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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thoughts on Movies I Have Watched Recently

Europa Report: a 2013 sci-fi found footage movie (directed by Sebastian Cordero and written by Philip Gelatt) about a spaceship crew making a round trip to one of Jupiter's moons to see if there is life there. Their trip is funded by a private company (like SpaceX), and the Europa crew loses contact with Earth during a solar storm. I liked how the found footage came in the form of video diaries and cameras on the ship, and how a low-budget film managed to both make the space scenes large and epic and magnificent, and depict the staleness of traveling in a can through space and feeling totally isolated. I didn't like how the astronauts made really stupid decisions when things got tough (especially since the film had the help of NASA to keep the hard science accurate), and when it turned into a typical slasher-like movie where people die one by one, some by an alien unseen until the very end in a "jump scare" kind of way. It just started out interesting, with solid acting performances, beautiful cinematography on a low budget, and a creative use of the found footage format, but the last third got more boring to watch. I still think it is a good movie, and I would recommend for the filmmaking and acting.

Parallels: I watched a 2015 sci-fi movie (written and directed by Christopher Leone) that I only realized at the end was meant as a TV pilot. It was about a group of travelers who travel through alternate Earths via a building in order to find their missing father. It was a lot like Sliders. It was cool and interesting, but ended with a bunch of cliffhanger moments, like just when the story was starting to get some answers as to the mystery. Since it didn't get picked up, it was a letdown to leave it off at questions that wouldn't get answered. The only name actor I recognized was Constance Wu, who plays Jessica Huang, the mother on Fresh Off the Boat. She was very good in this, as a seasoned traveler who the crew meets along the way, and it was nice to see her play a very different character (more youthful, in modern dress, more wry).

Everly: a 2014 action movie directed by Joe Lynch and written by  Yale Hannon. Salma Hayek plays a prostitute named Everly fighting back against her pimp and his goons. The pimp had kept her captive in an apartment for four years, forcing her into sex slavery, and she killed a bunch of his goons who beat/raped her, and he puts a price on her head and sends out more hitmen and hookers to kill her, and she tries to save her mother and daughter as well from danger. Much of the movie is in the apartment or the hallway, and it was a pretty good action movie, really dark and bloody, and Hayek did well in it, it was a different kind of movie for her. I didn't like how in the final confrontation, her pimp kept monologuing on and on, it became trite and predictable, and fairly obvious that Everly would find his weak spot the more he kept talking. But besides that, I liked the bleakness of the film, and how ridiculously violent it was.

Filth: a 2013 Scottish dark comedy (written and directed by Jon S. Baird, based on Irvine Welsh's novel of the same name) starring James McAvoy as an amoral detective trying to solve a murder mystery and get promoted at his job. It was really dirty and funny, and since MacAvoy plays a lot of nice guys and seems to be a good guy in real life, he played this antihero with a lot of relish (the guy threatens rape on female suspects, hates his fellow cops, abuses sex and alcohol, and other Bad Lieutenant kind of behavior). As the film continued, it became more clear that McAvoy's character has mental problems, having strange visions, and his vices cannot cover up his delusions and paranoia. It got better once it got past the initial shock humor, after the first 30 minutes. McAvoy delivered a layered and fascinating performance in the film, and was enjoyable to watch even as his character was self-destructing into madness.

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