Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Flight of the Navigator

Image result for flight of the navigator cliff de young
This is a pretty fuckin’ weird movie guys.  The first half is much more of an adult film while the second is all out kids shit.  The contrast is stark in not the best way but there’s some real interesting stuff going on here.  I’ll be your navigator on this flight so let’s take a look.

David (Joey Cramer (Runaway)) is your regular 12 year old 1978 kid that just wants to play with his dog and spy on chicks with his telescope.  It’s innocent though, he’s checking out the girl (fully clothed) that he has a crush on.  Anyway, later that night his parents ask him to go get his younger brother who’s playing with some other kids in the woods.  During his trip through the brush David comes across a crevice, falls in it and goes unconscious.  After a short time he wakes up, climbs out of the pit and goes home.  But when he bangs on the door to be let in a stranger answers and David freaks the fuck out.  He runs inside to find that all of the furniture is different and there’s an elderly couple living there now.  Naturally the police are called and they determine that this is a kid that’s been missing since 1978.  That’s right, all of a sudden it’s 1986 and the world has moved on except for David.  He’s still the same age and thought he was only out for a brief period while in reality it’s been eight goddamn years. 

Can you imagine how fucking creepy that would be?  The first half of the movie is totally serious in tone and pulled off really well with how fucked up the situation is.  Doctors run tests on David but can’t figure out what happened.  His younger brother is now sixteen and grown up, his parents aged a fair amount and they don’t live in the same house.  Everything’s gone fucking crazy.

At the same time David is “found” a spaceship is also discovered crashed into an electrical tower.  NASA takes it to their lab to study but can’t make sense of how to get inside or why it’s there or anything at all.  Eventually the connection is made that David and the ship have something to do with each other.  NASA then persuades David’s parents to take him to their facility to study for a couple of days so they can connect the dots.

Image result for flight of the navigatorThis is all really great stuff.  The plot is innovative, the style is straightforward and the kid isn’t some bratty asshole.  Getting the balance right of the Twilight Zone-esque horror, the drama of having this permanent mysterious barrier now between a kid and his family and the adventure of discovering exactly what happened had to have been pretty damn tough.  But they pulled it off.

The second half of the picture on the other hand turns into a total kids movie, like in the most exasperating way possible.  Once David and the ship are reunited at NASA they go on a wacky journey together.  Part of it is physical, David is trying to navigate his way back home, and part of it is spiritual, the ship and David become friends.  The ship, now christened Max by David, is voiced by Paul Rubens (Batman Returns) and at first you wouldn’t know it was him because it sounds like they pitched him down and maybe put some other effects on there.  But once Max scans David’s brain for star maps (it stored them in there for safe keeping…I’m not sure why either) the thing turns into fuckin’ Pee-wee Herman.  I’m not saying I’m against Pee-wee Herman but the movie had such a unique and fascinating thing going for itself.  Changing course for Rubens Land exchanges exploring the unknown in a thought provoking way for cheap jokes and silly voices.  Not a great decision in my opinion.

Image result for flight of the navigatorTo make matters worse the switch is so fucking jarring.  One minute Max can’t understand emotions or slang and the next he’s riffin’ on David and acting like a big fuckin’ goof.  I don’t know if this had to do with Disney coming in because they did not initially start this project (they sure finished it though).  It’s difficult to tell if this was them putting their stamp on the movie to make the material more kid friendly or if the film was gonna go that way anyway.  Would Disney pay to reshoot a bunch of scenes and do some crafty editing?  Maybe.  David’s hair does noticeably change length throughout the later spaceship scenes indicating reshoots.  I guess that’s all the proof I have.  Shit, that’s not a lot.

I know you probably won’t do it but this one is sorta worth checking out for the first half.  It’s a mindfuck because the movie was smart enough to keep the audience in the dark about David’s disappearance until two thirds of the way through when it’s finally revealed what happened to him.  But really they should’ve only hinted at an abduction and had the entire thing be about David and his family coping with the completely bizarre and eerie situation without giving a definitive answer.  But sure, this is a kids movie and I guess they should throw some stuff in there for them.   

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Image result for creed 2015It should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the Rocky series.  There’s just something about this character and his life that makes for endlessly fascinating movies.  On the surface they seem like one trick ponies, Rocky is down on his luck (either from the get go or sometime later in the film) and he fights his way to glory both in the ring and outside of it.  It’s a close examination of a man’s life and all of the crazy up and down shit that he constantly goes through.  The messages of determination, drive, believing in oneself, devotion, humility and passion are beautiful and pretty damn inspiring.  But it’s been a while and now Rocky has hung up his gloves.  Who’s next to continue the saga?

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan (The Wire)) wants to take on his father’s legacy and become a professional boxer.  But he doesn’t want anyone to know who he really is because he wants to make it on his own.  He tracks down Balboa and they train, fight and fall in love, uh I mean respect each other deeply and formally pass the torch.

Let’s get the gripes out of the way first.  I love the idea of a story taking place in the Rocky universe that isn’t directly about the main man himself.  The world is so lived in that there are a bunch of possibilities to explore there.  But that isn’t really what Creed is.  Probably the biggest problem I have with the movie is how much of a Rocky picture it is.  Creed and Balboa are focused on almost equally which I wasn’t expecting (it was the title that put that strange notion in my head).  Not only that but the film also constantly throws in references, major plot elements and even a lot of music from the previous Rockys.  There are so many jabs to the ribs in what too often feels like part nostalgia trip (in a bad way) and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, part appeasement to the audience to help get them on board.   Writer/Director Ryan Coogler must be a confidently huge Rocky fan to go all in on this project after the enormous success of his first film Fruitvale Station.  So it feels more like Coogler just gushing his love for all things Rocky here and I think his fandom hurt the final product.  Essentially what I’m saying is the filmmakers hit so many of the same beats as the other Rockys, especially the first, and shoehorned in so many references that it doesn’t feel as fresh as it should.  Guys, you create your own legacy by being your own movie.  Do your own unique boxing story and push the Rocky stuff way into the background.

The other couple of corny things I didn’t care for aren’t that important so I won’t even get into it.  But I do wanna say that the score irritated me.  The tracks that sampled the old Rocky themes and tunes shouldn’t have been in there because [see paragraph above].  And then the original pieces, besides the ones that Creed’s girlfriend makes, felt out of place.  They somehow don’t blend with the visuals, I’m not sure what it is.  A few of the girlfriend’s songs were actually a little cool, a little.

Image result for creed 2015 tessaNow on to the good stuff.  Michael B. Jordan is fantastic.  His appearance alone is great because he is totally fuckin’ cut man.  And he’s a damn good actor too.  He comes off as very natural and comfortable with the character and material.  I buy him as a lover and a fighter.  Really good job overall.

Stallone is Stallone.  He knows this goddamn character better than anyone and he plays it perfectly. He was born for this role and it’s interesting to see him revive it again and again as he gets older.  Sly brings a little more wisdom and always a ton of heart each time he does Rocky.  It’s like seeing an old friend that’s only gotten more remarkable and shows more depth with each visit.

Tessa Thompson (Selma) plays Creed’s girlfriend, Bianca, and she’s real good too.  She seems to have that natural thing going as well like Jordan.  In fact the romance between the two was one of the better aspects of the film.  Even though at first it feels completely forced to throw in a love story the romance that Creed and Bianca have is actually not that cringe inducing.  They come off as real grown-ups having a real relationship and not a movie couple that play nauseatingly cute games with each other or have vomit inducing cheesy ass dialogue.  I applaud the picture for taking a more grounded approach with that.

Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler) shot a nice looking movie.  The colors aren’t washed away like the trend had been for a while (we might be over that) and the steady cam work is understated to the point where I didn’t even think about it.  A couple of shots were really fuckin’ cool like when Creed gets knocked down for the first time and the camera follows smacking the mat hard, and the very impressive and fucking badass fight between Creed and his first major opponent where it’s two full rounds in the ring with the fighters all in one long take (seemingly anyway (goddamn computers)). Also, the editing of the training sequences is awesome.  It’s heart-pumping, kinetic and rhythmic.

Image result for creed 2015 pretty rickyIn the end Creed is solid, good not great.  I wish it had more of its own identity instead of mixing in so many contrived Rocky elements.  I mean this is really just a remake of the first Rocky.  You have a young hungry boxer with practically no track record that gets trained by an old boxing sage for a shot at the title that comes about because the original fight got canceled and the current champ needs to fill the void, so he taps what is seemingly an easy target only to find that the sonuvabitch can really box and gives him a run for his money.

If you’re a Rocky fan of course you should see it.  It’s another fine entry into the catalogue like all the rest.  Well, except V.  That one can eat it.  But even if you’re not a Rocky fan there’s plenty of good stuff here.  Moments like Rocky vising Adrienne and Paulie in the cemetery where he brings them a memorial rose and bottle of booze (respectively) and reads them the newspaper, or when Creed and Bianca talk about why he’s hesitant to use his father’s (and really his own) famous namesake are sweet and wonderful.  The relationships along with the fighting are well handled and touching.  None of it’s groundbreaking but I guess that’s ok.

Man, imagine if there were six movies all about Mickey and the shit he went through before Rocky.  We could have that with Creed if they make five sequels.  I wouldn’t be opposed.