Friday, August 8, 2014

Boyhood: Richard Linklater's Battle Against Alcoholic Stepfathers.

Dear Richard Linklater,

You worked wonders with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.  Every nine years, you gave us another great movie focused on the same two people in various stages of their relationship.  The series evolved with its characters; what began as a starry-eyed romance ended as an explosive bout within a long term relationship.  With only two hours every nine years, you created a believable relationship between two very real characters that easily produced empathy.

With Boyhood, you've attempted the opposite.  Instead of giving us the snapshots and letting us fill in the blanks, you've provided a full twelve years in one character's life.  We watch as Mason, the boy in question, grows from a child into a young man.  Unfortunately, the effect is not the same.  There isn't enough time for both Mason's life story and the emotions that accompany it; and at times, Mason seems more of a peripheral figure than a protagonist.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Avengers Youth Team.

Guardians of the Galaxy gets bonus points for following The Avengers formula without depending on five origin films to set up all the character development necessary to facilitate the coming together of its main characters.  That being said, the film immediately thrusts its wise-cracking protagonists into an intergalactic religious war; pausing only momentarily to produce thin explanations for the necessary plot devices.  The complexities of why–or honestly even who–the Guardians are fighting, don't seem to matter to the filmmakers.  Thankfully, it doesn't really matter to the audience either.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Million Ways to Fart in the West.

The role that expectation plays in our enjoyment of cinema is an intriguing one.  As I get older, it seems more and more people—notably those with spouses, kids, or responsibilities other than checking their Facebook notifications—have begun using the phrase, "It seems like a rental," when referring to films of tentative quality.  My version of "It seems like a rental", is the noon showing on a Thursday afternoon, when I've suddenly found myself mysteriously awake before 2 PM.  This is the story of how I found myself watching A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

22 Jump Street: You Know, The Second One.

21 Jump Street was way better than it ever deserved to be.  In an era of reboots, it stood alone as the film that actually tweaked its source material enough to spit out an original product.  It occasionally mocked its existence, but spent more time poking fun at the Glee-generation and flipping high school stereotypes on their head than it did rehashing old narratives.  It barely felt like a reboot.

Two years later, 22 Jump Street feels like nothing but a sequel.  In fact, the movie's sole purpose is to remind you, over and over again, that you're watching a sequel that was only made to squeeze more money out of a tired concept.  The self-satire is frequently amusing, but 22 Jump Street spends so much time making fun of itself that it forgets to become more than the concept it's been mocking.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Neighbors, or Seth Rogen Kind of Grows Up.

I no longer know how to write about comedies without being tempted to go on a long tirade about why there are so few great ones nowadays.  Maybe someday I'll provide you with that lecture, but for now let me try to focus on Neighbors, the latest entry in a long line of comedies that we can at least consider adequately amusing.

In Neighbors, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play a young couple with a cute baby who are trying to keep the youthful dream of having sex in the kitchen alive.  Unfortunately, they're now old and sleep deprived, so their efforts are typically stifled by their child, exhaustion, or Seth Rogen's declining sexual prowess.  When a fraternity moves into the house next door, Seth and Rose attempt to become fast friends with the fraternity leadership (Zac Efron and Dave Franco) in the hope that their friendship will convince their new neighbors to keep it down while they're trying to sleep.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past, or Terminator 2: Motivational Speaker Edition.

"You need to make stronger life choices, son."

It's the future, guys.  It's really dark in the future.  And the T-1000's Sentinels have been killing all of our mutant friends.  The solution, of course, is to send Wolverine into the past, because Kitty Pryde (who went into the past in the comic incarnation) is a woman, and women aren't allowed to be main characters in movies.

The resulting film is an X-Men family reunion composed largely of motivational speeches, since the majority of the plot is articulated to us within the first fifteen minutes by narration, and then relayed to the X-men of the past via Wolverine's first of many motivational speeches to a young Professor Xavier.  Thankfully, we're also treated to the obligatory getting-the-band-back-together sequences, which are the moments in which Days of Future Past actually remains bearable for a while.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Noah: Aronofsky's Guide to Adaptation.

Singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain.
In many ways, Aronofsky has done with Noah what I've been begging someone to do for a long time.  He's taken a story that everyone's familiar with and adapted it into a twisted nightmare for everyone who was hoping for a faithful adaptation.  Sure, I was hoping for a twisted adaptation of a beloved young adult novel (C'mon, R-rated Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), but this will do for now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel, of Which I Start Writing Four Different Things and Then Forget What My Point Was.

I assume the rule of thirds is applied here by accident.
On a delightfully whimsical day in the throes of 2007, a much-thinner-than-now, pink-haired youth sitting in a quaint classroom in the romantic and mysterious land of East Lansing, Michigan was asked to provide to the classroom his favorite director of films.  To this question, he replied simply—avoiding the tenuous conviction typically associated with the youths of 2007—with "Woody Allen" (Or Takashi Miike, one can't be too sure in a year like 2007).  One after another, the next eleven youths in a row supplied "Wes Anderson" as their most preferred director of cinema.  And the colored girls went, "Doo do doo do doo do do doo..."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Top Ten Films of 2013

    With the Oscars tomorrow, I suppose it's time to grit my teeth, throw five films randomly in the 6-10 slots and start writing.  The last time I had this much difficulty assigning arbitrary rankings, my girlfriend had just dumped me and I spent twelve hours rearranging my Top 8 on Myspace.  That's not to say I didn't like a lot of films this year, I just liked way too many of them exactly the same.  Ties went to the films I wanted to write about.  As always, documentaries are ineligible and I didn't see any animated films.  Let's start with some honorary awards.