I watched a lot this month–not entirely surprising, considering this is October–but I didn’t write as many individual posts this month as I’d planned.

This month’s content

New or recent releases

Retro reviews

Events

Podcast guest appearances

*   *   *

Other movies I watched this month include…

Bradley Cooper stars in I AM GROOT.

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

I am Groot.

My rating: Pro.

…what’s that, you say? I already pulled that stunt with The Lego Movie and I’m not allowed to do it again?

Sigh.

Very well.

A scene from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

Despite the mind-boggling amount of CGI deployed, Guardians of the Galaxy has a deliberately retro vibe, and I’m not talking about the ’70s lite-rock vibe of Awesome Mix Vol. 1. This is Star Wars with swearing, except this time Han Solo is a raccoon and Chewbacca is a tree. Add to this a cast that includes Vin Diesel saying the same three words over and over, John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz as cops, and Michael Rooker painted blue, and you get something that shouldn’t really work.

And yet it does, in large part due to James Gunn’s irrepressible energy behind the camera, a script that both uses and subverts the modern sci-fi epic formula, and a cast that’s willing to follow this material wherever it goes. There’s a sense of excitement here that a lot of big tentpoles with SF roots, even ones I liked such as Pacific Rim, simply lack.

I don’t know if I liked it as much as The Lego Movie, but when it comes to the year’s popcorn crowd-pleasers, this one’s near the top.

My rating: Pro.

A scene from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)

Well…

I’ll give it this: it’s very pretty and its construction is quite clever. When I watched it, I kept thinking of an elaborate clockwork: turn the key and watch all the elements move in mechanical time. Everything is meticulously timed to pop up at exactly the right time to do its thing.

The problem is, for me, that the whole thing feels like clockwork and it never becomes a story about characters. The actors, even the best ones, never become their characters. Anderson’s direction is too choreographed. The dialogue is too stilted. Everything feels…well, mechanical.

That’s probably deliberate on Anderson’s part, I’ll admit. But it’s not really my thing.

My rating: Mixed.

A scene from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3.

Paranormal Activity 3 (Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2011)

I originally reviewed Paranormal Activity 3 for Forced Viewing in 2012.

The thing that constantly irritates me about the Paranormal Activity franchise is how little ambition it has. It’s too much to ask a sequel to take risks or try breaking the mold, but at least it should try to expand on its predecessor(s), widening the scope and developing the backstory.

The Paranormal Activity movies are a case of same shit, different day, movie after movie. Three movies into the series and we still don’t have anything resembling a concrete answer as to what causes the Paranormal Activity and why it does what it does to the Featherstone family. Even worse, it doesn’t provide a reason to care about these characters, chiefly because there’s so little difference between the protagonists in each film. Micah, Daniel and Dennis are pretty much the same character, just with different names and actors.

I give PA3 some credit because two or three sequences that really, really work, but ultimately it feels like a cynical attempt to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of easily-scared viewers while doing as little actual work as possible.

My rating: Mixed.

*   *   *

Coming in November: The other three films I didn’t catch at the Massacre (Cemetery ManThe Town that Dreaded SundownEaten Alive), plus one or more of the following: BorgmanErrors of the Human Body, ExtraterrestrialTorment.

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