I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again... there are no longer sufficient hours in the day or days in the week for me to sit down and give full reviews to the movies and plays I attend. But it’s equally difficult to simply up and quit after so many years of doing just that. And I’ve let no less than five theatrical releases pile up, and some of you may still at least want to know what I thought about them. So... capsule form only, and I can’t promise that will change any time soon. Sorry.
SPIDER-MAN--HOMECOMING: I’m actually glad that they found a way to give us the original concept of Spidey as a high-schooler and have him learn his lessons in responsibility the hard way... but without giving us the whole origin story and the death of Uncle Ben yet the umpty-hundredth time again. Attention to the characters and understanding of their motivations runs across the board and holds up every bit as well as the action/effects sequences we’ve come to expect from this universe. There’s Peter’s reality check (believe it or not, even superheroes might contact the FBI before flying into action themselves); Iron Man’s “tough love” and perhaps the best rendition of a Spidey villain since Doc Ock way back in Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 2 in the form of the Vulture. Who isn’t going to sympathize with Michael Keaton’s hard-working family man when his very livelihood is simply scooped up matter-of-fact by “higher-ups” who offer such sage advice as “Maybe next time, don’t over-extend yourself?” Everyone’s got something to learn here, and it’s not all about stuff blowin’ up real good. But you get that, too, of course. Good fun all around.
THE LITTLE HOURS: I initially passed on the remake of THE BEGUILED in favor of THE LITTLE HOURS when I saw the trailer and the glowing reviews for the latter. Well, what do you know--I wound up with a story about a fugitive man (Dave Franco) winding up in a cloister of women and profoundly affecting their lives all the same! I could go on with the comparison, but this adaptation of Boccaccio is the one that plays it for laughs. And gets them. Repeatedly. Yes, it’s “naughty nuns” and bawdy fun over a short and sweet ninety minutes; but while shock value is certainly there, it’s not simply there for its own sake. Not one of the nuns at the center of the story (Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micuci, and top-billed Alison Brie; who between this and GLOW is making a terrific impact this year alone) seems to be there of her own volition to begin with, and even Father John C. Reilly is going through the motions. The ad campaign treats the film’s condemnation by the Catholic League as a badge of honor (of course); but this is less a skewering of any particular faith than a simple confession (sorry) that many among us will never be able to adhere to the demands of other’s lifestyles and rules, be they rooted in religion or nobility. Add to that the fact that I couldn’t stop laughing throughout, and there you go.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: As soon as I saw the first trailer in which Andy Serkis faced off with Woody Harrelson, I pegged this as the best film of the year in advance. Of course I was being facetious... but only slightly. And assuming (one can hope, anyway) that this really does stand as the finale of a new trilogy, then the APES revival can stand proud as one of the most successful and thrilling franchise renewals ever. Yes, it’s special effects from beginning to end, but it doesn’t play at all as an effects film... Serkis and company are full-fledged and fully-performed characters and deserve consideration for honors comparable to the ‘human’ cast (yes, Harrelson in particular). WAR invokes profound and popular literature and mythology alike without ever allowing itself to be dictated to by such. For example, imagine a take on THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in which Moses tells the Israelites to go on without him because he wants to go back and kill Pharaoh on his own... only to find himself being transformed into a New Testament character whether he likes it or not. So... it’s a biblical epic without being a straightforward Bible story. Meanwhile, it’s also APOCALYPSE NOW... oh, and it’s simultaneously THE WIZARD OF OZ once you identify “Bad Ape” as the Cowardly Lion (much-needed comic relief to go with the frequently grim story, but a fine source of pathos as well). The rest immediately falls into place, and no, I’m not joking. But most of all, it is very much a PLANET OF THE APES film that understands and respects the entire original series (yes, even the much-maligned BATTLE) even as it re-invents its mythos and updates its effects. This stands as a profound success on a grand scale.
As in not off. If you want to post about mainstream flicks, this is the forum.
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