September 2, 2012 1 Comment
MOVIES SEEN IN AUGUST 2012
A Fish Called Wanda
A Dangerous Method
The Raid: Redemption
The Shark Is Still Working
The Expendables 2
The Wild Bunch
The Day After
STATS (for month / for year)
Seen theatrically: 2 / 30
Seen at home: 8 / 83
New films: 8 / 76
Rewatches: 2 / 37
Best Movie: ParaNorman (review)
The term “instant classic” gets bandied about far too often on films that don’t deserve it, but ParaNorman is more than worthy of the label. This is a film that’s going to get played every Halloween by kids who want a little bit of fright to call their own, and by adults who want to remember what that felt like. I can’t wait to own it myself. And beyond being a well-done fright-fest, it deftly develops and explores its themes without ever getting bogged down in them.
Honorable Mention: A Dangerous Method
Worst Movie: Piranha DD
I should have realized a film with that kind of title and a pair of breasts emblazoned on its cover was going to be up to no good. I just hoped it would be in enough on the joke to be entertaining in a deliberately bad way. And this film couldn’t even pull that off. There’s nothing more painful than watching a film that thinks it’s clever when it really isn’t. At least the DD in the title was accurate, but honestly, I can get that on the internet for free and some smart Googling.
Dishonorable Mention: None
Biggest Surprise: The Raid: Redemption
I wasn’t surprised by how good the action was, how each fight seemed to have its own sense of style and place, adapting to its place in the overall structure of the film. I wasn’t surprised by the effective direction, the simple shorthand of ever-higher room numbers elegantly cluing us in as to how far up the building we’d gone. No, the surprise here was how genuinely affecting the story was, the literal redemption of the title. And how effective that story is conveyed by actors speaking in a foreign language. The story heightens the action, and the action underscores the story. That’s rare in this kind of film.
Honorable Mention: ParaNorman
Biggest Disappointment: The Expendables 2
And I went in with incredibly tempered expectations, having not been a big fan of the first film. But this second outing is far too satisfied to just sit back and toss in-jokes at the audience instead of really making us care about the characters. The film also commits the cardinal sin of blowing its wad with a spectacular opening sequence that is everything I expected the film to be, but which leaves it absolutely no place to go afterward.
Dishonorable Mention: Detention
August was a pretty light month movie-wise, a combination of a lackluster slate of releases and me spending a good chunk of the month catching up on Once Upon a Time. I tend to go through phases with my movie watching, alternating between months like July where I’m glued to a screen and months like August where the drive just isn’t there. Hopefully September will see an improvement.
A Dangerous Method is a stunningly acted piece of work whose only drawback is that it feels a little episodic and less than the sum of its parts. Keira Knightley in particular gives a brave, emotionally bare performance that must have been a harrowing experience as an actress.
I finally crossed The Wild Bunch off the List of Shame, and I’m glad I did. It’s almost a more pessimistic version of The Magnificent Seven, dealing with the same themes of a dying way of life, but without the hopeful optimism of the farmers winning in the end. In The Wild Bunch, nobody really wins. They just hang on to the way things used to be as long as they can, because it’s all they know.
I’d heard a lot of praise for the frenetic style of Detention, but for me, it’s purely style in the service of itself. It’s not nearly as deep or clever as it thinks it is, and so its visual assault feels hollow. I’m all for pushing boundaries, but as long as its towards a larger goal than reminding us how much of the 1990s the director remembers.
The Day After was a total whim of a watch, stumbled upon on YouTube and used to kill a few hours on a lazy morning. Its doomsday scenario doesn’t seem as plausible now as it did then, so it’s of more interest now as a time capsule of the very real fears of the time than as a dramatic film. It’s not helped by the overly melodramatic build-up to the nukes flying, indulging in every bad TV movie trope the 80s had to offer. I was impressed though with how grimly bleak it lets itself get. There’s no hope here at all, no possible rescue just over the horizon, just an apocalypse refreshingly free of zombies.
September’s a weird month as far as movies go, not quite summer, not quite fall, so there’s an odd mix of prestige and piffle. Looper certainly looks intriguing, if only to see how Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off his Bruce Willis impersonation (it does actually look like a fun, twisty sci-fi thriller). And despite Adam Sandler’s presence, I’ve been slowly won over by the trailers for Hotel Transylvania. At any rate, it’s got to be a better Halloween romp than Tim Burton finally pulling an Ouroboros on himself and remaking his short film Frankenweenie, which awaits us in October. It’ll also be interesting to see if Dredd can overcome its remarkable similarities to The Raid: Redemption and finally do justice to the character. Of course, all of this is contingent on me being able to tear myself away from the month’s Blu-ray releases. The Avengers, Titanic, and Indiana Jones? Why leave the house? Well, except to go buy them, obviously.