10 August 2012

Five more reviews

18.  Superman:  It says a lot that the film opens with shots of a comic book narrated by a little boy.  The whole story feels like something thought up by a small child.  The characters are all caricatures of real people, and the thing seems almost like slapstick at times.  Superman is already kind of a lame character, but here he has no personality at all, except some nonsense about not telling lies.  In brief, no development, no plot, just a bunch of short happenings in temporal succession.  And since when does spinning the earth backwards roll back time? (2)

19.  The Prestige:  Two apprentice magicians become enemies after one accidentally drowns the other's wife.  Their feud continues for years and ends up focusing on who can better perform a teleporting stunt.  Christopher Nolan directs.  You see a few of his characteristic shots here (the slow overhead zoom/approach shot, for instance), but it's not as coherent as Inception or the Batman trilogy.  The story is told in three layers simultaneously: one man reads the other's diary in prison, a diary which recounts the process of translating the other's diary.  It's a neat narrative device, but isn't used to great effect except as an excuse for flashback drama.  Anyway, despite some faults, including a weird use of Nikola Tesla, it's enjoyable. (3)

20.  Easy Rider: Woah.  A hippie bike trip from 1969.  Two friends who have successfully carried out some sort of drug sale near the Mexican border drive across the southwest so they can make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  It's unexpected and quite good.  The acid trip at the end is pretty interesting. (4)

21.  Saving Private Ryan:  Spielberg's D-Day movie starts at Omaha beach and depicts a quest to find and recover the last remaining of four sons and send him home.  Gritty, but not in a Platoon (2) sort of way, or an All Quiet on the Western Front (3) way.  It has the fraternal, humane air of Band of Brothers (4), which Spielberg later produced for HBO.  Evidently Spielberg still thinks there are stories worth telling out of civic piety, for the edification and education of the citizenry.  It's a little sentimental at times, but I don't mind.  (4)

22.  Breaking Away:  Very seldom will you see a movie in which a 19-year-old American kid sings Verdi while riding down the street on his bike.  Set in Bloomington, IN, Breaking Away is a mix of I Vitelloni (the protagonist's cat is named Fellini), a town-gown relations study, and a sports movie.  I loved it.  (4)