NJFF 2013

The occasion of my trip to Salt Lake City this week was to do the 2013 version of the NakedJen Film Festival. We've done this for many years now, usually on Christmas Day, a day when the movies that Hollywood thinks will do best in the awards season come out, and a day that few people go to movies (at least at the beginning of the day). But this year it couldn't be scheduled, so instead I traveled to flyover country and sampled the November fare with my movie buddy, NakedJen. We saw six movies, three of which I would recommend. Of course my partner in movie-going, Ms Jen, may write her own blog post to offer her opinions. I speak only for myself.

Update: Here's NakedJen's report on this year's NJFF.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

The first day of the NJFF we had a child with us, and we all had seen the first Cloudy movie and loved it, so we thought what the heck, let's go see the sequel. It was disappointing, but it taught me a lot about how movies work.

It was basically a continuation of the plot from the first movie. It had the same silly premise, a machine that turns weather into food, but where the first movie was mostly hilarious, this movie seemed pandering and formulaic. Same subject, different effect.

My theory is that the first movie presented new funny ideas almost every minute of the movie. There was no time for it to get tiring. But the second movie was just puns, some good ones, that deserved a chortle or two, or a groan, but not much more than that.

The kid loved it though. I assume this is because of the gorgeous graphics and colors, and dancing fruits and vegetables, tacos and hamburgers. If I were 8 years old I probably would have liked it too!

The first one had enough to entertain all of us. This one was just for the kids.

Ender's Game

I loved the books, the movie really sucked!

So much so that I forgot to include it in the initial version of this post.

But it's a very difficult story to tell in such a short time.

If you're an Ender's fan, I don't know whether to tell you to see it or not.

I felt I had to. I don't regret it. But I wish it had been 1/100th as compelling as the book.

The Counselor

I would recommend this movie to any friend who likes serious violence and people who get what they deserve. But you have to enjoy pure evil because it's a study of that.

Best line: "They don't really believe in coincidences. They've heard of them, they've just never seen one."

The movie plays like a Cormac McCarthy book with lots of dialog, because that's basically what it is.

12 Years a Slave

I know this movie is getting great reviews, but for me -- it starts off with a promising premise -- a free black man, kidnapped from his home in upstate NY, and sold into slavery -- but never does anything with its potential. As the title tells you, eventually he gets out of it. But the story isn't about that, it's about slavery from the point of view of a free man who has to endure it.

But nothing really happens in the movie. I don't want to spoil anything, just to say that a lot of things almost happen. There's lots of fine acting. Unspeakable violence. Deranged white people. Hopeless black people. Lots of small plots develop and look like they might turn into a decent story, but never do.

And Brad Pitt plays an unbelievable principled Good Guy. A pivotal character in the plot. I like him better as a flawed Good Guy, as the character in The Counselor or the underappreciated Killing Them Softly from last year.

Like The Butler, it tells an incomplete and non-engaging story about the experience of slavery in the US.

Dallas Buyers Club

This year's NJFF was looking pretty bleak until the last day when it turned fantastic!

Dallas Buyers Club is a wonderful movie, a great story with compelling actors, and it twists you up in such interesting ways that when you come out of it, it's hard to come to any conclusions. You really come to love the two main characters, and the primary supporting character, a woman doctor. The evil arch-villain from the FDA, is unspeakably evil, easy to despise. It's a simple movie, but for such a complex subject, that's good.

I'll be thinking about this movie for a long time to come.

All is Lost

The plot is outlined in the first minute. From there, it's all acting with, amazingly, no dialog. A masterpiece of acting and direction, filming, music, special effects. It all melds into a single experience. You feel what it's like to be lost. Not a good feeling. But any movie that takes you out of your reality is imho, worth experiencing. The only bad movie is one where you're not in it. This story grabs you from the beginning, involves your mind and heart, and takes you somewhere. What's not to like about that!

Posted: Sun, 17 Nov 2013 16:56:06 GMT