Watched three films this weekend

10-cloverfield-laneSaw ZOOTOPIA, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, and EYE IN THE SKY. And now I will talk about them.

Eye In The Sky is a tense thriller that’s more or less contained within a series of command rooms scattered through England and America (as well as one block in Nairobi). It’s about an operation to take out a terrorist cell in Nairobi, and the ways that it gets complicated when a little girl shows up, to sell bread, right on the edge of the compound that they want to strike. Though they’re unable to guarantee that the girl will be safe, the military leaders of the operation want to move forward, while the civilians scramble and look for legal and political cover.

It was really well-constructed. Very tense. The movie takes place almost in real time. You know that at any moment the terrorists might leave the compound and become uncatchable, and that every second of delay could potentially be fatal. And the movie also had a very ripped-from-the-headlines feel. For instance, I don’t think I’ve seen another movie that relied so heavily on a Predator drone. Man, it’s so crazy to think that those things are: a) real; and b) an integral part of modern warfare.

The main problem I had with the film is more a problem with the world than it is with the movie. Essentially, I didn’t believe that anyone would’ve thought twice about striking. This is presented as such a clear-cut case: you know there are terrorists inside. And there’s literally only one girl who might be collateral damage. In real life, we bomb houses on a hunch and kill all kinds of innocent people.

The only thing that made the movie slightly believable was that it was a British operation. In fact, whenever they called to ask America for advice, our people were like, “WTF, why are you even calling me? Just bomb them right now!”

 

Zootopia was a pretty decent Disney movie. I think Disney has three animation studios, right? There’s the one that makes the primary films: Tangled and Frozen and such. And there’s Pixar. And then there’s this one. I think its other major offering was Big Hero Six (which I didn’t particularly like). But this one was great! The world was very inventive and fully realized. It reminded me of The Lego Movie, someone had obviously given some thought to: “What would it look like if all mammals were intelligent and peacefully coexisted in a huge city?”

My only two problems were, ultimately, pretty minor. The first is that some of the jokes were pretty easy. For instance, there’s a Don Corleone caricature. I mean, we’ve seen that before. And it’s easy to say, okay, it’s for kids and they’ll be fine with it, but you don’t put in Don Corleone for the kids: you put it in for the adults. Secondly, the movie needed more red herrings. It was clear by the end of the first act who the villain was, because we know that the villain isn’t going to be either of the obvious candidates, and outside the obvious people there was only one real suspect. In a film like this, you need three types of candidates: a) the obviously evil and obviously not guilty candidate; b) obvious seemingly-benevolent-but-maybe-possibly-evil-but-in-actuality-not-evil candidate; and c) the real culprit. This one didn’t have enough candidates. And again you might say that kids aren’t sophisticated enough to care, but I don’t know…kids have watched a lot of TV. They’ve watched Frozen! That movie was a mindfuck. I mean, say what you want about the plausibility of the twist in Frozen, but it’s definitely not something you see coming. And after watching Frozen about a hundred times, I bet that kids wise up a little bit about these things.

 

10 Cloverfield Lane is perfect. It’s so good. So well-structured. It’s about this woman who gets into a car accident and wakes up in an underground bunker whose owner tells her that the Earth has been wiped clean by a chemical attack. Yeah, I know it seems kind of rapey, especially because she wakes up chained to a pipe in a bare room. But it doesn’t quite go there.

The heroine in this movie, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is incredible! She isn’t strong. She’s not a badass. She doesn’t even stay stoic. When she wakes up in the room, the first thing she does is cry and freak out. But she is so resourceful! It was a pleasure to watch! When one plan fails, she’s on to the next one. You’re not watching some sort of MacGyver here, you’re just seeing an ordinary person who’s more clever than average and who’s very determined to survive. And she doesn’t do some of the things you’d expect, either, which made me realize how gendered some of our expectations can be.

John Goodman is great as the owner of the bunker. He’s just a very human character. You know he’s odd, but then… anyone who would build an underground bunker is pretty odd. What you don’t know is whether he’s evil. He plays the role perfectly, bringing out just the right amount of menace. And he’s got some good laugh lines in there, too, when the character’s complete lack of self-awareness leads to him saying something unintentionally ridiculous. This could very easily have become overplayed, and you’d have been left wondering how such a buffoon could ever build something like this. But Goodman kept it reigned in.

I won’t talk about what’s going on outside the bunker, but that stuff added quite a bit to the movie. It would’ve been easy to make a “three people trapped in a bunker” movie. But the way that the danger inside and the danger outside played off each other was really fantastic.