Setter’s ‘Spectives: Not Feeling It With ‘Jurassic World’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Enough already with the Jurassic Park reworkings.

I liked the original 1993 movie very much. It was thrilling, scary, often funny – despite a few misguided lines here and there.

After seeing the trailer for the very similar-looking Jurassic World, I’m almost certain the latter flick’s gonna be less interesting.

We’ve been through this territory, haven’t we? Dinosaurs run amok at much-heralded theme park. How much of the same thing can we take?

The box-office results in 2015 should have the answer. I don’t yet; I’ve only seen the preview. But I suspect it won’t be anything original … or that interesting.

I guess Prehistoric Mammal Park doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Sigh.

Skip’s Quips: A Little Complaining Can’t Hurt Now and Then

Blog Sketch 082813I just realized something: I think I like kvetching about movies more than watching them.

That definitely holds true for bad films. But what about good ones? I infrequently complain about those, though I do whine once in a while about some overacting here and there, a cut that should’ve been sooner.

I’ll tell ya, however: I think lousy pictures were put on this planet so we could gripe about ’em.

For some reason, I love coming out of a theater and whining about the picture I just saw if it’s particularly crummy. I’ve done this on countless occasions with friends and relatives. I think people do get sick of it; most, I feel, would rather talk about good movies than bad ones. But the latter really make me excited. I feel they should be discussed, dissected, analyzed – to ensure all facets are covered.

All right, so going to the flicks with me may not be everybody’s bowl of popcorn. I understand that. Still, the process helps me digest what I’ve just seen, and I love talking about it. And when I go with like-minded people, the conversations are quite lively.

The moral of the story: In my opinion, bad movies are just as worthy of discussion, if not more so, than good ones. Some people would rather forget them. I’d rather keep them top of mind – at least for the time being. That way, you can identify what you don’t like about them … making the next film, hopefully, more enjoyable. And if it isn’t, well, you can kvetch about that one, too.

I can’t complain about that.

Skip’s Quips: I Want a Hero … Just Not ‘Super’

Blog Sketch 082813Movies that start promisingly yet end up mundane are a pet peeve of mine.

Super, director James Gunn’s pre-Guardians of the Galaxy flick about an ordinary man who dons a homemade superhero outfit in a quest to win back his wife from drug dealers, falls into this category. Featuring a host of satiric elements (including some pointed attacks on organized religion), the film collapses into dull, hyperviolent shoot-’em-up mode toward the end, which negates its previous appeal. The enthusiastic presence of Ellen Page as a sidekick wannabe gives the picture a boost, but even she can’t save it.

That’s too bad. Gunn has a distinct style and carefree sensibility that can be infectious, as proven by the success of GotG. Super, however, ultimately offers little to differentiate it from the average bloody man-with-a-mission actioner. This is strange considering the peculiarity of its protagonist, a withdrawn fellow (played by Rainn Wilson) who has religious visions and may be mistaking them for his heroic calling. The movie should be more interesting or at least comic, right? – especially since the only skill this character seems to have is the ability to cook eggs well. Perhaps something along the lines of The Greatest American Hero, no?

No. I expect better things to come from Gunn and have high hopes. Super was a misfire, but every director has those. I’m assuming Gunn has learned from his mistakes, as all heroes do.

Skip’s Quips: It’s High Time We Get a Remake of ‘The Illustrated Man’

Blog Sketch 082813I never thought Jack Smight’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic science-fiction short story collection The Illustrated Man measured up to the standards of the book, and I lament that.

The pace was plodding, the direction was uninspired. It didn’t work, despite a fine cast that included Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

Someone should remake it.

Yes, I do believe it could be a success if redone today. The technology exists to provide the kinds of special effects needed for some of the stories, which deserve a better treatment. Steven Spielberg, methinks, would be a great fit for this kind of project. So would Peter Jackson.

I don’t know if it’s the type of thing that would appeal to directors nowadays, but the tales that have dated more than others – like the one that take place in a rain-soaked landscape on Venus – could be avoided in favor of greater stories in the collection. The entire film could focus on, say, only about four or five pieces in all and still be successful. It might make a fun project.

We need more thoughtful, perceptive sci-fi pictures in theaters today. Hollywood has mined so much already … why not go after more of the classics to improve on previous iterations? I’d watch them. So would legions of Bradbury and genre fans.

Just an idea.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Leaving Halfway Through ‘The Trip’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Films that think they’re funnier than they actually are bug me.

The Trip is one of those. The documentary-esque story of two friends (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) journeying through Northern England as they dine at fancy restaurants and do not-always-successful impressions of famous actors, this film is only sporadically amusing and meanders quite a bit. I guess that’s the point, but it’s virtually without any conflict whatsoever, and that wears on me. Hence, I was only able to get halfway through the movie before leaving it last night for the comfort of my bed.

Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream … of movies that are much better than The Trip.

Coogan’s a talented actor; I like him a lot. If I wanted to watch a series of impressions, however, I’d digest some stand-up comedy. A movie filled with impressions as a substitute for funny business just isn’t my cuppa tea. Plus Coogan and Brydon are always talking over each other, so after a while their efforts become grating. The ability to generate laughter is lost.

Ultimately, the feeling I got about The Trip is that it tries to hard. I don’t like to watch a film flailing around. I prefer something with direction. In general, this Trip doesn’t have drive. And I don’t regret stopping it halfway one bit.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Altman’s ‘3 Women’ Plus Busby, Too

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I’m not a huge fan of Robert Altman’s movies, so I admit I went with trepidation to see his film 3 Women at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts last night. Fortunately, the evening was bolstered by the presence of composer Gerald Busby, who wrote the score to the picture and was slated to speak about it after the showing.

It was a good thing he did, because the film was very peculiar and not all that successful. The tale of a California nursing-home worker (Sissy Spacek) obsessed with her quirky colleague (Shelley Duvall), 3 Women at times was like watching the most intriguing, bizarrely colored paint dry. It had an off-the-cuff feeling that gave the impression it was made up as the shooting went along, and the characters’ motivations weren’t always believable. Busby’s score was the best thing about it: a dissonant, modern chamber piece replete with mournful, dread-filled horns and winds. Following the screening, he took the podium to talk a little about the movie, and it was quite a treat to listen to this dapper, elderly gentleman.

Busby spoke about Altman being “a Gershwin man” yet wanting something different and abstract for his film, as well as the process of showcasing his music to a room full of Altman staff and regulars stoned on marijuana. (According to Busby, he was one of a few composers to be considered for the film, and as part of the process, the compositions were played in the room to see how long people could go without speaking about them; people listened to his work the longest without saying something, which helped solidify the choice.)

All in all, it was quite a lovely evening, and I got to meet Busby as well, who lived in the same building as a good friend of ours. Plus, it was free, so that made watching the film all the more palatable. A not-so-typical New York night out, but a memorable one, nonetheless.

Skip’s Quips: Je Refuse … to Watch ‘The Boxtrolls’

Blog Sketch 082813Gosh, The Boxtrolls looks horrible.

Saw a preview for it recently. Not funny. OK, maybe the funny bits were cut out of the trailer. But wait a second … aren’t the trailers supposed to include the funny bits? You know, to make people wanna see the movie?

The lack of humor in the preview suggests to me that the film is going to be a dud. Yes, I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. Yes, the trailers aren’t always a foolproof way of determining the worth of a picture. But for some reason, this rubs me the wrong way.

It has to do, to a certain extent, with the dearth of good children’s movies out there today. Kids’ fare is often loud, cartoony, with flashy visuals and little heart. The soul that is instilled into much of the pictures for tykes today is junky, flat, clichéd. I get the feeling that The Boxtrolls isn’t going to be any different. Its splashiness seems superficial. And it won’t hide the fact that the plot is ordinary.

So I’m not going to see it. I already know what it’s going to be like. Sure, you can say that I shouldn’t judge a picture before I see it, but I can tell I won’t enjoy this one. It’s a box I refuse to open. And I’m proud to say I’m doing just that.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Downgrading ‘Easy A’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613When good actors appear in bad movies, I sometimes want to scream at the TV, crying, “Why? Why? Why?”

So it was with Easy A, a horrid film about a high school girl pretending to be a tramp in order to become more popular. In this offense to lovers of quality celluloid everywhere were stalwart actors Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci and, yes, Malcolm McDowell (playing the principal of the school, no less). Directed by Will Gluck, the picture featured glib, unfunny dialogue masquerading as wit and a host of not credible situations that dragged the flick into a swamp of ludicrous plot developments.

Needless to say, the movie was hard to watch. And I stopped doing so after the first 30%. Once a film gets that far on the lousiness spectrum, it can’t come back, in my opinion. I’ll refrain from giving Easy A a chance to redeem itself, given such a probability level.

High school movies are not my cup of tea, anyway, but making a good one requires sincerity, not smugness. You can be tongue-in-cheek without featuring smarmy situations and self-conscious dialogue. Easy A, unfortunately, suffered from the latter issues. And that doesn’t make me want to watch more.

Meanwhile, I say unto the talented actors who participated in this mess: “Wherefore art thou making such films? You can do better.”

Alas, there’s no chance that they’ll listen to my pleas. Guess I’ll hafta continue to rant at the empty air, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Bad Puns and ‘Good Will Hunting’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I have five things to say about Good Will Hunting, which I just saw for the first time a couple of days ago.

I. Did. Not. Like. It.

Part of me knew this would happen. The bad pun in the title gave my future cinema verdict away. I couldn’t appreciate something that didn’t take itself seriously enough to give itself a sharper moniker.

But there were other problems that rubbed me the wrong way. A script that was both sappy and abrasive. An unlikable lead performance. Schmaltzy music. And a plodding pace. All of which undermined several good performances, notably by Robin Williams as a therapist helping the title character.

Direction was also problematic. The film moved so slowly it was unbearable. I’m not a big fan of Gus Van Sant’s other films, including the dreadful To Die For and the frustrating Elephant. GWH is just another movie in his canon that I don’t care for.

I realize GWH is very popular. Once again, I’m in the minority on this. I don’t know why, though. To me, it just didn’t work.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: When Bad Special Effects Attack

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Please don’t fault me for watching Conan the Destroyer.

It’s a horrible movie, I know. But it’s something of a guilty pleasure. And in watching it last night, I marveled at a quality I hadn’t really noticed before.

The special effects. They’re just plain awful.

Rubber suits galore. Bad animation. Welcome to the world of Conan. Where things are really cheesy.

Which is not to say that the effects are so much worse than, say, the acting, which is just as horrid. Still, you have to wonder how this stuff passed muster. It looked lousy then. It looks lousy now.

Yet I always find it on TV, for some reason. Maybe there’s a market for it.

One can always hope not.