Summer Movie Round-Up ’09: Part 1

The Mecca of Movie Entertainment
The Mecca of Movie Entertainment

One of the greatest things about living in Los Angeles is that I reside next to some of the coolest movie theaters on the planet. The Arclight on Sunset is incredible, but I’m dead center between the Grove Multiplex, the Fairfax Mildewplex, and the New Bev. Usually, I don’t have to walk very far for big screen entertainment. But this week I got the opportunity to revisit the Landmark in Westwood and visit the Arclight for the first time. Both incredible theaters, both with incredibly stupid assigned seating. I feel extra sorry for the poor schlub employees who try in vain to force people into their numbered seats. No thanks. This ain’t Dodger Stadium. And even then, I’d be moving down after people cleared out in the fourth inning. If it ain’t about a window seat, I don’t need an annotated touch screen is all I’m saying.

I used to write a lot about the movies I’ve seen, but I’ve gotten into the bad habit of simply tweeting about it without giving you graphic detail. Here’s a summer movie round-up for all the films you may have missed:

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Action Figures – This movie is not as bad as everybody says, but in the same vein as Spider-Man 3 it’s so loud in its badness that it’s hard to ignore. Giant robots with testicals aren’t exactly brilliant subtlety. However, this movie should be credited for having Megan Fox occasionally onscreen. True, she gets humped by a Decepticon but rather than judge, I choose to live my life vicariously through said robot. I have to give them credit. They made senseless violence look damn convincing and almost exciting enough to care about, whenever you could tell what was happening.

If the first Transformers was stupidity wrapped in crap and giant robots, the second one is a somehow longer crap, minus Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight and the Australian Chick. You’d think that’d make it better, but it’s not much. There’s one bad jump cut in particular, when Isabel Lucas ditches Shia after the party that looks so amateurish that I wished the robots from MST3k were there to teach Michael Bay a lesson. Where does he get off crafting three-hour multi-million dollar crapfests when I’m stuck blogging better ideas in my sleep! In fact my 347 page draft of Beast Wars: Return of Dinobot gathers dust on the desks of agents around the city! It’s ludicrous, I tell you!

But if you want a really great, really racist giant robot movie this is the one for you. Everyone hambones the idiot sambots but I think the painfully stereotypical Asian music in the opening fight sequence takes the racist cake. An old man is eating a meal. GIANT ROBOTS BURST THROUGH HIS HOUSE! He is slightly startled! (and like most “comedic” moments in this movie, the bit falls flat faster than the jetpack-hamburgers in Minority Report). Because Michael Bay doesn’t want anyone to miss a “laugh,” he adds in four seconds of audio-racism, reminding the audience that Asian characters in his films are stereotypes first, people second. That being said, I do recommend that everyone sees this movie on the grounds that it’s something we can all hate this summer minus seemingly essential components Heidi & Spencer.
Grade: D-

Whatever Works – Larry David is a fine successor to Woody Allen, but the story surrounding him is not. While I’ll be a fan of Woody no matter what kind of crap he schlocks out, this one is only watchable from the perspective that you’re either a huge fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm or are a decade long Woody Allen apologist. In terms of bad Woody Allen it’s a little worse than Scoop only in that Woody’s never on camera, but it’s decades better than Melinda & Melinda, a film that could never decide whether it was an unfunny comedy or a lackluster tragedy. It’s worth it to see Larry David monologue clever Woody Allen quips, but it would almost be better to ask Woody to write a Curb at this point than expect the guy to invent a new universe as blissfully chaotic as that one. Say what you will about genius. It doesn’t always age well.
Grade: C+

This is the only New Moon you should care about

Moon – Duncan Jones’ Moon is a technical masterpiece as well as an actor’s thinkpiece. You will believe a man can act as Sam Rockwell brings introspective dialog to new heights, tapping into the subtle changes that manifest after three years of solitary confinement. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, for as predictable as my friend Elizabeth thinks it is, I believe there’s a whole sector of the populous who never enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alien in their youth and would be wowed to know that good science fiction actually exists. Not only that, it’s good science fiction that’s well acted. Battlestar Galactica, eat your heart out. While Rockwell exudes Han Solo-like enthusiasm at times, this is hardly a bombastic film. Still an effects-driven space opera, Moon is more focused on proving its humanity to the viewer than satisfying mankind’s natural desire for explosions and bouncing breasts. Simple moments like a high-five take on new meaning in this universe, and that’s enough to promise a second viewing from this reviewer. (Also, Kevin Spacey is a robot who communicates through smiley faces. Hell yes.)
Grade: A

The Hurt Locker – The problem with The Hurt Locker is not that it has a bad message, or that that message is badly delivered. Its only flaw is that the message is one we’ve heard as a nation time and time before, that only a certain breed of man is cut out for the armed forces and that man must behave like a fearless demigod. While I have no doubt that our armed forces are packed with men and women with this sort of macho take-no-prisoners attitude, the stark realism of the film’s environs present a depressing image of the American soldier. Even at his best in combat, the soldier is subject to so many horrors that the nature of his duties seem unfair to inflict upon any American citizen. The result is the sort of gung-ho patriotic message you might expect from this summer’s upcoming G.I. Joe or Team America: World Police. “Be the impossible in any circumstance,” the movie suggests to its viewers, “even situations that don’t warrant it and might possibly make you look like an asshole.”

In the same way that the past two Batman films strove to make the superhuman practical, Hurt Locker attempts to make the American soldier a superhero, rising above the call of duty no matter the cost. Of course this results in some needless breaking and entering, some mistaken identity, and some occasional friendly fire, but that’s the nature of the beast for a bomb specialist. While skilled at showing the reality of the characters’ external struggles, director Kathryn Bigelow occasionally misses the mark when attempting to display their inner turmoil. There is nothing particularly emotional about this film, which is a shame considering how high the stakes are. Otherwise this is another brilliantly shot technical masterpiece that forces us to relive the anxiety that we’ve ignored for the past few months thanks to recent celebrity deaths and imminent economic collapse. Our soldiers are still living a nightmare in a foreign land, never certain whether they’ll live to see another day. Whether brave or riddled with fear these men deserve to know that coming home means they made a difference.
Grade: B+

That’s all the time I’ve got for now. Stay tuned for more movie reviews! So far Star Trek and Moon are my favorites this summer, although Bruno is fighting for that position pretty hard (gay innuendo unintentional). I didn’t see Terminator but I guess I’ll just have to settle for seeing the OTHER Christian Bale movie this summer, Public Enemies. I broke onto the set of that movie in Chicago, which is undoubtedly one of reasons it’s getting such lackluster reviews. I swear, I didn’t mean to be such an anachronism, but I really needed to finish playing Tetris on my phone. In case I don’t see ya, have a Happy Fourth of July!

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