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Saturday, September 24, 2022

End of Summer Film Festival

Thanks to the case of COVID that I'm still combatting, I've spent many evenings these past two weeks watching films I missed over the past few years -- with an emphasis on genre films that my spouse does not like all that much, including science fiction, overly violent action movies, and disaster films. She's again been away fulfilling a family obligation. 

These are the films I watched, ranked in order of my liking, with a few comments:

Dune (2021) (HBO Max)

This was far and away the best film I saw during the two weeks, but it is not without some significant flaws. I read the novel back in the late 1970s or early 1980s and saw the earlier filmed version not long after it was available on cable after a theatrical run. This version of the film told a compelling story with a clear narrative. I recall that the prior film sort of failed at that, but it's been many years since I saw it. Still, this movie's pacing is kind of slow and the plot turns on a betrayal that is not very well explained. I will watch the next one. 

Midnight Sky (2020) (Netflix)

Ultimately, this film is a disaster film more than a science fiction film. If it didn't star George Clooney it would probably be a lot less watchable. The film makes some strange narrative choices -- relying upon a good number of flashbacks to Clooney's youth and showing some "normal" day-to-day activity on a long-haul space mission. Not all of the threads weave together into a coherent narrative. I mean, ultimately, what was the purpose of this film? It was mostly entertaining, in its way, but the writing could have used a few tweaks. 

The Old Guard (2020) (Netflix)

The premise of this film is interesting -- imagine a small group of people who cannot be killed. Indeed, their wounds miraculously heal in a very short amount of time. This superpower gives them the ability to live for centuries and combat whatever foes they decide to identify. Charlize Theron is the main character (and leader of the fighting force), but she isn't given much to say that is all that interesting. Apparently this is based on a comic book and it has that feel. I kept thinking that someone who has read the comics would have a much better idea of these characters and their relationships. Without that knowledge, the film fails to connect on some level. 

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) (Netflix)

If you ever wondered what happened to Jesse after the Breaking Bad series ended, then this film provides some answers. It was good to see some of the original stars make appearances in this film (often in flashback), but I didn't think it was as well-written (or well-paced) as an average episode of the original series. Better Call Saul is generally also better. It is worth your time and maybe should be a bit higher on this list. 

The Outfit (1973) (HBO Max)

This film obviously isn't a recent release, but I had not seen it even though I've read a lot of Richard Stark's (Donald Westlake's) Parker novels. Those books are terrific, generally, and they work because the main character is basically a super-efficient criminal who nonetheless often runs into bad luck. The life of crime he selects is not easy. This film is not especially loyal to the original book and Robert Duvall did not make a very good Parker. And in this film he's named Earl Macklin. 

Greenland (2020) (HBO Max)

At several points during the film I thought about ending my viewing. The story is clunky, featuring an "extinction-level" event for the planet, but focusing on the survival efforts of one family. The three members of the family are racing for shelter in a secret government bunker, but they become separated across Georgia and Tennessee thanks to a series of unfortunate events. One of these characters is a small child and the ongoing disaster is playing havoc with communications. Their reunion is all-too-easily achieved, frankly, even as it causes the father character to steal a car, fight for his life, and .... make peace with his father-in-law because of a prior act of adultery? The script is kind of a mess. 

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