My List: The Cocoanuts (1929)

Rating: 8/10

If you haven’t seen a Marx Brothers movie before, remember that they are usually very low on plot, but very high on comedy. Also, Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, the “main three” of the Marx Brothers, are basically playing the same characters in every movie. Groucho is normally someone with a little power, here he’s in charge of a hotel, and Chico and Harpo are partners in crime, though while Chico is always looking for a scam to pull off, Harpo, the silent brother who never once talked on screen during his life, is always just in it to have fun.

This is their first movie onto the silver screen, and you can see there are a few problems that you don’t really expect if you’ve seen any of their other films. For one it’s a half-hour too long, something I think they realized soon after this movie is that their films are so lacking in plot or character development, that there really isn’t enough to get invested in for their films to be much longer than a single hour. Also, here it felt like they were trying too hard to have something of a consistent plot throughout the film, while in later films they embrace the fact that they’re brand of humor works best when the plot is just as nonsensical. 

The humor though, really shines through. Along with their, maybe one too many, musical numbers which don’t further the “plot” but they do provide just as much entertainment as their humorous sketches. It’s just delightful watching them as they do their thing, and you see the beginning of the comedy greats they become.

Why it’s on my list: The Marx Brothers begin here, and though they all fought mercilessly to keep the film from releasing, once it was the audiences thought it just as delightful as I’ve just described. Who’s to say who is right, but as far as early Marx-Brothers comedies go, this one shouldn’t be missed.

SCORING:

+8: Really good comedy from a team of comedy greats

-1: Too long for this kind of comedy

+1: Great sketches and musical numbers

MCU: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America the First Avenger.jpg

Rating: 8/10

Steve Rogers is a young, skinny boy with asthma who wants to fight against the Germans during WWII. He gets his lucky break when Steve is selected for the Super Soldier Serum by some scientist. Meanwhile, the Red Skull is creating an organization to take over not only the Nazi party but the rest of the world too.

Captain America is a movie that does the best that it can on what feels like a limited dime. It was a strange time for superhero movies. Iron Man had been made and they announced that Disney was going to put out multiple movies which would then come together in the Avengers. Though everyone agreed that Iron Man was pretty good, no one was sure what this movie was going to be like or if any of it was a good idea.

Well, we all know that it all worked out in the end. But how do these early MCU movies stand up after so much time has passed? I’m happy to say that this movie is still pretty darn good. It has it’s flaws, it’s rare to find any film that doesn’t, but it’s still fairly enjoyable from beginning to end. Also it has a very catchy song written by Alan Menken.

One of the problems that many of MCU origin films have is the villains. They are almost always super evil with no real depth of character, and their powers are usually just a stolen version of the hero himself. This isn’t untrue here, but Hugo Weaving does such a good job of being a villain that you hardly notice.

This movie is a bit long, and it does a little meandering. Right after the first act, when Cap gets his powers, instead of getting to the action finally it goes through a bit where he gets to be famous and star in movies? Is this some kind of commentary on Chris Evans starring in this movie? I dunno, just a bit weird.

SCORING:

+7: A bit slow at times but a good start for Captain America

+1: Hugo Weaving’s performance

-0.5: Meanders a bit after the first act

+0.5: that Menken song is just so damn catchy…

Boxo Rando: Power Rangers (2017)

Power Rangers.jpg

Rating: 2/10

A group of teenagers have magical stones fall in their lap to make them Power Rangers! Okay that’s a good enough synapsis.

This movie had a good first 10-15 minutes. It had some flashback that had a bit of action, then came to the present and introduced the main character Jason very well, and seemed to be on its way to becoming a non-stop thrill-ride. At one point, I even said “this movie is written more competently than I would have thought.” It was after they showed a couple scenes that Jason broke a knee that still acts up and ruined his high school football chances. And it did all this without ever explicitly stating any of it through showing and not telling. Unfortunately that’s about the end to this movies cleverness. It feels like someone else wrote that part, but I don’t know anything specifically, according to Wikipedia, it looks like this movie was being written by Max Landis before they fired him, but again, I don’t know anything.

Okay, after the first ten minutes, it gets pretty lousy really fast. It plays heavily into cliches, it has a bunch of plot holes, it basically stretches out the plot to an insane degree. This movie should have started at the beginning of the THIRD act. Because that’s when they discover their powers, get the Zords (the giant robots they fight in), and really do anything in terms of plot. Okay, actually I would have been fine with it happening right after the training montage which happens about 30-45 minutes in. But instead they just stretch out that they can’t seem to “morph” into the titular Power Rangers, the reason 100% of the audience actually wanted to watch the movie for. Instead it’s all jam-packed into the last half hour of the movie, and when they actually get to the action, it’s pretty lackluster. Definitely not worth sitting through an hour and a half of the movie for. And it makes the whole thing feel like a waste of time.

Random Thoughts: I used to like the Power Rangers a lot growing up. It’s really corny, but I think that’s part of its charm, and it captures the essence of Voltron, after-school specials, Godzilla, and Ninja Turtles, all in a half-hour television show (super cheesy, like I said). This movie thinks that deleting EVERYTHING that’s come before it and turning it into something entirely different is the best way to go. I’m just sorry this was so bad it probably means there won’t be anymore Power Rangers movies for a while. Though I guess if this is the quality of Power Rangers films moving forward, I’m not that sorry.

SCORING:

+5: Right in the middle, quality-wise

+1: I enjoyed the first 10 minutes

-3: I did not enjoy anything else

-1: more padding in the plot than I think I’ve ever seen in any movie (but don’t quote me on that)

0071: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Trouble in Paradise.jpg

Rating: 6/10

A conman, Gaston, and con-woman, Lily, get married and try to con a woman so rich during the Great Depression she spends $125,000 on a handbag, Madame Colet. If only she weren’t so gosh darn nice.

The movie has a few twists and turns I appreciate, starting from the beginning where it acts as if it’s just another romantic movie from the thirties until you realize that most of the characters are really lying about who they are. Then Lily robs Gaston as Gaston robs Lily, and they fall madly in love. And this is all in the first ten minutes.

It’s all fairly entertaining, until it isn’t really. First the guy falls in love with his mark, Colet, then starts cheating on his wife with her, and things just go a bit “Huh?” with the plot in the second half of the movie. It’s still interesting but it feels like the plot’s climax is really in the first part of the film and the actual ending just falls flat.

Why you should watch it before you die: It’s exciting and different, but outside of an interesting premise and some pretty entertaining scenes, it’s not anything I’d say go out of your way to watch.

SCORING:

+7: Entertaining, until it isn’t anymore

+1: Interesting twist at the beginning

-2: The writer ran out of ideas and it shows

Box o’ Rando: Let’s Be Evil (2016)

Let's Be Evil.jpg

Rating: -3/10

Okay, This wasn’t in my box. I actually watched this on Netflix, but I decided it randomly to watch something “scary” for Halloween. So it’s close enough in my book.

Let’s Be Evil is about a small group chosen by a company-that-is-definitely-not-Google to test out a new line of augmented-reality glasses. It’s so high tech that they’re put in a cave deep underground with no light whatsoever and the reality around them is simply created through their glasses.

This movie simply falls flat. It starts with a decent premise, but doesn’t seem to be able to decide on its tone, genre, or even what the plot should be. It feels like they had a decent script and was starting to turn into a story about what kind of terrors could happen should we rely on technology as much as they do here. But then, about halfway through, it gives up and decides it’s just simply a horror movie after all. Except it never goes all out. I started watching this movie hoping there’d be blood and stabbing or at least a bunch of jump scares but it fails on all counts, mostly. One person does burn to death right in front of us but the only other on screen death is basically just a group of kids lightly touching someone to death. I’m not even kidding.

Random Thoughts: I wanted a movie with so-bad-it’s-good qualities but instead got a movie that was trying too hard to have messages that it just doesn’t have the skill or the maturity to handle.

-3: I tried to like it at first but it devolves into a big mess