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What’s with all the movies?

Posted by joeabbott on December 7, 2015

Suzy and I don’t go to see many movies and, when we do, it’s as much for the experience as the show: an over-sized tub of popcorn, a drink in a cup about the size of a pitcher used for family picnics, and a couple hours of doing nothing but being entertained. It’s extravagant and likely part of the reason we don’t go often. The other reason is that I’m just not a movie guy. I read books and play video games, but don’t make time for movies. I’m always the odd man out when my peers are recalling funny scenes from Caddyshack or discussing the latest thriller.

But, as of late, I’ve seen a LOT of movies. So what gives? Well, Microsoft had a promotion and I jumped on it.

During the last ten days of November, Microsoft was offering select movies for ten-cents each day. While there were a lot of ho-hum movies, like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., they also had recent blockbusters like Jurassic World and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And so, each morning I’d fire up the Microsoft Store and browse through daily offerings. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.

imageThe Dark Knight

OK, remember me saying I wasn’t a movie guy? Exhibit number one: The Dark Knight, a 2012 movie continuing the Batman franchise reboot. While it’s an action/adventure movie playing on the superhero trope (all solidly lining up with my interests), I started watching it excitedly but other things were going on and I just couldn’t make to see the conclusion.

In the movie, the Joker (the arch-nemesis of Batman) is out to “kill the Bat” and an appropriate amount of modern day mayhem pursues: cars blow up, bullets fly, and Batman comes out … a bit beaten up, but otherwise whole. I think I stopped watching just after Batman and the Joker face off in a high rise building and the Joker drops a young lady out the window, causing Batman to leap after her to avoid her falling to her death. Which he does. At this point the bus was approaching my drop-off, so I stopped for the day.

And, when I went back a couple days later, my rental had expired and I was left in the dark as to the ending. As there’s a The Dark Knight Rises, I’m confident Batman comes out of this movie none for the worse.

imageSpy

Apology time: loved it.

I am not sure what it was about this offensive, goofy, laugh-out-loud film, but I was chuckling all night and even thinking about the funny scenes the day after.

I can’t remember any lines in particular, but I was tickled and amused and if I’d owned the film, not just rented it, I’d certainly pop it in again.

In the movie, a desk-bound CIA analyst is sent out into the field to help track down the murderers of a fellow CIA agent and uncover who has the “mini-nuke” that is on the way to New York City to cause a little chaos and devastation. Part of the humor is that all of the cover stories they make for agent Susan Cooper are sad, failed human potential stories: no cocktail gowns here to go with Bond’s tuxedo.

And then there’s Jason Statham: he cut his teeth in the Transporter series as a martial arts master but goes through this film blathering on like a demon-besotted idiot telling tall tales about prior exploits: and then there’s the time I had my arm ripped off and had to sew it on with my other arm! Cooper responds with a deadpan, “I’m not sure that’s even possible”, he continues on, filling the film with his wildly improbably stories.

It’s immature humor but it tickled me in the right way at the right time.

imageSkyfall

Third in the modern James Bond series, the movie, appropriately enough, plays on Bond’s age and has him return to his ancestral home: the titular Skyfall.

I’m not sure what to say here: car chases, bullets flying, pretty girls gawking about … the stuff of all Bond movies held together by the acting and charismatic glue that is Daniel Craig: James Bond in this series.

While I enjoyed it enough, I’m sadly unable to report significantly more than the cars/bullets/girls note from above. I enjoyed it just fine but there was nothing that stands out without giving away too many spoilers … oh, what the heck: M dies. If you don’t know what that means and you care, watch the movie. If you do know … well, now you know a little more.

imageEx Machina

The Turing Test is named after the British physicist and computer scientist Alan Turing who proposed a model for determining if you had built a true AI (artificial intelligence) … that being, have a conversation with the AI and if you can’t discern you’re talking to a machine, it passes the test. This is the basis for Ex Machina in which a brilliant young computer engineer, Nathan, is outrageously wealthy and builds a human-like robot.

In the movie, Nathan brings one of his employees, Caleb, to his secluded retreat and introduces him to the robot, Ava. While Caleb is appropriately fascinated at Ava’s intellect and ability to pass the Turing test, I was shocked he didn’t go wild over the mechanical aspects of the robot: the walking, moving, ability to pick things up and engage in the world as a human: the mechanical engineering required to accomplish that is beyond anything remotely possible now.

But, there’s a hitch. Well, two hitches.

The first is that, during a power outage in which Nathan is unable to observe Caleb applying the Turing Test to Ava (he watches remotely over video feeds), Ava suddenly tells Caleb not to trust Nathan: “he’s not your friend!” The best part is that, as power is restored, Ava deftly transitions into a completely different conversational topic, picking up from the middle of a sentence. It’s a bit eerie and works to great affect.

The second hitch is exhibit number two: I never finished this movie. I got about as far as the aforementioned power outage, got to my stop, and didn’t pick up the movie again until after my rental had expired. That said, the movie is intriguing enough that I’m quite interested in how it turns out. Maybe a Netflix rental, maybe find it on Redbox, or do what the sale was intended to do and return to the Microsoft Store and pick it up.

imageMiss Congeniality

Shortest movie review ever: cute, mildly funny, completely inoffensive, and a fine use of a casual date night with the missus. An added bonus: the bag of microwave popcorn Suzy and I shared for intermission!

imageGravity

This movie consists of two on-screen people: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock; of which George starts us out but exits about a third of the way through. Making this the Bullock show.

Bullock plays a would-be scientist well-enough but the hours and hours of training an astronaut needs doesn’t appear to be present for about the first two-thirds, as her character snivels and whimpers and ignores direct orders, panicking and largely doing nothing to earn her spot on the mission. However, after a near-death epiphany, she bucks up, starts thinking, and improbably survives where all others fail.

I love the Clooney character and end up loving the character Bullock transforms into … but it was hard watching someone who’d earned their astronaut stripes to be chosen for a mission to service the Hubble telescope wailing and flailing about space.

imageSherlock Holmes

Both Suzy and I enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes story and Robert Downey Jr.’s 2009 portrayal is fun to watch. While we’d seen this film before, dare I say in a theater, we watched again as Downey captures Arthur Conan Doyle’s character quite well: the bare-fisted fighting (it’s in the books), the drug use while not on a case (in the books), and the shooting of firearms in the house (in the books) were all part of the film.

As was Irene Adler (played with less perfection by Rachel McAdams … who I normally enjoy seeing on film) and Watson (played well by Jude Law).

The film is a fine period piece and follow a novel (non-canon) story about a madman’s attempt to kill off Parliament and take over the world through a combination of fear and poison gas. In the end they introduce Moriarty, Holmes’ main nemesis, who remains hidden in shadow … potentially eluding to a sequel that was never shot.

image

Mad Max: Fury Road

We have another reboot!

I enjoyed Mel Gibson in Mad Max and was looking for something of the same in this 2014 movie. While it doesn’t tell the same story as the original Mad Max, it does introduce the character from that film in a similar setting. The director and originator of the Mad Max story, George Miller, creates a wonderful set and completely imagined post-apocalyptic world full of nasty villains bent on capturing Max.

Again, car chases and bullets feature prominently in this story and there’s enough pain and punishment dished out to our heroes that they don’t come through like the 1980’s macho stories. But this is Mad Max and he’s never had an easy day, even in the original. I liked this one but glad it’s a rental as I won’t have to return to it for a second watching … if there’s an over-the-top, we found it here.

That’s all, folks!

Not really, I have a bunch more movies to watch, it really was a great sale.

I should really try to put more energy into my reviews; I realize the above is a bit on the wanting side. But, as I noted, I’m not a movie guy and just can’t work up false enthusiasm. I see that School of Rock and The Breakfast Club both expire in 21 hours … as does Unforgiven. And while I’d prefer to see Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Suzy doesn’t tolerate the bloodletting like I do … so perhaps we’ll take a trip back to 1985 and see what after-school detention looks like for a misfit group of high school kids.

Thanks for dropping in!

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3 Responses to “What’s with all the movies?”

  1. If it’s available, I’d highly recommend you watch Interstellar. For me it was an incredible experience, more than just a movie. I watch a lot of films but cannot remember the last time I watched something that had such an effect on me. 🙂

    • joeabbott said

      Thanks, Olly … and, I agree: this is one of the few films Suzanne and I have seen together in a theater. I liked the premise around global crop failure and really liked the time dilation situation between the crewman on the space shuttle and the landing party who went down to the planet orbiting the black hole. Great stuff. Some parts lost me a bit but that may be a great argument for seeing it again!

      And they do have Interstellar in the movie section of the Microsoft Store but they don’t have it for rental, only purchase. And, unfortunately, Netflix only has it for DVD rental. Guess it’s time to go find a Redbox and pick it up … if it’s still available!

      • joeabbott said

        What do you know … in today’s newspaper I saw an ad for Interstellar being offered on Amazon Prime for free. And, after a quick web look-up, there it is! Guess I’d better budget a couple hours for watching this movie again today! … now, where’s the popcorn?

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