Thursday, July 13, 2017

Film Week

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

Look, the Sam Raimi movies are *my* Spidey movies, hearkening as much as they do to the spirit of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko years. And though a lot of the Lee/Romita spirit is in here, where this movie really excels is in modernizing that spirit in a way that keeps the character fresh for his second reboot of the past decade. (In a way, you could also say that it tempers some of that Bendis/Bagley edginess with the sincerity of the character from the '60s.) At times, the movie really captures the spirit of the original Iron Man as far as feeling not only new (it's a nice shot in the arm for the MCU), but also in having a character who revels in the things he can do and who is desperate to prove he can do good things with them. This is the old overwhelmed-but-well-meaning Spider-Man that I remember from the comics, and even though I'll always just want Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4, I really enjoyed this one a lot more than I expected to. Tom Holland is an enthusiastic and likable Spidey, and Michael Keaton is a particularly nuanced version of the Vulture. In a lot of ways, it's Keaton's movie. I liked the way the movie combined pieces of the old mythos with Ultimate Spider-Man, in effect giving us new versions of the original characters, which provides a fresh, modern take (although I don't know why they turned Ganke into Ned instead of just letting him be Ganke), and it's especially nice to see Peter Parker living in an non-gentrified Queens. As for Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, I hear a lot of complaints that she's not the same as the comics, but it's 2017 and that complaint is freaking dumb. The high school kid who lives with his frail, elderly aunt is a post-World War II trope that doesn't work. Love the ending, too. Everything is such a new take on Spider-Man that I found it positively exciting. I'm rambling. Anyway, ****

THE VOID (2016)
Stylish, weird thriller about a group of people stuck in a nearly-abandoned small town hospital, surrounded by weird cultists. I don't want to describe it any more than that, because so much depends on mood and surprise. But if you dig Lovecraft, seriously check it out. ****

LOVE BY THE 10th DATE (2017)
So, the reason I watch Lifetime movies so often, besides the fun-dumb factor, is that I don't get a lot of chances to see actresses I like in prominent roles, particularly actresses of color. So I watched this movie starring Meagan Good as a graphic designer who gets a chance to work on an article about how long it takes for a man to realize he's in a relationship. And the movie also focuses on the relationships of her coworkers, played by Kellee Stewart, Kelly Rowland and Keri Hilson. Kudos for subverting the biphobia, but the take on open marriages was a little overdramatic, and the ending was... weird and didn't make sense to me, really. Otherwise, the whole thing is pretty predictable and cheesy. Good was good, though, and it avoids or subverts enough narrative traps. **1/2

BEACHES (2017)
The original wasn't good, either, and this is the breezy, Cliff's Notes version of that movie. Nia Long and Idina Menzel are pretty good in the roles originated by Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler, respectively, and of course it's always nice to hear Idina sing, but the whole thing is ephemeral and is gone from the memory the second it's over. I love Nia Long, though. Always have. **

BOY (1969)
Nagisa Oshima directed this movie about a boy in Japan who is being used by his father to run scams, pretending to get hit by cars in order to extort money from strangers. The family--his abusive, lazy father, his reluctant stepmother, and his innocent baby brother--as seen through his eyes in a sort of confused perspective, as the boy begins to realize their lives are not normal and he is hurting innocent people. Oshima's films are always so interesting, capturing the reality of post-World War II Japan for the young at a time when most of Japan's major filmmakers were making movies that were either asserting the strength of tradition or elegies for conservative values. Beautifully photographed and edited, and still vital today. ****

Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand followed up their masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, where everyone sang their dialogue, with a true musical. Real life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac play twins in small French town who wish to leave for Paris and work in music. A carnival comes to town one weekend, and it becomes a weekend of new connections, missed connections, opportunities, and the realization of dreams. Beautiful cinematography and art direction, and of course the music is wonderful. It's an old fashioned Hollywood musical spectacle, but filmed with the eye, sensibility and style of the French New Wave. Even Gene Kelly appears as a composer looking for inspiration. If anything, I found myself having a more magical time with this than I did with Cherbourg. ****

Dopey Lifetime movie with Dina Meyer as an FBI agent on a cross-country flight who sits next to a mysterious woman (Victoria Pratt) who informs Meyer that her family has been taken hostage and will remain so until she deletes a key piece of evidence in a criminal trial against a senator. The plan is so imbecilic that I have no idea how I'm supposed to believe any of this is going to work, so it kills any tension completely. Except for the two leads, no one's really very good here. (Poor Pratt is really trying to act the role hard, but the writing is so, so bad.) The whole thing feels like it was made on leftover porn sets with leftover porn actors doing some legit work on the side. It fills time and gives me an excuse to watch Dina Meyer and little else. *

BAD MOMS (2016)
Mila Kunis stars as an overworked mother who finds out her husband is cheating on her, kicks him out, and lets herself be a little less responsible for a while. For the first hour or so, the movie's hilarious, as she and her other mom friends (Kristen Bell and the indispensable Kathryn Hahn) get wild, but the last 40 minutes are the kind of predictable sitcom softness you expect. There's enough weirdness and genuine hilarity to make it a winner, but it doesn't really have the edge and insight to skewer the Perfect Mom culture in the way it thinks it is. It's a funny movie, though, it just had the chance to be more and didn't really go for it. ***

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

The Marisa Tomei complaint is more that the Aunt May we grew up with is OLD and if I have the hots for Marisa Tomei and Tomei is May, then what that make me?