Fri Dec 09 2022 14:22 November Film Roundup:
One of the biggest months for Film Roundup yet! I'm including a movie from early December, but that only makes it slightly larger!
- Ballet 422 (2013) - At first I thought this was just a random documentary about a random guy, but it seems Justin Peck is the hot young thing of ballet choreography. Nice twist at the end. I enjoyed the focus on the logistics of setting up a ballet performance, especially the costume design. Don't think I didn't notice how licensing concerns shaped what parts of the performance we see!
- Now You See Me (2013): A fun heist movie that's utterly undone by an insistence on having an unguessable twist ending. It's unguessable because it's stupid! Just go with one of the other possibilities; we don't know which one it is! It was fun to see the pre-condo 5 Pointz show up in a movie.
- Reign of Fire (2002): Unlike Now You See Me, this movie makes no sense from the get-go, and it's better for it. Still not a good movie, but at this point in history it's enjoyable to see an action movie that's not based on a preexisting media property. They tried to make Reign of Fire into a media property but failed, probably due to a wyvern's curse or something cool like that.
After watching this film we discovered that Sumana and I pronounce "wyvern" differently; she says it sort of like "given" and I say it more like "my turn." Although the so-called dictionary sides with me, I prefer Sumana's pronunciation, so that's the way we say the word in our household. Also because of this movie we say "wyvern" a lot more than we used to.
- Weird (2022): A fun musical biopic that becomes increasingly unhinged until it finally sides entirely with the "pic" over the "bio", but as cool as Weird Al is, do we need this movie and the much funnier Walk Hard? Need or not, we have them both.
- Six Degrees of Separation (1993): I really don't know what this movie is trying to say. Some movies scold you for watching them, but this movie scolds you for something the characters and the screenwriter are doing but you're not! The dialogue was great, which makes sense since this is an adaptation of a play.
- WarGames (1983): A pleasant surprise, a hacking movie where the hacking feels naturalistic and real. This movie had a real (and not entirely positive) effect on cybersecurity policy, from the time when policy was determined by making a movie and hoping Ronald Reagan watched it. The third-act mad scientist is not really necessary, but I have to admit his lair was pretty damn cool. The clueless parents are also fun.
- Wedding Banquet (1993): Another enjoyable New York immigrant rom-com. I really enjoyed the big party; it feels like they had an actual party once they finished filming, since they'd already rented the space. Or maybe they filmed the party, I don't know if that's plausible logistically, but it seems easier to actually have the party since you're not going to have to do a lot of retakes.
- Wyrm (2019): This movie chosen partly because of its name, as we were in the grips of wyvernmania. A fun indie film with a vaporwave aesthetic and an aggressively awkward Napoleon Dynamite feel. Just as I said "I hope we don't spend the whole movie on this premise," the thing I was afraid wouldn't happen til the end of the movie happened, and the movie started focusing on the aftermath. So, great timing.
- John Wick (2014): We watched half of this movie before deciding the cleverness/gruesome violence ratio was way out of whack and giving up. I'm kind of interested in the third movie where John apparently picks up a book at the 40th Street research branch of the NYPL, but just that scene.
OK, I've watched that scene on YouTube, so I'm good now. It looks like they actually filmed the action scene on location, as opposed to Ghostbusters where the Rose Reading Room is real but the stacks are in a set in LA. I have to deduct one point, though, as NYPL employees are seen not wearing their employee badges.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988): Now here's a movie that doesn't care that you can guess the twist: it just keeps you guessing when the twist will be sprung, Hitchcock style. Fun performances from everyone, and an extra bonus twist at the end which we did not guess. That's the other secret to great drama, BTW: spring the twist the audience was guessing as soon as they guess it, then hit them with another.
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022): Adaptation (2002) is one of those pre-Film-Roundup films that I didn't review in NYCB, but I remember it fondly and have occasionally returned to it for comparisons. This movie practically demands a comparison, as it takes the most comedic parts of a fairly serious comedy and uses them as fuel for an infernocrusher romp. A lot of fun.
- The Train (1964): We watched Andor, the Star Wars series for people who think Star Wars is silly. (That's right, a Television Spotlight embedded in this movie review! What will I think of next?) It was really good, so good that we started looking into its cinematic inspirations, like this movie and the next one. The Train is a counterheist movie, with the thrill and pacing of a heist but with the theft being carried off in broad daylight and the heroes responsible for stopping it—without damaging the goods, which gives it an air of those fight scenes where Jackie Chan is juggling an expensive vase. I went in hoping something a bit more like The General, but maybe that's true of every film I see.
- Stalag 17 (1953): The most violent Billy Wilder film I've seen, but it's still got plenty of space for banter. Specifically the masculine jocularity found in military pocket guides, which is a perfect match for Wilder's style. There's also more space for slapstick than in a typical Wilder movie. The wartime setting allows for a happy ending while still letting Wilder get his ultimate wish of making a movie where almost every character fails to fulfill their dream. Highly recommended.
- Father of the Bride (1991): I remember writing an article for my high school newspaper decrying the state of Hollywood comedies, with this movie being Exhibit A. I said this unfairly, based on the trailer, without having actually seen the film, and having no real sense of the cinematic traditions I was supposedly hearkening back to. Now that I have seen the film, I'd like to offer a crucial correction: I was actually talking shit based on the trailer for the 1995 sequel to this movie. Everything else I remember is accurate.
This is a character-driven comedy which gets its humor by putting bland characters in moderately aggravating circumstances—the scourge of mediocre comedies then and now. It's especially noticeable because it stars Steve Friggin Martin and Diane Friggin Keaton, in the same year Martin does the hilarious L. A. Story. That's the clearest example of "one for you, one for me" I'm aware of. The best thing I can say about this is you don't often see a rom-com from the perspective of someone who's not a party to the romance.
I kind of feel bad slamming Father of the Bride because it's not terrible, just kind of a nonentity. It's not terribly funny, and it's sentimental in a way that requires a lot of humor to balance it out. Roxanne, for example, was great, because its love story was intertwined with an over-the-top farce. Who's going to uphold these standards, if not me? I've been fighting this rearguard action for almost thirty years and I'm way too invested to stop now!