You Should Watch Films

A celebration, meditation, rumination, and examination of the movie-going experience.

Friday, July 4, 2008

You Should Watch Films, Vol. 1

Hello, one and all. My name is KJ, a movie buff turned film student turned what-the-hell-do-I-do-know/blogger. The following will be a series of posts, rants, reviews, and musings that began as emails I sent to my classmates in film school. In the future, I may give alter this format, but in the mean time I hope you enjoy.

Caution: there is some foul language (PG-13 level), and links to red band trailers with questionable material. You know; good, clean, American fun. This blog's born on the fourth of July, baby!!


It’s the most wonderful time of the year: summer.

The year: 1989. I was 6, about to turn 7. The place: South Square Mall, Durham, North Carolina. The film: BATMAN.

The wait: 2 hours in the hot sun.

You see, there was no Internet in those days. No pre-ordering tickets, no multiplexes. You had to suffer for your films, in long, long lines in the blistering heat. And I loved it. Seeing everyone wearing a Bat-logo shirt. People humming the theme song to the Adam West show (before Danny Elfman’s iconic score was heard).

That summer was the summer I fell in love with movies. Sure, I had watch VHS tapes of The Trilogy (you know which one) countless times, along with E.T. and Star Trek IV: Voyage Home. But I hadn’t experienced the pure bliss of the big screen, the primal communion of the darkened theater. Movie magic.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Ghostbusters II. Lethal Weapon 2. Back to the Future Part II. Batman. I didn’t stand a chance. Ever since then, I’ve been going to movies in the theater as often as possible. It’s not my place to say whether or not this summer comes close to ‘89, since it’s not over yet, but being in film school adds a layer of appreciation to the whole affair.

I’ve had the good fortune to go to the movies with several of my classmates. I consider them the perfect audience, honest about their likes and dislikes, champions of what they favor and merciless towards what they don’t. And God bless ‘em for it.


Okay, it's no Bryan Adams, sure, but it’ll do.

I brought up the summer of ’89 for a reason. Well, two: Indiana Jones and Batman. The first time I had seen either of those characters on the big screen. And now, we have another summer with Indiana Jones and Batman.

Indy 4 (or IJATKOTCS for short) had its share of detractors. I, for one, loved it, and am apparently alone in that regard. After all, this is the film that spawned the phrase “nuked the fridge,” which is replacing “jump the shark” in some circles. But think about all the long awaited sequels recently. Rocky Balboa. Rambo. Live Free or Die Hard. They’re all about tapping into nostalgia.

The Indy films are nothing but about nostalgia for another time. This time, for the 1950s instead of the 1930s. At this point, the series is serving a different purpose conceptually, emulating ‘50s B-movies instead of ‘30s cliffhanger serials, and feels different for it. A lot of people didn’t get it, but once you do, I believe it makes the film easier to accept. The giant snakes, the monkey vine scene, the flying saucers. Even the nuke scene makes sense and is all worth it just for this line:

“Maybe you didn’t notice, but I just survived an atomic blast!”

That’s the new Indy film in a nutshell. Hate it or love it. I loved it.

IRON MAN, I can’t review without The Incredible Hulk. I’m a comics fan, a geek if you must, and I’m thrilled to see continuity between different film franchises. I hate to say it, but to me, they’re kind of the point of the films. Iron Man did everything right, and deserves all of its success.

Hulk 2 at least does nothing wrong, and corrects of all the mistakes of Ang Lee’s first Hulk. TV theme music? Check. Glowing green eyes? Check. Sonic cannons? Check. A villain to beat the crap out of? Double check.

However, that’s my biggest beef with the Marvel films. Your standard comic book villain is “The Bigger, Badder Version of You.” For every Wolverine, there’s a Sabretooth. For every Spider-Man, there’s a Venom. It’s creative bankruptcy to have your heroes fight a bigger, meaner Iron Man and a bigger, meaner Hulk.

Don’t get me wrong; visually, nothing works better. But there are so many better villains to choose from, and none of you guys know that because none of you read f#@ckin’ comics!!

So, I won’t hold it against you or Marvel. It’s an easy sell to the “Hey-I-know-nothing-about-comics-Oh-look!-that guy’s-fighting-an-evil-version-of-himself-I-wanna-see-that” folks out there.

Marvel is 2-for-2, and I want to see them keep going. Watching heroes team up in the comics is thrilling and I can only imagine how that would be on the big screen.

CLOVERFIELD was a decent movie, but it wasn’t released in the summer, so there.

SPEED RACER was awesome! The only problem is that it’s only 15 minutes long, and is followed by a 2-hour movie called “Where The Hell Am I?” starring a chimpanzee. Furthermore, there’s no point in seeing it in regular theatres – it was built for IMAX. It’s a sustained sensory overload, and anyone not raised on a diet of comics, video games and anime had no choice but to hate the shit out of it.

Even I was getting tired by the hour-long mark. There are only so many ways a car can spin in the air. Three axes of rotation; that’s it. It’s gets old. Kinda like this blog.

THE CHRONCILES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN is the most violent PG-rated film I’ve ever seen. Can you tell me how a film where a little girl stabs a human soldier to death with an arrow and a mouse that slits people’s throats is still PG? Alien vs. Predator didn’t have this much violence in it. If I was a father, and I took my kids to see this movie, I’d be… No, I’d still take them to see this.

Still, Disney bought their way out of a PG-13.And any charm that the first Narnia film had is gone. We don’t even get a cool “Lazy Sunday” short to go along with it. What the hell am I gonna do with all these Red Vines?!! (Google ‘Lazy Sunday’ if you don’t get it. Not my fault.)

THE HAPPENING by M. Night Shyamalan is the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. M. Night has done it again! Mark Wahlberg has never made me laugh so hard – I was in tears. If you like random death scenes, and no plot whatsoever with your humor, this is your movie. Sheer genius.

GET SMART was a show I used to watch as a kid on Nick-at-Nite. The movie does it justice and the way the cast plays it, all of the characters have a real sense of familiarity with one another, like it’s the 3rd season of a TV show. The problem: it’s still feels kind of TV-ish, but with extremely good production value. It was funny enough, and seeing it digitally projected (it was shot on Panavision Genesis) really helped.

By the way, see whatever you can on IMAX, digital projection, or in 3-D. You owe it to yourself as a filmgoer.

THE LOVE GURU is pure shit. If shit could shit, it would shit out The Love Guru. And be repulsed by what it just shat out.

I remember when Goldmember came out, and Mike Myers hit the talk show circuit. He kept remarking how easy the script was to write (“Easiest thing I ever wrote!” he’d say), and how that film just recycled old bits from the past two Austin Powers movies. And for its trouble, it cleaned up at the box office.

Well, karma’s a bitch.

The jokes don’t work, the actors are terrible, the segues are horrible, Jessica Alba is smokin’ hot, and the whole thing is just rotten! The film’s one redeeming moment: Jessica Alba as a belly dancer in a Bollywood dream sequence. Ruined immediately by the appearance of Mike Myers.

It will outgross Speed Racer (even The Visitor will outgross Speed Racer), but this movie might do irreparable damage to Mike’s career. Which is a shame: he was one of my favorites. At least Jessica Alba’s hotter than Tia Carrere. Or do I have to take that back?

WANTED, based on the comic (Yay, comics!!) by Mark Millar, was made by the same Russian director who did “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” (Timur Bekmambetov or something like that) and those films were pretty interesting, visually. The action sequences are alive and kinetic, but unfortunately derivative. Really, the whole movie’s like that. Another title for Wanted could be “RUSSIAN FIGHT MATRIX CLUB.” And how do you think a movie like that would be?


And that’s exactly what Wanted is and does. James McAvoy takes all that “Atonement” anger saved up and goes whupp-ass on everybody. And Angelina Jolie, in an essentially silent part, steals the movie every time she’s on screen.

Speaking of silent, I have to mention WALL-E, which for its first act is a silent film (more or less). It is a masterpiece; the best film I’ve seen this year. It almost became my favorite Pixar film, but I had to rewatch “The Incredibles” to make sure. WALL-E is an extremely close second (I’m way too heavily biased towards superheroes), and beats nearly everything else.

The visuals of a ruined Earth, the robot language on display (and the resulting lack of conventional dialogue throughout much of the movie), the music, everything about this movie is perfect. Wall-E becomes an almost Messianic character, sort of a Robot Jesus for Earth. Pretty heady stuff for a G-rated movie.

Even Roger “I’m-the-best-and-there’s-nothing-you-can-do-about-it” Deakins consulted on the visual look of the film. I can’t recommend anything better this summer.

Except for maybe THE DARK KNIGHT.


Normally, I’d include links for all of the trailers. So, here they are:

Tropic Thunder Red Band:

Step Brothers Red Band:

Pineapple Express Red Band:

Foot Fist Way Red Band:

Mongol Red Band:

It looks like it’s going to be a great summer for movies. So, fill your car up for forty bucks, grab a ten dollar bucket of popcorn and a five dollar soda, and sit back and enjoy your movie! Which cost 9.50 a ticket.

Or you could go for a walk. Eh?

Have a happy Fourth of July.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home