31 May 2013

A Few Quick-Fire Movie Reviews

1.  The Tree of Life:  A montage of highly stylized memories of childhood in Waco, Texas, recounted as a way of dealing with the problem of evil.  The trailer reflects perfectly what this movie is.  If you like the trailer, see the movie. It's difficult to class this movie, or to say anything about it without launching into a full-scale analysis.  It has the soul of Tarkovsky, and his profundity, though without the brilliant dialogue.  (5)

2.  Terminator: Salvation:  This fourth installment in the Terminator series takes us to the future for the first time.  John Connor is trying to save his father, Kyle Reese, from Skynet (the military computer that has destroyed most of the world).  Sam Worthington plays a resurrected murderer struggling to come to terms with his humanity in the face of his past.  Christian Bale as Connor is kind of lame, but Worthington's character is great.  Self-sacrifice, redemption, and humanity.  (4)

3.  Watchmen:  This is the darkest superhero movie I've seen, without a doubt.  Even in the Nolan trilogy, Batman is only barely tainted by the degradation of his times.  Here we see heroes deliberately atomizing Vietnamese civilians, opening fire on crowds of protesters, etc.  Narrated by Jackie Earle Haley (the little guy from Breaking Away!), who does an amazing job as Rorschach.  You will feel unclean when you're done with it.  It says a lot, though.  (3.5)

4.  Avatar:  Let me confess: I greatly enjoyed this movie.  I've seen it three times, now, and what gets me are two things, mainly.  First, that the Sam Worthington character is paralyzed below the waist.  I like that it was written that way, and I think about 1/3 of the genuine interest of the story derives from his disability.  The other main draw is Sigourney Weaver, who has a personality.  The whole becoming-one-of-the-people, tapping-into-the-world-spirit, achieving-natural-maturity complex doesn't do much for me.  What fun, though! (4)

5.  Somersault: After realizing that Sam Worthington was the best part of two movies I enjoyed a great deal, I looked him up, and found that his first critical success was this Australian movie from 2004.  In it, a teenage girl runs away from home to a ski town and enters into an ambiguous relationship with a local boy, played by Worthington.  The girl, Heidi, strategically uses her ability to connect with people to scrape by, being overly friendly with females and sleeping with males.  She is terrified and miserable.  Worthington does a great job opposite, playing a depressive farm boy who is incapable of connecting with anyone emotionally and seems, as a result, to suspect that he is homosexual.  The movie is saturated with understated emotional agony characteristic of early adulthood.  Several thoroughly un-erotic sex scenes throughout.  Good acting, good writing, good story.  (4)

6.  Irma Vep:  A Chinese actress is brought in for a French remake of a classic silent film.  The director is insane, the production is poorly managed, the costume designer makes awkward sexual advances on her.  Spoof of French cinematic culture with an awesome final scene. (3)

7.  Oblivion:  I wish I could forget this movie faster.  It's not even worth the words necessary to summarize it.  Clichéd, slow, stupid movie. (1)

8.  Star Trek: Into Darkness:  I was bothered by the large number of collateral deaths in this movie, almost all of which are treated as inconsequential in the face of a threat to the life of James Tiberius Kirk and his friends.  Still, fun, and Benedict Cumberbatch did well as expected.  (3)

9.  12 Monkeys:  Terry Gilliam movie.  Bruce Willis is a criminal in the future, given a chance for pardon if he goes on missions to the past to try and find the mysterious source of the deadly virus that wiped out almost all of humanity.  Slow, kind of stupid, Brad Pitt co-stars. (2)

10.  Last Holiday:  Alec Guinness is a farm equipment salesman who receives bad news from his doctor: he has a fatal disease and will drop dead within two or three months.  He decides to liquidate all his assets and spend his last days in a resort hotel.  There he meets a lot of snooty rich people, becomes entangled in their problems, flatly rejects all nonsense, and becomes (for a short while) universally adored.  This movie would be fittingly paired with Ikiru (5).  They have similar themes and are yet very different. (4)

11.  Smiley's People:  This is a mini-series adaptation of the spy novel by John Le Carre.  Worth watching simply for the sake of Alec Guinness as George Smiley.  Wonderful!  (3)

12.  Pom Poko:  A Studio Ghibli film, chronicling the struggle of a population of raccoon dogs in suburban Tokyo to prevent the development of a new residential complex in the middle of their shrinking forest territory.  Clever, funny, and sad.  The film covers a large amount of ground.  Brilliantly executed. (4)