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Movie roundup, part 22

Movie time, kids! Includes an excellent documentary and a lot of not-great movies. Includes Sorcerer, Generation Iron, Restrepo, The Numbers Station, Pacific Rim and 300: Rise of an Empire.

[All movie titles link to Rotten Tomatoes, so you can see what the people who get paid to write about movies think.]

Sorcerer ★★★☆☆

Released in 1977, Sorcerer was a huge flop, and it has gained a reputation over time in film nerd circles as an overlooked masterpiece with speculation) as to its theatrical release failure being due to coming out at the same time as Star Wars, being poorly marketed, etc.

Or, it could have flopped on release due to it being a film (or feeeelm if you wish) for film nerds instead of a mass market audience.

Off the top of my head, here are some reasons why this is not a mass market movie: There isn’t a word of English spoken the first 30 minutes; every single person in the film is on the asshole spectrum; nothing but bad things happen. Nothing. But. Bad. Things.

These are not the ingredients that a blockbuster make.

The film nerds have a point though in that it’s a decent movie—good performances, good directing and a relentlessly bleak plot. But damn, it’s hard to watch a bunch of terrible people doing terrible things for two hours. So yeah, I don’t think Star Wars had that much to do with the failure of Sorcerer.

Generation Iron ★★★☆☆

Documentary about professional body builders preparing for the Mr. Olympia competition.

It’s fascinating to watch to unbelievable commitment and discipline these men display in their commitment to turn themselves into grotesques.

Also fascinating is how they’re always eating and never on plates—always out of tupperware containers. It’s hard to imagine living an existence where one of the basic joys of life has been turned into nothing but the planned, scheduled and pre-measured intake of nutrients.

And the stress on their systems from the “nutrients” (nudge, wink) necessary to grow that kind of musculature and maintain such low body fat levels must be incredible.

As sympathetic as I am to its subjects, the biggest problem with Generation Iron as a documentary is that it doesn’t really probe and above all doesn’t answer the question at least I had: What drives them? Why would anybody go through these lengths? We see the men go through their daily routines with their omni-present tupperware containers, but what made them decide to go down this path and feel it’s worth the pain?

I’d like to know.

Restrepo ★★★★★

Harrowing documentary about a 2007 US outpost in the Korengal valley of Afghanistan. It’s visceral and raw and provides stunning insight into both the suffering of the soldiers and the futility of their mission.

Restrepo is required watching—a kick in the nuts.

The Numbers Station ★★★★☆

The Numbers Station is getting ripped apart on Rotten Tomatoes even though it’s a tight, paranoid thriller with a tense cold war vibe and John Cusack putting in a blank-faced “I’m psychologically damaged” performance as an over-the-hill secret agent.

Very few things blow up, and instead we watch actors deliver a plot we have to think about, so I guess I can see why the critics weren’t happy.

Pacific Rim ★★★☆☆

Pacific Rim is a really stupid movie my 12-year-old self would have loved.

Mechs are cool. Obviously. So the movie has that going for it, but there’s little else except for loudness, testosterone and some extremely dumb plot points.

Nevertheless, it’s well made, things go bang a lot and mechs are cool. There are worse things to watch while you consume a bowl of popcorn.

300: Rise of an Empire ★★☆☆☆

Well, that was pretty unnecessary. The first 300 sure had its problems, but it brought a new visual style and a good story. Rise of an Empire copies the look, but in a ham-fisted way, and has a much weaker story. Instead, it amps up the gore. Boy howdy, there’s a lot of oddly-colored blood spurting all over the place.

Eva Green saves the movie from complete irrelevance by turning in a gleefully over-the-top performance as a psychotic naval commander—it’s almost worth watching just for her performance. Almost.

Posted Sunday, 25 May 2014 by

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