Kept you waiting, huh? As it turns out, going to Vegas and then immediately having a summer microeconomics course gives me very little time to write. But I’m back today, and I’ll be back in a couple days as well, so you won’t have to wait so long this time for your weekly fill of frequently fallacious reviews. I saw 4 movies and finished a TV show last week and have a little bit to say about all of them, so here they are:
April 29: Happy Endings (Amazon Prime Video)
As happy as the ending is, I can’t help but be unhappy about the ending of Happy Endings.
In the beginning, I wrote off Happy Endings as being a mediocre version of New Girl. The characters seemed vaguely similar, if a little less nuanced and hilarious, but it was a good show to watch if I didn’t want to turn my brain on for 20 minutes. Upon finishing all three seasons, though, I’ve come to realise that it stands by itself as a ludicrously underrated sitcom that works far better than it has any right to. The show begins with the marriage of the two most attractive people of all time, Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton). Alex gets cold feet and leaves him at the altar for a dude on rollerskates, and the show supposedly revolves around their friend group dealing with the fallout of Alex’s exit. Except none of that actually matters past the first episode, and all the show really involves is six pals doing wacky shit like any other traditional sitcom. The cast comes into their own as the series progresses, to the point where by the end, I was heartbroken. Alex and Dave, they were meant for each other! They can’t stay friends! Why is a stupid sitcom making me care so much for these dummies?! They’re together forever in my headcanon and nobody can stop me from believing that.
May 2: Lost in Translation (Netflix)
Lost in Translation is a delectable ad for Japan. It’s also a movie with characters and a plot, but I gleaned the most from the surrounding elements. As pretty as it is to look at, I can’t say I found the story all that well told. As the movie kept going, I didn’t feel as though Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson evolved in a meaningful enough way. Once they officially meet they become great friends remarkably quickly, and they stay that way for the rest of the film. The conflict comes from their personal struggles rather than tension between them, and while I respect the different take on what could have been a rather generic romance, the relationship didn’t speak to me the way it did for many others. Murray and Johansson give us the complicated performances required for the script, but even they can’t make me entirely invested in a relationship with no clear progression.
Initially, I was also bothered by the kiss they share at the end, as I interpreted it as a romantic gesture rather than a platonic one. Upon speaking to multiple people, though, I realise I may have been mistaken, and that a kiss on the lips does not necessarily imply romance. That’s good, because I’ve been thinking this entire time that Tom Brady was getting a little too romantic with his son…
May 3: Wildlife (Netflix)
If it weren’t for the fact that this is Paul Dano’s directorial debut, I’d just mimic my Dark River review and call it a day at saying that I watched this entire movie just to tell you how boring it is. Wildlife being directed by one of the best actors around changes how I feel, since it adds a bunch to how disappointed I am with this.
The issues begin at conception. There is nothing in Wildlife that resembles an interesting idea, and the script never takes a step back to see that it doesn’t even try to toast the white bread it’s been given. Considering Paul Dano gives such fantastically nuanced performances and chooses his projects so carefully, it’s a wonder how this made it into Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan’s hands without somebody realising that it’s a snore from start to finish. Every shot feels as though effort was put into making it as flat and emotionless as possible, keeping me distant from the relentlessly stodgy protagonists. It starts to entertain once Gyllenhaal tries to burn to Bill Camp’s house, but I only liked that because it’s comically out of character and irredeemably silly. Dano should either stick to acting or drastically change his directing style, because Wildlife is a perfect example of how not to direct a movie. Unfortunately, the 80 on Metacritic won’t deter him from making another failure like this one, so expect to see more of this crap.
May 3: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (Netflix)
Zac Efron was born to play Ted Bundy. As mediocre as the trailer looked, I was so, so excited to see Efron play one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. Did the movie deliver? No, it’s pretty awful. Did Efron deliver? As much as I want to say yes, I can’t say he lived up to my expectations. A better actor would have achieved the electric charm Efron did, but undercut it with a nearly intangible element of menace. I never felt that darkness beneath his ridiculously good looking veneer, and for that, I can’t award Efron with full points. The film itself is a poorly paced, amateurishly written biopic of either Liz Kendall or Ted Bundy, it never really chooses which. It gets better in the third act once the script becomes quotes lifted directly from the real life Bundy trial, but it lacks the cohesion necessary to entertain and tastefully tell the gruesome tragedy.
May 3: Whiplash (Amazon Prime Video)
Here’s another movie that’s known as one of the best ever made, this time a more modern classic. Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shining didn’t live up to the grand expectations, while The Shawshank Redemption managed to impress me more than enough. Whiplash, with its brilliant performances, breathtaking drumming sequences, and a constantly compelling script, falls soundly into the verified modern classic category. Everything about this movie is the peak of talent. JK Simmons gives what might be the best performance I’ve ever seen, and Miles Teller is somehow not far behind. The script is as tight as the Gimp’s gimp suit in Pulp Fiction, close to being on par with the tightest script of all time, In Bruges.
Despite being a movie primarily about passion, music, and the lengths one will go to in order to achieve greatness, I’d almost consider it a horror movie. Every time JK Simmons enters a scene, there’s a sense of dread akin to that of Hereditary, and he commands a scene in a way that forces you to hold your breath until he decides you can breathe. Damien Chazelle has proven to be astonishingly versatile, and that’s without me even having seen Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. He directed a horror about drumming, a modern day musical comedy, and a complicated biopic, all of which are fantastic and entirely different. He also wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, a tense bunker thriller that with an awful ending, but I can almost guarantee that he had no part in that once the studio decided to pawn it off to the Cloverfield franchise. I might even be willing to go as far as to say that this guy is on par with Denis Villeneuve, the best director alive.
Stay tuned for a few more movies and a little bit about Las Vegas on Saturday! One of them is a Shia Labeouf movie, but I didn’t see his junk this time! That’s a victory of sorts! This week’s shoutout goes to Game of Thrones for making me wish I were looking at Shia’s sausage for an hour and twenty minutes instead. As sad as I am that GoT has gone down the shitter in such a short amount of time, I’m gonna have a ton of fun ripping it a new one in a few weeks.