Cinema Penitentiary Diaries:  Mopping Up the Remnants of 2015 (Part One – Star Wars, The Big Short, The Intern)



Star Wars The Force Awakens

Were Ed Wood alive today he would be making Star Wars sequels.  In his time he was certainly a better director than J.J.  Abrams.  And with $200  million dollars at his disposal, there would be no limit to what he would create.  For the first 45 minutes of “The Force Awakens,” I was wondering if there were a script, or if Abrams had just suited up his cast and told them to go outside and play, then sent his cameras out there to film them messing around.  When the story finally kicked it, it was pretty much the same drill as the 1977 bit.  Harrison Ford was back at the monster bar, but he didn’t look so hot.  I wondered who had kidnapped him from his sick bed  and forced him to pretend to be Hans Solo again. And I think Abrams might have slipped up and told Carrie Fisher that she was the replacement for Judi Dench as M in a remake of Moonraker.  Much as I believe Bernie Sanders is the only hope for America, I don’t buy his “death of the middle class” routine.  Not when they manage to cough up $750 million dollars in disposable income to sit through crap like “Star Wars The Force Awakens.”   That money would have been better spent as contributions to Sanders’ campaign.




The Big Short

Have you noticed how many movies today are based on true stories?  During the last Bush administration, documentaries were big.  Probably because people wanted to know what the hell was going on.  In the cases of Food, Money, Torture, and disappearing bees, there were two or three documentaries released at the same on the same subjects that contained what was essentially the same material.  Today, people don’t want the straight material that documentaries purportedly offer.  They want entertaining movies that make them feel like they have learned and understood something, but really have only filled their brains with liquid cement.  And so the screenwriters eagerly comply.  Not because they have any great calling to  enlighten an ignorant age, but because they have no original ideas. “The Big Short” is a dumb bell’s version of the 2008  housing market crash that resulted in a world wide economic meltdown.  It begins by telling a fairly interesting story of a man who predicted the crash and how he profits by it, and then opens up with  three additional stories of profiteers who bet against the junk mortgages held by the banks.  Writer/director Adam McKay plays the story for laughs while juggling a pretense of revealing the true story behind a difficult to understand crisis, but he knows that his storytelling is a sham, and builds a series of jokes that play off the public’s desire to know. Some of it is quite funny, but I fear there is an audience block that is not going to get the joke, and will come away thinking they are now experts on the subject of the 2008 meltdown.  These are the same people that last year saw “The Imitation Game” and came out of the theatre believing that Alan Turing singlehandedly cracked  Germany’s enigma code, ending World War Two, and that without him we would not have the internet, yet he was fired from his important work simply because he was gay.  “The Big Short” is a modestly entertaining satire, with decent performances from an attractive cast that includes Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale, but sitting on your butt for two + hours is not the equivalent of earning a degree from Harvard’s business school.




The Intern

Nancy Meyers is a highly skilled writer of mainstream romantic comedies who, because of the film industry’s sexist hiring policies, has only directed six films over the last 17 years, despite their  enormous box office receipts.  Her latest, “The Intern,” released last September, turned a profit of $160  million dollars.  Meyers is an expert at getting sharp performances from lazy superstars.  Mel Gibson in “What Women Want,”  Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Got to Give, and Robert DeNiro in “The Intern.”  Co-star Anne Hathaway really brings the old slouch to life in this fairy tale about a retired man who breathes new life into a young company when he is selected as a token “senior” intern.  It’s not going to win any awards, but “The Intern” is good, solid escapist fare.


9 thoughts on “Cinema Penitentiary Diaries:  Mopping Up the Remnants of 2015 (Part One – Star Wars, The Big Short, The Intern)

  1. I’ve enjoyed Nancy Meyers films over the years. They are smart and fun and just quirky enough. I’m looking forward to watching The Intern.
    Star Wars: Yep, I pretty much agree with you . What a mash of three films retold in a film that was nothing new. I don’t dislike J.J. Abrams like you, but I sure thought the script was lame.
    No one seems to like “The Big Short” in spite of the cast. I probably won’t watch it except maybe six months from now when I can do it at home.


  2. I thought that last Star Trek movie Abrams did was the pits. I think you’ll like The Intern. Also I just saw a Charlie Kauffman-scripted movie (BJM) that you might like, called Anomalisa. Kauffman may be my philosophical nemesis, but at least he has ideas.


    1. I used to watch anything. Then I stopped. Mind you, TV still provides me with endless cinematic crap, and I do watch some of it occasionally. As I get older, I actually find that many ‘serious’ TV dramas are more entertaining than most films, at least those made in the UK.
      Regards, Pete.


  3. Bill, I did a double feature with Hateful 8 and then Star Wars: The Farce Awakens. Both films were fun in a lowball, low stakes way that served as an excuse to eat candy in a dark room filled with equally bored strangers. I wasn’t surprised that the Abrams film was a mess (but still fun just to see how hard they tried — and interesting to see they made Lucas look like a better filmmaker than he had previously seemed). Anyway, it’s real good to read Bill White film reviews again — thank you!


    1. Hey Paul. it’s good to hear from you. I read that the Coolidge corner was charging $17 to see the hateful ate in 70 mm. why would anyone make a one set western that has all the visual of the television series maverick (except for the gorgeously snowy exteriors ala the big silence) in 70mm? Were a lot of people sleeping during The Farce. I fell asleep five times during the first 48 minutes before i finally was able to sustain consciousness for the duration.


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