The Non-Stop Monuments Men

I also got to see Non-Stop and Monuments Men this past weekend. while neither was great, they were both far better than the other movies I saw (300 Rise of an Empire, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill).

Non-Stop

 

Non-Stop (2014) – Rated PG-13

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

I’m not hijacking this plane. I’m trying to save it! ”

One Line Review: Exciting, generic thriller is enjoyable albeit pointless

Non-Stop was a breath of fresh, yet recycled, air after 300: Rise of an Empire.

Non-Stop is a standard Liam Neeson thriller. As long as he can keep up the quality and they bring in the box office, Neeson’s turns should not devolve into direct-to-DVD fodder like the output from Van Damme, Seagal, Bronson, etc.

The story is nothing, simply made to keep you guessing. It is fun as it goes along but after the climax you’ll be scratching your head realizing so-and-so could not possibly have known about such-and-such. Such and such being many, many different things. The only possible ending that makes sense of the events is a fascinating one that you have to read into the script. I’d love to discuss it at length but I don’t post spoilers.

Liam Neeson is in fine form. They give him a tragic backstory to help propel the plot and appeal to his hangdog demeanor. At one point, Julianne Moore simply blurts out her character’s backstory as an exposition dump but is otherwise fine. Lupita Nyong’O is wasted here in a role that is only exceeded in thanklessness by the played by Shea Whigham. I have to assume that some of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

The Monuments Men

 

The Monuments Men (2014) – Rated PG-13

An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.”

One Line Review: Fascinating story told rather passively and by-the-numbers.

George Clooney has a knack for finding unusual stories and telling them well. Ignoring his acting achievements, Clooney was nominated for both directing and writing for Good Night, and Good Luck. He nominated for writing again with Ides of March.

Clooney co-wrote The Monuments Men with frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. He directs a fabulous, if topical cast: Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and John Goodman all perform well here. Clooney’s direction is assured if not inspired.

So what went wrong? The Monuments Men is too unfocused. Throughout the film, the men are scattered across Europe. There is not enough humor to turn this into a Dirty Dozen, not enough planning for a caper film, and we don’t really feel invested in the characters. Perhaps the narrative is flawed by sticking too close to real events and the book but I never felt invested in the characters.

The Monuments Men is not bad. It just isn’t what it should be, considering the pedigree.

People Watch: Look for Downton Abbey’s own Lord Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as one of the Monuments Men.

Carrie Why?

I just saw the Carrie remake at the theater.

Carrie

 

Carrie (2013) – Rated R

A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.

The other kids, they think I’m weird. But I don’t wanna be, I wanna be normal. I have to try and be a whole person before its to late.

One Line Review: Unnecessary remake poorly handled, CGI blood laughable.

Obviously the big question besides ‘is it any good?’ would be ‘why remake Carrie yet again?’. After all, the 1976 film from Brian de Palma is an absolute classic, carefully paced, well-acted, and inventively filmed with a hard-to-beat finale and a coda that has since been copied in dozens of other horror movies.

People were respectful enough to leave Carrie alone until 1999. This is the year The Rage: Carrie 2 was released, with a different telekinetic teen suffering a very similar series of circumstances. Amy Irving reprised her role as Sue Snell. In 2002, Carrie was rebooted as a TV movie starring Angela Bettis. Despite the story being framed as a Greek tragedy, this was planned as a television series. Thankfully that did not get off the ground.

Carrie is a wonderful story about high school bullying and not fitting in. Carrie 2013 director Kimberly Peirce wrote and directed Boys Don’t Cry, a great story about bullying and gender identity. One would think that that would make her uniquely qualified to helm a bully-centric version of Carrie. Unfortunately this aspect is barely touched upon.

Very little of Lawrence D. Cohen’s script has been rewritten. Many scenes are verbatim from the 1976 original. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa makes a few modernizing tweaks. The filming and YouTubing of the shower incident are excellent ideas, straight from the headlines. Unfortunately they aren’t handled very well and don’t ultimately have the impact one would hope.

More of Carrie’s burgeoning abilities are covered. Unfortunately they are handled as if she is training them. In the original, the telekinesis comes across more as a force of nature, supporting the Greek tragedy aspects. Here she trains her powers and everything is much more deliberate. Instead of Carrie losing control, you sit there wondering why she didn’t do ‘x’.

Only a spoiler if you haven’t seen any version of Carrie nor read the book: Normally I only talk about endings in the vaguest of terms but, as this is a reboot of a remake, I feel safe mentioning Prom. Prom is the big showpiece of any Carrie. Brian de Palma used multiple camera angles and an inventive use (at the time) of split-screen. Kimberly Peirce’s version is even worse than the made-for-TV version. The CGI blood looks like very weak kool-aid that defies the laws of physics. Apparently in 37 years, we have regressed in the art of special effects. Honestly, I should put LOL as the bucket drop actually made me laugh out loud in the theater.

There are a few nice things to say about the remake but only a few. iPhones and YouTube are certainly necessary updates, even though they are mishandled. The bass effects are well done (too bad the visual effects money was spent on sound design). The lead is age-appropriate – it was a little hard to believe that 27-year-old Sissy Spacek was having her first period. Most of the rest of the cast are actors in their mid-20s playing high school students, just like in the original.

Julianne Moore does a fine job with Piper Laurie’s role but is not better than Laurie. Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass, Let Me In), who I normally love is okay here but Spacek’s performance was much more nuanced. The other actors were okayish but could not exceed the material.

Carrie isn’t downright awful except for the Prom sequence. and the road sequence following. and a few of the earlier scenes. Anyway it’s not awful, just not particularly good.