A bunch of things I’ve seen lately subject to my harsh internet criticism:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Sweet! – An amazing cast of elderly Britons head to India to retire and discover there are still some valuable life lessons left to learn. Great soundtrack, gorgeous sets, but it’s got a real juggling act of storylines going on, which I think diminished the evolution of some of the individual stories. A bunch of loose threads conveniently tied up towards the end rather than running their course, but it was definitely cute and the end was satisfying if a little hurried. Beautiful cinematography of urban India.
They Live – Kindof Awesome! – I finally got around to seeing this a few decades late! Roddy Piper discovers magic sunglasses that let him see through the mass-hypnosis we’re all under – only to discover the world is run by malevolent aliens! Some of the themes felt startlingly prescient regarding our current economic climate, but we suffered through a similar economic crash in the 80s. The pacing is uneven, Rowdy Roddy Piper is maybe better in the wrestling ring than on camera, and the film jumps right into the violent deep end as soon as he puts on the glasses, but the whole concept is hilariously brilliant and even the terrible script can’t diminish it. For all its violent pointlessness, it was still pretty entertaining.
Departures (Okuribito) – Beautiful! – We got this ceremony-steeped film out of the library based on a recommendation, and it was entertaining, sweet, and educational. Daigo loses his job in the orchestra and answers an ad in the paper looking for someone to handle departures, which turns out not to be a travel agency – it’s a Japanese funeral home. Daigo learns about the very elaborate and beautiful ceremonies surrounding the Japanese traditional preparations for burial, hitting a few comedic snags along the way. Absolutely worth seeing, and not at all as depressing as you’re imagining.
Avengers – Fun! – I wasn’t sure how they were going to match up a god, a super soldier, and a rage monster and make a script work, but Joss Whedon used his script-writing magic to actually make this an entertaining, exciting, funny and clever spectacle film. Earth’s mightiest heroes (and an archer – one of these things does not belong here) unite on a flying aircraft carrier to fight off a horde of space invaders in New York. All the characters had a chance to flex their super-talents, and the actors got some witty dialog to bounce off eachother. I really enjoyed this despite having reservations early on. This could have been the worst mess ever, but they pulled it off, and really well. Probably the best super-hero movie ever.
John Carter – Spectacle! – This spring popcorn film got some bad press early on (I don’t understand how the media can declare something a flop before opening weekend?) but I really enjoyed it. John Carter gets beamed to Mars and discovers that under its weak gravity, he’s incredibly strong and can’t wear shirts. The pacing was a bit uneven, and I felt like the martian settings could have used a bit more whimsy, but there was plenty of action and lots of interesting set pieces that I thought were really fun. This one totally worked for me,and I hope they get a chance to go back to Mars and explore the world a little more. I especially dug the editing during the brutal fight scene in the middle of the film – the one that matches up his action with the flashbacks of his family. I thought that was really interesting and creative and spoke volumes about the character’s desperation, kudos to the editor on that one.
Sucker Punch – Worst Movie Ever! – It’s sad that despite the very awesome visual effects, the highly stylized filmwork and the pretty great soundtrack, I passionately hated everything else about this film. It’s fine to be invincible sexy super-ninja warrior women, but without any opposition in the exhaustive fight scenes, the action is pointless and boring. The premise of the brothel/mental hospital was creepy as heck, and the director plays the sexual violence up as glamorous fantasy – seriously? The hypnotic trance-world dances didn’t make any sense at all. Is this metaphor? Is this literal? Is this a flashback? No, it’s garbage! You can’t hop in and out of dream worlds without rules to tie the plot together. Did _anything_ happen in this film or was it all a dream? I don’t actually care.