A Brief Review of Pain & Gain

Holy shit.

That was … good.

Really good.

Mark Wahlberg stars as a dim-witted, amoral body builder with big dreams who leads two other like-minded lunkheads in a criminal scheme that starts off stupid and gets worse from there. It would be wildly implausible, save that (as the film takes malicious glee reminding us) it’s all based on a true story. (And I read-up on how faithful it was to the actual events. Major liberties were taken, of course, but by Hollywood based-on-a-true-story standards it’s a goddamn documentary. Seriously, some [though not all] of the deeply insane shit that you’ll think HAS to have been made up? Wasn’t.)

It’s unbelievably funny, a dark parody of a caper movie with three protagonists who somehow remain compelling even as the story encourages us to laugh at what unfathomable dipshits they are.

And the most amazing thing … here, I’ll quote MovieBob Chipman from his “Best of 2013″ video:

“Michael Bay made one of the best movies of the year. Michael Bay. One of the best movies of the year. Michael bay. Best of the year. Yeah, that happened.”

The worst thing I can say about it is that it lasts a solid fifteen minutes longer than it should have. But even there it’s far from unwatchable, and given the quality of what came before, I’m prepared to forgive it an over-indulgent denouement.

It’s on Netflix, and if you like movies about idiotic crimes gone terribly wrong, you’ll laugh your ass off. Highly recommended.

A Brief Review: The Book of Life

It’s beautiful. Gotta give it that. This CGI animated stop-motion style Mexican folk tale has a unique visual sense that manages to be consistently fun to look at, particularly the lush sequences set in the Land of the Remembered.

But at some point, I just had the realization of “Okay, my problem is not that this is an unfamiliar story from a culture I don’t get much exposure to, resulting in unfamiliar rhythms; this just kinda sucks.” The story of a supernatural bet played out by proxies, two best friends trying to woo the same girl, never manages to get a sense of momentum going because there’s damned little internal logic. What happens next seems to be governed almost entirely by whatever would look coolest. It just arbitrarily bounces from one scene to another, burdened by a needless and unwelcome framing story that sucks all the life out of the movie whenever it’s on screen.

Recommended only if you really dig Mexican folklore and would love to see it on the screen no matter how imperfect it may be, or if you love you some eye candy.

A Brief Review: Interstellar

Christ. Is there anything as tedious as a science fiction movie that thinks it’s profound when it’s really just pretentious? Smart when it’s actually dumber than a bag of socks?

Interstellar is the modern version of 2001 in precisely the same way that Prometheus is the modern Alien. Like Prometheus, it has some sequences that are engaging, and might even be iconic if they were in a movie that was less terrible. But the movie’s “big moments” are metaphysical gibberish, mired in narratively incoherent story that brings to mind M. Night Shyamalan’s more self-indulgent moments. It could be considered visually striking, if Gravity weren’t a movie that existed.

Recommended only for Christopher Nolan completionists and hard-sf junkies absolutely desperate for a big-screen fix. Avoid.