Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Movie Recap

I've had quite a lapse since raving about Bioshock Infinite in April. In the following few days, I will be doing a series of recaps on how I have spent the summer, aside from writing my novel (the rough draft is complete by the way, and very nearly ready to be ripped apart). Today I will talk about films I've seen, and soon move on to reading material (including Locke & Key) and video games (including Last of Us).


The Great Gatsby was one of the few books that high School English couldn't poison by assigning it. Fitzgerald had a masterful plot and very pleasing prose. Baz Luhrmann's big budget adaptation had an enticingly interesting hook behind it, highlighting the parallel excesses of contemporary hip-hop culture and roaring twenties bacchanalia. It's weird and it's smart, but sadly, the film doesn't completely commit to the idea. At the beginning when everything is drunken partying, we get some interesting mash-ups, but when shit gets grim and serious, he drops the modern music and converts the great american novel into a surprisingly straight forward popcorn movie.

That said, the way the film handles cars deserves special mention because it is spectacular. In the book, they are presented as almost mythological engines of destruction. Like dragons, they tear through an unsuspecting world unleashing mayhem and inspiring awe. The cinematography brings their jarring speed, growling machinery and bright colors are spot on.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

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My nerd cred is about to take a nosedive: I've never seen Wrath of Khan. That said, I think it was a boon for watching Into Darkness, because I was not slavishly comparing the two. From the sound of things, Wrath of Khan is the superior (if not superlative) Star Trek film. Into Darkness lacks the poignant moments of the first rebooted film (the opening sequence was genuinely tragic, and Pike's speech convincing Kirk to join Star Fleet is incredible), but it is a rollicking, visually pleasing adventure. The harder you think about it, the more things feel contrived, but all in all it's not a bad way to finish a bucket of popcorn.

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I defended Iron Man 2, even though it wasn't a very good movie (especially when compared to the first movie's surprisingly pertinent 9/11 morality tale). Iron Man 3 is a much better movie than 2, mainly because it's funny. Not just in terms of the jokes, but in terms of narrative structure. Spoilers follow. We have several different movies worked into one: A standard superhero thriller, a brilliant buddy-comedy between Downey's Tony Stark and an unnamed boy actor who is charmingly manipulative and clever, and finally, an absurdist plot twist that re-vitalizes a xenophobic caricature of a villain into a weird but genuinely funny punchline. The movie takes some risks, but I think they pay off on the whole.


Oh man. This movie was so close to being what Warner Bros. desperately wanted: Superman Begins. But Snyder ultimately misrepresents what Supes stands for. Instead of Superman saving people and being an aspirational paragon for humanity, we have what felt like hours of punching down sky scrapers capitalized by a brutal, thuggish execution. I've since read that Snyder pushed for this ending specifically, and it really does sour the film. Parts of the movie are brilliant. Seeing Clark contend with his budding super powers was moving and brought vulnerability to an impervious character. Reversing Lois Lane's relationship with Superman's secret identity was also a brilliant call (though she had some cringe-worthy dialog). I can't help but wish Nolan were running the show instead of Snyder.

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Guillermo del Toro's love letter to mecha anime and kaiju fans. It delivers exactly what it promises on the box: big robots beating the shit out of big monsters. If that sounds fun to you, go see this movie--I want more like it and it is hurting domestically. If that doesn't sound fun to you, I suggest you re-evaluate your world view and priorities. The script is serviceable but suffers from some cringe-worthy dialog and more plotholes than it ought to, even taking the absurd premise into account. The film is still a hell of a lot of fun, and it is thoroughly refreshing to see a new IP as opposed to another sequel or adaptation.

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A 2010-era horror movie getting above an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes is rarer than a vampiric unicorn, so I had to give this a watch. You have seen this movie dozens of times before. It is a demonic possession/catholic propaganda story in the same vein as The Exorcist, with the "based on a true story / family moving into a new house" frame of Amityville. That said, the scares are very well-done. You see them coming a mile off, (because you've seen this before!) but you still jump with dread when the monsters appear.

My favorite part of the movie is actually the opening, which stands on its own as brilliantly creepy short story. It hints at a more novel movie that has yet to be made; a series of short, horrifying paranormal investigation cases set to the tune of Twin Peaks or Pulp Fiction. That's actually a movie I would love to write myself some day.

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