Double Feature Duel: Limitless vs. The Tree of Life

Double Feature Duel:
Limitless vs. The Tree of Life
Bout #28: A movie I really wanted to see that turned out to be just OK vs. a movie I thought would be interesting that turned out to be the most boring however many hours of my life in this millennium.
Limitless: I don’t know why I expected more from the sexiest man alive. Not all of them have the balls that Brad Pitt does. Toward the end of the movie, when we find out that this smart pill has fatal side effects, the movie decides to skirt the problem by having Bradley Cooper somehow conquer the illness, maintain the intellectual effect of the drug without taking it anymore… and… well, it just pretends that whole whore murder in the hotel room didn’t happen. Because the one limitation the movie had was making the sexiest man alive out to be an imperfect guy at the end of the movie. It’s unfortunately enough to make you forget about the good parts, which were really just high-budget more serious versions of Psych episodes – and instead focus on the plot holes, like why would this guy give Cooper the pill in the first place and why Cooper wasn’t smart enough to pay this Russian gangster back in time. And why the heck did he settle on helping with this big financial merger? Curing cancer or HIV too boring for you, smartypants? So in the end, the movie didn’t have any balls. But like the teacups, you get a few good spins for all that uncoordinated rocking back and forth. 5 bugs (out of 10)
The Tree of Life: In film school, I was made to feel stupid when I didn’t understand things – experimental structures, installation art, Jackson Pollack. Since then, I have come to realize that I may have been duped, lied to by the creators of this art and the circle jerk community they all live in, to believe my own mind to be immature and brainwashed, simply incapable of “getting it.” Maybe I overcorrected myself and I really don’t get things that should be gotten by the greater populace and I am indeed in the lower 16% on the intellect-meter. Occam’s Razor would suggest this to be the case. But after years of research, I’ve determined that I am indeed not the problem. I get it just fine. And this film was boring, flaky and tried all too desperately to be the transcendental film that was in Terrence Mallick’s head. Props to those who bought into it, but just because something is different doesn’t make it good. And just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it art. Sometimes when you don’t know what’s going on in a movie, it’s because it wasn’t explained well enough – not because of you. Who died in the beginning? What’s with all the different narrators whispering? Why are there dinosaurs in this movie with more screen time than Sean Penn? What the hell is the point of the dragon head nebula other than to make us go “Wow! It’s that thing from the Morgan Freeman show?” Malick is a magician, showing you an empty hand while he splatters paint on a four-dimensional canvas with the other. And somehow, he got 84% of the Tomatometer critics to applaud the empty hand. Not me. I’d sooner watch a reel of projects from my Film I class back before we learned why jump cuts were bad. I would have thrown the DVD in the trash, but then I doubt Netflix would have sent me another. 0 bugs (out of 10 – though I guess it doesn’t matter how many it’s out of)
Title: The Tree of Life seems to reach for a cliché already, while Limitless feels like a cop out. I’ll at least give Tree the benefit of doubt. But that won’t last. (Point, Tree 0-1)
Funnier: Limitless didn’t really try to make you laugh. Tree of Life wanted to make sure you didn’t. (Point, Limitless 1-1)
Better Turn: Finding out that the drug is illegal and the dealer is dead vs. 25 minutes of the earth’s creation capped by poor CGI dinosaurs feeling remorse. Ugh. (Point, Limitless 2-1)
Better Ending: I still don’t know what happened in The Tree of Life. But it was still better than the way Limitless ruined itself, Adjustment Bureau-style. All of a sudden, and with no transition, Bradley Cooper can manage the drug to the point where he doesn’t even need to take it, whereas everyone else died from withdrawal. No balls. (Point, Tree 2-2)
Better Message: There is something to that “the way of grace vs. the way of nature” stuff in The Tree of Life, however horribly it’s framed. (Point, Tree 2-3)
Better Acting: Bradley Cooper is good, but nothing really special. Brad Pitt is a good, stern father. But Jessica Chastain was great and should have been in the film much more than she was. (Point, Tree 2-4)
More Creative: Holy crap! A 0-bug movie is getting dangerously close to a victory. And though it might seem that a movie with this much randomness and jump cuts is creative, but in the same way Jackson Pollack is – and I’ve already mentioned how little I care for that type of work. (Point, Limitless 3-4)
Poster: Sadly, I like The Tree of Life poster better. And I’m a little ashamed that a 0-bug movie, openly called the biggest waste of my time in 11 years, has now made it to the second round. Wowsers. (Point, Tree 3-5)
Watch again: No way I will ever watch The Tree of Life again. Not even if it comes out on Blu-Ray. (Point, Limitless 4-5)
Overall: Well, Limitless shot itself in the foot really, with the spray cheese ending and the boring poster. Man. Winner: The Tree of Life (5-4)

Double Feature Duel: Super 8 vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides

Double Feature Duel:
Super 8 vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides
Bout #26: J.J Abrams’ follow-up to Lost vs. Johnny Depp’s latest paycheck.
Super 8: Substitute the plane for a train and this movie is basically the pilot of Lost. J.J. Abrams is very good at drawing you in with really exciting and well-edited action sequences, alluding to a supernatural threat to the human race, painting himself into a corner and over-revealing said creature to disappointment the audience in the end. But he also paints some great characters. I know my dating history should preclude me from saying this, but I really like Elle Fanning. Purely in a young actress kind of way, of course. And the witty banter between the young film wannabes was brilliant, and I don’t often say that about dialogue. All the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed. It’s just a shame he can’t figure out how to tackle the pesky plot issue. 7 bugs (out of 10)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:Well, it’s better than the third one. I think. They always manage to sneak in some weird, interesting magic-type stuff, but this is starting to look like Johnny Depp’s day job. I really like Geoffrey Rush as Barbosa, but Penelope Cruz and whoever that new goodie goodie was were no match for Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. The franchise has been content with the same recipe that has made for its Blockbuster success, critics be damned. And as long as they keep putting them out, I get to keep wearing my Capt. Jack Sparrow hat, so I’m content. 3.5 bugs (out of 10)
Title: Brilliantly simple, intriguing, foreshadowing and you don’t have to go to a second hand in charades. (Point, Super 1-0)
Funnier: There was some very well written and acted dialogue in Super 8 by the four main adolescent characters that is worthy of note. (Point, Super 2-0)
Better Turn: This movie made its money on the turn. Maybe the train crash rivaled the ridiculousness of Final Destination 2, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. (Point, Super 3-0)
Better Ending: Truth time. I was unable to pay much attention to Pirates. But I know the ending of Super 8 sucked, so congratulations. I guess. (Point, Pirates 3-1)
Better Message: Super 8 is another one of those stereotypical flicks teaching people not to stereotype using aliens. I forget how Pirates ended, but I know it had something to do with people looking for the Fountain of Youth. But it did have a Christian/mermaid love story in it. (Point, Pirates 3-2)
Better Acting: Geoffrey Rush is always outstanding. You can’t picture Johnny Depp without picturing Capt. Jack Sparrow. But those four kids are terrific in the conversation scenes. Penelope Cruz didn’t ruin the movie for me. But I added like 3 movies to my Netflix queue with Elle Fanning because of Super 8. (Point, Super 4-2)
More Creative: It’s tough not to pick Pirates in this category with the three-team race to get to the Fountain of Youth. But having the camera pick up the footage was a fun move I haven’t seen since Blowout. However, they really bunked it up in the end with the alien reveal. Epic fail, as they say. (Point, Pirates 4-3)
Poster: For those that don’t know, the Super 8 camera fell sideways, which is why the poster is sideways. Brilliant, right? (Point, Super 5-3)
Watch again: I enjoyed Super 8 so much, I watched it on two consecutive nights. I liked Pirates so much, I don’t even remember watching it once. (Point, Super 6-3)
Overall: A film with half as many bugs scored half as many points. Funny how that works out. Winner: Super 8 (6-3)

Double Feature Duel: Cars 2 vs. Swimming To Cambodia

Double Feature Duel:
Cars 2 vs. Swimming To Cambodia
Bout #25: Pixar’s latest vs. a documentary of a one-man show. Hmm. Don’t think we’ve done that yet.
Cars 2: Even if cars could talk, I don’t think they’d come up with a plot this ludicrous. The gimmicks aren’t as funny and the shtick is old now. Sadly, we have gotten to a point where we see flying animated cars talking to each other and it doesn’t wow us anymore. If this was Pixar’s first movie ever, I’m sure my jaw would be on the floor and my eyes bugging out of my head, possibly with one of those “a-ooooga” sounds from old Warner Brothers cartoons. But unfortunately, it’s not. And Owen Wilson played a bit part in this movie for some reason, yielding way to Larry the Cable Guy. And a little Larry the Cable Guy goes a long way. Sorry, Pixar. It took ten feature length movies, but it turns out you are human. 4 bugs (out of 10)
Swimming to Cambodia: This is a not a documentary. It’s a documentary squared. It’s a movie documenting a one-man show by Spalding Gray in which he takes you on a cerebral roller coaster, touching on Asian politics, how to buy and treat a Taiwanese whore and how to talk to people on trains. It’s funny, intriguing and he speaks in the style of a boxer who refuses to let you up off the mat, pounding you with sentences so well constructed, I’m reasonably certain he has every word of the entire 87 minute monologue in its proper place and nails it perfectly each time. Or at least this time. So how interesting can a movie shot solely of a man sitting in a chair behind a very plain desk be? Well, about as interesting as the performance. Which was about as good as I’ve ever seen. But not enough to make you realize it’s just a guy sitting at a desk. 7 bugs.
Title: The intrigue starts with the title. Who is swimming to Cambodia? When are we going to find out about this? Where the hell is Cambodia? (Point, Swimming 0-1)
Funnier: I don’t blame you if you completely disagree. It’s not everybody’s sense of humor. But if you like dry wit, you’ll approve. (Point, Swimming 0-2)
Better Turn: Maybe if I watched it another 4 or 7 times, I’d find some assemblance of a plot, which will in turn help me find the turn. But Cars 2 had a turn. Literally and figuratively. (Point, Cars 1-2)
Better Ending: See “Better Turn.” (Point, Cars 2-2)
Better Message: The thing about documentaries that are shot of just one man telling a dialogue about random things is that they tend to have a lot of thought-provoking messages. Unlike movies about animated Cars made strictly for profit. (Point, Swimming 2-3)
Better Acting: This was as good a single performance as there has ever been. Probably. (Point, Swimming 2-4)
More Creative: More daring? Absolutely. More creative? Hard to justify that. (Point, Cars 3-4)
Poster: Swimming To Cambodia is as simple as the movie, which is a good formalistic technique. But if you look closely at the map of the world, the continents are in the shape of cars. Kinda neat. (Point, Cars 4-4)
Watch again: I’m actually looking very much forward to ingesting more of Swimming to Cambodia. If Cars 2 came on cable, I’d probably find a rerun of SVU instead. (Point, Swimming 4-5)
Overall: Close one! No matter how high rated a single person 87-minute performance is, it’s still going to just lose a lot of categories. But not as much as a meandering, overthought sequel to a mediocre movie. Winner: Swimming To Cambodia (5-4)

Double Feature Duel: The First 48

Double Feature Duel:
The First 48

And so after 7 Planet of the Apes movies, one finally rose to the challenge and made it to the final four. Congrats to the Rise of the Planet of the Apes for joining Big Fish and The Nines in the Final Four, making it three 10-bug (or above) movies. And this was certainly the easiest quadrant to do it in, with a Quadrant Bug Average of 4.91, down over a point from the Philadelphia Quadrant. The four movies it needed to beat to get here only had a bug average of 5.63, compared to the 6.88 and 6.63 that The Nines and Big Fish collectively had to hack their way through. The competition gets a little tougher now. Well, maybe. We’ll see in another 16 movies.
A few things of note from the Cincinnati Quadrant:

Low QBA: Maybe it was the mood I was in over the month of the Cinci Quadrant, but there were 5 movies with a 3-bug rating or less in this, including two that didn’t crest the 1-bug mark (The Weight of Water and The Good Shepherd).
Upset: The 4-bug Man Who Wasn’t There figured out this game, beating two movies at least rated at a 6.5. Largely behind the strength of its title, the very boring black and white Coen Brothers film bested the much more lively Tower Heist and Shrek Forever After on its way to a 1-point loss in the Sweet 16 to Bucket List.
Romantic Comedy Time: I was applauding Definitely, Maybe as the first romantic comedy to make it to the Sweet Sixteen against the odds. Then I went back and realized it’s the first romantic comedy actually in the tournament. The Invention of Lying and Stranger Than Fiction were comedies with a romance aspect, but it’s not the same.

The Cincinnati Quadrant (33-48)
Lastly, thanks for reading this. Whoever the hell you are. I’m assuming it’s either me from the future or maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally made it so big that somebody found this blog and is obsessed with me. In which case, sorry, but I’m married. Well, I hope I’m still married.

Double Feature Duel (Rd4): Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. The Bucket List

Double Feature Duel (Rd4):
Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. The Bucket List

Bucket List may have had the easiest road to the Elite 8 in the tournament. It gets a lot harder now.

Title: I really wanted to see Bucket List before I died [joke recycled from last MvM]. (Point, Bucket 0-1)
Funnier: Jack Nicholson goes potty humor. Nice. (Point, Bucket 0-2)
Better Turn: Best turn of the tournament. And I don’t say that lightly. (Point, Rise 1-2)
Better Ending: There was a lot going on at the end of Rise. And all of it was good to awesome. (Point, Rise 2-2)
Better Message: Both of these had decent messages to convey, but I think Bucket’s was more poignant, where Rise’s was more gratuitous. (Point, Bucket 2-3)
Better Acting: It takes a lot to knock down Morgan and Jack. But Golem dressed up like a monkey is just the guy to do it. (Point, Rise 3-3)
More Creative: Saving ink. Even in the Elite 8. (Point, Rise 4-3)
Poster: Haunting. (Point, Rise 5-3)
Watch again: Once again, it’s one of two DVDs I have from Netflix right now. And I just told Tony tonight that he has to watch it. (Point, Rise 6-3)
Overall: Well, it was a fun run, guys. But just like in the movie, Apes triumph over humans. Winner: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (6-3)