Summer movie ketchup

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Remo D
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Summer movie ketchup

Post by Remo D » Sun Jun 08, 2008 1:03 pm

Greetings--

I've been going through the "summer movie" mill with my family, so I'd better get the lead out--heck, it may already be too late to check one of these out!

IRON MAN: Easily the best of the summer batch to date--one of those rare superhero movies where the characters and performances are every bit as--perhaps even more--important than the action and special effects (which, of course, are stellar). I haven't seen every Robert Downey Jr. film out there, but I've seen enough to consider him one of the very best actors we have working today--he stole two recent films in which he did NOT receive top billing (A SCANNER DARKLY and ZODIAC, to be specific), and he doesn't choke when all eyes ARE on him, either. His portrayal of Tony Stark is easily the most engaging I've seen when it comes to cinematic superhero secret identities--brimming with nervous energy and constant patter and shooting from the hip with impulsive decisions as opposed to the usual tormented self-reflection. "Yeah, maybe I'd better change my way of thinking--okay, that's done, here's what we're going to do next--let's get on with it!" Great support from Gwyneth Paltrow and one of the best turns from a nearly unrecognizable Jeff Bridges (even though we DO get the obligatory scene where the spunky heroine downloads the last bit of incriminating evidence JUST as the bad guy walks through the door--I think that scene needs to be given a rest, no?). Great fun all around, and you don't need me to tell you more at this point.

SPEED RACER: They did exactly what they said they were going to do--they did a live-action feature that incorporated all of the beloved elements of the anime classic. The racing scenes themselves are visionary, stunning and worthy of the big screen. The casting is spot-on for what it's worth (John Goodman is inspired and excellent as Pops, but why waste Susan Sarandon in the nothing-est of nothing roles as Mom?). Yep, even the stylings are there when Spritle and Chim-Chim launch themselves into fantasy battle with surreal backdrops... there's almost nothing in this movie that didn't come out of sincere respect for its inspiration. Except SPEED RACER, the animated series, didn't take one story and drag it out for nearly two-and-a-half hours. Get it? Get it? One goofy fight scene is fine, but when they start ANOTHER one less than ten minutes later? And did anybody TRULY expect that the core audience of SPEED RACER fandom alone could turn this into a $300 million box office sensation? Oh, they'll find a treasure trove of trivia and references, but who ELSE is going to want to see this? Not too many people, apparently--this one's going down in the history books as one of the greatest cinematic disasters of all time. If it's something you felt you SHOULD see as a fan, then you probably should, because "when it is good, etc. etc." But you'd better hurry.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA--PRINCE CASPIAN: As I grew up with the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, I felt qualified to say that the movie adaptation of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE did the book proud. And PRINCE CASPIAN is an equally valid interpretation of its own source novel. Here's the thing--at no time did I believe that PRINCE CASPIAN (the book) was anywhere near as good as THE LION, ETC. Frankly, I thought it was a slow-moving, less-than-thrilling sequel (sorry, C.S.) with an anti-climactic finish. So the movie of the sequel wouldn't be likely to be as good as the movie of the original, either. But the filmmakers knew what they were doing all the same--they knew how to streamline the story, give it extra punch where needed--and yes, to give it an "exciting" ending (the whole point of the final duel in the book was to AVOID a protracted skirmish, but they find a way to give it to us anyway--because it's a MOVIE, okay?). People won't get behind this one as much as they did the first, because the first was completely obvious in its Christian storytelling imagery. My old buddy Mick LaSalle even went so far as to suggest that the theological element was completely missing from CASPIAN. Not true--it's there every bit as much as it was in the book. Here's the thing--LION gave us the familiar Christ story (self-sacrifice, atonement, resurrection)--but CASPIAN is more like the Acts of the Apostles--where people must rely on their OWN faith and resources even when the Lion doesn't magically appear and work miracles at the drop of a hat (you guessed it--people complain that Aslan isn't in this one enough, but there's a REASON for that, and it comes straight from the book). That said, the film remains more than sufficiently entertaining, and Eddie Izzard is a terrific addition as Reepicheep the Mouse. It's a difficult sequel, but it's a worthy sequel, and I remain optimistic about VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. But what I REALLY want is for them to get to THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW and THE LAST BATTLE!

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL: Great fun, even if we've seen it all before. There will be NO disparaging comments about the age of Harrison Ford--he plays his character at the age he should be in this story and pulls it off completely appropriately. The sci-fi trimmings are welcome and original (for the series, anyway--you'll have no trouble recognizing a certain OTHER Spielberg film before it's all over), the cast is great fun to hang out with (welcome back, Marion!), there's at least one terrific laugh ("Grab the rope!") and, of course, the signature "icky-creature" swarm (we've done snakes, we've done rats, what else can we do?). Of course, you can't recapture the full thrill of discovering RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for the first time. And if you insist on that, well, you're setting too high a standard. If you're lucky, you'll have a young friend or family member who never got to see Indy on the big screen, right? Go and have fun--that's all anybody's asking.
My dog's breath smells like peanut butter...

...and I don't even have a dog!


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Latte Thunder
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Post by Latte Thunder » Sun Jun 08, 2008 7:12 pm

Here's how out of touch I am with what's happening theatrically, right now. Of those movies, I have seen Iron Man and I liked it a lot.

Speed Racer? Wasn't really interested to begin with. The Wachowski's have a lot of ass kissing to do if they expect to win me over after those Matrix sequels. At the same time, I'm fascinated by colossal Hollywood flops. It's going to be interesting to see how they handle the DVD release. In cases like Ishtar or Inchon they quietly slipped the videos into the rental market, if they even bothered to do that. The mission was to pretend that they never happened and from what I'm told, Speed Racer has had that same sort of hostile box office reaction, or at least, one of the purest indifference. All along I wondered who would be interested in a Speed Racer movie and it looks like I was right to assume that no matter how flashy they made, it still wouldn't draw people in. Honestly, who under 30 years old remembers Speed Racer? It was considered high camp even when I was 18 and younger. I get what the Wachowskis are up to, though. They have a hang up on introducing Japanese film fads to the west but those manga to live action adaptations rarely work in their native country, too. So... I don't know.

Narnia, meh. My dad read us the books when were little kids and I loved them but I am beyond burned out on fantasy special effects epics. They are the ultimate template movie. Each one seems to follow the same road map that the Lord of the Rings movies used, pack in as much CGI as possible, feature a similarly sweeping Howard Shorian score and end with a massive battle that looks like all the rest. Where's the draw anymore? I can't even believe that they still bother to make them or that anyone even turns out to them. Given the price of gas these days, the price of tickets even at a matinee plus concessions, it'll probably be cheaper to buy your own air conditioner rather than go to the movies just to get out of heat (and was it ever hot today...)

Indy? Maybe I'll see it. I have friends who ground their teeth to nubs in anticipation, bought tickets as soon as they were available and waited in line many hours before the movie because they were so excited and since the release haven't been able to shut about how awful they thought it was. The vitriol is almost a physical commodity.
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