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What Else I’m Watching: August 2013

oblivion-movie


A former monthly column at John Likes Movies comes back. Why? Because you can’t review them all.

Sadly, life gets in the way of writing about everything I see, so this space is as much for keeping track of what I’m watching as it is for you to share your thoughts on what are, with any luck, a group of high-quality films.

Another month, another relatively light batch of movies I got around to watching. I’ve spent a good deal of time catching up on TV—Breaking Bad, New Girl, and Homeland. Hadn’t ever watched any of them, but I’m digging what I’ve seen so far, of course. Still, I watched some good movies this month (see also Mud, Monsters University, and Fruitvale Station).

Four Days in October

RATING:
(2010, 1 viewing)

Broadly speaking, I’m a very big fan of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, and this chronicle of the Boston Red Sox 2004 American League Championship series definitely ranks among my favorites. Unlike many of the series’ other films, this one tells a story that’s very familiar to most sports fans. That said, it’s told in an incredibly rousing way, and as a huge Red Sox fan, it gave me chills to relive those four unforgettable games.

Repo Man

RATING:
(1984, 1 viewing)

Music can define a film when used correctly (or when used horribly incorrectly), but other than Repo Man, I can’t recall another case in which music actually expanded a film’s life span. Alex Cox’s directorial debut sank on arrival in 1984, but its soundtrack truly encapsulated the 80s punk movement that swept through Los Angeles, and with album sales skyrocketing, the film’s studio gave it another shot. Repo Man still wasn’t a hit, but enough folks caught up with it to give the film a cult following that lingered over 30 years until today. I adored the film, its unabashed weirdness, and yes, its music. A number of seedy repo men chase after an otherworldly 1964 Chevy Malibu…it’s as off-kilter as you think, and yet, you’ll never predict where Cox will take you.

Oblivion

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

The best way for me to describe my feelings toward this science-fiction thriller from director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) is with an anecdote. I watched the film one night a few weeks ago and found myself moderately engaged. Look, this film wasn’t 2001, but it surprised me here and there, and like Kosinski’s Legacy, the craft is rather impeccable. I’ll sleep on it, I thought. Re-evaluate in the morning.

My mind didn’t drift toward Oblivion once that next day. Or the day after. I can’t penalize it too much because I enjoyed it well enough in the moment, but I can’t offer too much praise or a recommendation to something so unbelievably forgettable.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

RATING:
(2010, 1 viewing)

The second of two 30 for 30 documentaries I watched this month, No Crossover didn’t come together as well as Four Days in October did for me. Steve James directed the picture—a fit that makes sense considering James’ ties to Iverson (they’re from the same home town). And he does a great job depicting the way in which a fight at a bowling alley has defined the town of Hampton, Virginia, but the circumstances surrounding the trial, as well as the aftermath, are only superficially touched on, which makes the ultimately good film feel a bit underwhelming.

Margin Call

RATING:
(2011, 2 viewings)

ZOMG, what did I miss the first time around? I was quite lukewarm about J.C. Chandor’s debut feature film when I caught it on-demand two years ago. (Click here for my full Margin Call review.) This month, it was like I watched a completely different film—and this one was damn near a masterpiece. I thought Margin Call was a reasonably well-acted dissection of the 2008 financial crisis through the eyes of a fictional firm that was out in front of it (think The Newsroom for commodities traders). On a rewatch, I picked up on a devilish sense of humor, and an almost Hitchcockian treatment of the nitty-gritty financial stuff. Everything is vague, MacGuffin-like. It was a riot to watch.

Mud

RATING:
(2013, 2 viewings)

Not a month after my first viewing of Jeff Nichols’ best film, I took another look. What did I find? A film that was better constructed and funnier than I remembered. Brilliant stuff. A lock for my end-of-year Top 10.

Inside Man

RATING:
(2006, 3+ viewings)

Spike Lee’s best modern joint is a decidedly commercial heist thriller. Inside Man doesn’t do anything revelatory, but Lee is in firm control of his craft. Lots of great performances—chief among them Jodie Foster’s, which I didn’t remember or expect—but it’s Lee’s perfect timing in unveiling each new layer of the story that stuck out the most this time around.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

RATING:
(1982, 1 viewing)

All the Star Trek I knew until now comes from J.J. Abrams, and while The Wrath of Khan didn’t reach the highs of Abrams’ 2009 reboot, it’s quite a bit better than Into Darkness. That said, the two incarnations of Trek hardly resemble each other. With Shatner, Nemoy, and company out in front, The Wrath of Khan isn’t a new Hollywood action-adventure with Johnny and Jane Hotbody hooking up in between explosive set pieces. It’s a thoughtful(ish) piece of science-fiction—a mystery-tinged drama about friendship, sacrifice, and atoning for one’s sins. It’s not exactly a great film, but it brought enough to the table to leave me hungry for more.

The Rock

RATING:
(1996, 1 viewing)

When I’d decided to write a piece extolling the virtues of Michael Bay movies, I hadn’t seen The Rock. It was a foolish endeavor, I know, insofar as I was basically writing 1,000 words on why Armageddon is awesome (it is). I don’t actually like most of Bay’s other movies (Pain and Gain was decent enough). So for this thing to work at all, I needed to check out The Rock—arguably Bay’s most widely admired action flick. And I’m glad I did. I doesn’t reach Armageddon‘s highs (oh, I know so many of you are groaning when you read that), but it doesn’t aim quite as high. And that’s fine because it succeeds in what it’s trying to achieve, and you can’t ask for more from a guy like Bay than that.

Humpday

RATING:
(2009, 1 viewing)

As one of Your Sister’s Sister‘s few detractors, I wasn’t expecting much from the film that preceded it in writer-director Lynn Shelton’s filmography. What a pleasant surprise it was, then, that Humpday proved one of the most exciting, insightful, and successful mumblecore movies I’ve ever seen. Two straight friends decide to make a gay porn video, and it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but Shelton uses the absurd premise to get at some fascinating truths about friendship and masculinity. I loved this movie—so much so, in fact, that I might give Sister’s another shot.

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