While the rest of the family has been on vacation, James and I have been watching a movie together every night. I'm sharing mini-reviews of these films -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
End of Watch (Directed by David Ayer) (My Rating: 4.5/5)
Memorable Quote (Van Hauser): You know I see you guys out here, you're being good little company men, aren't you? Are you doing the Lord's work? And you're making a difference, as you call it. It's all fun and games to you, you get to run and jump and fight and shoot. One day, mark my words, one day the LAPD is going to bend you over your black and white, and they are going to f**k you up the ass.I have never warmed up to the concept of found footage movies, but after reading some reviews, I was convinced End of Watch was not to be missed. This is a fast-paced, suspenseful film, following two police officers on a variety of dangerous calls as they work the streets of Los Angeles. However, it is very character-driven, focusing closely on the relationship between these two young officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), and providing glimpses into their personal lives.
I can't comment on the realism of this portrayal of police work and gangs -- that isn't within my realm of experience. However, I understand these performers spent five months doing ride alongs with LAPD officers in preparation for their roles.
What impressed me most was the portrayal of the intense, edgy camaraderie among officers. This is something I have had opportunity to observe during the past 18 years. :-) The dynamics in the department are complex, with tangled bonds of animosity and trust and plenty of "pissing contests." The bond between two close friends who work the streets together? They curse at each other, insult each other, and love each other like brothers. And they'll lay down their lives for one another without a moment's hesitation.
Both James and I appreciated this movie. At first, we didn't like the constant use of the shaky cam; while it fit the style of the film, we found it distracting. However, after a while, I didn't really notice it any more. And we both found the action, storytelling, and character development engrossing. Due to the pervasive strong language and violence, End of Watch isn't for everybody, but I highly recommend it.
The Amazing Spiderman (Directed by Marc Webb) (My Rating: 4/5)
Memorable Quote (Ben Parker): Those things send us down a road... they make us who we are. And if anyone's destined for greatness, it's you, son. You owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them and know that wherever they take you, we'll always be here.Both James and I enjoyed this new adaptation of the classic superhero comic, probably a bit better than the Sam Rami movie. It told the same story in a different way, with significant changes in the cast of characters. In place of Mary Jane, we have Gwen Stacy, daughter of the police chief, as Peter Parker's classmate and crush. This movie also offers a new villain: The Lizard (Curt Conners), a huge reptile with a sinister grin who looked a bit like a cross between Godzilla and The Joker.
Neither James nor I felt this villain held a candle to Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin. But we liked the Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone pairing better than Rami's Spiderman and Mary Jane. I thought Garfield and Stone had great chemistry together. And the movie was fast paced and fun, with an unsolved mystery to pique our interest in the sequel.
30 Minutes or Less (Directed by Ruben Fleischer) (My Rating: 1/5)
A couple of moronic criminals strap explosives to a pizza delivery guy and order him to rob a bank. One of these imbeciles needs the money to take out a hit on his wealthy father. After all, he's living in his father's house, spending his time hanging out by the pool or watching action movies with his best bud. If he doesn't take drastic action, he might have to do the unthinkable: actually man up and get a job.
Memorable Quote (James): "When those dudes were watching an action movie and started trying to
hump the characters on screen, I figured it couldn't get any stupider."
I guess my 1/5 star rating speaks for itself. I rented this to watch with James, thinking "Jesse Eisenberg is in it -- maybe it's decent." and "what 14-year-old boy doesn't want to watch a comedy that features flamethrowers?" The tag line promised "raunchy humor and balls out action." I guess that should've been my first warning. Next time, I'll definitely look for a comedy/action movie that keeps its balls in its pants.
James concurs with my one-star rating. He summed it up better than I could when he said, "When those dudes were watching an action movie and started trying to hump the characters on screen, I figured it couldn't get any stupider." True, it couldn't. Though to its credit, it wasn't for lack of trying.
Since this film was too puerile for a 14-year-old, and too off color for anyone younger, I wonder about it's target audience. Not that I'm judging anyone who liked this movie. I've enjoyed my share of low brow crap. I watched Horrible Bosses about three times. :-) But James and I found this to be a painful experience.
Contagion (Directed by Steven Soderbergh) (My Rating: 4/5 Stars)
Memorable Quote (Dr. Ian Sussman): Blogging is not writing. It's just graffiti with punctuation. (I find that kind of humbling :-P)
Soon after returning from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from a mysterious infection. Soon more deaths are reported, and no one can effectively diagnose or treat these illnesses. Doctors and administrators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, headed by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), are faced with a Herculean task. They must first identify the type of virus then find a way to fight it. Doctors and scientists risk their lives -- both in the lab and out in the field -- trying to crack the puzzle and stop the spread of the disease.
As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, panic escalates. This is exacerbated by journalist/blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), who is the first to report on the epidemic but has his own agenda. As panic spreads, societal order begins to break down.
This well-crafted thriller offers an ensemble of interesting, compelling characters and a fascinating glimpse of the myriad ways people react to crisis, including heroism, opportunism, and hysteria. Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) provides the heart of the film as a man struggling to protect his teenage daughter, after losing his wife and stepson to the virus, as society appears to be crumbling around him.
This movie is deftly plotted and compelling with a terrific cast and memorable characters. However, there are many threads in the narrative, and some of the characters' stories ended abruptly. This made it somewhat difficult to connect with these people and their experiences. I didn't find Contagion as engrossing as Soderbergh's Traffic, and for me it lacks the heart and passion of that movie. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it for the strong storytelling, suspense, and excellent performances.