Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sid and Nancy

Year 8, Day 233 - 8/20/16 - Movie #2,427

BEFORE: I finally have a road map to the end of the year - a list of another 73 films that will get me to Christmas, a fact which puts a bit of a chill in the air, even though it's 80 degrees outside.  Is the list perfect?  No, of course not.  But it works, and there are a few films I can remove if better opportunities arise.  Things are pretty quiet on the incoming movie front right now, which has enabled me to get the watchlist down to 112, and that's given me a great chance of getting it down to 100 before the end of 2016's regulation play.  But I have a feeling that as soon as the Olympics are over, cable TV's going to be programming new films, including at least one of the four films I need to complete said chain.  

Gary Oldman carries over from "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" to play Sid Vicious in a film about punk rock band The Sex Pistols.  Punk rockers are very different from chimpanzees and gorillas - one group is hairy, smelly, incoherent and tends to throw their feces around, and the other group, of course,  is a bunch of monkeys.  (Apologies to Craig Ferguson)   

FOLLOW-UP TO: "CBGB" (Movie #2,204), "24 Hour Party People" (Movie #2,328)

THE PLOT: Morbid biographical story of Sid Vicious, bassist with British punk group the Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

AFTER: This is a very difficult film to link to, so it's been bouncing around on my schedule for a couple of years, really I just want to complete the look at 80's punk rock that started with "CBGB" and then move on.  And when I come to a dead-end like this, it's a good time to segue into some documentaries, so I'm going to do just that.  

I don't really care about Sid Vicious, and the Sex Pistols to me are one of the three most overrated bands of all time (along with the Clash and the Ramones, there, I said it) and I hate to sound like an old man here, but punk rock is just a bunch of useless noise.  (From what I just read, it sounds like Gary Oldman didn't care much for it either, when he took the role.)   Just like country music, the whole genre could disappear overnight and I wouldn't miss it one bit.  So it's no surprise that the story of Sid's demise means almost nothing to me - I mean, I don't want any person to O.D., but in another sense, you reap what you sow and if all the money from your album sales go up your nose or into your veins, well, you get no sympathy from me.  It's called tough love, OK?  

The only moderately interesting thing about Sid Vicious was his cover of "My Way", a song that was trite and overplayed two days after it was first recorded, so it really needed to be taken down a peg with a punk version.  But even that's been overplayed now, it's funny for about 5 minutes while you're in college, and after that you realize it just shows how punk rockers never took anything seriously, even satire.  

The movie was very hard to follow, and not just because of the thick British accents.  It starts with the ending (police are called to the Chelsea Hotel) and then snaps back to the beginning of Sid & Nancy's relationship.  But that's all tainted, because we know how it ends, and it ain't pretty.  So why is there any attempt made to glorify it?  These were junkies, and scene after scene of them lying motionless while they're strung out sends the wrong message - and worse, it isn't narratively interesting at all.  

Courtney Love, meanwhile, rallied to be cast as Nancy Spungen, and though she was given a minor role instead, I can't decide if this fact is weirdly prophetic or just karmically ironic.  Funny, we weren't given any films that tried to glorify the similarly disastrous relationship she had with Kurt Cobain, I wonder why?  Because in the end, effed up is just effed up.  Comparisons to "Romeo and Juliet" are inaccurate, because there was so much more to Shakespeare's doomed romance, like coming from rival houses, than just watching two people circling the drain for two hours.  

And the ending really glamorizes the effects of an intentional fatal overdose, which is irresponsible and quite contemptible.  It was interesting to see the inside of the Chelsea Hotel, a NYC landmark I've walked by thousands of times, but that was about it. 

Also starring Chloe Webb (last seen in "Practical Magic"), David Hayman (last seen in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"), Andrew Schofield, Xander Berkeley (last seen in "Gattaca"), Debby Bishop, Perry Benson, Tony London, Courtney Love, Biff Yeager, with cameos from Coati Mundi (last seen in "25th Hour"), Miguel Sandoval (last seen in "The Crew"), Iggy Pop, Slash.

RATING: 3 out of 10 tour dates

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Year 8, Day 232 - 8/19/16 - Movie #2,426

BEFORE: Another sequel puts me right back where I started, on the Planet of the Apes.  I should mention that a few months before I started this project on 1/1/09, I had watched all of the "Planet of the Apes" movies in the original series, in the proper chronological order.  Well, I'd seen them all before, but not on successive days in sequence, and I finally understood the entire (pre-reboot) timeline.  I wondered, "What other insights could I gain, by juxtaposing films on successive days?" and thus my descent into organizational madness began.  

It's really one of the first modern film franchises, along with James Bond, we might not have the "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" franchises without it.  5 original films, 1 remake and 2 in the reboot series (soon to be three, the next installment is due next year) plus there are comic-book spin-offs - I saw an ad at Comic-Con for "Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes" and I wondered why nobody had thought to do that mash-up before.  

As for the linking out of "X-Men: Apocalypse", I'd identified that film as sort of a nexus, once I got to it, I could go just about anywhere, given that large cast.  It seemed a shame just to link between the Marvel movies just because Stan Lee made cameos in them.  I could have linked via Hugh Jackman to "Chappie" or "Pan", or via Nicholas Hoult to "Mad Max: Fury Road", or via Jennifer Lawrence to "Joy", but I ended up going back to my first plan, linking via Kodi Smit-McPhee to today's film.  Sometimes the first plan is also the best plan.  

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Movie #1,372)

THE PLOT: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

AFTER: My first thought is, I wonder if the person who names these films is kicking himself (or herself) for naming the first film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" - the two titles really should be switched around, because the dawn of something comes before the rise, right?  I mean, the sun dawns each day, then rises in the sky - only it really doesn't go anywhere, it stays put and the earth turns, creating the illusion of the sun's motion, so we really should do something about our English language, it hasn't caught up with science.  

Speaking of science, this film shows the devastating effect on humanity of the simian flu.  Production probably started on this film about five years ago, when monkeypox was still a thing - remember that?  Whatever happened to monkeypox?  That wasn't named right, either, because it was more common in rats than in monkeys.  For that matter, what happened to ebola?  Two years ago we had four people in the U.S. with ebola, and now you never hear about it.  Anyway, it doesn't matter because now we know we're all going to die from the Zika virus.  Or maybe the zombie plague.  

But let's get back to the monkeypox.  And the APE-ocalyptic effect it had on human society. (See what I did there?)  GIBBON half a chance, the disease killed off most of the human population, seems it wasn't out to MONKEY around.  Which gave the apes a chance to take over via GORILLA warfare.  OK, I'm done, before you go BANANAS.  (Check out the film's soundtrack for even worse puns - the compositions have titles like "Past Their Primates" and "The Apes of Wrath".)

The party line in movies seems to be to remind us (usually through an animated kids movie) that we humans are no better than animals, with no more right to the planet, even though we discovered agriculture, and tools, and writing, and electricity.  I can kind of see both sides of it, because as a species we've come so far, but we also destroyed the ozone layer, created reality television, and some of us wear socks with sandals.  (You know what, just hand the planet over to the monkeys, I'm guessing they can do better than us, given enough time.)  

But even with humanity reduced to a few pockets of stragglers, and with the fuel supplies scheduled to run out in just a week or two, even then, mankind refuses to make the switch to solar power and/or windmills.  (Actually, that seems about right...)  Humans would rather risk a trip into ViciousMonkeyLand and start an interspecies war than have a solar panel or a windmill blocking their view of the broken skyline.  It's about priorities, people!  

I don't know about you, but seeing a large chimpanzee riding on horseback firing two machine guns at once is enough to scare me.  But I think we'll be all right, as long we don't do anything stupid, like teach monkeys sign language.  Wait, we did that?  Oh, crap...

I also don't think enough people appreciate what a golden age of filmmaking we're living in - just about anything that a writer or director can think of can be brought to life with CGI.  A couple of actors wear some funny suits with dots on them, some nerds crunch the numbers, and boom, an army of talking monkeys.  (OK, there might be more than that to it, but still...)  Back in the 1960's, when they made the first "Planet of the Apes" movie, they had to not only find real gorillas that would wear human clothing, but also train them to ride horses, that must have been very difficult.  And then I think they had to rub peanut butter inside their mouths so they would move their lips, then sync up the actors' words to those mouth movements.  At least, I think that's how they did it on the "Mr. Ed" show - same thing, right? 

What's also weirding me out is the fact that "Curious George 3" also featured the same plot point, with human + monkey traveling through the jungle together in order to repair the dam.  Isn't that always the way, with two films coming out around the same time on the same topic?  Anyway, as with the first movie in the rebooted "Planet of the Apes" series, the film ends on a note that suggests that the next film is going to be bigger and better.  Bring it on, I say.  

Also starring Jason Clarke (last seen in "Terminator Genisys"), Gary Oldman (last seen in "Robocop"), Keri Russell (last seen in "Honey I Blew Up the Kid"), Kirk Acevedo, Jon Eyez, Enrique Murciano, Keir O'Donnell (last seen in "American Sniper"), Jocko Sims, Kevin Rankin (last seen in "Dallas Buyers Club"), Lombardo Boyar, with a cameo from James Franco (last seen in "The Great Raid"), and (via motion capture) Andy Serkis (last seen in "24 Hour Party People"), Toby Kebbell (last seen in "Fantastic Four"), Nick Thurston, Judy Greer (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Doc Shaw, Lee Ross.

RATING: 7 out of 10 sharpened sticks