Left Behind (2014)

Jesus Christ.

So I watched the 2014 remake of Left Behind. It was not good. I know that Nick Cage just loves being in movies, Gary, but man oh man this movie. It was as if the screenwriter asked themselves, “If the world were faced with an impossible situation, what is the least likely way for them to respond?” And then they rolled camera.

At least I could laugh at the Kirk Cameron Left Behind from 2000. I can’t even laugh at this.

Sister My Sister

Before I go into Sister My Sister, a movie about housekeepers, a little housekeeping (har har). I really, really don’t like it when a movie filmed and presented in a wide format is cropped into a so-called “full-frame” pan-n-scan for the DVD release. The last movie I saw that did this was when I rented Polanski’s Frantic from Netflix on DVD. I was so put off by the cropping that it took me a month and a half to actually sit down and watch the dang movie (which I mostly liked).

I’m grateful as all heck for IMDB’s technical specifications listing for films. It lets me see exactly what the filmmaker intended. When I rented Sister My Sister on DVD from Scarecrow, I didn’t realize the crop had been done, and a 1.85:1 film suddenly had to be watched in 4:3. Needless to say, I think I could have enjoyed the film a lot more had the cinematography not been butchered.

All in all, I liked the ambience and presentation of the material, even if it was a bit overly melodramatic. I like stories about bizarre friendships between women (like in Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures), especially but not exclusively if they’re based on a true story. Here, it’s not just a friendship, but between sisters. I could have taken a lot more of this movie, though, and its brevity is a serious shortcoming when given what I see as the compelling strength of the source material. It was all right, but it felt incomplete.

Definitely, Maybe

I wanted an accessible rom-com, so I streamed Definitely, Maybe on Netflix. Ryan Reynolds, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks… what more could you ask for? I loved the framing device of a dad telling his daughter the story of his past loves. I didn’t need any more reasons to love every member of the main cast, but that’s exactly what I got. It was a true delight.

Did I tear up at the end? You bet your booty I did.

Near Dark

I rented Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark from Scarecrow. I’d been meaning to watch it for a long time, in no small part because of Bigelow’s other movies (I’m lookin’ at you, Strange Days!), but also because it was a cult classic low-budget vampire flick. Lemme just say, I rarely seem to understand the cult followings many movies have. I don’t want to seem a fuddy-duddy, but this movie is just not that special, or at least not to the degree it seems so beloved.

I did like the intimacy and grittiness of it, which kept me mesmerized more than the actual craftsmanship did. Those factors made up for a lot of the pure exploitation cheese vibes I was getting for large swaths of it. The injection of the western genre into the vampire legend was remarkably innovative and truly delightful to see. In short, it was a fine watch, but I probably won’t watch it again for some time.

Us

Thought I’d stop into work to finally see Jordan Peele’s Us. I love seeing movies in the theater, but I generally hate seeing movies with too many other people around. The sound of eating, talking, phones beeping, people getting up and down, coughing… I’m a misanthrope at heart, what can I say. However, some reviews I saw/heard really emphasized collective audience reaction in their enjoyment of the film.

My showing was about 40% full in a very large auditorium, so I thought I’d manage to get some of that slick collective experience folks have been raving about. No dice. People did not react the way I was expecting at all. There was laughter at tense moments (maybe as a coping mechanism?), cries of recognition at the needle drops irregardless of the context (I’m looking at you, Good Vibrations), and general all around bad etiquette.

Putting all of that aside, I really enjoyed the movie. It was excellent horror, and the use color and cinematography was gorgeous. Peele wowed us with Get Out, but he grew as a filmmaker between then and now. I’d read people’s reviews saying that Peele knows how to light for black actors at night better than most, and that came through crystal clear. I was with the characters from start to finish, and the tension—especially during the home invasion sequence—had me clutching my seat.

I’m glad he didn’t go for nearly as strong or direct of social commentary this time around, but listening to people during the credits try to make connections that were barely there was amusing, if annoying. I’m one of those schmucks who stays through to the very end of the credits in the theater, and at least my audience was not interested in that nonsense at all.

This has turned into more of an audience-bashing than a film review. I liked the damn movie. Peele is visionary and incredible. I hope to see all sorts of things from him for many years to come.

Into the Forest

I liked a lot about Into the Forest. It was understated, reflective, and relatively small; and yet, the issues it tackled were very big, very primal, very human. I thought the journey of the sisterhood between Page and Wood was beautiful, which only stands to reason, since they’re both such incredible talents. I’m glad the movie was so contained and constrained, because it really let their performances shine through.

Once again we see rape as a plot point gone minimally addressed. The scene of comforting after Page strains her back and Wood loses her shit with being unable to handle the aftermath of her assault was intimate and endearing, but Wood’s character’s decision to keep the baby threw me for a damn loop, and made the end of the movie seem completely out of the realm of possibility. I mean, having a baby in the crotch of a tree? I suppose the filmmaker wanted to emphasize the apocalyptic scenario and the whole, reverting to the ways of older societies out of necessity. It still felt icky.

Volver

Finally saw Volver, the Pedro Almodóvar film. I’ve been on a bit of an Almodóvar kick lately, so it was nice being in familiar territory.

Volver was beautiful, colorful, and well-acted in the way only Almodóvar can do. I liked it, but it felt less cohesive (tonally and plot-wise) than the other movies of his I’ve seen. It was lovely seeing Penelope Cruz acting in her native tongue. Her character was as vibrant as the colors themselves, and the whole work was incredibly full of life—slightly ironic, given the film talks so much about death.