Okay so we’re in the thick of it now. Summer season. When the movies stop caring about prestige or awards or where Roger Ebert’s thumbs are, and they start caring about getting our asses into the seats and giving us a hell of a good time.
So why does it all feel so anticlimactic?
Is it the post Avengers blahs? The pre Dark Knight Rises mehs? Or is it me. Oh Christ, am I getting to old to get excited about a movie simply because it’s trailer looks crazy expensive? Am I no longer the poster boy for your average studio execs target audience? Is the world of Cinema trying to find a subtle way to tell that, maybe, I’m past my prime?
No. No it’s the films that are wrong.
Men in Black 3
The cinematic equivalent of moving a hide-a-bed couch up three flights of stairs only to discover that your girlfriend actually wanted it on the first floor. A whole lot of effort, zero enjoyment, and in the end absolutely nothing has been accomplished.
This one was always going to be an uphill climb for me. The first Men in Black was fun, but it wasn’t particularly riveting. I never saw the second but most agreed it was a forgettable rehash. As for this one, well, the advanced word didn’t do it any favours. With stories of endless reshoots and of stars with trailers almost as large as their feelings of self importance, it didn’t sound like the kind of conditions under which one makes movie magic.
I’ll give credit where credit is due, Will Smith is charming and Tommy Lee Jones has definitely perfected being gruff. And the creature effects in this are tres cool. In fact, for the first fifteen minutes or so this movie gets by on charm quite nicely. But then, unfortunately, a plot emerges. A convoluted, ill concieved “you must go back in time to save the world” plot that feels as slap dash as I’m sure it actually was. And as it plods along and the lack of continuity goes from annoying to insulting, what could have been a passable piece of summer entertainment gradually becomes an ordeal. I really and truly believe that no one making this film was enthusiastic about the project in the least and I have a feeling that everyone’s just happy it’s behind them. Well, that’s one thing we have in common.
Oh for fuck’s sake this movie’s not even in Diary form! Is there even a continuity department in Hollywood anymore? Honestly!
This is a stupid fucking cheapo horror film that isn’t scary, clever or funny. It was produced by the guys that made Paranormal Activity and it is there attempt at making a horror movie that isn’t found footage. I suspect it was originally found footage, which would have made the title make sense, but then they changed the narrative style without changing the name of the movie because that would have required too much effort (I’m sorry to harp on it but no one in the film even references a diary!). I don’t know why this movie came out during the busiest season in Hollywood. I also don’t know why it made it to a theatre when it’s got “Straight to Video on Demand” written all over it. This movie blows farm animals and I’m going to stop writing about it now because thinking about it makes my brain mad.
I’m not sure where I stand on Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s obviously talented but I have this thing about people who love to watch other people squirm. Something about his “I’m going to say something horribly offensive and watch smugly while you look horrified” bit just rubs me the wrong way. But I can’t deny that, as often as he makes me want to taser him, he also makes me laugh.
The Dictator, which is the closest Cohen has come to a traditional comedy (at least as far as his self produced stuff), is a mix of genuinely funny and unnecessarily offensive with a dash of groan inducing gross out scenes for good measure. I am impressed by how far he went with a fairly stock premise (Dictator goes to America, loses his identity and must start from nothing) and yes, I got some big laughs, but the enjoyment is inconsistent for me and the more nasty stuff just rubbed me the wrong way. Call me a prude but I just don’t think rape is funny. It’s just not.
But, like I said, there is some good stuff here. Think of it as a midnight show to be watched with some friends after having a couple more drinks than you were expecting. Have some fun, don’t take what you don’t like too seriously. No pressure really.
Snow White and the Huntsman
And once again I get my ass kicked.
A few months ago, when I saw the delightful Tarsem Singh adaptation of Snow White called Mirror Mirror I talked about Singh’s amazing visual style and how it made it feel like there was a reason to retell an oft told story. I then used the as yet unreleased Snow White and the Huntsman as an example of what I was almost sure would be an unecessary remake. A cash grab from a studio bereft of new ideas.
So yeah, I totally blew that one. This movie is off the fucking chain.
I cannot begin to express how polar opposite this was to what I was expecting. I was expecting a lot of digital effects and a complete lack of a soul a la Wrath of the Titans. What I got was a truly inventive, well paced story that brought back memories of some of my favourite eighties fantasies like Ladyhawk or Excalibur.
The concept was to retell the story of Snow White, but with a darker edge. This it accomplishes ten fold but what was most impressive was that it never felt heavy-handed about it. The filmmakers create a desolate world in which an evil queen/sorceress rules, and they let the story of Snow White exist in this world naturally without cramming awkward references to the original story down our throats. Sure, they keep the key moments of the iconic tale, but they make them feel necessary to the narrative and not like the screenwriter had a list of “things that have to happen in a Snow White movie” next to his Macbook that he was contractually obligated to put in the movie whether they fit or not. In fact, some of the elements take more weight in this film than they have in just about any other incarnation the story’s had. The dwarves, for instance (played by average sized actors thanks to some Hobbit like effects) feel so real, so honest, you could almost believe that the animated dwarves from the original Disney movie were based on these ones and not the opposite.
The actors are all outstanding here. Charlize Theron gives yet another example of her almost supernatural emotional range. Kristen Stewart again shows that, when she’s not in a Twilight movie she can actually act (I can’t say for sure why she can’t act whenever she’s in a Twlight movie but I suspect it has to do with solidarity). Chris Hemsworth gets to, um, okay the character he plays is pretty much just like Thor but still he does it well. And the dwarves…well, it’s kind of impossible to put British legends like Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane on screen and not have about eight levels of awesome existing simultaneously.
I should say that the story isn’t without its speedbumps. The evil queen’s brother, for instance, seems to only exist so that he can make colossal blunders that allow our heroes to escape. But these blemishes are minor in comparison to the genuine magic I felt while watching this. Snow White and the Huntsman is an exciting and energetic film that, as silly as it sounds, made me feel like a kid again. And after a fairly painful week at the movies it was just what the doctor ordered.
Okay, that’s it for now. Next up should be another round up which should include Marley, Piranha 3DD, Moonrise Kingdom and Prometheus.