I recently went to a conference in Warsaw, and due to my inability to catch a solid wink on an airplane, I was pretty tired the whole time (although awake enough to enjoy some serious pierogies). I slept for two hours wedging myself against a window for two hours on the way back, but in the end, I spent most of my night watching movies all bleary-eyed. Mood can affect what you think of a movie, so I’ve tried to separate my feelings towards the movies below from my general lack of awareness at the time, but regardless, here’s what I was able to catch:
Weirdly, Bryan Cranston may be the one thing that doesn’t completely work about Trumbo. His take is a bit overaffected and broad, although charismatic enough. However, it’s reasonable interesting and entertaining, telling an interesting story in a workmanlike style. It’s inoffensive fluff without the same bite as other McCarthyism stories, but a perfect distraction for a flight across an ocean.
Ferrell Takes the Field (2015)
A 50-minute TV movie done for a charity which gives scholarships to young adult cancer survivors, its hard to hate Ferrell Takes the Field. It helps that it has an easy going charm about it, where Will Ferrell alternates between being a genuinely decent guy and playing a cocky asshole on talking-head interviews. Most of the lines land, especially involving the Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane, although Ferrell tends to let some drag out (notably one about how he names his pitches). Some of the games get the short shrift, which is unfortunate, but its a good time-killer for flying across an ocean.
Point Break (2015)
I fully expected to hate Point Break, considering I’m not over the moon about the original (it’s good, but not the pinnacle of ’90s action movies). And sure enough, there are plenty of things to hate here: Luke Bracey’s Johnny Utah is uninteresting even compared to Keanu, Ray Winstone’s Pappas can’t hold a candle to Gary Busey, and the thieving is extremely ill-motivated. Rather than out to achieve nirvana as the text suggest, the thieves and stars drink booze, wear Monster sponsorships, and say “bro” a lot. But while it mostly sucks, it doesn’t completely suck. Edgar Ramirez may be no Swayze, but he’s magnetic enough to minimize the damage the script does to Bodhi’s character. Most importantly, the action scenes are lovingly shot, and legitimately exciting. At the end of the day, that’s what counts when you’re flying across the Atlantic and can’t sleep because the jets are too goddamn loud.
Joy is an overwrought, self-indulgent mess which wastes and pulls into question the talent of everyone in front of and behind the camera. Told in insufferable voiceover by a grandmother character who constantly talks about how great its protagonist, Joy is a movie that never trusts its audience to connect a single dot and hasn’t found a narrative device too heavy handed to use (dream sequences, flashbacks, and flashforwards also abound). This is a movie that says repeatedly it is a movie about the strength of women, as if it wants a pat on the back for it; it’s a good thing for movies to be about that, but not for them to be this self-congratulatory about it. It only knows melodrama and high-volume, never taking time to meditate and always looking to create a classic scene (Isabella Rosselini’s four rules, for example, which has great pieces but runs far too long). On the bright side, Edgar Ramirez is once again great in a bad movie, and de Niro at least looks like he’s interested, but its balanced by Bradley Cooper mumbling his way through the proceedings. Lawrence is fine, but her talents don’t extend quite far enough to save this trainwreck. I’ll defend O’Russel’s work like The Fighter, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, and even I Heart Huckabees, but Joy is about a big of a miss as one could have after a hot streak like that. It’s only watchable as a hate-watch that you can grimace and roll your eyes at while sleepless and a little hungover on a flight across the Atlantic ocean.
Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
With Inside Out and Anomalisa in the Best Animated Feature race, it seemed like the trend was going strongly for very thought-provoking and emotional films about the human psyche. Shaun the Sheep, on the other hand, is about a gang of sheep getting into mischief by playing the Little Rascals man-in-a-trenchcoat gag, a farmer losing his memory and becoming a fashion superstar, and a dog being given control of a surgery room. It’s fantastic fun, a great kids movie that doesn’t attempt to tackle weighty issues and punch above its weight, but also never approaches irritating. It’s completely wordless, and bound to work for children of all ages. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, very cute, and wickedly funny. It’s not quite a must-see (the animal trapper villain feels a bit too familiar, and the ending chase goes on for too long), but its the perfect slice of joy for babysitting the kids, or while on an airplane flying across the Atlantic ocean.
A Flight Across the Goddamn Atlantic Ocean (2016)
The people I sat beside each way seemed nice. The chicken was shit, but the ice cream was nice. Air France had a TV that looked like it was from 1992, including tracking lines, but Delta had some legitimate HD. Air France also had an ashtray in the seat, backing up the 1992 bit. The tarmac workers at Paris were one strike, so we sat in the plane for two hours, which wasn’t cool; they gave me sixteen euros and put me on a flight with a two hour delay, which was cool. And now I’m waking up at 7am naturally, which is fantastic. So yeah, if you need to get to Warsaw for a conference, I recommend flying over the goddamn Atlanic ocean.