Remember

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Finally got around to watching a Netflix disk we've had sitting around the house since early October. (Savvy consumer: shake your heads and sorrowfully note that we're not getting our money's worth out of our Netflix DVD plan when we're this poky about watching stuff they've sent.)

But Remember is a intensely watchable movie, starring Christopher Plummer as Zev, living in an Assisted Care facility, in the middle stages of dementia. He wakes up calling for his wife, having forgot that she passed away a week ago.

Zev's friend Max (Martin Landau) gently reminds him of a promise he made: once Ruth died, Zev would go on a little mission out in the big wide world. Max provides Zev with a wad of Benjamins and a detailed letter describing, step by step, what Zev is to do. We're kept mostly in the dark, however: the nature of Zev's quest is revealed mostly in his actions. (Bruno Ganz, the actor who played Hitler in Downfall, appears. Hint, hint.)

They really have lax security at that Assisted Care place, though. Tsk!

The movie is full of suspense and Shocking Plot Twists, expertly acted by all involved. It's always nice to see Dean Norris, Hank Schrader himself; does he play a good guy here? At first, it seems that way!

Hacksaw Ridge

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Pun Son and I saw this in the Newington Mall multiplex, our theatre of choice. Sensitive souls should note the MPAA reason for its R rating: "intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images". If anything, that's understated. War is Hell.

It's the mostly-true story of Desmond Doss, a small-town Virginia kid (played by Andrew Garfield, who overdoes the Virginia bumpkin thing), whose early traumatic experience with internal family violence has turned him into a Conscientious Objector, but one who decides his duty lies in signing up with the World War II Army. This distresses his family, and also his sweetie back home. And that distress is well justified, as his unit gets shipped to Okinawa. Resulting in… well, you can reread the MPAA description again.

Graphic violence aside, it's pretty much a standard war movie, focusing on Desmond's journey from Virginia, through boot camp (where his CO status is threatened, and he's the target of abuse as a result), and eventually to Hell.

Vince Vaughn plays Desmond's sergeant for both (inital) laughs and (later) drama. Nice, but…

Hugo Weaving, Elrond himself, plays Desmond's tortured-soul father. If he doesn't win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, there ain't no justice.

Frances Ha

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2012 movie has received the Criterion Collection treatment, so it's arty. It had been sitting in my Netflix queue for a long time, and it was available for streaming; I hit the button. It stars Greta Gerwig as the titular Frances, and she also co-wrote with her "partner" Noah Baumbach, who directed.

Frances has dreams of being a dancer in New York City. (A respectable one, leaving her clothes on.) Even my untrained eye can tell that's a misguided career choice, bordering on delusional. She's tall, noticeably non-willowy, and clumsy. Still she persists.

She lives with her college best friend, Sophie. Their relationship is complicated by the men in their lives. Frank and detailed discussions of their sexual behavior are included, and I would imagine at least some theatre presentations were marred by people in the audience shouting "Too much information!" The movie covers a few subsequent months, as Frances' declining professional life is paired with personal changes.

I liked Greta Gerwig a lot in the quirky comedy Damsels in Distress. She's not quite as likeable here, but still managed to hold my what-happens-next interest.

Trivial points:

  • "Hey, isn't that Kylo Ren?" Yes, it was.

  • Also in a small role: Grace Gummer, Meryl Streep's daughter.

  • IMDB reports that Ms. Gerwig appears in every scene; apparently that's unusual.

  • In a sweet move, Frances' parents are played by Ms. Gerwig's actual parents.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I can't say I'm proud of having watched this. Only excuse: Mrs. Salad was out of the house, and I didn't want to watch anything that she might possibly want to watch down the road. No problem there.

It's not exactly thought-provoking. About the only thought provoked, in fact: shouldn't there be an apostrophe in the title word Scouts?

Anyway: Ben, Carter, and Augie are the few remaining scouts under the reign of "Scout Leader Rogers" (David Koechner). Ben is the normal one, Carter the world-weary cynical one, and Augie the gung-ho one; Carter has convinced Ben to ditch Augie and Rogers and go to a hot teenage party instead. Unfortunately, everyone's plans are waylaid due to (guess what) a zombie outbreak, thanks to carelessness at a nearby lab.

What follows is R-rated zombie comedy, as the kids try to rescue their peers and escape with their non-zombified lives. I laughed occasionally, but there's considerable smuttiness, including genitalia gags (one male, one female, only one graphic, both disgusting). A complete waste of time, yet it held my interest better than Inferno for some reason.


Last Modified 2016-11-12 4:39 AM EST

Inferno

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Mrs. Salad loooves fellow Granite Stater Dan Brown, devouring his books as they come out. And we've always managed to see the resulting movies in the theater. So …

Brown's hero, Robert "Mary Sue" Langdon (Tom Hanks), wakes up in a hospital with no memory of how he got there. In fact, he guesses he's at Mass General Hospital, and he's astounded to find he's actually in Italy. He has a head wound apparently caused by a bullet graze, and his only link to sanity is that plucky rebel from the Rogue One trailers, Felicity Jones, here playing his attending physician.

Before you know it, there's another attempt on Langdon's life, and he and Felicity are off on a Europe-spanning cat-and-mouse chase. It turns out that a madman has developed a nasty bioweapon that threatens to take out most of humanity; the madman is a dedicated Malthusian who sees this as a good thing. Langdon disagrees.

There are a number of shadowy people with various motives involved, enough to keep Langdon and Felicity on the run while they track down various inconveniently-placed clues to determine the location of the weapon. Beware, movie-watcher: all is not what it seems. At least I'm pretty sure it's not, I really got lost at times in all the convolutions.

There's some first-rate acting talent here, not the least because the actors are asked to spout some pretty lunatic dialogue. I think there should be a special Oscar for that. Tom Hanks is always good. I especially liked Irrfan Kahn as an unflappable, deadly, and ambiguous menace. But I liked him in The Lunchbox even better.

The Major and the Minor

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's Netflix pix, and she made a good choice this time. I surprised myself with how charmed and amused I was while watching this classic screwball comedy.

As the movie begins, Miss Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) is not making it in 1941 New York City. She's an in-home scalp-massager (really), and when a randy client (Robert Benchley) gets the wrong idea, she decides to pack it in, go back to small-town Iowa, and settle for the young man who's (apparently) still waiting for her.

Problem: she can't afford the full-fare train ticket from NYC to Iowa. So she poses as an almost-12 year old! She manages that well enough to get on board, but her fraud is soon detected, and she has to deceive Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland), a teacher at an Illinois military academy, in order to avoid getting tossed off the train.

Hence the Major/Minor title. Complications ensue, of course, since this is a screwball comedy. Susan finds herself enmeshed in the workings of Kirby's school; she fools everyone, save for Kirby's fiancee's younger sister.

Yes, there's a little bit of dancing. I think this was part of the Hays Code: if Ginger Rogers is in a movie, she's gotta dance.

This was Billy Wilder's American directoral debut, and he also co-wrote.

The Nice Guys

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A pretty good indication that a movie's going to be good, or at least interesting: directed and co-written by Shane Black.

It is set in the funkiness and moral rot of mid-70s Los Angeles. In the opening scene, that kid from Iron Man 3 swipes one of his dad's porn mags (for our younger audience: a magazine with pictures of naked women; how retro) and is perusing a picture of one "Misty Mountains". When, unexpectedly, a small car plummets off the nearby freeway, crashing entirely through the young man's house. When he checks out the wreckage, the dying victim is … Misty Mountains, herself, posed just like in the mag, except for a lot more blood.

An ultra-Dickensian coincidence, to be sure, although one Dickens might not have come up with himself. Whatever. We're off to concentrate on our protagonists: Healy (Russell Crowe), whose profession is beating up people for money. And March (Ryan Gosling), a widowed sad-sack semi-sleazy private eye, way too fond of booze and cigarettes, bringing up a precocious 14-year-old daughter on his own.

March is not above taking clients' money for worthless cases, namely investigating whether Misty is still alive. He and Healy are drawn together when Healy is hired to dissuade him from even a bumbling investigation. Gradually, they become aware that a lot of people involved in shooting Misty's final porn movie are turning up dead.

Amid all the carnage, there's a lot of hilarity. According to IMDB, this was originally going to be a TV series. (And it's slightly reminiscent of the series The Good Guys.)

You, Me and Dupree

[0.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Oh, dear Lord, it's awful. A "comedy" that didn't elicit a single laugh, chortle, or giggle from me.

Worse, the people who came up with the movie title do not employ the Oxford Comma.

Anyway: Mrs. Salad was out of town, and we (somehow) were gifted with this 10-year-old DVD, which she saw no interest in watching, ever. So…

Molly (Kate Hudson) and Carl (Matt Dillon) are newlyweds. Best Man Dupree (Owen Wilson) is Carl's longtime best buddy, but he's currently an underachiever, to put it mildly; to attend the wedding, he's lost his job and domicile. So we can put Dupree up in our house until he's back on his feet, right, honey?

Added complication: Molly's dad (Michael Douglas) is unimpressed with Carl, to the extent that he recommends vasectomy to Carl.

None of the main characters are interesting or likeable. Nobody ever says anything funny. The PG-13 rating prevents Kate Hudson from getting naked. There are unexpected developments, sure, but in order to say "I didn't see that coming" you have to care enough about the plot to imagine what might be coming next.

On the back of the DVD box, one Lesley Nagy, film critic of KBWB-TV in San Francisco, is quoted: "IF YOU LIKE WEDDING CRASHERS, YOU'LL LOVE YOU, ME AND DUPREE!" Let me just caution you: Lesley is a liar. Maybe not as bad as Hillary, but she's right up there. For I liked Wedding Crashers just fine, but ….

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A very intense, edge-of-seat movie that Mrs. Salad had no desire to see. So I set aside an afternoon…

As you (probably) know: It's a story of the 2012 Benghazi disaster, seen from the viewpoint of a private security team tasked with protecting the secret CIA enclave in town. Unfortunately, the team seems to be the only folks on the ground who (a) know how much danger is lurking in the city and (b) have semi-adequate skills to deal with the inevitable clash of civilizations. What results is a tale of graphic violence and ineptitude resulting in (as everyone knows) too many dead Americans.

The movie wisely stays out of the direct partisan political controversy, but is damning enough for what it shows.

Directed by Michael Bay, previously known for semi-mindless action flicks; this is not one of those. Also revelatory is John Krasinski, previously mostly known for being "Jim on The Office". If they gave Oscars for "Displaying Previously Unexpected Talent", you'd have to think both Bay and Krasinski would be nominated in a heartbeat.

Dear Eleanor

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. Sorry, honey, this movie kind of irritated me.

It's 1962 in rural California. 15-year-old Ellie's mom just got fatally hit by a car (but not badly enough for a closed-casket funeral), and Ellie blames herself for making her mom late. If only she'd crossed the street a few seconds earlier! Or later.

Or just waited until she could have crossed the street safely. Sheesh.

Anyway, Dead Mom was a huge Eleanor Roosevelt fan, and was due to introduce her at a shindig. That obviously didn't happen. But Ellie's best friend "Max the Wax" has the wind in her whiskers, and to snap Ellie out of her funk, she inveigles them both into a classic movie road trip, off to see Eleanor at her upstate NY estate.

A lot of unlikely things happen. They pick up an older gentleman whose real-life character (without spoiling things too much) was previously portrayed by Clint Eastwood many years ago. Ellie's dysfunctioning father snaps himself out of depression long enough to go chasing after Ellie with Max's sorta-boyfriend in a sidecar. The girls stop to pick up Max's Aunt Daisy (Jessica Alba), who's working as a Las Vegas dancer. (Unfortunately: Las Vegas, New Mexico.)

It's all kind of contrived, sorry. ("Gee, Max, it's as if our lives are under the control of some wacky screenwriter, and we have no free will of our own!")

Jessica Alba is pretty easy to look at, though, and her fate here is better than it was in Sin City.

Wait a minute, Ione Skye was in this?! I missed that totally.