Arctic circle” or “1940s Europe”.

Horns

MV5BMTQ2Nzk5NzIxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2NTc5MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Mary picked Horns for movie night, a film about which I knew very little. Basically, just an image in my head (not dissimilar to the one in front of you) of Daniel Radcliffe with some, y’know, horns growing out of his forehead. It turned out to be pretty interesting, though! Mainly by that I mean that its philosophical / religious underpinnings were thought-provoking. If your very presence brought out people’s darkest secrets and basest impulses, who would you hang out with? Who would you avoid?

Unfortunately, the actual story above said underpinnings was not really worth holding up. What started as a moody murder and identity mystery quickly lost track of itself in an admittedly compelling relationship history, and by the time it found its way back, all of the moodiness had been lost in a generic anti-feminist fist fight between two guys over the fate of a dead girl.

It’s too bad, though. The principle actors were solid, and I think there’s a really excellent movie buried in the premise. This just wasn’t that movie.

Hercules (2014)

MV5BMTQ4ODA5MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjMyODM5MTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I saw Hercules last week because it was in the 10% of shows on my Netflix queue that were neither horror nor serial. (Well, and because my girlfriend didn’t want to watch a horror movie.) I have resisted reviewing it until now because it was just so… bland.

Don’t get me wrong, I always like The Rock. And that guy from Deadwood, Swearengen, who plays his seer sidekick, is a true delight. It’s just that the plot is… I can’t say bland again. Deconstructionist is not, per se, a negative. But this particular deconstruction took all of the literal and figurative magic out of the Hercules myth and turned it into not much more than a war story. Train the troops, fight the battles, and if I wanted a Greek war movie, I’d just watch Troy again.

It ended up better than I’m describing, but not enough better to be worth saying good things about. Or maybe the wait was too long? Either way: meh. You can do better, The Rock and Swearengen and people prospectively viewing this movie.