FILM
Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo
Gabriel Ricard

Thunder Road Pictures

Thunder Road Pictures

The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve watched between 2012 and the present.

Whew.

How did you guys get through December and January? Well enough?

I guess we should be pleased that 2017 hasn’t destroyed us all yet. We can still go to the movies. We can still try to get excited about everything that’s coming out this year. There a number of 2017 movies that I’m at least curious about. That counts for something. The ongoing hells of 2016 made it difficult to focus on cinema. At least, that was my problem. Beyond the real world making it difficult to even pay attention to trailers, too many actual 2016 movies left me underwhelmed. 

Then you had scripted TV, which just embarrassed film as a storytelling medium last year.

But the best movies of last year were pretty amazing. So there’s that. 2016 was less about quantity. For one reason or several, the year had to settle for quality. That’s not the worst thing in the world.

We’re living in Donald Trump’s America now. Fiction is going to have a hard time keeping up with that. But it has to. For me personally, art is more valuable more than ever. We’re less than two months into the New Year. There isn’t much out right now, but it’s not a complete wasteland. 

And we have the long trail of awards shows to get through, including the good ol’ Academy Awards. The show will be airing at the end of February. The nominees are out. It’s not the worst batch ever, but even with the alleged improvements to the Academy’s membership diversity problem, it still feels like a lot of the same old thing.

But who cares? John Goodman didn’t get nominated again (and he should have been for 10 Cloverfield Lane). I think I’ll see what he’s doing on February 26th. His Oscar party, if he’s throwing one, would probably be better than anything I could come up with.

Barring that, you’ll probably see me dicking around on Facebook on Sunday the 26th. Or Twitter (HmGabeRicard). 

Either way, you’re welcome to join me.

The Lego Batman Movie (2017): B+

At some point last year, I wondered if my expectations for The Lego Batman Movie were a little too high. Fifteen minutes into this consistently delightful follow-up to The Lego Movie, I’m still laughing myself into a mild stupor. I guess that means my expectations were met. While The Lego Batman movie loses its surprisingly deep momentum towards the end, you’re still left with an animated comedy that will almost certainly entertain. 

You don’t have to be a fan of Batman, The Lego Movie, or even Lego in general. If you appreciate humor that comes through in the dialog and visuals in equal, almost relentless numbers, you’ll enjoy The Lego Batman Movie. You certainly won’t have a problem with the voice cast, which includes Will “I’m In Almost Everything On Netflix” Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Billy Dee Williams as (FINALLY) Two-Face.

Body Bags (1993): B-

I didn’t know this existed, until someone gave my wife and I a Roku TV as a wedding gift. Does that mean I have to turn in my horror movie fan card? I hope not.

Regardless, thanks to Shout TV! and similar channels, I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of horror and grindhouse fare. Depression has been a good motivator to watch these things, as well. 

John Carpenter’s failed attempt at recreating Tales from the Crypt for Showtime is a small tragedy in potential. It’s hard to say if the show could have attracted the same talent that made the middle seasons of Tales some of the best horror television ever created. This first episode, which was later released as a single anthology film, suggests more than enough that this had a shot at being a worthy rival for Tales. Carpenter gives a rare, surprisingly hilarious performance as the coroner who opens and closes the three stories that make up this movie. Even if each one has its own flaws, all three of these stories have something to offer. Gas Station might be the weakest entry. It still offers vintage Carpenter suspense, and good performances from Robert Carradine and Alex Datcher (and a fun Wes Craven cameo). Hair is worth watching for its cast, as well, including Stacey Keach and Deborah Harry. Eye is a little predictable, but it also has a Mark Hammill performance that once again emphasizes how underrated he really is.

It’s hard to recommend Body Bags to anyone beyond John Carpenter/90’s horror fanatics. Still, if you can get to it, and you’re at least a fan of the genre, it’s worth at least starting. I’m willing to guess it will pull you in.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017): B-

Once again, John Wick relies on three key ingredients. It strives to be refreshingly unique in its fight scene choreography. It endeavors to give us the kind of stoic Keanu Reeves that even his snarkiest detractors can get behind. It then throws all of this in with a deadpan sense of humor that allows it to stand as an impressively unique entry into action movies. 

As that first paragraph kind of implies, all of that is also completely fine. However, that obviously depends on whether or not it’s all done well. John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t stray too far from what made the first film so goddamn charming. That’s fine. We don’t want it to. Judging by the striking degree to which Chapter 2 maintains the first film’s unique qualities, we also don’t need it to.

The Bad Sleep Well (1960): A+

It’s February. If you’re still trying to meet a New Year’s resolution to watch more classics and/or foreign films, there’s still time. Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well is a great one to turn to. Combining threads of Hamlet with a deep, disturbing, and exciting story of corporate corruption, Kurosawa offers one of his best films set in contemporary times. It may be one of the cruelest films you’ve ever seen. I can’t say for sure. I’ve seen the movie twice in two years. Although I liked it both times, both experiences nonetheless left me with two completely different opinions. 

The first time around, I thought the movie had one of the most cynical, despairing endings I have ever seen. After the second viewing, I wasn’t so sure. I saw the same cynicism, but I found something more encouraging in Toshiro Mifune’s scorched earth desperation to eradicate his enemies, or anything else that gets in his way. Of course, Mifune’s performance is considerably more complex than this review could ever imply. The Bad Sleep Well is stacked with perfect performances, particularly from Masayuki Mori and Kyōko Kagawa. Chishū Ryū is notable in a supporting role, as well.

Miles Ahead (2016): B-

Miles Ahead feels a little silly. Something that furiously blends grim facts from Davis’ life with what is essentially a comedy-of-errors crime film is something that doesn’t seem plausible. Miles Ahead is a story about Miles Davis. It’s largely set in the days prior to his late 70s comeback, but it jumps around to different period of his life and career. The straightforward biographical elements are certainly seductive, particularly when we’re paying attention to Cheadle’s amazing transformation into Davis. However, Cheadle wisely uses these scenes sparingly. Most of the movie shows Davis, a smart journalist (Ewan McGregor, who plays off Cheadle brilliantly), and a cast of shady and sympathetic characters trying to maintain control of Davis’ latest recording. Again, it gets a little silly.

The entertaining contrasts of Miles Ahead works more often than not. Cheadle should certainly come back to directing, when his schedule allows it. He has created a tribute to the astonishingly inventive, unpredictable music of Miles Davis.