Film Brief: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes features lots of great visual sequences, and a sense the filmmaker knows what he’s doing — which is refreshing.  A generally well-executed story, if a not particularly original one.  (SPOILER:) See Comparison Notes to understand why not particularly original.

War is inferior to the last episode of the franchise, but it’s still good.  Note: despite being billed as “the end,” it won’t be.  A fourth film is in the works.  7/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Logan’s Run, Run, Run

Pursuit – run-in, pursuit – run-in, pursuit – really big run-in, end of movie.  This basic, worn out, unengaging and paper-thin plot structure is the bane of many superhero and “action” films, and to some degree explains the disparity between the Tomatometer and my score on a movie like Logan.  Almost makes you wonder if all these other critics are so dim as to not recognize the formula, or somehow think it novel.

I liked the feisty girl, and the performances in general were OK.  I’m a bit of Hugh Jackman fan — from Les Miz at least.  Add in a little fun to get yield 4/10.

Comparison Notes: the much better Mad Max film from a couple years back

Film Brief: Deepwater Horizon

Like Everest, Deepwater Horizon fails at the most most crucial point.  But at least Everest was an engaging picture.  I still don’t know what or how the explosion(s) occurred, and I don’t want to reverse-figure out the movie on Wikipedia.  A good documentary on the subject would have been infinitely better — so I guess I’ll wait for that on PBS.  I did like the parts that weren’t just a bunch of banging, and John Malkovich was perfection.  4/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Captain Phillips, Sully, Gravity, Everest

Film Brief: Suicide Squad

suicide-squad-posterSuicide Squad is the most hyped movie of the year by far, so despite the poor reviews I took it as my duty to go see it. Plus, it looked kinda fun.

The funny thing is that although it was terrible, it wasn’t worse than any other latter-era superhero / comic-based movie.  Which is to say critics can’t find the line between good and bad action flicks.  2/10

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For a real female superhero movie, I suggest La Femme Nikita.  And for a real evil-doer movie, Dead Calm.

The Nice Guys Finish First

Scott Tobias, NPR, mostly gets it:

With The Nice Guys, his wildly entertaining new detective comedy, Black visits the smog-choked, libertine Los Angeles of the mid- to late 1970s, a few years and a few miles removed from private eyes like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye or Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice. Only, The Nice Guys doesn’t linger in the haze. It has the byzantine plot of an LA noir, but races through it with the breathless energy of Black’s other work. From a simple missing-person case, the film opens up a full-to-bursting array of running jokes, ornate action set pieces, municipal schemes, and twists large and small. The only trouble is keeping up with it.

A few critics speak to a confusing or multi-layered plot, but I’m not sure what they’re talking about.  I found the story quite straightforward, even simple —  if not especially robust.  But the film does move along well, with lots of fun scenes The Nice Guys - text blockmoving quickly from one to the next.  “Wildly entertaining” is overselling it a bit, however.  Toward the end, The Nice Guys devolves into a sort of fermented corn-and-cheese mixture: the “ornate action set piece” finale I found trite, an obvious take-off on the much better opening sequence of the second Indiana Jones picture.

With its several significant flaws, The Nice Guys nonetheless has more in its favor than against it.  It’s mostly a lot of fun.  The squandered opportunities which yielded American Hustle and Inherent Vice were making me think that no-one could produce a decent ’70s-set movie in this vein, but The Nice Guys comes out on top of this heap.  On the low end of 7/10.

Comparison Notes (all recommended, and more accurately “wildly entertaining”): Chinatown, Catch Me If You Can, Trainspotting, Hail, Caesar!