Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Old Guard

Spoiler-free!

A group of immortals, (Charlize Theron, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli) whose bodies heal themselves from any injury, go around the world and get themselves in dangerous situations in the two-fold hope that they'll do some good in the world... and that maybe someday they'll die.

If that sounds like an interesting, exciting flick to you, then I'm sorry to report: that isn't what actually happens in the movie. That is the premise of the characters' existence, only. The plot of the movie is that a new immortal (KiKi Layne) becomes known to them in a vision directly after they mess up on one of those said missions and get some bad guys on their tail. (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling) They have to find and recruit her to their ranks before facing down the baddies who want to study them for a cure for death.

My one hope was that it'd be better than Bloodshot. No dice.

Even that sounds more exciting than the movie winds up being. It's Deadpool without the comedy, and half the action. It's a long series of droning conversations about things that are more ambiguous than deep, inter-cut occasionally with quota-filling fight scenes that do nothing to drive the plot forward. Sometimes action happens off screen, then when the character who witnessed it relates the event to the others, the movie flashes back so we can see it, too. It's desperate to put in as much action as possible, but it can't keep itself from those meaningless conversations in which people who are hundreds of years old act like whiny children, cynical of their own existence.

There really aren't any positive sides to it for me, but if you tend to enjoy action -- fight scenes with hands, guns, and swords kind of stuff, complete with improbable choreography -- then this movie does have that going for it. Shaky cam has finally, and thankfully, died, so you can see what's going on in the film, and none of the set pieces are too extravagant to need an excess of CGI. A good thing, because the CGI isn't great. (when is it ever?) Still, the fights aren't particularly exciting, filmed typically, and without stakes in the narrative to back it up.

They spend the whole movie telling us why we should care, and never give us a reason to.

The film opens on the group complaining, and arguing over whether they should take another "case", which made me instantly not care about them. There's only four yet they're developed so shallowly. Charlize is the whiny leader, Matthias is handsome, and the other two are gay. (And Marwan was Jafar in that awful live action Aladdin!) That's it. The new girl isn't better developed, but she starts off on a good, likable foot. She's a marine who's killed in action, and once she wakes up, the confused reaction and mistrust from her unit is the most compelling slice of story the film has to offer. I wish they'd focused the story down to her.

Instead they fight nonthreatening or uncommitted bad guys (or their red-shirt henchmen with laughably bad training) until the plot is resolved because enough people have been killed to render it inert. And the new group goes off again, to do their thing of exotic locations and extreme, daring, dangerous missions for the good of mankind. Wouldn't that have been nice to see. Clearly a sequel is desired. But now we've been disappointed and bored out of wanting one.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Palm Springs

Spoiler-free!

It's the wedding day of her little sister, and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) isn't feeling it. She's saved from a maid of honor speech she didn't know was required of her by a strange guy in swim trunks and a Hawaiian shirt who gives a speech that she feels like is directed at her. Then he dances through a crowd as if he knew every move each person would make. Weird, but funny. He's Nyles (Andy Samberg) and the day only gets weirder from there, once they go out in the desert together and a man with a camo-painted face starts hunting Nyles with a compound bow. Sarah follows Nyles into a cave where there's a weird orange light -- and then wakes up on her sister's wedding day. Again.

Now available on Hulu!

Yep! It's a time-loop movie. With the slight twist that people can share the loop. Nyles has been there a long time, and so has bow-hunting man (J.K. Simmons), and naturally, Sarah's mad that she got stuck too, even though Nyles definitely told her not to go in the cave. How to escape the loop? And what to do to fill the days until they figure it out? Well, the movie has a fun answer for the first question. It's answer for the second is a mixed bag.

Since the death of the 90's rom-com, every rom-com now must have an explanation for when there's a slightly fantastic element needed to create the situation. Bill Murray's time-loop had no explanation, nor did it need one. But this movie does. I find that unspoken requirement worryingly limiting, but this flick takes good advantage. It's scifi streak is one of the better things it has going for it. The movie is strongest when the streak is more prominent. It's mostly at the beginning and the end, when you feel the weight of the weird, impossible circumstance, and the characters have a clear goal in front of them -- of escape.

Without a goal the movie begins to sprawl distractedly.

In the middle, particularly the earlier middle, it's more about having fun with the loop and doing all the things you'd do if you knew what will happen every day. This is where mediocrity creeps in. Perhaps slightly because both our main characters are aware and make different choices every day, so the looping doesn't feel as present. But they're also put away from the wedding party too often, which gives their days unwanted variety. The repeated moments are limited to one or two lines, never entire scenes or even conversations. Instead they get to know each other through the days. Almost like a normal rom-com. But the film does insert some character mysteries for the audience to pick up on during that time, too.

These "mysteries" were my favorite thing because of the slight way they were introduced, and then handled to bring some genuine depth to the characters. The film still leans heavily to the comedy side, but a little drama and a tad of darkness rounds out the tone. Even more rounding would have been welcome if handled well. But Andy Samberg is far more suited to comedy anyway. He ranges from charming to cynical, but it's all for humor. Cristin Milioti isn't as effortlessly funny, but also digs in deeper for the dramatic moments. Their chemistry was bubbly and warm, which sets a pleasant, light-hearted feel for the film. Even when the movie went too far for me, it was hard to be irked for too long.

I didn't fall in love, but I was charmed enough to not care.

Palm Springs doesn't waste its time trying to stand out from the pack of movies that took inspiration from Groundhog Day. Instead, it embraces the comical situation, feeds the expected romantic side without too much cynicism, and doesn't neglect pondering a little on the deeper side of life, with a lightly life-affirming message. It throws a few new elements at us to keep us on our toes, but at its core, it's classically done. And though the execution isn't without missteps or unnecessary rabbit trails, it clearly understands the appeal of this niche and always fun premise. Like a familiar and cozy place that you can visit again and again.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Upcoming Movie Roundup - July

Well I'm 10 days late with this post, but hey -- better late than never, right? I think I need these posts to stay sane, even though I'm scraping the bottom of the (nearly empty) movie barrel.

Last month I was convinced to not pay $20 to rent The King of Staten Island, so now I'm waiting for the rental fee to cheapen. I did see Eurovision: The story of Fire Saga! And it was better than I expected! A bit too much unfunny slapstick style comedy for my taste but it wasn't unbearable, and in between there was genuine charm and good music. At this point I probably won't review it, even though I should. Eh. Oh well.

I did catch up a bit with The Invisible Man -- it was cool, though not as great as I was promised. (review)

I'm currently in the middle of Dark on Netflix, and it is as expected so far. The same show in all the particulars, but not on the same level as that stunning first season.

July has... not much going for it, surprise surprise. I was really hoping to be gearing up for TENET at this point. But here's what I'll be settling for instead:



The Old guard
On Netflix July 10
I'm not holding onto hope that this will be very high on the quality scale, but it looks high enough on the fun scale to give it a go! Based on a graphic novel... fantasy and "real world"... immortality... sounds better than Bloodshot already! Starring Charlize Theron, with Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the baddie, it seems.




Palm Springs
On Hulu July 10th
This one was on my to-watch list even before COVID happened. I was on board based on premise alone, that it was a com-rom with some kind of scifi twist, starring Andy Samberg who I think is pretty funny. But I actually watched the trailer just now and now and even more on board because wow do I like a good Groundhog Day concept! And the idea of two characters experiencing the repeating days together is a new, fun twist to add.




Vivarium
On Amazon Prime July 11th
Interesting concept low-fi scifi movie where a couple looking for a house to buy stumbles into the wrong neighborhood -- which they literally cannot find their way out of. Starring Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg. The style is very Stepford with a modern arthouse edge, and the premise has my curiosity piqued.




Cursed
TV series on Netflix July 17th
Ehh, I was interesting at the idea of a medieval fantasy series on Netflix, but watching the trailer makes it look like there isn't much meat to dig into. I dunno, I might give it a chance.




The Kissing Booth 2
On Netflix July 24th
All but guaranteed to be worse than the already spectacularly bad original -- but what it Netflix for if not to watch awful teen rom-coms while the world stands still in the middle of summer? A waste of time? Absolutely. But what else am I going to do with the surplus? Lol, I hate that I know I'm going to hate this and am still planning to watch it.




The Umbrella Academy - Season 2
TV series on Netflix July 31st
The first season was good. I will continue watching it until it isn't good anymore. Basically these adopted siblings with quirky superpowers stop the apocalypse from happening in various different ways every season. It's a hoot!