Sunday, July 17, 2011

Films Viewed (June 2011)

The Hangover, Part Two was the kind of film you watch and are saddened by due to its non-existent cast chemistry and high budget pointless seediness. Then you leave the theater and think "that was okay." I am pretty sure there was some sort of hypnotic suggestion in the last five minutes that made me think that. Of course, I bought the ticket, so I can't complain. another foray into "movies my students are going to see this summer" cinema.

X-Men: First Class was X-Men, Mad Men style! Diverting and unafraid to re-write comic book mythos to make for a better story, this prequel got in and did its job of selling popcorn well.

Who is Harry Nilsson (and why is Everybody Talkin' about him?) was a solid documentary about an artist to which I am underexposed. A bit too defensive of his obvious substance abuse issues, but otherwise engaging,

Biutiful was a huge downer, the first time I have seen Barcelona, Spain painted in such a harsh and ugly light. A man on the margins realizes he is dying, trying to finish up his life correctly. Innaritu needs to make a new sort of movie soon.

Super 8 was another slick summer popcorn-selling machine, this time humming along as a straight-up tribute to all things summer and Spielberg. Young people make a movie in 1979 as mysterious events unfold around them.Fleshed out correctly for maximum nostalgic impact with some solid performances.

Midnight in Paris is the highest grossing Woody Allen film of all time. A man falls in love with the Paris if the 1920s, gets a chance to go back in time to visit it. Found myself having many fond "English major" flashbacks as Owen Wilson's character converses with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the rest of the expatriate gang.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has been on the list for a while, and I am glad to check out Cahterine Denuve being young and falling in love, especially in Jacques Demy's jarringly realistic 1960's French musical. From that part of the early summer when I harbored the illusion of spare time and restful evenings.

Submarine was rushed into theaters before people could think too much and would just go see it. On paper, it sounded good. A British "coming of age" film written and directed by a rising British comic writer and actor. In execution, things remained tonally off and minor key, the emphasis placed in the wrong places. Maybe next time around?

The Spirit of the Beehive was a last minute "Oh... rent two get one free?" choice at Video Americain. Very difficult to encapsulate. Stunningly beautiful and hypnotic. A young girl living at the dawn of Franco's reign in Spain is powerfully moved by an encounter with James Whale's Frankenstein. Very much a film from an imaginative child's perspective, if you can remember what is was like to be eight years old.

Warrendale was a Canadian verite documentary set in a school for emotionally disturbed children. Very powerful and very close to the bone. I watched it the morning my films were due back at the video store. Maybe not the best start to my day, but powerful regardless.

Overlord was an odd duck, sitting there about to expire on the Netflix Instant queue, so I went for it. An intermixing of archival footage and new material, both focusing on the movements of a British soldier in the second world war. Came off stuck between a conventional war film and art-house fare.

Quiet City was a happy surprise, showing up off of the Netflix queue due to some shuffling around. A boy and girl meet entirely randomly and accidentally and spend a weekend together. Held in place by the brave and open performance of the leads actors Erin Fisher and Chris Lankenau, Quiet City works wonders with very little. You can watch the entire film on Google Video right now.

Green Lantern 3D was the beginning of my stumbling through the summer movie season, the promise I made myself in May getting harder and harder to keep. Ryan Reynolds becomes a galactic guardian. This is a "B" movie dressed up in "A" special effects, which makes it less fun. I was raised on the fun of the Million Dollar Movie, and this movie cost three hundred million and managed to have half as much fun as the carpet barn monster

The Virgin Suicides was fun to revisit, remaining an auspicious directorial debut for Sophia Coppola. Grown men reminisce over a fabled and doomed group of sisters that lived next door, just out of reach. I think when I first saw it I didn't get the teenage awkwardness was intentional. I guess a decade of being around it has made me fluent in it.

Bad Teacher
was a good premise executed too broadly, standing in a pale shadow to Bridesmaids in terms of summer comedy fare, but still passably funny. A very talented supporting cast definitely kept Cameron Diaz afloat. An aspiring gold-digger gets sidelined into another year of teaching and becomes caught up in a "race to the top" in terms of standardized test scores, all in the hopes of using her cash bonus to purchase breast implants.

Loulou has been floating around my VHS piles for some time. A woman gives up her bourgeoisie existence to pursue a life on the run with charming thug Loulou. The role was a breakout for Gerard Depardieu. I enjoy the works of director Maurice Pialat but they remain hard to find in the US. His films were so far ahead of their time I feel like we are only now catching up with them.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multilpex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 16 features (7 in theaters)