movie roundup

I have fairly broad tastes in movies, and low tolerance for pretentious Film chatter -- so if you want to read deconstructive readings of rare indie stuff, you can look elsewhere. Because this is the summer movie season -- a time to watch things explode, bad guys suffer, and cute girls get the boy of their dreams -- all while soaking in some over-chilled AC and maybe splurging on some popcorn.
  • Poseidon: I thoroughly enjoyed this remake: great dangerous disaster (worth seeing on the big screen), the adorable Josh Lucas (who is actually surprisingly smart -- I saw him on an interview show when Stealth came out and was quite impressed), and best of all, the gay guy doesn't die. You know how it is -- you look at a bunch of characters at the beginning of an disaster/horror/thriller movie and you know a couple of them are going to be offed before it's all over. And usually, unfortunately, it's the person of color or some other minority identity who gets grabbed by the alien first. But that's not (entirely) true this time...
  • X-Men: The Last Stand: This was a big disappointment. The change of director (and whatever accompanying decisions came before or after that) has taken this film in a very different direction than the first two, which were exceptional in the comic book adventure genre for really having substantial characters and social/symbolic content. The mutants are my people, after all, and in someone else's hands the fight against a government who wants to "cure" them would have been inspiring and exciting. Instead we get an film that's all action and special effects, no meaningful dialogue or character development -- really, the characters are anti-developed, watered down to simple cardboard caricatures -- a much more typical, and therefore boring, comic book style. And it's incredibly misogynistic (whereas the first two films, and the original comics, are not): over and over, the sexuality of female mutants is sensationalized and made problematic. Sure, Rogue's mutation means she can't touch other people -- that's grounds for making her a really interesting character, and giving her relationships plenty of tension, which is what good films use. Instead, she's turned into a wishy-washy sellout because she wants her boy -- which the film doesn't support as a strong choice, but rather portrays as an inevitable weakness of her girlish identity. Jean Grey's Phoenix split identity as Phoenix is the devouring femme fatale whose sexuality is irresistable and deadly -- and again, this could make her interesting, or at least give Famke Janssen something to do. But no, that's not the route they chose. And Mystique's fate? Oh please. Exploitation, exposure -- a franchise exhausted of its good stuff.
  • District B-13: Built to show off the talents of parkour inventor David Belle, this was filled with super-amazing athletic feats and the sharp French style of Luc Besson, who co-wrote and co-produced the film. I saw it the day after X3 and the contrast couldn't have been sharper -- here was a movie with amazing action (but very few computerized effects -- these guys are really jumping off roofs) but also a moral code. You want your good guys to be pursuing justice, to be against corruption -- and in X3 the mutants inexplicably wind up supporting the government? Here the bad buys are deliciously bad (both the puffed up bureaucrats and the ganglord) and the good guys kick ass.
  • The Proposition : Powerful, beautiful, but very, very brutal. I'm glad I saw it, and I think it's a good film -- but I felt worn out and shaken by the end of it. Of course, the presence of Emily Watson's sweet round angelic face is usually a sign that incredible brutality will soon occur. Her performance is fantastic, and she's one of the few modern actresses who can wear period costume and look real about it (no prancy Emma Thompson here). The harshness of the Australian colonial frontier is one of the film's central topics-- the other has to do with torn loyalties. The problem, however, is that the hero's choices aren't ever really explained or justified. If we're meant to accept him as a hero, to believe that he's changed or progressed in some way, there ought to be something more -- and for me, to have experienced the violence in this film, I wanted at least to have gotten more of a moral or psychological payoff.
  • The Break-Up: I like romantic comedies, I like Jennifer Aniston, and from the previews I'd seen of this film, I expected it to be something quite different than it turned out to be. It's not quite a comedy -- but it's not quite a drama, either. I wouldn't say that it's subverting the romantic comedy formula exactly -- although there's a point in the movie, about 30 minutes before the end, where it could have gone in a much more conventional direction and possibly have been more satisfying. There were moments of dialogue that ring with truth -- but then a lot of stuff that seemed to be drifting along in absurdly bleak directions that didn't seem either realistic or humorous. I saw it basically as an update to Swingers -- as in, where would these guys be a few years later. But it needed a tighter structure or editing or something to really pull it off.
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift: Awesome. On the next hot Sunday afternoon, get into a movie theater and be blown away with adrenaline, speed, and cool Japanese teen styles. I liked the first 2 FF movies but this one really rocked. Totally fun, and full of everything you could want in a big-screen summer movie: sexy girls, bad boys, fast cars... and the racing scenes never, ever got old.
(Told ya I'm pretty lowbrow in my movie preferences. It's the summer, after all.)