Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fool's Views (6/20 – 6/26)

My lords and ladies,

For the second time this year, this week’s Views featured all first time viewings. Much of this was due to the fact that I got to the cinema on three, count ‘em, three different occasions and took in a total of seven brand new features. (The one anomaly was the 1983 high school football pic, All the Right Moves, left over from last week’s Cruise-fest.) I also snuck in a couple of docs at home (one real, one maybe-so).

Not as much in the way of horror (stretching it to call either of the two mentioned below as full-on fright flicks, but seeing as how they both showcase exceedingly large behemoths as their antagonists, I think we’re safe), but it was a pleasure to spend the time at the multiplex since it’s been rarer than I prefer lately.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Super 8 (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Abrams, J.J.
Well, here’s the deal. It felt very much like Abrams trying to give us his version of a Spielberg flick, with Spielberg leaning over his shoulder whenever any questions arose. And if I was 12 years old, this might have spoken to me a little more than it did. After all, it’s about a bunch of horror movie-loving-and-making kids who save their town and the world from a recently liberated space alien: what’s not to like about that? But Abrams’ stylistic choices of wildly artificial lens flares, over-the-top effects sequences (sorry, but that train sequence was absolute b.s.), and an unmemorable giant creature distinctly hindered my enjoyment levels. It’s an okay flick, but not the slamdunk summer monster flick we were hoping for, considering the talent involved.

TrollHunter (2010) (1st viewing) d. Ovredal, Andre
Another giant monster movie, although with a smaller budget and scope and from Norway, of all places. My initial reaction was that while it was a quaint idea and there was obviously some solid filmmaking skill on display here, I found it a bit long and its bore more than a passing resemblance to The Blair Witch Project, except that the three student filmmakers are seeking trolls as opposed to witches and you can actually see the darn things. (In a recent Rue Morgue interview, the director also cites Man Bites Dog as an influence, which I can absolutely see.) However, I find myself liking it more in retrospect and certainly appreciating Ovredal’s efforts even if they sometimes felt a little labored. The various fairyland nemeses are amusingly designed, even if their CGI origins are more than a little apparent, and there is a wicked sense of dark deadpan humor running through the proceedings.

All the Right Moves (1983)
(1st viewing) d.Chapman, Michael
Tom Cruise play a high school football jock in what seems to be a standard underdog story. Well, actually, it is a standard underdog story, but the twist is that Cruise wants to be an engineer and he wants to excel at football in order to get a college scholarship to escape his Pennsylvania mining town roots. Fairly familiar stuff, with an appealing cast that includes Craig T. Nelson, Lea Thompson (topless!) and Christopher Penn, all set to an appalling 80s soundtrack. Noted cinematographer Chapman’s (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) directorial debut.

Bridesmaids (2011) (1st viewing) d. Feig, Paul
What can I say? Sh*t was funny. And Rose Byrne is having one heck of a year, with Insidious and X-Men: First Class already under her belt.

I'm Still Here (2010) (1st viewing) d. Affleck, Casey
While this “documentary” about Joaquin Phoenix’s decision to leave acting to pursue a career as a hip-hop artist has been declared an elaborate hoax by its subject and creative team, one has to wonder. I have a feeling it was an elaborate something, but whether it was always intended as a joke, I’m not convinced. Seems like calling it a hoax is the only way Phoenix could rejoin the Hollywood party n’est pas?

Midnight in Paris (2011) (1st viewing) d. Allen, Woody
Wonderful fantasy about nostalgia and a love letter to the French city, with Owen Wilson turning out to be one of the finest interpreters of Allen’s particular brand of comedy we’ve seen in a while. A welcome return to form after the disastrous Whatever Works.

Tree of Life, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Malick, Terrence
Epic and intimate, haunting and human, compelling and confounding. Truly an event to be experienced, one that invites interpretation and discussion, with an enigmatic filmmaker wearing his heart and mind on his cinematic sleeve for all to see without spelling it out for anyone.

X-Men: First Class (2011) (1st viewing) d. Vaughn, Matthew
Action packed, delightfully rebooted, and perfectly cast, this is the summer movie of the year to beat so far.

GasLand (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Fox, Josh
Utterly terrifying and depressing Oscar-nominated documentary about the hazards of natural gas drilling, contaminating people’s wells to the point that water from the tap actually catches on fire. But the really disgusting part is the wholesale governmental cover-up that continues to this day. A few more people get rich while tens of thousands of people pay the price – go, humans, go.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) (1st viewing) d. Herzog, Werner
Herzog’s documentary about the Chauvet caves of southern France, which feature potentially the oldest cave drawings ever discovered and certainly the best preserved. The only problem is that we literally go back over the same ground so many times that it starts to get a little monotonous. Felt like an hour-long feature stretched out to 90 minutes, and while the 3D effects are intriguing within the cave confines, they feel a little superfluous as well.

2011 totals to date: 264 films, 163 1st time views, 125 horror, 21 cinema


  1. "It’s an okay flick, but not the slamdunk summer monster flick we were hoping for, considering the talent involved."

    Au contraire. It's EXACTLY the kind of monster flick I was expecting from Abrams, who I've been calling a lightweight talent from the get go. A friend of mine hates him because, to hear her say it, Abrams has the best job in the world--coming up with monsters for movies--and the best he can manage is THAT? He's totally not into it. For myself, I wish they'd forgotten about the monster and just made a film about the kids making a movie. THAT'S a film I'd like to see.

  2. Sorry, I somehow missed this comment, Vulv.

    Well, I liked CLOVERFIELD for the most part, and even though that was technically Matt Reeves at the helm, one got the impression that Abrams had his hand on the wheel or at least on Reeves' shoulder. But yeah, the monsters he's come up with thus far have not been ones for the history books. That said, I enjoyed the heck out of MI:3 and STAR TREK, so I was hoping for the same whiz-bang fun. Not so much. I did enjoy the final zombie film during the credits, and yes, that would have been a more compelling film as opposed to the manufactured alien flick we got.