Some films and other things I watched on planes

A few weeks ago I was stuck in planes for awhile. I’ve found that rewatching movies I’ve already seen works best if it’s a night flight and I’m in a sleepy/not-sleepy state. This way I can drift off and miss bits and it’s less disruptive when you have to stand up to let somebody else go to the loo.

Rewatched Avengers Age of Ultron, which was better than I remembered it being. It’s an odd film as it is meant to be this big blockbuster film but the story mainly is connective tissue to other films and later themes. Wakanda, Infinity War, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok are all set up as well the more general fracturing of The Avengers as a team. It’s too busy laying out all this groundwork to let its own story breathe but those connections help the film retrospectively.

Rewatched Sipder-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which was an interesting contrast to the the big-screen visual festival. Rewatching on a small screen in less than great viewing environment showed up how well the characters are developed particularly Miles, Gwen and Miles’s uncle.

Tried to watch the 2018 version of Robin Hood. This was a mess. The 2000’s TV series played slightly with the idea that Robin is a character returning from pointless middle-east wars and the parallels with contemporary history. In a huge misunderstanding of the difference between text and subtext, this film has Robin of Loxley being “drafted” (he literally gets a ye olde ‘you are drafted’ letter, which would be funny if it was the Mel Brooks film but here they mean it). We then get scenes of the crusades in which the crusades are basically British squadies except with bows and arrows instead of guns fighting modern warfare style and being pinned down by machine-gun fire, oops sorry machine-crossbow fire. Bad shit goes down, he saves Jamie Foxx’s life (who will end up being Robin’s Moorish companion later on) and is intentionally injured by a bad guy on his own side. At which point he’s is sent in a ship back to Nottingham (that famous costal city) where the evil Sheriff has forced all the population into the mines in the big mountains around Nottingham. The Sheriff is Director Krennic from Rogue One by which I don’t mean just that it is the same actor (Ben Mendelsohn) but he even dresses and sounds alike. Around this point I had the choice of staring at the back of the chair in front of me or carrying on watching the film and “back of the chair” won on points.

Bumblebee, on the other hand, offered little in promise, being an entry in the uniformly awful Transformers movie franchise. I don’t want to oversell it but it was at worst fine and often good. All the obnoxiousness of the Michael Bay movies was removed and instead the whole thing is more like a homage to 1980s attempts to cash in on ET. Alasdair Stuart has a better, longer review here but the short version is the film has a lot of charm thanks to Hailee Steinfeld’s lead role of angsty teenager Charlie. Silly but fun.

Tried to watch If Beale Street Could Talk but this was bad timing on my part and it required more focus than my brain could provide. I resolved to watch it later but then didn’t.

On a different leg I’d made clever use of free wi-fi the previous day to download not only the Star Trek Discovery finale but also She-Ra Season 2. Honestly, a clever kids cartoon with lots of short episode is probably the optimal thing to watch on a plane if you are tired but also need distraction. Like season 1 this is a bright, colourful show that captures the pastel aesthetic and semi-serious plots of 1980s kid’s adventure cartoons with some extra depth of character and deeper conflicts. Unlike Season 1, the episodes just sort of finish in mid story arc with a promise of Season 3.

8 responses to “Some films and other things I watched on planes”

  1. I think I watch 80% of my movies on airplanes. Apparently I prefer books.

    My favorite ridiculous nautical voyage in a movie, though, was in Bird on a Wire with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn way back in the early nineties. Early in the movie they escape from Detroit on the ferry. To Racine, Wisconsin. Followed by a chase scene set in Racine’s historic Chinatown.

    At this point I’m fairly certain that they just don’t sell maps in southern California.

    (I know, I know, nobody from outside the upper Midwest will understand. Damn you Hollywood!)

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  2. “Nottingham (that famous coastal city)”

    While I don’t wish to defend Robin Hood (2018), which has the reputation of neither being true to period, nor retelling the story in a different setting, Nottingham appears to have been the medieval head of navigation on the River Trent. (The modern head of navigation is the junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal, lying between Derby and Burton-on-Trent.)

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  3. I agree that Age of Ultron is better than its reputation, though it is something of an overstuffed mess, because it’s too busy setting up future storylines. Though the criticism at the time seemed to hinge on two lines of dialogue, namely Iron Man’s “ius primae noctis” comment and on Black Widow telling Bruce he’s not the only monster in the team.

    The thing that annoyed me most about the Iron Man comment was the bad Latin. I did not view it as even remotely serious, let alone a rape joke, because the “ius primae noctis” as a formalised right never existed (which does not mean that plenty of aristocrats did not sexually abuse and harrass their servants and tenants). It’s a myth dating from the Enlightenment era to show how depraved aristocrats were, which somehow was mistaken for an actual law somewhere along the way. And indeed, most historic references claim that the “ius primae noctis” was a barbaric custom that existed someplace far away, where the aristocrats were even worse. And “The Marriage of Figaro” was satire. Though someone telling Iron Man, “Dude, that’s a myth” might have defused that line.

    As for the Black Widow line, first of all it’s not clear whether “You’re not the only monster here” refer to the fact that Natasha was trained from childhood on to be a cold-blooded killer or that she was forcibly sterilised and cannot have children. Personally, I believe it refers to the former, though it’s not clear in the scene. However, what most critics forget is that Black Widow’s “monster” line is only one of many instances of people referring to themselves as monsters in the movie. Iron Man says to Bruce at one point, “We’re the mad scientists, we’re the monsters.” And Vision later says something along the lines of “We are monsters, but we don’t have to be” to Ultron.

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  4. It’s probably for the best that you didn’t watch If Beale Street Could Talk on an airplane screen – the cinematography is gorgeous, and deserves more space.

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  5. If you are tired on a flight I recommend Blue Planet. Something about sea creatures gracefully moving though the ocean helps me sleep on planes.


  6. I’ve flown on planes many times but I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie on one. I read or sleep on planes usually. Occasionally talk to someone if I’m in a chatting mood and next to someone who also is.

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  7. Oddly enough, I very recently deplaned from an SAS flight (where they find my efforts to speak Norwegian charmingly inept) 1/3 of the way around the planet — recently enough that I remain in peak jetlag mode, but the onboard cinema offerings had a few offbeat charms. One was tautly-written crime thriller Destroyer, a 2018 Nicole Kidman vehicle where she plays a burned-out undercover LAPD detective trying to take down a bank-robbery gang leader who’d caused a massacre years ago. Most notable was how they made the most of a tiny production budget, Kidman’s commanding presence, and Karyn Kusama as director (women directors in Hollywood tending to be expected to do more with less, and tending to deliver: see also Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins).

    I look in on part of Creed II, but without Ryan Coogler as director it struck me as unpromising, despite Michael B. Jordan in the lead role again.

    Arctic turned out to be a harrowing survival tale where Mads Mikkelsen’s “H. Overgård” has survived crash of a small plane in wilderness above the Arctic Circle, and must decide whether to attempt a trek out to save himself and an injured girl. Bracing, well acted, and showing part of Iceland’s rugged interior — just the thing to to watch while crossing Hudson Bay with the jet’s thermometre showing -50 degrees outside.

    Before landing, I was able to see about 2/3 of Crazy Rich Asians: A few glimpses of my home town (Hong Kong) made me smile but it was mostly set in Singapore, and had enough good gags to make it worth wading through the fluff. Fabulous acting from a few incidental characters; only workmanlike acting from the principals.

    (And yes, Southern California exists in a pocket universe.)


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