Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

MAGIC MIKE (2012)
Well, it certainly delivers as a movie about men stripping. And it also delivers as another of Soderbergh's fascinations with both how industries work and how they represent the larger picture of the American economy. It's both a beefcake-filled stripper pic that feels remarkably not exploitative (though hot... very hot) and a commentary on How We Live Now. Naturalistic acting, beautifully shot, and Matthew McConaughey--who has been on fire the last couple of years--is mesmerizing. The only complaint I really have is that I feel like it follows the expected beats of a rise-and-fall picture in a way that's not quite organic and a little too structure-dictated. On the other hand, the running time doesn't beat you to death. ***1/2

THE EXPLOSIVE GENERATION (1961)
Hilariously earnest teen picture about a bunch of kids who stage a protest in order to keep their favorite teacher (a hilariously earnest William Shatner) from being fired after agreeing to a frank discussion on sex. The issue here is free speech and whether kids are allowed to have it in schools, but mainly it's just a lot of weird bongo music and tap dancing around the ideas at play. For all the talk about the importance of frank discussion, people use a lot of code words and vagaries. Kind of fun to see Captain Kirk arguing about his job with the school's principal, Edward Platt (the Chief from Get Smart) about discussing sex with students such as Patty McCormack and a quite young Beau Bridges. Even Stafford Repp, Chief O'Hara from Batman, appears as... a policeman! Ha! Seriously, though, it's quite tedious. **

STAYING COOL (2013)
GASP! (2013)
PANDA-MONIUM (2013)
Three more wonderful Mickey Mouse shorts. **** each.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012)
I was surprised by this one. As you know, I'll watch anything animated simply because I love the medium, and the animation here (particularly in regards to lighting and background) was beautiful. But I was surprised at how much I got wrapped up in the story and the characters. Yes, it's another young-white-guy-doesn't-believe-in-himself-but-then-does story, but I liked the fantasy worlds it creates and the rules it sets for itself and actually manages to follow. Well-paced, too, and the characterizations, particularly of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, were clever. This is the kind of fantasy I like, and despite the overall obviousness of the story, I was wrapped up in it. It didn't take long to win me, and it didn't let me go. ****

THE LIFEGUARD (2013)
I think it's very interesting how we're finally seeing more movies now (Spring Breakers, Little Birds) that are about the ennui of everyday life from a female perspective. For a long time, it's seemed like an almost-celebrated thing in modern American films for a young man to drop out of society and go back home until he's ready to take on the world again (or completely drop out in the most selfish and irresponsible of ways and die by his own stupidity, like that weirdly-admired fuckwit in Into the Wild). It's more challenging, for me, to see it from the female perspective, since we seem to expect women in movies to either have it all together or to only be struggling with the "needs" of her gender (you know, being really good at your job but having it mean nothing because you don't have a man to serve or children to subsume your personality for). Women aren't always allowed to be weak or authentic or often well-rounded in American movies, and this one pulled me in because it just seemed so honest. I can relate on certain levels, because of my current emotional/mental situation. I get it: there's a huge gulf between life as it is and life as we expect it to be, and you can lose years of your life focusing on the unhappiness of it. Here, Kristen Bell plays a journalist who leaves her job and moves back home and takes up her old job of being a lifeguard at a local pool. She starts hanging out with her old friends, listlessly smoking weed, and having sex with a teenager, and generally getting herself more and more lost. The film sees the character with both sympathy and criticism, observing as she finds her way back to her adult self without damning or celebrating her. ****

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

My daughter has been watching (too much of) the Disney Channel, so I got to see Staying Cool myself! nice.