NON-STOP (2014)

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Elizabeth

There is a lot going on in Non-Stop; the problem is that it absolutely doesn’t need it. There’s also a distractingly large cast for a movie that takes place on an airplane: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong’o, and this guy who looks like Jim Caviezel but isn’t somehow. But just see how complicated this plot gets:

– Liam Neeson is Bill Marks, an air marshal and alcoholic

– Marks gets texts on a “secure” phone that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes until $150 million is transferred to a bank account

– Marks consults with Jack (Anson Mount, not Jim Caviezel), another air marshal on the plane, and discovers that Jack is smuggling cocaine. They get into a fight and Marks kills Jack right at the 20 minute mark. So turns out these deaths will just occur somehow rather than being caused by one person.

– Next up is the captain of the plane, who dies from some kind of poisoning. Marks gets Jen (Julianne Moore), the woman sitting next to him on the plane, involved in helping him for some reason (ie she’s pretty).

– Turns out that bank account is in Marks’ name. Also turns out that someone took video of Marks being aggressive at the passengers and now the entire world thinks Marks is a hijacker. Even though it’s his job to prevent that from happening and he has no history of doing anything like that?

– Marks then ropes in Zack, another passenger on the plane who happens to be some kind of phone programmer or something. Marks wants him to create a program on the spot that will hack into the terrorist’s phone and cause it to ring. The phone is on a passenger, who says he’s never seen it before, and then who shortly after dies of poisoning, captain-style.

– While Marks is trying to figure out the terrorist’s phone, it suddenly turns on and starts sending texts to the TSA (is that something one can just do?) saying that Marks is suicidal and is going to detonate a bomb on the plane. Good thing there’s not a bomb on the plane! Oh wait . . .

– Marks then finds the bomb within the cocaine that Jack was smuggling. All the passengers try to overtake Marks, thinking he’s a terrorist and will set off the bomb, but one of the passengers, Tom, steals Marks’ gun and by pointing it at everyone makes them all stop and listen to Marks, who explains the situation and gains back the trust of the passengers.

– Now Marks has this bomb to deal with, which will go off before the plane has time to land. I’m going to let Wikipedia explain this part because it gets a little complicated:

Unable to land the plane in time, he attempts to initiate a protocol of least damage: by descending the plane to 8,000 feet to equalize air pressure, placing the bomb in the rear of the plane, covering it with baggage and moving the passengers to the front to contain the explosion, and minimizing casualties. As the protocol goes into effect, a fighter jet escort joins the airliner and warns that if it descends into civilian airspace, it will be shot down.

– Marks watches that video of himself being aggressive that made everyone think he was a terrorist and notices Tom slipping a phone into a passenger’s jacket, the same passenger Marks found with the phone who almost immediately died of poisoning. So it looks like Tom is the terrorist . . .

– But not just Tom! Remember that guy Zack? He and Tom are terrorist partners! Why? What are they going to get out of this whole thing? If your answer was better airport security . . . YOU ARE CORRECT! If the second part of your answer was for better airport security because of 9/11 . . . YOU ARE DOUBLY CORRECT! That’s right; Tom’s father died in the 9/11 attacks, which he blames on lack of airport security. So Tom decided to frame a US Air Marshal, assuming that would up the security at airports. OH OKAY THAT MAKES SENSE!!!

– Tom shoots and kills Zack, Marks shoots and kills Tom, the bomb explodes without anyone getting hurt and the plane lands in Iceland safe and sound. Marks is a hero and he and Jen flirt, THE END.

So, let’s go back over the above and pull out what’s unnecessary and/or doesn’t make sense.

  1. Bill Marks is an alcoholic
  2. There are two US Air Marshals on one flight
  3. The non-Liam Neeson Air Marshall is smuggling cocaine for some reason
  4. Marks lets Jen in on everything that’s going on
  5. All the bullshit with Zack programming the terrorist’s phone
  6. The terrorist’s phone starts automatically texting the TSA
  7. The drama of the pilot having to decide between listening to Marks and listening to that figher jet
  8. Tom convinces the passengers to go along with Marks
  9. Tom kills Zack, which makes one wonder why there needed to be two bad guys at all

This could have just been about Bill Marks trying to stop a bomb from going off from a terrorist. Or about Bill Marks trying to find the terrorist that’s killing passengers. But a bomb and individually killing passengers? And two bad guys? All for better post-9/11 airport security. HILARIOUS!

Just watch Red Eye.

Christopher

I’ve been into watching bad action movies recently and Non-Stop seemed like a good one to try out considering I am a fan of Taken. Now, Taken I think is actually a pretty decent movie. It has some boring parts I think but a whole I really like it. The story, the action, just Liam Neeson being a badass. Non-Stop on the other hand is full of winding roads that just lead you back to the same place. I called who the killer was within moments of them appearing on screen and I think that’s a very clear sign that this movie is not good.

What’s funny about this movie is that the whole thing takes place on a plane and everyone on the flight cannot be the villain. Because of this the movie films absolutely every scene like everyone is this crazy killer. So by the end when we finally know everything it’s hard not to look back and ask, well if all these other people are not the killer, then why the fuck did they act so weird in all those other scenes. And it’s true; this movie is shot in such a ridiculous way that nothing is believable. Even in a way that makes you excited you’re watching a movie.

I did like its awfulness in a lot of ways though. This movie would not be at the top of any list for me but I’m glad I watched it. I am ready for Liam to move away from action films though, he just keeps playing the same character; it’s hard to keep all of them straight in my mind.

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DON JON (2013)

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Christopher (spoilers!)

I just wanted to see this since Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed it and Scarlett Johansson seemed to play a role I hadn’t seen her play before. I was surprised by how much I liked watching this movie. It’s weird though cause so much of the movie was very relatable where so much of it wasn’t. First off, of course porn is great. And of course I watch a fair amount of porn. But to say it’s better than actual sex is pretty crazy. Especially oral sex.

When this film started I was surprised what the movie was actually about. I have to say I didn’t really remember what the trailers showed and the fact that it was so based around sex/porn was surprising but nice. I really did think the whole story and idea was really interesting and held my attention all the way through.

The best part of the film to me was that Scarlet Johansson’s character just ended up being a terrible person. I think this is so great cause of course Jon had an addiction to porn but it was also just porn. When Scarlet Johansson first sees him masturbating she freaks the fuck out. I mean she like almost starts crying. That should of been the biggest sign that he should of just walked away but I guess there wouldn’t of been a movie had that happened.

If you’re interested totally check this out. I really enjoyed watching it.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I was surprised by Don Jon. I thought I had the whole movie figured out about a third of the way through, and then it started going in a different direction in a way that made sense and wasn’t distracting at all.

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is basically a womanizer known for the amount of women he sleeps with. But what he holds dearest to his heart is porn; he loves it so much that he would rather watch porn and masturbate than have sex with a woman in real life. This is obviously alarming, but the movie does a great job of Jon explaining how he feels in a way that you actually understand him, even though when you really think about it it doesn’t make any sense. Then Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who finally seems to be exactly what he’s looking for. And to the audience, she also seems to be exactly what he’s looking for. She’s a good foil to him (and has a crazy New Jersey accent that is both insanely irritating and interesting because she still sounds like Scarlett Johansson). So I figured, Barbara was going to make Jon realize that real sex is better, he doesn’t need porn, etc. But being with Barbara doesn’t change Jon’s relationship with porn at all. Even though they seem to have an amazing sex life, he still thinks the porn is better. Barbara finds out and he promises what she saw him looking at was a joke, and she buys it until months later she sees his impressive internet history.

While all of this is happening, Jon is getting unwillingly and casually involved with Esther (Julianne Moore), a college classmate. At first I sort of hated Esther’s character. I thought she didn’t fit, seemed annoying, and I didn’t like that she was obviously the “better” woman over Barbara because she was more mature and kind of a hippy. But at a certain point in the movie, all at once Jon and Esther seem like a good match. And long after Barbara dumps him, he realizes after sleeping with Esther that his problem has always been that he’s never been with someone he could “lose” himself with. But with Esther he’s suddenly making love instead of fucking, and realizes that that’s what he needs, not someone like Barbara or constant porn.

I think what I liked the most is how Barbara and Jon’s relationship at first seems perfect. They’re such a good fit and make a gorgeous couple. But the longer the relationship goes and the more subtlely demanding Barbara is and the more Jon has to hide parts of his personality you realize that this is not just a not good relationship, it’s a destructive one. I still can’t really think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as sexy, which was kind of a roadblock for this particular movie, but considering it was also his directorial debut I thought Jon Don was pretty solid.

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

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Elizabeth

One thing I love about Boogie Nights is how it’s so different, but so distinctly a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. I’ve seen every of his features, and there’s something so specific about his filmmaking, without being distracting. I don’t think you watch Boogie Nights constantly reminded that he directed it, but it’s still there.

But yeah, like so many of Anderson’s movies, Boogie Nights’s cast is almost unreal. Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina, etc etc etc etc. I mean, come on! But it’s not just that there’s so many great individual actors; they all just interact so well together. Maggie (Julianne Moore) and Dirk (Mark Wahlberg) have a particularly weird, but still convincing relationship. They have a real Oedipal thing going on.

I think what I love most about the actual filmmaking of Boogie Nights is the transitions. Scenes so often change without being cut; maybe we’ll follow a car driving away at the end of a scene, which passes by a character who will take us into the next scene. It’s a really cool way of totally capturing this weird, sort of closed off universe that Boogie Nights exists in.

One of my friends in high school made the mistake of seeing Boogie Nights with her parents. So definitely see it, but definitely be aware of whom you’re seeing it with.

Christopher

I’m not sure why it took me so long to watch this movie but it’s a masterpiece. This movie has one of the best scenes I have ever come across in my movie watching experience. The scene is the one where Alfred Molina shows up. It’s beyond what I thought this film could provide. It’s pure magic.

The other thing that I think makes Boogie Nights so grand is the fact that it has an all-star cast but that it’s not distracting. This movie provided so many things that I thought I would never see involving so many actors that I really really like.

 The movie was great and I hope that I watch it again soon.

CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)

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Christopher

I think this is my third time seeing this movie but I’m glad we were able to see it in theaters again. I forgot how interesting and well-shot this film really is. And what I truly love about it are the little details. I think it’s great that animals love him. I love that one of the conflicts in the movie is that Clive Owen doesn’t have shoes and is having a difficult time finding shoes that fit. And I think Clive Owen’s character is so interesting.

The first few times I saw this movie I thought Owen’s character was a complete badass. That he was the type of character that took charge and got stuff done. Seeing it a third time I realize that he really didn’t want to be there at all. He was brought into something and the only reason he sticks around is that he’s a good guy. He risks his life on multiple occasions just to stick with something that he knows some people truly believe in. I guess that still kind of makes him a badass but in a different way than I had originally thought.

I would watch this many more times and I hope I do.

Elizabeth

Of the handful or so movies that I consider to be my all-time favorites, Children of Men is almost certainly the most stressful. To be honest, every time I watch it there are parts where I wonder why I like it so much because I’m so stressed out. The majority of the time though, I’m just totally in awe.

One of the things that makes Children of Men so fantastic is how realistic it is. I think it’s probably the most realistic futuristic movie I’ve seen, and it’s for a number of reasons. One, it’s set in 2027, just 21 years after the release date. Because of that, the technology in Children of Men is more nuanced in its progression. Two, the dialogue and relationships between the characters felt very natural. No one ever really did anything that felt way out of character. Three, the way Children of Men is shot makes you feel less like you’re watching a movie, and more like you’re there with the characters. I know the movie is famous for its long, single shots, and for good reason. They’re incredible, not just in the skill that takes, but in the effects it has on the audience. To me this is just proof that great filmmaking and cinematography can put you more in a movie than mediocre 3D can.

Children of Men is also full of great, weird themes. There’s the big, obvious ones, like hope and imprisonment. But I’m talking about these smaller things, like how Theo (Clive Owen) is constantly having issues with his feet. At some point he needs to make an escape barefoot, and from then on his feet are always causing him problems: he can’t find shoes that fit, he soaks them when he gets a chance, he messes them up running. There’s also this reoccurring thing that Theo is really good with animals and that animals love him. There are a lot of pets in Children of Men, which is a subtle touch that really makes sense; if the world was infertile, wouldn’t humans be more attached to pets?

I also love how Theo isn’t this great hero. He’s a good guy, but isn’t super into risking everything he knows for something he’s unsure about. But as the stakes get higher and Theo loses more people he loves, he’s more dedicated to the goal. It just makes you think what you would do in a similar situation, since Clive Owen really has that “everyman” quality down pat here.

Children of Men is great and one of the few movies with this amount of stress that I think is really worth the stress.

PSYCHO (1998)

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Christopher

WWWWhaaaaaa? It’s pretty PSYCHO that this was made. It’s very good at not being scary, Vince Vaughn is obviously some psychotic nut from the moment you meet him (not sure why he turned the character into a gay guy with Asperger;s), and most of the movie makes no sense considering the era it takes place in. It was pretty wild watching these two back to back. It truly made this movie seem like a joke.

Elizabeth

Gus Van Sant’s Psycho does serve a purpose: to show the complete pointlessness of shot-by-shot remakes. It’s especially pointless when the source material is nearly 40 years old and is a cinematic classic.

Watching Van Sant’s Psycho right after watching the original lets you see just how shot-by-shot (and line-by-line) the movie is. When does something go from being a remake to just being plagiarism? Because if there was ever a line for that, Psycho crosses it. The real problem is that this remake of Psycho adds nothing. The dialogue, made for 1960, is stiff and unnatural in 1998, especially in this cast of over-actors. It’s a good cast; Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, (among other, less good actors), but they’re acting like they’re in some weird stage play rather than a movie that takes place in 1998. I swear a little bit of Maude Lebowski comes out in Moore’s performance.

The two worst things about Van Sant’s Psycho are definitely Anne Heche as Marion Crane and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. When Janet Leigh played Marion Crane, she was a smart, attractive, modern woman. She dressed well, had her own job, and even walked around in her bra sometimes! She was cool and you wanted to root for her, even when she stole $40,000 (it helps that the guy she stole from was a creep who came onto her). When Anne Heche played Marion Crane, however, she played her as a weird, vintage-obsessed pixie lady. Between her alarmingly thin frame and abrupt pixie cut, she’s less of an attractive woman and more of a weird woman-child. She only wears vintage clothing; and not the kind of vintage that Janet Leigh would have worn, but maybe more like Janet Leigh’s aunt. She totes around a fucking pink parasol for goddsakes. For someone who has just stolen $400,000, she’s anything but inconspicuous.

Then there’s the tragedy of Vince Vaughn playing Norman Bates. He plays the character as if Bates is mentally retarded rather than mentally disturbed. If you’re not sure what the difference is, juxtapose the skipping and giggling of Vaughn’s Bates to the nervous smiles of Anthony Perkins’ Bates. When Anthony Perkins’ Bates watches Marion through a hole in the wall, there’s obviously a Peeping Tom element, but there’s no overt sexuality; it’s more about Bates being so closed off that he wants to see what a woman is like alone. When Vaughn’s Bates watches Marion, there are sounds (belt buckle, wet skin) of masturbation, which takes the scene to the obvious but unnecessary and gross conclusion. Vaughn also plays Bates as being weirdly effeminate, which doesn’t make him less scary only because he’s so weird.

Elements of the plot itself don’t make sense in 1998, like when Marion stops at the Bates Motel and Norman tells her she’s 14 miles from her destination. Why wouldn’t you just keep driving the 14 miles to your boyfriend’s? Especially once it stops raining, which it does almost as soon as she stops. And I could see a woman in 1960 maybe being trusting of a 1960 Anthony Perkins, because he’s got that boyish charm thing going on and is rather unsuspecting. But in 1998, if a woman traveling alone to a motel where she’s the only guest actually accepted the creepy owner’s invitation to eat sandwiches alone with him . . . well you still wouldn’t deserve to get murdered, but it would definitely make a murder not seem so surprising.

And, of course, because it’s a shot-by-shot remake, the whole psychiatrist’s explanation is still there in the end. It’s even stupider in a modern version. Why bother making a remake when you don’t even re-imagine it at all? Watching Van Sant’s Psycho might really be the most pointless remake ever.