Friday, April 8, 2016

Eddie the Eagle, The 5th Wave, and The Witch movie reviews


I got behind in my reviews, so I’ll go with three quickies to get back on track.  Let’s borrow from Clint Eastwood and go with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good.

Eddie the Eagle
Written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton
Directed by Dexter Fletcher

If you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle fits the bill nicely.  Taron Egerton plays Eddie Edwards, the British ski jumper who had such a good time at the 1988 Winter Olympics.  The story follows Eddie from childhood where he wants to go to the Olympics, but he has not been graced with the athletic prowess required to perform at Olympic levels.  He’s a tenacious cuss, though, so you can’t help liking him as he faces each challenge with a smile and a refusal to take no for an answer.  Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, a former Olympic ski jumper who reluctantly agrees to help Eddie—mostly so he doesn’t have to see him get killed.  Wet clean up on slope three!

This was a fun movie.  Definitely worth watching once it hits cable or Netflix as I think it’s already gone from the theaters.  I saw it right before it left the Owasso theater.  Egerton and Jackman are terrific.

Grade B

The Bad

The 5th Wave
Written by Susannah Grant and Akiva Goldman & Jeff Pinkner based on the novel by Rick Yancey
Directed by J. Blakeson

I haven’t read the novel, but I tend to give more credit to the original writer.  So while I don’t know how much of the suckage came from the book and how much was added to try to clone The Hunger Games into an alien invasion movie, I’ll guess that most of it came from the Hollywood side of the equation, and that’s understandable.  After all, if you’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars to make a movie, you want to give the audience something you know they’ll like so if there was a recent popular movie you can borrow from, it might help.  Of course what it really does is hurt, but when there’s that much money involved nobody can see that.  And even with The Hunger Games, people complained that it was too much like Battle Royale.  Let’s just say that The 5th Wave is a paint-by-number movie and if you can’t predict every single plot twist it’s because you fell asleep.  Seriously, just think, hmm, what’s the most obvious thing I could do here, and you’re pretty much going to nail it.  The effects are good, but that’s a given in an SF film these days.  Basically, the movie quickly covers the waves of an alien invasion.  The aliens show up, they wipe out people quickly with an EMP, natural disasters, disease, becoming body snatchers, and then using kids as soldiers.  Was that a spoiler?  Like you couldn’t see that coming from the title once they started going through the waves.  Right.  Pass on this one.

Rating D-

The Ugly

The Witch
Written and Directed by Robert Eggers

This movie is set in the 1600s and follows a family of Puritan settlers from England as they try to make a life on a farm at the edge of the wilderness.  Unfortunately for them, there’s a witch who takes an interest in them.  The witch steals their newborn baby, and the family essentially unravels over the course of the film, turning against one another and making themselves an easy target for supernatural evil.  The writer/director did his research, so all the sets, costumes, and even the dialogue is as accurate as can be to the period.  The film riffs on Christian mythology and some of it works very well, while some of it falls flat.

People back in the day were scared of witches, and if you were a Puritan family living in the middle of nowhere on the brink of starvation when the crops failed, and your baby was stolen, you’d likely cling tight to superstition and fear and think you’d somehow offended your god.  The problem I had with the film was that the characters don’t really do anything to try to improve their lot—they’re reactionary rather than taking action.  Once you settle in and get used to the dialogue, the film crawls along, but fails to really engage the psychological battle going on within the family.  Everything stays a bit too much on the surface for me.  Yes, the mother is upset about the baby being gone.  Yes, the father worries that he can’t feed his family so he sold a silver cup and lets his daughter take the blame.  Yes, the daughter is there to do chores until she can be married off to do chores for someone else so she has nothing to look forward to.  Yes, the son kinda lusts after his sister trying to look down her dress, and eventually chases a rabbit but finds a Victoria’s Secret model who wants to kiss him.  And yes, there are two really irritating kids who insist their older sister is a witch.  But all of it stays on the surface level partly because it doesn’t get to play out to raise the stakes enough.  All of that would be okay because up until that point the film worked well creating atmosphere and letting the setting be a character too.

Then the boy returns after kissing the witch, and he coughs up an apple and dies.  Yes, apple, Adam, original sin, all the mythology from the Bible is there for you.  Babies go to Hell, people are inherently evil, and here, have an extra helping of guilt.

Then the witch shows up.  Well, things just got stupid from there.  I won’t give away the ending here, but let’s just say that if it had been handled better, this could have been a good movie.  For me, the ending didn’t work.  I saw what the writer/director was trying to do, and hey, it was a good try.  But for it to work, we’d need to care more about the characters themselves.  My problem is that while I understood their basic motives and such, they never stopped being essentially paper dolls to be manipulated this way and that.  They didn’t feel like real people to me with a mix of good and bad traits and personality.  And most importantly of all, they never took any active steps toward making any choices good or bad.  Everything happened to them rather than as a result of actions they took.  Now, if the director’s view was that it doesn’t matter what you say or do, everything is part of some divine plan for both good and evil, okay, but even in that case the main characters should try to take action.  Right?  As it stands things just happen.

So, good effort, but missed the mark.  Unfortunately, when you miss the mark on a movie like this, it makes it harder to grade because I felt like my time was wasted, but I appreciated so much of what was done from the sets and costumes to all the period details, and all.  But we go to movies to be entertained by stories, and this story didn’t work.  So A for effort, but I have to rate based on other things.

As such.  Rating D+