BIG HERO 6

What a delightful movie. On the negative side, it’s formulaic, doesn’t break any new ground, and the plot twist is obvious. But I don’t go to animated features for any of that. I go for the visuals. And this is beautifully rendered with charming, engaging characters, especially Baymax, the marshmallowy robot who’s the moral center of the tale.  I couldn’t help being reminded of the much darker The Iron Giant. I checked the credits for Brad Bird’s name but didn’t see it.

FF=0

ST. VINCENT

The life of a misanthropic curmudgeon with a heart of gold is turned around by his relationship with a little boy.  Yeah, I know.  How many times has that been done?  This is pure Hollywood feel-good formula, but you know what? It works. Mostly because of the talent on the screen. Great cast, especially Jaeden Lieberher as the boy. Even the bit parts (I’m thinking Chris O’Dowd) are perfectly cast. I can think of worse ways to spend 100 minutes.

FF=1

BLOODLINE

(spoilers ahead) A 13-episode Netflix original series. On the plus side it’s got good acting and the Keys as a setting. On the down side, the story seems mighty thin for 13 hours. The endlessly repeated flashbacks and flashforwards, adding a wee bit more each time – we’ve all seen that before. (I can almost hear the showrunner saying, “How can we stretch this scene?”) Ben Mendelsohn does an excellent job as Danny, the prodigal lowlife creep, but in the end I was left very disappointed. I like noir fiction — might even say I’m a fan — but noir works best in compact, concentrated doses. When you’re given a 13-hour canvas, you’ve got to do more with it than leave us with characters who do not evolve one iota over all those hours. True, in real life most people don’t evolve during adulthood, but this is fiction, which has the potential to be better than real life. With all the crap that goes down in this 13-hour film, nobody learns a damn thing. And the worst part, we’ve known the ending all along due to the flashforwards. Redemption was too much to hope for, I know, but this left me feeling in need of a shower.

FF=3

THE WRECKING CREW

Saw this in a real theater in Asbury Park so I couldn’t have fast-forwarded if I’d wanted to. (I didn’t.)  A must-see documentary if you like 60s music. If you’re a boomer, it’s about the guys (and one gal — bassist Carol Kaye is a hoot) who played on the soundtrack of your life. Hell, if you simply like popular music, you need to see this. This was how it used to be, how the music was made, and the 20 or so musicians who made it.

FF=0

WILD CARD

Available On Demand contemporaneous with its theatrical release.  A middling Jason Statham action film — nowhere near as frenetic as “Crank” or his “Transporter” films. Turns out it’s a remake of the 1986 Burt Reynolds vehicle, “Heat.” Some non-touristy locations in Las Vegas and a couple of very busy fight scenes — I watched the last one twice — but I was hoping for more from the William Goldman script — a nifty plot twist, some neato dialogue — but this could have been written by anyone of a hundred scripters.

FF=2

JOHN WICK

Excellent action flick with well choreographed fights that don’t drag on. Nice understated, show-don’t-tell moment near start with a rear shot of Viggo, the big-shot Russian crime boss, calling John Leguizamo. He asks JL why he punched Viggo’s son. JL replies: “He stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.” Viggo mutters a faint “Oh,” as he turns with a slack expression and ends the call. No speeches about waking a sleeping tiger, etc. needed.

The script goes an extra mile in (under)world building by creating a clandestine criminal society operating like a nation state in the interstices with its own rules enforcement plus its own currency.  Someone could do a lot more with the concept.

Then we come to a couple of pure BS moments. Viggo’s men get the better of Wick; does Viggo kill him on the spot? Hell no. He’s gotta tie him to a chair and yammer at him. (In the back of my head I hear Dr. Evil’s son shouting, “Here’s a gun, Dad! Shoot him! Shoot him NOW!”) Of course Wick gets away. And later, when he has the drop on Viggo, does he kill him? Nooooo! Which costs a friend his life a little later. Why, why why does this happen in film after film? Whatever. Except for those two lapses, a very well-done revenge flick.

BONUS: This cool montage shows you every kill from the film. (obviously a spoilerfest) http://tinyurl.com/mh89phk

FF=0

TUSK

One freakin weird movie. I saw it because Kevin Smith is a Jersey Shore guy and because the premise sounded so over the top. Well, it’s waaaay over the top. A crazy, gabby (hey, it’s a Kevin Smith film, so you expect lots of chatter), rather slow horror-comedy that’s totally ruined by the final scene. I kept thinking, “No, tear, no tear, please don’t show a tear.” And then came the tear. Bah!

FF=3