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Movies

Listings here make no entailment on date of original viewing.

Ratings Guide

A rough metric for the meaning of the numbers below:

  • 10: An excellent movie. Meets at least two out of super original, extremely well done, or specifically targeted for Joe Kopena. The crucial factor: It not just holds up to, but demands repeated play.
  • 9: Very good, holds up to repeated play. Stops just short of being pitch perfect.
  • 8: Definitely a good movie, but maybe not quite engaging enough or a little flat.
  • 7: An ok movie; watchable, entertaining, not something to really come back to.
  • 6: Maybe watchable, not noteworthy in any way, just short of entertaining.
  • 5: Terrible; not worth watching without compelling reason to do so.
  • <= 4: Wow! Don't put this in your DVD player unless you have a warranty on it.

Note that films and shows are definitely judged with some view to their genre and medium (e.g., TV), and certainly within my likes, as opposed to some objective quality scheme. Titles in bold are a definite general recommendation.

[ 2016 |2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010--2006 ]

2017/11

  • Goldeneye. 5/10. Had never actually watched this, and gave up about halfway through even while washing dishes. Let me repeat: Was not even worth having on in the background while washing dishes... It's just plain boring.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. 5/10. Dreadful. There's just nothing entertaining here. Plot makes little sense, characters are garbage, 4th-wall narration is annoying.
  • Arrival. 10/10.
  • The Hateful Eight. 8/10.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road. 10/10.
  • Stranger Things. Season 2. 8/10.
  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. 7/10.
  • The Rainmaker. 7/10.
  • Valkyrie. 7/10.

2017/10

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Season 1. 8/10.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. 10/10.
  • Blade Runner 2049. 10/10.
  • Star Trek VII: Generations. 9/10.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. 10/10.
  • Star Trek VIII: First Contact. 8/10.

2017/09

  • Fortitude. Season 1. 8/10.
  • The Good. the Bad, and the Ugly. 10/10.
  • Star Trek Beyond. 7/10. Very "Meh" movie. Not terrible, but not good either. Completely forgettable. Bad guys not compelling until the very end. Tons of tech elements just don't make sense. As a TV episode would probably be solid but definitely not top tier.

2017/08

  • Atomic Blonde. 8/10. Not the deepest movie, though not the lightest either. Either way, very well done and interesting. Fairly graphic but great fights, with exhaustion and lasting damage. Multiple plot twists stacked up mostly at the end, not the most surprising but not completely obvious either.
  • Archer. 7/10. Season 7. 7/10. Still entertaining, but running out of gas. Some new regular characters for this season not especially compelling.
  • Dunkirk. 9/10.
  • Rogue One. 10/10.
  • Rogue One. 10/10.

2017/07

  • Burn After Reading. 8/10.

2017/06

  • Doctor Strange. 6/10. Another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I suppose. Fairly bland. Entertaining, very watchable, but not especially compelling. The main characters are all some combination of paper thin and not likable. The effects and plot both come across as some combination of the first Nolan Batman and Inception. This movie is much less than the sum of those parts...

2017/05

  • The Last Kingdom. Season 2. 8/10. Continuing tale of the Danes and Saxons fighting it out at the dawn of England. I was prepared for a steep dropoff after the first season, so this was unexpectedly good. Some of the plot lines are a bit pat, specifically Eric's, but no less enjoyable for it.

2017/04

  • The Waterboy. 7/10.
  • Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. 10/10.

2017/03

  • Poldark. Season 1. 7/10. Somewhat interesting 18th century English drama among the gentry and want-to-be gentry in coal country. Drifts quite a bit toward being a soap opera at times.
  • Hap and Leonard. Season 1. 7/10. Dark crime comedy set in early '90s southern swamps. A very uneven production. The main characters are likable, funny, and have interesting aspects. But many of the other primary characters are just trite. The main baddies in particular are just boring: She's some kind of PCP-addled killing machine in leather and plastic, he's a cold killer in stylish club outfits, they listen to a lot of techno. Super lame and detracts from the whole show. Would have been way more fascinating just focusing on smaller elements, like Leonard's relationship with his uncle, though that would be a very different show.
  • Frequency. Season 1. 7/10. A police drama mixed with a form of time travel! It's mostly good. Some of the characters are pretty likable. The biggest problem with the story is that it descends into a pretty standard serial killer plot line. Also, some of the main characters become all too willing to beat prisoners, execute supposed villains who won't face justice, etc.. That could also be meaningful if it was an analysis of how the time effects are related to that. E.g., the primary protagonist is maybe only a good person to the extent that consequences hold and once released from those her morals also become unmoored. But the show doesn't really carry this discussion or look into it at all. They're just rote cops in TV land, where it's acceptable to beat someone as long as they're a bad person.
  • The Magicians. Season 1. 6/10. An obvious rip-off of Harry Potter, perfectly tuned by NetFlix's data-driven show construction. For all that it is almost more interesting, and has interesting elements about depression and alienation. However, it's just boring. It drags on, few exciting things happen, I actually didn't make it through the whole first season before giving up.
  • Wild Bill. 6/10. Thoroughly ahistorical telling of Wild Bill Hickock's life that shows a ton of promise but doesn't deliver. The movie almost succeeds at portraying Hickock as a compelling great man in decline, past his prime and losing his sight, haunted by all the mistakes he's made and opportunities he's skipped. But the movie makes heavy use of voiceover and simple retellings that really detracts from that. None of the character relationships are particularly built up, there's little explanation of how Bill wound up with the group of friends he has.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis. 10/10. Excellent melancholic film following a perpetual loser in '60s Greenwich Village. I got fooled throughout as I thought it was leading to a retelling through a fictional character of the night Bob Dylan went electric and got booed, but instead the movie goes nowhere, and excellently so.

2017/02

  • Event Horizon. 8/10. Sci-fi horror among an inter-dimensional ship corrupted by its travels. I find this movie much more appealing than I should, but largely because I view it as a precursor to the 40k universe and that brings a lot of heft to it. The vague sentient menace the movie revolves around is a lot more meaningful if you're viewing it as an early encounter with a denizen of The Warp. Almost a sidenote, but one of the ways this movie shows its age is by cheaping out on the physics effects. In particular, at times there's clearly gravity even when they explicitly say there isn't and they're relying on magnetic boots. This is doubly unfortunate because early in the movie there is a bunch of CG of things floating through the abandoned ship, which only highlights later that things are still "falling" even though the gravity isn't on yet (I believe).
  • Creed. 9/10. Excellent movie about a young boxer coming of age, to somewhat ridiculous success. The main characters here are all interesting and especially so together, there's a bunch of wounded manliness, and a good ending. Hard not to like, even before you throw in the very Philadelphia elements like the dirt bike parade to Rocky's house.
  • The Imitation Game. 9/10. Great movie about Turing and Bletchley Park. Takes a number of liberties with history, but it's very engaging and feels like it carries weight. Would have to read more about Turing to gauge its acerbic representation of his character, which is a key element in the whole thing.
  • Everything Must Go. 10/10. This remains a captivating movie about an alcoholic totally lost on his front lawn.
  • Peaky Blinders. Seasons 1--3. 7/10. Post-WW1 gangs run amok in industrial England. First season is interesting. Not super deep, but has both a solid enough plot and some interesting character elements. A lot of it hinges on PTSD and other fallout from the war, which most of the key characters participated in. That elements goes away in the second season though, which is a major loss. The show kind of coasts on and the plot is still solid enough. But by a few episodes into the third season it's basically just an orgy of self-destruction, and the main character in particular makes a number of decisions in favor of violence that don't really feel like what he would have done previously. He's had big personal changes of course, but it still felt like he had been tilted that way simply to bringe in more violence.
  • The Last Kingdom. 7/10. Compelling story of Vikings and Saxons dueling for England-to-be. Fair amounts of gore and sex but no foul language. Fair number of interesting character interactions and development. Bit difficult to see so many of them putting such serious confrontations, accusations, and consequences aside as the plot moves on, but I guess it's plausible. The story and several of the key relationships don't wind up where I thought they would early on, which is good.
  • The Manhattan Project. 6/10.
  • Rising Sun. 6/10.

2017/01

  • Moonrise Kingdom. 10/10.
  • Penny Dreadful. Seasons 1--2. 7/10. Has a lot of promise as a pastiche of many Victorian era heroes and villains. First season is pretty solid, though it shows many signs of deteriorating quickly---too many entwinements among the characters, etc..
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. 8/10. Tina Fey movie of a TV news writer that becomes a reporter in Afghanistan. I didn't really expect much of this, but it's actually pretty good. A number of likable characters, some interesting cultural bits, good lead character, some humor, some seriousness, it's a solid movie.
  • Ex Machina. 9/10. Great movie about the initial rise of the machine race. A lot of it feels somewhat predictable, but I was super glad that it did not pull punches in the ending.
  • Apocalypse Now. 10/10.
  • Hidden Figures. 10/10. Fantastic movie about the black women computers critical to the start of the American space program. Stays mostly upbeat while well highlighting the segregation and discrimination these women faced constantly. Certainly one of the best movies about the space program, easily up there with Apollo 13 well above all the others, maybe the best such movie period.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 8/10.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 7/10.
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. 8/10.
  • No Country for Old Men. 10/10.
  • The Ghost Writer. 9/10. The movie's criticism of the Bush/Blair era continues to be strong. Unfortunately potentially relevant to the governments of today as well, both through in regard the UK-US relationship and the plot twist spin of the US administration being compromised.
  • Ocean's Twelve. 6/10. Disappointing. Not particularly funny or interesting.
  • Cloverfield. 8/10. Much better than it has any right to be. Just enough interesting things happen, minimal but just enough attention paid to the monsters.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 5/10. My god this is bad. Flat, forced acting, notably with no sense of camaraderie among the family despite many forced efforts. Terrible CGI, most notably in the jungle chase---those flat cliff edges would have been cutting edge in maybe a late '90s video game. I smell George Lucas all over this, and it is terrible.
  • Spectre. 7/10. Starts off with a very good opening sequence in Mexico. Has a few other standout moments, like the board meeting and the chateau. But the whole is less than the sum of the parts. The effort to retcon all the previous Craig movies together into one consistent whole is unnecessary. The focus on gadgets also continues to ramp backup, not understanding that a huge part of the initial delight in Casino Royale was the relatively minimal presence of such. Very disappointing. Should have stopped when they were ahead, which was basically following Casino Royale and maybe the first 2/3 of Skyfall.
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