April was kind of light on viewing but most of it was great, so I made up in quality. Here’s the list, with quick thoughts on each movie or links leading you to my review posts.
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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Fun, great team of lovable misfits and unlikely heroes who turn into a family of adventurers. Chris Pratt has an easy charm that makes his ego (he wants badly to be known as Star-Lord, but it’s just not taking), his smart aleck lines and his sensitivity (loses his mom as young boy and treasures the mixtape she made him) all work well. Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer is hilarious, a giant brute with a heart of gold who doesn’t get humour because he takes everything literally: “Metaphors go over his head./ NOTHING goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.” And there are tons of similar alien culture clash jokes and oneliners in this clever sci fi comedy, as well as lots of grand FX in the different worlds, plus good action and battles, destruction, etc. My small complaint is that the villains are kind of bland and there’s not much of a plot, the end is very similar to Captain America: Winter Soldier (not spoiling to say it involves giant aircraft crashing down) but those things almost don’t matter here, since the movie still does a super job of bringing to life and establishing characters that are not comic book icons but new to most movie audiences, and getting them to gel into a family you really want to see again.
You’re Next (2011). Rewatch, totally unintended but it was on and I gave it another look. Still not excited about the story, but here’s another case of a mediocre plot giving birth to a great character and in this case, a genre icon. To repeat what I said last time, Sharni Vinson as Erin turns the tables on a gang of killers, and turns out to be one of horror movies’ greatest, most motivating, resourceful survivors and “final girls.”
Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013). The story behind the greatest sci fi movie never made. Director Alejandro Jodorowsky spent years preparing his ambitious and elaborate vision for a movie of Dune and it fell apart, yet his designs, costumes and concepts were spread into several other films by his collaborators; the failure still influenced the genre. His dream looks amazing unmade or as a graphic novel, which is how he reworked and released much of it, but who knows if the movie would ever have been possible, or any good once it was made. Even more valuable than all the movie’s history and background, is hearing a creative’s view of the value of failure in general, i.e. that the effort is always worth it for what you learn.
The Equalizer (2014). I loved the Edward Woodward TV series when I was a teen (The A-Team was my favourite show though). I was dreading what I’d get in this attempt to modernize and condense the show and it’s not great but I was pleasantly surprised. That’s mostly down to having someone as mature, solid, likable and authentic as Denzel Washington in the lead (now that I wrote those words, Kevin Costner would have done a good job too, I bet). Denzel is great as former Black Ops (he tells his coworkers he was once in The Pips) and a widower who’s trying to live a quiet solitary life, sitting at the local diner with his tea, reading his way through the 100 Greatest Books. Then a local hooker, with (say it with me) a heart of gold is roughed up by the Russian mob and he snaps. When he snaps, he just gets calmer and more solid, assesses the situation carefully (almost from a Terminator-vision POV) and then unleashes highly efficient, impressive, and mostly deadly vengeance on his targets. The movie goes a bit too long as the Russians send in their expert, Marton Csokas, and the two men try to outplay each other, along with the subplot of a coworker trying for a security guard job, but overall the action is good with a nice climactic battle in the Home Depot-ish big box store (think of all the possible weapons!). I would gladly watch Denzel do this as a TV series.
The Scapegoat (2012). Adaptation of the 1957 novel by Daphne du Maurier. I came at this sort of backwards since I haven’t seen the Alec Guinness 1959 movie, which I must now. Set at the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, a schoolteacher, played by Matthew Rhys, has just lost his job and bumps into his doppelganger (also played by Rhys) who happens to be an unlikable and possibly villainous member of a well-to-do clan, a cheating husband who’s been ruining the family business. The bad Rhys mugs the good one to steal his identity and get away from it all. The schoolteacher/good one is mistaken for the bad one and is chauffered back “home” where he tries but fails to convince everyone he’s not who they think. He ends up growing to love the family and manages to set right most of the problems his double ran away from. Then one day the real one returns and decides he doesn’t like this one taking his place. I can’t compare to either the book or the earlier version (would appreciate comments from those who can) but this movie plays less as a Strangers on a Train style thriller and more as a family drama, the story of a lost man who finds himself while pretending to be someone else.