[Jul 3] “All the President’s Men” (1976)
After watching Nixon, we were pretty excited to watch the other side of the story, so to speak. All the President’s Men follows the two Washington Post reporters (Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, or “Woodstein” as they are called in the movie) who investigated the Watergate scandal and the related extensive corruption that it brought to light. It’s very similar to Spotlight, another investigative journalism movie I really enjoyed – it has the same matter of fact tone, even though it’s about a pretty serious story. It focuses entirely on the reporters and their investigation, it doesn’t get too melodramatic or show the bigger picture, and that’s a great choice, because it keeps the narrative tightly focused and interesting. Plus, you can’t really beat the combination of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. I wasn’t very familiar with the Watergate scandal, and I learned a lot – I had no idea there was so much shady stuff going on.
[Jul 5] “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)
We’ve finally resumed our Studio Ghibli movie watch; it ground to a halt because we’ve been watching them in the order they were made, and we really didn’t want to watch Grave of the Fireflies because it is so sad. The movie follows fourteen year old Seita as he tries to take care of his four year old sister Setsuko during the end of World War II in Japan. You see in the very first scenes that they both end up dead. I thought this would be an anti-war movie, and I guess it could be interpreted that way (the war is certainly portrayed horrifically), but it’s really about Seita’s determination to take care of his sister making him so proud that he refuses help and eventually ends up bringing about the thing he was so determined to avoid. It’s based on a semi-autobiographical short story by author Akiyuki Nosaka, whose younger sister died under similar circumstances. The movie is beautifully animated, and it will definitely make you cry. I’d recommend it to everyone, but especially to people who think animation can’t evoke emotions like “real actors” can.
[Jul 6] “Only Yesterday” (1991)
A continuation of our chronological Studio Ghibli watch. We skipped Kiki’s Delivery Service because it’s one of our favorite movies ever, so we’ve seen it together many times already.
Only Yesterday follows 27 year old Taeko, who is an office worker on a vacation to the countryside. Throughout her vacation, she’s flooded with memories from her fifth grade, and she reevaluates her life and the choices she’s made. Like Grave of the Fireflies, this is pretty much just human drama, which is not the usual subject for animation, and it’s very well done. However, I didn’t get to enjoy the movie as much as I’d like because the English dub (which was released a day before we watched this movie; we had pre-ordered the Blu-ray) wasn’t very good, and it had a huge effect on how I perceived the characters. Daisy Ridley (of newly minted Star Wars fame) and Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire and The Newsroom, among other things) do the voices of the two main characters, and they either don’t know how to do voice acting or they were extremely badly directed – they either sound bored or fake-excited most of the time. Under the circumstances, I don’t think I can give the movie a fair review, so we plan to re-watch it with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles soon.
[Jul 7] “Titan A.E.” (2000)
Animation is taking over our lives! We’ve been watching a bunch of Japanese anime in addition to our usual movies, and for some reason we’ve been reluctant to watch anything live-action.
In the year 3028, humanity has expanded to space, made contact with a bunch of alien species, and is about to unveil a revolutionary new spaceship, the Titan. An alien race called the Drej are alarmed at the progress of humanity and proceed to destroy Earth. Fifteen years later, Cale Tucker, the son of the chief scientist of the Titan, is recruited by the crew of the spaceship Valkyrie to help track down the Titan and restore humanity’s hopes. I love space opera, and this one is pretty entertaining. It’s got a great voice cast too, especially Matt Damon as Cale. It’s not very complex, it just jumps from action scene to action scene, but there are some pretty weird and beautiful places it takes us to along the way.
[Jul 8] “The Saint” (1997)
The Saint is based on a character from the 1920s, who has also been the subject of a bunch of movies, television shows, and radio dramas. Val Kilmer plays Simon Templar in this incarnation, and he’s a master of disguise and high tech thief who works as an independent contractor. When he’s hired to steal the secrets of cold fusion from an eccentric scientist, he ends up falling in love with her, and they both end up on the run from the Russian Mafia. This was an interesting movie, I felt the the first half had a very different tone from the second half. Val Kilmer portrays the Saint almost too realistically, he seems intensely screwed up (starting with the first scene where the girl he has a crush on dies in front of him), as you’d expect from someone who changes identities so easily and flawlessly. The second half of the movie is just a goofy spy thriller (I mean, it involves cold fusion and the Russians!), and I found the transition a little jarring. Other than that, it’s a decent movie, and Val Kilmer is great as usual.
[Jul 9] “Self/less” (2015)
Dying real estate tycoon Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) undergoes a black market procedure to transfer his consciousness into a new and younger body (Ryan Reynolds). At first everything goes well, but he soon discovers that his new body and the company that performed the procedure are not as straightforward as they seemed. I was looking forward to watching this movie because I love science fiction, and I think The Fall, one of the previous movies by the director (Tarsem Singh) is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, I was let down; Self/less has an interesting premise, but it goes nowhere. It turns into a standard action movie, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it wasn’t so preachy and moralistic. Also, more importantly, none of the character motivations make any sense – Damian Hale does not act like himself after switching bodies, it’s unclear why the scientist performing the consciousness transfer procedure does pretty much everything wrong, and the rest of the characters are just a bunch of cliches. Not recommended.