2016 log (8)

(1 Aug) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, James Gunn) 92
[ I first saw the year’s most popular movie at an early private screening and loved it then, but it was when I saw it again at the big Fantasia International Film Festival premiere in a packed house of enthusiastic geeks that I completely fell in love with it. This is close to being my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie so far, give or take “The Avengers”, thanks to witty writing and dynamic direction by James Gunn, the best soundrack of the year and a totally awesome cast of actors having a great time playing some instantly iconic characters: Chris Pratt as the cocky Starlord, Zoe Saldana as the lethal Gamora, Dave Bautista as the humorously humorless Drax, Bradley Cooper as the badass Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as the irresistible Groot. Some people are all about Cannes-approved international cinema or they can’t get enough of middlebrow Oscar-bait biopics. To me, there’s not much that can be as satisfying as a perfectly well-oiled Hollywood blockbuster firing on all cylinders. This is why we go to the movies.

Note: this is a repost of a blurb written in 2014. ]

(3 Aug) Blood Father (2016, Jean-François Richet) 84
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(4 Aug) Suicide Squad (2016, David Ayer) 65
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(5 Aug) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller) 97
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(10 Aug) Zoom (2016, Pedro Morelli) 70
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(11 Aug) Sausage Party (2016, Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon) 64
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(12-14 Aug) The Get Down – Part 1 (2016, Baz Luhrmann, Ed Bianchi, Andrew Bernstein, Michael Dinner)
[ I haven’t read any reviews of this new Netflix series yet, but I’m pretty sure some will pan it because it’s basically a cartoon fantasy version of the early days of hip hop. Well, this is a Baz Luhrmann joint, hon. Do you really think “Moulin Rouge!” was a realistic portrayal of life in 1899 Paris? Of course not! Likewise, “The Get Down” is *supposed* to be a romantic, colorful, spectacular spectacular version of 1977 in the Bronx. Sure, it deals with poverty, gang warfare, political corruption, blackout looting and whatnot, but through it all, there’s that Baz spirit, that theatricality, you know? Now, I love me some Luhrmann, but I wasn’t won over by “The Get Down” right away. That first episode has no business lasting more than 90 minutes, as it meanders too much, notably setting up the relationship between the two leads (Justice Smith & Herizen F. Guardiola), plus the whole 70s disco thing feels like a bit of a rehash of something like “Boogie Nights”, which of course was already a bit of a rehash of “Saturday Night Fever” and whatnot. But then, towards the end of that too-long, 90-minute-plus first episode, we finally get to the actual “get down”: an underground old-school hip hop party starring Grandmaster Flash (Mamoudou Athie), and it it’s electrifying. I mean, if you think of giving up before that, I feel you, but that scene is killer! And thankfully, in the next episodes, while there might still be some weaker parts (the wannabe Blaxploitation stuff, Jimmy Smits sleazing it up, etc.), there’s more and more actual hip hop and it’s awesome. I couldn’t get enough of Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore from “Dope”) trying to master the art of turntablism, Ezekiel (Smith) laying down rhymes, and Mylene (Guardiola) singing, too. That kept me going and I’m so glad I did, because once we get to Episode 5, “The Get Down” is firing on all cylinders, touching the sky with an opening musical number going back and forth between Zeke freestyling and Mylene singing a disco/latin funk hymn. Then there’s this instantly involving plot to the episode, as Shao and his Grandmaster Flash-approved crew (which also includes Skylan Brooks, Tremaine Brown Jr. and my man Jaden Smith) prepare for a battle against the Notorious Three, a crew associated with DJ Kool Herc (Eric D. Hill Jr.). So by the time we get to Episode Six (the last one of Part One), we’re really excited for the battle and it totally delivers. Full of great needle drops as well as a few super catchy original tracks (“Set Me Free”!), “The Get Down – Part 1”, flawed as it might be overall, ends up making you want to buy the soundtrack, which is sort of the best thing a musical series can do. I’ll be there for Part 2 next year. ]

(15 Aug) Braveheart (1995, Mel Gibson) [ review ] 92

(17 Aug) Hell or High Water (2016, David Mackenzie) 88
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(19 Aug) Jean-Claude Van Johnson – Pilot (2016, Peter Atencio)
[ I’ve always been fond of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and I was a fan of the movie “JCVD”, so this new spy TV series pilot with Van Damme playing himself (sort of) easily won me over. The gags & stunts are effective, and JCVD himself is just such a compelling screen presence. I hope this series gets picked up by Amazon. ]

(20 Aug)   This Is the End (2013, Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen)
[ review ] 67 92

(22 Aug) Nitro Rush (2016, Alain Desrochers) 68
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(22 Aug) Face/Off (1997, John Woo) [ review ] 92

(23 Aug) Superbad (2007, Greg Mottola) [ review ] 89

(25 Aug) Tyson (2008, James Toback)
[ I loved the hell out of this documentary, which is basically just a long, relentless monologue by boxing champ Mike Tyson, who’s endlessly fascinating, pathetic and/or insane. His life is one of glorious highs and tragic lows, which are often interwoven… It lasts 90 minutes, but I think I could have handled a 3-hour version. ]

(26 Aug) Don’t Breathe (2016, Fede Alvarez) 93
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

(27 Aug) The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, Martin Scorsese) [ review ] 94