Sunday, August 14, 2016

3 Movies you (probably) haven't seen (a Weird Movie Sunday?)

Couple of years ago I thought about writing little movie reviews on a regular basis. You know, as inspiration and stuff. Never really got to do that, though. There are more than enough people doing this already and this blog is mainly about gaming, so why bother? Well, I dreamed about writing this one review here, so that's as good a reason as any. And while I'm at it, I'll throw in two more for good measure.

1. The Family Fang (2015)

I am a big fan of all things Arrested Development and when one of the main cast starts directing his own stuff, I pay attention. So when Jason Bateman made his movie debut with Bad Words in 2013, I saw that sucker and fell in love (if dark comedy and Arrested Development are your thing, you should check that out asap). Wasn't a mainstream success and definitely not PC, but who cares. This was good, so checking out his next movie was a no-brainer, as they say.

Well, I only heard about The Family Fang by accident (it's based on a book going by the same name). There was literally no buzz I could catch. It was there and nobody talked about it. Well, nobody I knew anyway. And now that I saw it, I have to say that you should, too. I won't spoil it to you in any way, but I will give you the main premise and some general thoughts. Here is a bit from the blurb (from that last imdb-link above):
"Annie and Baxter, the adult children of the controversial husband and wife conceptual performance art couple famous for their quirky macabre public performances, have never got over the fact that their parents kept using them during their childhood in their often gory and disturbing satirical public performances."
Those parents are still at it and when they turn up missing, leaving a car and signs of a struggle behind, we are left with the siblings, wondering if they are really murdered or if it's an art piece. What follows is a dissection of what constitutes art and the price artists (are willing to?) pay to make it happen. It is at times hard to digest and controversial (as we constantly get flashback to some of those brilliant public performances), but never dull.

Part of the movie poster some outlandish critical acclaim [source]
There is some (very dark) humor at work in the movie and in a sense it's a classic tragicomedy. A bit like the stories Wes Anderson likes to tell. So if the question "What is art?" is something that gets your gears running, you should see this movie. It's not the answer, but it'll give you something to think and discus about. If you need more convincing, I should add that Christopher Walken plays old Mister Fang ... 

2. A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2013)

Oh, how I love that movie. The Trailer just doesn't do it justice. It's about a author of children's books (Simon Pegg) who decides he must write a serious book about serial killers. Being the sensitive kind, he gets very ... involved in his work, basically barricading himself in his apartment, seeing murderers in every shadow. Well, his publisher wants to get him out of the house for a business meeting and he has no clean clothes, so he has to leave the house and go to some dreaded Launderette eventually ...

Well, the paranoia combined with a very creative mind (and lots of bad luck, I might add) doesn't help and Simon Pegg is hilarious. Add a really inspired directing to that (I'd describe it as a mix between a Wes Anderson and a Tim Burton movie with a good dose of British humor) and you really end up with something very well worth your time.

Pretty much sums it up ... [source]
There is a weak part of about ten minutes near the end, but it really doesn't weaken the whole experience one bit. It's a quirky and wild ride. Pegg is carrying the whole movie on his own and does a very good job as the unreliable narrator and on screen. Add clever writing and some fantastic scenes (like the rap scene .. you'll know it when you see it). A Fantastic Fear of Everything is highly recommended by this blogger :)

3. Jupiter Ascending (2015)

It's a bit more difficult to find a beginning sentence about Jupiter Ascending as it really tanked and people have opinions about it. Well, this is my opinion and I really, really love this movie. The setting, character and world design should inspire every Science Fiction tabletop player and DM. There is a lot of money in this movie and it shows. The Blue-ray is a wonder to behold. Several times. Planets, ships, weapons, Cyborgs, cyberware, weird technology ... it's all in there in spades. For that alone it's worth seeing once (and then again in slow mo ...).

Same goes for the story. That's some crazy shit right there: a universe full of mega-corporations lead by immortals who harvest human DNA as their ambrosia, different factions, gene manipulation to optimize soldiers and a huge bureaucratic complex that should get Terry Gilliam pretty excited on a normal day, also lots of aliens and laws and special fighting units whatnot. A campaign setting if I have ever seen one. It all reminded me a bit of the Deathstalker novels by Simon R. Green. In a good way.

[Edit: Forgot about the soundtrack ... it's divine! I don't need to point out where a good soundtrack might get some mileage in a role playing game ...]

Many of you will be aware that this is a film by the Wachowski siblings (or sisters now?) and I have to say that I am a huge fan of their work. All of their work (and yes, that includes Speed Racer, V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin (!) and Cloud Atlas). I like their style and the way they mix action with (very light, sometimes flawed) philosophy. In this regard, they also deliver in Jupiter Ascending and I have to say a few words about the action here: it's brilliant work. Fast, vast and complex, just as I like it. I dare say that you won't see anything like it again any time soon. Visionary.

And again, food for any DM looking for some original sci-fi combat set up for a session or two. Gold mine.
If you need more convincing, here is a good essay about the movie [source]
Many people bashed the acting in this movie and I get why. I just don't care that much as I was in awe the whole movie, taking notes. I gotta say, though, that that Eddie Redmayne character creeps me out here. Big time. He really gets under the skin over time and I found it unsettling. That's a good thing, btw, since he is the villain and all. Tatum is pretty much himself with pointy ears (which works for me) and Kunis, well, if nothing else, she's nice to look at. Bean is good in anything he does and does a lot with the little he gets here ... Nothing to write home about, but not bad either.

So as far as Space Operas go, Jupiter Ascending has only one shortcoming, in my opinion: it's not based on an existing franchise. All of this is new and most people will find it all a bit overwhelming. Add to this that the movie doesn't follow the Campbell routine and you end up losing most viewers somewhere down the road. Which is the point where a movie starts to drag and the only thing left is to find ways to ridicule what you see ... But that doesn't mean it's a bad movie, it just means it's demanding attention from the viewer. I, for one, appreciate that in a movie.

It is save to say that, if you liked the Science Fiction parts of Cloud Atlas, you'll like this movie, too (if you've avoided this one and needed a push). It's an inspiring firework of creativity in all but the acting (with some highlights there, too, like Redmayne). You really can't do much wrong if you are into Space Opera and see it with an open mind.

Honestly, don't believe the haters :)


  1. Uh...Jason Bateman's film debut is a little farther back than 2013...

    1. Really? Did I miss something? He did some tv before, but going by imdb Bad Words is his first directed feature length film and it is from 2013. But maybe I don't have all the information ... So what do you mean?


Recent developments made it necessary to moderate posts again. Sorry about that, folks.