Box o’ Rando: History of the World in 2 Hours (2011)

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Rating: 6.5/10

From the big bang to today in just two hours! So really it should be “History of the Universe in 2 Hours” instead. This is a standard information-driven documentary. It has its own style but if you’ve seen any Discovery Channel and History Channel documentaries before (at least when they were still doing documentaries), you recognize the form pretty easily. Though with these type of documentaries it’s more about what information is being explained than how it is explaining it to us.

As far as documentaries like this go, this is a pretty interesting one. Kind of a crash course that covers all history since the beginning of time. it’s definitely a trip and worth a watch for anyone who would be interested in such things.

Random Thoughts: I don’t know what else to say about this one. I mean, it essentially gives you what it says it will on the cover. Sorry, i’m a bit braindead from all the writing and I mostly watched this for research. And on that front, this is basically just a stepping stone to more research as it goes over everything so fast that they can’t really give any individual time period the attention that it deserves. Still, pretty interesting.

SCORING:

+6: Decent made for TV documentary

+1: Very informative and intersting

-0.5: Gives me a kind of “seen one, seen ’em all” feeling as I watch it

Boxo Rando: The Voices (2014)

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Rating: 7/10

This movie is about a man who hears voices from his dog and cat. He’s got a crush on a coworker but then after she stands him up for a date, things start getting a little murder-ie. This is a dark comedy, and like many dark comedies, it can be more than a bit disturbing or messed up in places and I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart. But for those sick-minded bastards out there like myself I would highly suggest it. It’s one of those things that’s kind of messed up from the get go and starts ramping up the insanity really fast.

I feel this movie can be a bit difficult for some. We see things entirely from the main character’s perspective, and that can be one twisted perspective indeed. When we learn why he is the way he is, it’s hard not to feel pity on him. He’s as much a victim as the victims he’s creating. It’s also downright hilarious at points. I also appreciate the dynamic of how he sees the world versus how the world actually is. It does a very good job of showing us that maybe when life is so horrendously messed up, it’s just better to be crazy.

This movie has an extremely twisted plot, the type you’d probably only see in an indie horror flick, but with such a positive feel to it you also just can’t help but laugh. Ryan Reynolds does an amazing job at really bringing the crazy out in this movie in the days before he was Deadpool.

My only real complaint is at the end of it, it feels a little pointless. I think the point was to make us feel empathy for a serial killer, but they do that on Dexter and it still had a point in each episode as well as creating empathy for an otherwise despicable person. Though this movie is plenty entertain, by the end, it just feels a bit empty.

Random Thoughts: I think this movie did a very good job in its production and presentation for something with an independent label. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a dark movie that’s a bit out there.

SCORING:

+6: Pretty entertaining and messed up dark comedy, though a bit empty

+1: Terrific performance(s) from Ryan Reynolds

 

My List: A Scanner Darkly (2006)

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Rating: 9/10

This movie is animated in order to show how this new future drug “Substance D” slowly destroys its users’ minds. We also see through the performances and the absolutely nuts dialogue as characters, especially Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, jump to absolutely insane conclusions as their minds follow a logic that only makes sense to them. If anything else, this shows you the life of an addict for a drug that makes you mentally unstable. It has a jovial twist to it that makes many scenes quite funny in what is mostly a psychological thriller as a man is forced to literally take a long hard look at himself in the midst of a slow mental degeneration.

Keanu Reeves is an undercover cop who starts monitoring himself. The way the police work in the future is inside full-body suits that protect their identity, even from the people they work with. Based on the book by Philip K. Dick, the master of surreal sci-fi, this is a story of how drugs and addiction affects people through the use of some of the most creative animation and editing I’ve seen in any movie. They use Keanu Reeves character, who goes by many names like Fred, Arcter, and Bruce, as a point of view of how his world changes as the drugs take over his life. His mind splits, as psychologists explain in an earlier scene, as one side of his brain essentially dies so the other has to work harder to compensate and he finds it harder and harder to distinguish what is and is not real. He loses his identity, so much so that while he’s in surveillance of his life he forgets that he’s watching himself.

Though some might think this movie is a bit confusing, as the Kubrick fan that I am, I enjoy it when movies are intentionally vague and you have to figure out/decide what things mean for yourself. This isn’t as confusing as most of Kubrick’s films though.

My biggest complaint is that the denouement, or the part in any story that happens after the climax/3rd act, which is basically just a wrap up, goes on for so long it’s almost a 4th act in this film. It’s still interesting, just long and makes my brain think the movie is never going to end while it’s happening.

Why it’s on my list: Though this movie flopped at the box office, it stands out as a film that is unique and creative in its story and presentation. Though some might not like it, it should still be viewed for its distinctive vision and expression.

SCORING:

+8: aptly named movie combines dark comedy with an even darker psychological drama with a unique vision

+1: Amazing visuals and editing

-1: denouement is too long

+1: Bonus creativity point

My List: Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)

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Rating: 8.5/10

I know I put a lot of newer movies on my list already and should start going for older movies, so I’m going to start playing a game where I review an older movie on my list every time until I get to the first movie ever, and then back again… maybe.

I’m sorry I haven’t been on lately. I’m working on what is the second-to-last draft of my book, Jack and David: Chapter 2. So, I’ll be a little spotty until that’s done. Anyway, I watched this movie today, partly because I like anime, but mostly because it was on Netflix. It’s a movie about a girl, Mary, who seems normal enough, until she discovers she’s a witch and is Harry Pottered off to magic school. It’s also based on a book called, “The Little Broomstick” by Mary Stewart.

This movie is a cool combination of awesome animation and sound design with a story so weird and cool it feels like Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed it, or it was at least made by his company Studio Ghibli. And that makes sense as it’s produced by newly formed Studio Ponoc by former head of the former studio, Yoshiaki Nishimura. And directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of When Marnie was There and others. But this seems to combine elements of many Ghibli films, especially Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service, while doing something that’s unique unto itself.

It’s voice acting is also top quality. Something I’m a fan of in any animated film or TV show I watch, and you know that the voice acting has to be twice as good in an anime because the actors have to match the mouths of animated characters speaking in a different language. There’s a lot of talent to do that and still act the hell out of character with just your voice.

My only complaint, though it’s a decently-sized one, is that the first act of the film is a little confusing, and a bit slow. It starts with a cool battle in fantasy land that isn’t explained until really late in the movie. This might be a point where a flashback later in the film would have been better. Then it does a sudden cut to our real main character and it’s unclear if this is related at all for a very long time. It makes me think someone said, “we gotta start with an action scene!” but there wasn’t one to be had so they shoehorned this one into the backstory. It could have been better with a less dramatic cut but I think that, as it stands, this is a very jarring opening and might leave you jaded to what is actually the story is.

Why it’s on my list: If you took every anime I’ve ever seen and mixed it all up in a bucket, you’d probably get something like this movie but not nearly as good. And as an example of how creative modern anime can be I think this is a good example. Though too young to have much historical significance (yet), it’s also the first film of Studio Ponoc and I only hope their next film is just as good, or even better, than this one.

SCORING:

+7.5: a really enjoyable anime film with a good storyline

+1: great voice acting

+1: top quality animation

-1: Confusing beginning

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

The LEGO Batman Movie

Rating: 7.5/10

This movie is one of those things where you think there’s no way that can be good, just like we all thought when we heard about the original LEGO Movie. But then it comes forth and has a lot of heart and a lot of comedy and is overall just a damn good movie, just like the original. True, it’s for kids, and it’s not as good as the first big screen LEGO production, but I would still recommend to anyone, of any age, who is any kind of Batman fan.

This movie has this way of being very nostalgic for every other Batman product out there while also being a great parody of the franchise as a whole. I like the story of Batman needing to finally get over his parents deaths and learn to accept his new adopted “Bat-Family” and stop being such a loner. It works in its own kind of way, and creates a story that’s heartfelt even if it’s all just a bunch of LEGOs.

Speaking of which, the LEGO animation is really good. It actually looks like everything is made out of LEGOs while all the otherwise crazy, Batman-styled action is going on. Though this movie isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, it’s the best thing Batman has done since the Dark Knight and I’d be curious to see any other collaborations done between LEGO and DC in the future.

Something else I wanted to compliment was the voice acting. Will Arnett is good as the titular Batman but the ones that stand out to me are Michael Cera as Robin and Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, if only because they didn’t sound anything like themselves and it’s nice to see when big Hollywood actors can act just as well (or even better) with just their voice. I also really liked Rosario Dawson, I like it when actors switch from a Marvel product to a DC one, or vice-versa, I don’t know why. And knowing that Claire the Night Nurse from the Netflix-Marvel shows is secretly LEGO Batgirl just makes me happy.

Also, this is something that just amuses me to know end. This movie has a Brick Joke in it that’s been “going on” longer than I’ve been alive. If you don’t know, a brick joke is a joke that just takes a very, very long time to get to the punchline (here’s an explanation from TVtropes), here, the Shark-Repellent-Bat-Spray from the original Adam West Batman movie comes back as first an object Batman gives Robin because it’s “useless” then Robin ends up using it at a hilarious time.

I have a couple complaints, the first act is a bit slow as it struggles to find a point. The plotline of all the villains turning themselves in just because they Joker is upset that Batman won’t admit he’s his worst enemy is a bit foolish. And then when Batman is trying desperately to send Joker to the Phantom Zone is just a bit weird and feels somewhat forced. It sets up what happens in the rest of the movie, but if I had just watched the first act of this movie and the power went out, I don’t think I would feel obligated to finish once the lights came back on.

Also, has Alfred ever been an older Batman in any other media? That’s such a good idea I’m taking points off every other Batman product for not doing it first.

Why you should watch it: If you’re a fan of any version of Batman, you would probably enjoy this movie.

SCORING:

+6: Best Batman comedy to date that’s a fun followup to the LEGO Movie

+1: Great voice acting

+1: 50+ year brick joke

-1.5: First act is slow and not strong on plot

+1: Alfred as old Batman is just a really good idea

0633: Network (1976)

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Rating: 10+/10

A newscaster, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) tells everyone on primetime news that he’s going to kill himself in a week. He’s fired but then immediately rehired because he sparks a spike in that stations ratings. Obviously suffering a mental breakdown, and slowly degenerating in cognition, the network execs see nothing but profits and give him his own show as a “present-day prophet” that becomes phenomenally successful. At the same time Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) uses everything in her power to take over the news department and make Beale’s program as profitable as possible. She’s kind of like a greedy villain you’d expect to have in Bugs Bunny cartoons with money signs in her animated eyes as she sets her sights on anything. That which doesn’t make her money gets kicked to the side. She’s a villain, but a very human and real one. And she also steals every scene she’s in, which you might think is hard to do with an off-their-rocker character like Howard Beale but they don’t ever actually share the screen together for some odd reason.

This movie is as slow-paced as you’d expect from a movie made in the 70s, but it’s a pacing that works for it, it creates this feeling of a slow-burn as the Howard Beale show grows into something off-the-wall. A news show marketed only for the entertainment value. And it shows that the execs of any corporation don’t care at all about the people working for them. All they care about is their own greed, and if you can’t feed that greed, they kick you to the curb. I really like Faye Dunaway in this movie because of that. She watches herself becoming the monster she is and tries to get the most human character in the movie, Max Schumacher (William Holden) to be with her and love her, if only to hold onto the last shred of her own humanity before she gives everything of herself for the television network she works for.

This movie is a work of art. It’s meta at points, dramatic in parts, kind of comedic throughout, and cynical as all hell but in a good way. It’s totally unique, though some might consider TV to be dying as a medium the essence of this story is timeless. It shows what happens when endless consumerism by the public is matched by corporate greed which doesn’t care about the people it tramples as it tries desperately to generate more money.

Truthfully, when I was first starting to go through this list I was hoping that every single entry would be just as powerful and poignant as this movie is. Of course then I saw that things like Avatar was on there and it was like, “oh, I guess not…” It’s like I said in an earlier article, that perfect movies are pretty rare. I mean, they aren’t completely uncommon and we maybe get one once a year if we’re lucky (sometimes more in particular good years). I think we’ll need a lot more years of movie history before we have 1,001 movies of them to fill up a list with.

I thought I’d talk about some of the qualities of what I think makes a movie perfect. For one, they are works of art, and as most works of art they are timeless. They can be watched from that point on you will be able to watch it and enjoy it. Even though this movie is about a medium which isn’t quite the powerhouse it once was, it tells a story of how unbiased expansionism can turn every person into a product, slavery in its own right.

Each scene in a perfect movie tells a story. You can experience just that scene, and you would get sense of the movie it’s from but also feel as if you’d experienced a story as a whole with a complete beginning, middle, and end just as that scene. Take any sequence in this movie, or Inglourious Basterds, or Back to the Future, and you would get this sense without having to watch any other scene in the film.

As a third thing, it’s something I said in a previous article, that it’s a “movie that’s interesting or entertaining throughout with no mistakes.” It’s a lot harder than it should be because making a movie is a group effort, no matter what it is. If everyone is on board with the project enough, whether because they believe in it that much, they’re being paid enough, or they’re just damn good at their job, and that somehow everyone involved, from the actors, directors, and producers, to the cinematographer, composer, and the editor, to the hairstylists and the props people, all collaborate and create what is a movie without any faults. Oh, you also need a good script. Can’t make a good movie with a bad script, that’s rule number 1.

There’s more than that, and some of it is on a movie-by-movie basis, but I would say those three qualities are shared by all movies I would consider perfect.

Why you should watch it before you die: There’s really nothing else quite like it.

SCORING:

10+: This movie is perfect, especially because of the hairstylings.

0915: Clerks (1994)

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Rating: 10/10

Ah, the first Kevin Smith film, and surprisingly the only one on the list. I just expected Dogma and Chasing Amy to be on there but whatever, more for my list later. Anyway, this is a very special movie for me because it was the indie flick that showed me, and the rest of America, that you didn’t need to have money or be famous in order to make a movie that people would watch. You just had to make a damn good movie, something many indie filmmaker’s didn’t take into account after this movie became popular and they tried to ride in on its coattails.

This movie is about the day in the life of a Quickstop employee who isn’t even supposed to be here today! It’s a movie about the working class and how they’re basically shit on by the people they’re forced to suck up to for minimum wage. It’s also a movie that’s totally honest, something that’s kind of lacking in more recent Kevin Smith film. I guess it was easier to write about being a working class stiff who’s pissed at the world when you were a working class stiff pissed at the world. The comedy comes from a mix of crazy characters, including the iconic Jay and Silent Bob, and amazing dialogue as only Kevin Smith could write.

This movie also showcases some great music, most of which was probably just from among Kevin Smith’s friends in New Jersey, but it’s still pretty great music, especially that now iconic Chewbacca song.

Why you should watch it before you die: I do really like the style of this movie, it feels just as indie as it is, which is something else that makes it feel true-to-life. It’s just one day at work, one totally crazy day where everything just keeps getting worse, then it ends on a totally messed up, but kind of positive, note.

SCORING:

+8: A movie that stands out, even among the greatest blockbusters

+1: Good comedy and dialogue

+1: Great soundtrack

Warm Bodies (2013)

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Rating: 7.5/10

A retelling of Romeo and Juliet, except instead of Capulets versus Montagues it’s humans versus zombies. It’s a romantic comedy as R saves Juliet from other zombies so he can protect her then seduce her using a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and eating her dead boyfriend’s brains to gain his memories. It works out for the best and actually works for the story, but that should give you a sense of what kind of dark, gross humor you should expect from this movie.

I think this film does a good job of combining the bare bones (no pun intended) of the Romeo and Juliet story with the backdrop of “several years after the zombie apocalypse.” Using this as the two warring families of zombies and humans actually works quite well for the flow of the story and the humor, which is sometimes as dry as a walking corpse, but if you’re a fan of humor that’s dry and dark then I would highly recommend this movie.

The love story is really good, I have to say. I’m usually not a fan of the romance in romantic comedies because the love can often feel forced or sometimes ridiculous. Here though, despite it being a human girl and a zombie boy, feels more like these two are really falling for each other than it does in many other stories in a similar vein.

I like the performances in this film, which is maybe a little odd as much of the cast are playing zombies, but it does stand out. The performances are what make this film, and the plot becomes secondary to the characters, which are the real heart of this film. And this movie has a lot of heart, enough to make the Grinch’s grow three sizes that day.

There’s a couple of slow points, would be my biggest complaint. Someone accused me recently of having no attention span because I think movies are “slow” sometimes. So I guess I’m going to break that down. What makes a movie slow? Is it slow because it takes 1-4 hours of your actual time to watch the damn thing? Of course not, that’s (usually) enjoyable. What makes a movie slow is sudden changes in pacing, tone, or plot, that also takes a long time or parts where the story is standing still.

Let me give you a few examples, for pacing: Let’s say you have a movie where your protagonist knows where the bad guy is, he just went through some huge car chase and shot some guys in order to get the information. Let’s also say the bad guy is about to blow up a city in 5 minutes if the good guy doesn’t stop him. He’s there. He’s about to enter. Suddenly, we flashback so that we can see the whole backstory of the villain from start to finish. If this movie were paced correctly, this part would happen a lot sooner in the film, probably in the first act as that’s the part meant for introductions, but maybe the second if you want to keep the villain a surprise to some degree. Introducing it all here, at the end, would really slow down the pacing in your movie.

For tone: Let’s say you have a spaceman flying around shooting aliens, the next scene you have a girl giving birth, that takes a long time, the baby is born, it cuts to twenty years later the baby is now an accountant and discovers his wife is cheating on him, then it’s back with the spaceman but he’s just crying in his apartment on the moon for reasons we don’t understand, then it cuts to another person and this is our protagonist and now the real story begins. These scenes have little to do with one another and the meandering on pointless things before starting would be considered slow as well.

For plot: Let’s say you have a story of a man who’s stuck in a time loop, like in Groundhog Day, and we focus on him for half of a movie, suddenly it cuts away from him and shows that he’s in some kind of experiment being run by evil scientists and it never comes back to him again. The rest of the movie is about these scientists. The pacing and tone could be consistent in this story but the plot would not, his story therefore would be slow, especially if it took up half of the movie.

As for pointless scenes: Let’s say the hero has to slay a dragon, instead of doing so he whines to his mom about slaying the dragon, he gets drunk at the bar and complains about slaying the dragon, he goes over to his girlfriends and whines to her as well about that dragon, really everyone just wants to see him slay that damn dragon, but he doesn’t and the only clear reason is to eat up screen time.

So, in my opinion, that’s what makes things slow. But one man’s opinion is another man’s asshole. I think that’s how the saying goes…

Why you should watch it: I think this movie is very entertaining and funny. If you like comedy that can be a little dark or gross then don’t miss this one.

SCORING:

+7.5: A great, unique take on the Shakespearean tale with a believable romance

+1: Superb acting

-1: Slow bits due to my low attention span

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant Man and the Wasp.jpg

Rating: 9/10

Another movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, adding to its already impressive franchise. I like that this movie works well as a stand alone, or as a sequel to Ant-Man, though if you’re starting here for your MCU viewing I’d probably say you were doing it wrong. Especially post-Infinity War, but I think if you really absolutely wanted to start here you could, if you wanted, and probably wouldn’t be confused until the first post-credits scene.

This movie does really well with its 2 hour runtime. I was a little surprised it was only 2 hours considering both that most MCU movies seem to think they need to hit the 2 hour 30 minute mark and this movie has 3 plotlines going on. No, I don’t mean it has 1 main plot and a couple of side plots but three main plotlines with still a side story or two thrown in.

The first is that Hank Pym and his daughter Hope, after the events of the first Ant-Man, are trying to rescue the original Wasp from the quantum realm. Meanwhile, Ghost with the help of someone spoiler-y, is trying to not-die from her horrible, but also really cool, affliction of being able to phase in and out of reality. Also meanwhile, some 80s villain is trying to steal Pym’s technology because he’s an 80s villain… and it’s awesome! The plots keep the story flowing so that not a single second of screen time is wasted.

Man, really all the MCU movies have been knocking it out of the park lately. Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Infinity War, and now Ant-Man and the Wasp. This one isn’t as over the top action and adventure, there is some, but it’s kept together with a great plot, consistent storyline, drama, comedy, and some moments that pull at your heartstrings in ways I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else in the MCU yet. This isn’t like any other movie, it doesn’t have a Big Bad in any of the ways superhero movies do, there’s no giant boss fight, well, at least the boss isn’t giant. There is some cool action though and there is some neat shrinking mechanics, though there certainly could have been more of both, I think it’s better playing it more as a comedic, heist film with some real emotions behind it than just another superhero movie.

My only complaint is that there was a bit in the second act that was really slow, I know we need to know Ghost’s backstory but they should have worked it into the first act somehow and not slow down what is otherwise a perfectly paced movie.

Why you should watch it: Ant-Man and Wasp has some of the best acting and one of the best stories in the MCU to date. It does a really good job of continuing the story where Captain America: Civil War left off and setting up whatever role the characters in this one might play in Avengers 4.

SCORING:
+8: Very good follow up to the first Ant-Man and a great addition to the MCU

+1: Superb acting from every cast member

+1:  Great story that is written and directed well

-1: Ghost’s backstory is in a weird spot, but they had to put it somewhere

0109: A Day in the Country (1936)

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Rating: 9.5/10

This is a French film, that was made just before the Nazi’s took over France. Because of this, all the shooting was done in 1936 and it couldn’t be finished or released until about 10 years later. It’s also only about half of a film because they had to stop shooting what with Hitler invading and everything. Stupid Nazis! Ruining what was probably going revolutionize cinema forever!

Actually, though I meant that last part as a joke, I think this film is actually very well shot and acted and feels juxtaposed from some other time period. Truthfully if someone put this on and told me it was a short, indie flick from France in the 90s I would believe them since everything in this movie, the camera work, acting, directing, whatever-else-ing, is put together in a way that feels more like the independent cinema of the nineties than a light-hearted comedy of the 30s. It shows the dynamic of human relationships through many different perspectives as we experience their day in the country.

Plotwise, this movie is simple and sweet, and it mostly shows people as one family picnics in the countryside and the people they meet on the way. A couple of men take it upon themselves to seduce the wife and daughter in the family. Okay, maybe not so sweet but it’s so lighthearted that it feels more or less innocent.

Why you should watch it before you die: Well, aside from being shorter than an episode of the Flash, this stands out as a unique movie from the 30s.

SCORING:

+8: Great short film ahead of its time

+1: Superb acting and great editing

-0.5: Ending is a little forced but that’s more than understandable considering the circumstances

+1: Bonus point for killing Hitler, not that the French did, but I’m assuming he killed himself once he realized this movie would never be finished because of his stupid invasion. It’s the only logical explanation.