Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


I’m the Mother Fucker that Found this Place

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)I tried to get to the theaters to see today’s movie numerous times, but it never worked out.  I think I must not have wanted to see it that badly.  It looked interesting enough, it was talked up a great deal, and it was subject matter that should be of interest to any American, but something about the movie didn’t seem like it would suit me that much.  I put the movie off so much that it eventually came out on DVD.  At this point, the movie had already been nominated for five Academy Awards, so it was pretty much cemented; I didn’t want to watch this movie.  I generally don’t watch anything that gets nominated.  They’re usually depressing dramas and are no fun to watch.  But I saw the movie in a RedBox and decided it must be done.  This movie is Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Édgar Ramirez, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Mark Duplass, and John Barrowman.

In the fiction of this movie, something really bad went down in 2001.  I’m sure I’d have heard about it if it was real.  Because of this event, the American government is looking for some dude named Osama bin Laden.  Maya (Jessica Chastain) and Dan (Jason Clarke) are interrogating a guy named Ammar about his involvement, and they use this information to find the personal courier of Osama bin Laden.  …That’s pretty much it…

This is probably going to be a really short review, because I just don’t have anything to say about this movie.  I don’t get it.  I really don’t know what everyone was talking about with this movie.  I didn’t hate the movie, but I was really bored through the greater majority of the movie and just could not fathom its popularity.  I was just pretty bored by most of the movie.  The first three quarters of the movie is all the investigation to find bin Laden, which had a few interesting scenes of torture, but was mostly Maya watching movies.  I do that all day, and I don’t think anyone is that interested in a streaming feed of my day.  They tried to keep it interesting with a couple of sparse, action moments throughout, but there were not enough and most of them ended with a whimper.  Like when the guys were trying to locate the courier with his cell phone signal.  They basically just drove around in circles until they found him, and then they took a picture and he drove off.  And there was one part where a car blew up that was kind of tense, but I was too busy laughing because a black cat ran in front of the car as it approached, in some of the bluntest symbolism I have ever seen in movies.  I suppose you could make the argument that the point of the movie was to almost be a documentary about the death of bin Laden, and that’s fine and everything.  But I think most Americans had already read about how that went down.  I never read the news, but I was already aware of that.  So that means that the movie is just wasting time up until the point where they invade bin Laden’s compound.  That scene was an exciting recreation that I enjoyed thoroughly.  And it’s probably an argument that movies can do much better when they end really strong, but I had not forgotten what I went through to get to that point.  If I were to watch this again, I’d skip to the invasion.

I think the one thing about this movie that I can get behind are the performances.  Everyone did a great job, so the movie deserves some eyes getting on it just for that.  Jessica Chastain was great.  She was a strong character for the bulk of the movie, but I never really saw her embody what everyone kept saying about her being “a killer” or anything.  She was tough when it came to getting in the faces of her superiors, but she also couldn’t stomach the torture early on in the movie.  After that, I was impressed with how many people were in this movie that I didn’t know about.  Going in, I only knew Chastain and Chris Pratt were in this movie.  And he was a really small part in the movie.  But I recognized Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong from Sherlock Holmes, Édgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass, James Gandolfini, and John Barrowman.  I shouldn’t even really recognize Barrowman since I’ve never seen Doctor Who or its spinoff show Torchwood, but Chris Hardwick has given me so much more Doctor Who knowledge than most people with no firsthand knowledge of the show.

Zero Dark Thirty is a movie I respect, but not a movie that I like.  Personally, I felt very bored watching the live action remake of stories I had read a year ago that never really felt like much more than a lady watching movies and looking at pictures.  But the scene of the invasion of bin Laden’s compound, as well as some great performances, does stand as a reason to watch this movie.  Plus, lots of other people love this movie, so it’s more than likely just not a movie that does anything for me.  Zero Dark Thirty gets “This is what defeat looks like” out of “You can help yourself by being truthful.”

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8mm (1999)


If There Was No Honor Among Perverts and Pornographers, the Whole Fucking Business Would Fall Apart

I’ve been informed that a lot of the people that read my reviews prefer that I make fun of a bad movie to when I rave about a good movie.  But I could not abide watching a bad movie EVERY day, so I feel I should try to split up the bad and the good.  While trying to think of a bad movie I could watch, my mind instantly went to one place: Nicholas Cage.  The man barely ever lets you down … or up, I guess.  Either way, today I watched 8mm, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, directed by Joel Schumacher, and starring Nicholas Cage, Catherine Keener, Myra Carter, Amy Morton, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, and Christopher Bauer.

Tom Welles (Nicholas Cage) is a private investigator with a wife, Amy (Catherine Keener), and a little daughter.  He’s contacted by recently widowed Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter) who found a film in the possessions of her recently deceased husband.  She asks Tom to watch this movie and tell her if it’s real.  The film turns out to be a snuff film.  Now, if you’re not a member of the violent pornography culture as I am (please don’t believe that), I’ll explain.  A snuff film is a sex film where a person gets killed.  Most are fake, but Sister Christian wants to be sure.  She pays Tom to look in to it.  The rest of the movie follows Tom into the seedy underbelly of the pornography community, introducing him to adult video store employee Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) who helps him go further down the rabbit hole.

YAY!  I was right.  This wasn’t a very good movie.  It set it’s intentions towards some thrills and suspense I never really felt it accomplished, but what really made it bad was the subject matter and the look.  It should be expected out of a movie about snuff films that it would be gross and dark but, on the other hand, no one really needed a movie about snuff films.  The subject matter takes us to all the icky places that none of us want to go into in real life, so I don’t really want to go there in a movie either.  The story itself plays out like a mystery without a great deal of mystery.  It pretty much goes in a linear fashion with no surprises at all.  It’s not like there’s some guy that’s been in the movie since the beginning that we find out is the bad guy at the very end.  We pretty much find out who the bad people are once they’re introduced.  The biggest mystery in the movie is why no one in this movie owns a man-sized gun.  Everyone used James Bond-size baby guns.  The most interesting side of the story is Cage’s dilemma over punishing the guys that did it, although, to me, if jail wasn’t really a concern, there wouldn’t really be much of a moral dilemma.  The world may be a little better off without the 3 people Cage had to take out.  Now, the person hanging on the wall in the background of one of the climactic scenes, I don’t know.  There was a body hanging off the wall in the big scene with Gandolfini, Joaquin, Stormare, and Cage that was never explained, never mentioned, and just hung there.

I’m pointing out the music now, so you know there was something interesting about it.  The most interesting thing about it was how little it fit the scene.  For some reason, they decided that the best music for a murder mystery, dark, icky movie was the same music they use in Bollywood.  One scene of Cage looking through a bunch of missing person’s files was music I would expect to instead be playing as someone rode a camel through the Serengeti.  It was mostly music for Bollywood, not Hollywood.

The performances were off-putting, but usually in a way that seemed to serve the purpose of the movie.  To that end, the actors should not be blamed for this movie; just the writers.  Cage was pretty low key for most of the movie but broke into the classic Nick Cage overact near the end of the movie.  His movie-wife, Catherine Keener, performed her part well, but I hated her character.  She made no damned sense!  In the beginning, she see’s Cage packing his gun for this investigation, but he assures her he won’t need it, so she says “So leave it here.”  What kind of a wife is that, writers?  You predict that you won’t need it but, if the event arises that you are in a life-threatening situation and you DO need it, I’d rather it was here being useless.  Also, she doesn’t know what he’s investigating and she gets all pissed at him for endangering the family.  Look, I understand not wanting to endanger your family, but is that Cage’s fault?  It’s his job and it just went too far in a way Cage couldn’t really stop.  It’s like if I went in to work and the building burnt down.  Should I have known better than to get involved?  Technically, he was more interested in finding closure for the mother of the murdered girl.  That’s noble, bitch!  Gandolfini is in the movie as well, and he plays a version of the same character I’ve seen him play many times: quasi-Italian scum bag.  The same could be said for Peter Stormare, exchanging “quasi-Italian” for “indiscriminate Eastern European” and “scum bag” for “creepy person”.

This movie will, very likely, either make you feel dirty or horny.  I don’t claim to know what you’re in to.  The performances are mostly fine, but they act in support of a movie nobody should want to watch about ickiness and badness.  Also, I’m pretty sure whoever put the music in this was watching the wrong movie.  Either way, skip it.  It’s not the worst movie ever, but it doesn’t have many redeemable qualities either.  8mm gets “All I’m saying is … it can get to you” out of “There are some things that you see, and you can’t unsee them.”

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