Sunday, July 29, 2012

Prometheus




Ridley Scott's Prometheus is not a badly constructed film by any means, but as many have said it is disappointing and confusing. However, my main problem is that this supposed prequel to Scott's masterful Alien from 1979 is a dishonest motion picture. This story of an early corporate-sponsored space expedition manned by vain scientists and surly, cynical crew members includes a duplicitous artificial person (Michael Fassbender), a spunky female  (Noomi Rapace), and an oily corporate sleazebag (Charlize Theron), versions of whom appeared in either Alien or Aliens. To suggest that central characters from the first two films in the Alien series had spiritual predecessors is not just intellectually and creatively dishonest, it's lazy. The premise that titans came to the earth and populated the planet with lesser varieties of themselves is at first intriguing but ultimately annoying because the horrifically gruesome path to discover why these bald giants did so leads nowhere.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

 


Wes Anderson's beautifully captivating Moonrise Kingdom is the most accessible of the enigmatic auteur's recent films. I have found Anderson's movies unquestionably imaginative but disconcertingly clever, as well. That is to say, they are almost too rich -- to be admired rather than enjoyed. Moonrise is marvelously crafted, and Anderson's genius for tableaux is on full display. He composes scenes like paintings -- portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. Sumptuous. Into those frames he has placed two disaffected and damaged 12-year-old pen pals in New England in the 1960's -- Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) -- who fall in love and take off together on a wilderness expedition with camping gear, portable record player, overdue library books and pet kitty in tow. Parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) police (Bruce Willis) and khaki scouts (Edward Norton) set off in pursuit. The ensemble of Hollywood A-listers is marvelous but the two young actors Gilman and Hayward are a dream, their faces (which often fill the screen) are stoney, as if drained of feeling, but still, oddly, expressive -- maybe therein lies their magnetism. These are children in search of a life that's free of pain, both the kind they suffer and the kind they inflict. I can't remember the last time a film has so brilliantly transformed the familiar and invested it with new meaning. I'll not hear "I'm on you side" the same way ever again. Moonrise Kingdom is not an especially tender film but it is loving.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises





Christopher Nolan's brilliant final episode in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is absolutely dreadful in that the film sends fear swirling about the viewer's head like the ominous creatures that inspired the legendary hooded hero. Bruce Wayne / The Batman (Christian Bale) was left bent and battered at the end of 2008's The Dark Knight in which he battled the maniacal Joker (Heath Ledger) and Scarecrow (Ciillian Murphy). The arrival in Gotham of a vengeful, masked terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy), like Bruce a member of the secret order League of Shadows, draws Wayne out of his self-imposed seclusion to defend his beloved city but not without making even greater and more painful personal sacrifices. The movie has an abundance of  Nolan's signature complex action sequences but also a generous number of tender moments. Bale, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Bruce Wayne's trusted adviser Fox and Michael Caine as Wayne's devoted Alfred give wonderful performances but Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie cop Blake and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as wealthy and mysterious Miranda were impeccable. Nolan's final chapter in this series is dark, yes, but also enormously intelligent and inspiring. It's terrific.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man


Marc Webb's energizing The Amazing Spider-Man is not a complete reimagining of the familiar tale of the orphaned loner who is transformed into a human arachnid but it is a niftily imaginative comic book venture nonetheless with more mature undertones. Webb and The Social Network's Andrew Garfield, as amiable a young actor as any currently on the screen, imbue Peter Parker with a kind of woundedness that moves the character into a different realm, one more commonly explored in D.C. comics, IMO. In this film version, Parker / Spider-Man is not just a costumed avenger in search of the petty robber who gunned down his beloved Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). He's a young man in search of a meaningful paternal connection to replace the one he lost when his father (Campbell Scott) and mother (Embeth Davidtz) left mysteriously when he was 5 and lost again when his uncle was killed. The 17-year-old boy in the red and blue unitard is on the verge of becoming a man but he's not really sure how to do that. He needs and wants help but the father-figures in his life keep dying or mutating into slithering lizard men (Rhys Ifans). The reliable Emma Stone is Parker's love interest as the oddly asynchronous Gwen Stacy, whose father (Dennis Leary) is a police commander on the hunt for the masked vigilante. One of the most winning scenes in the film is a dinner table verbal battle between Gwen's new boyfriend and her abrasive but loving father. It's nicely done. Still, Webb, known mainly for his music video, stages a half-dozen spectacular fight scenes and his aerial work is far superior to anything in the previous Spidey outings. They are truly Amazing. Enjoy.

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