The colors of the leaves are changing, the temperature is getting colder, and Thanksgiving seems to be right around the corner. All around the country autumn seems to be upon us, but not here at Film Crazy, where the summer fun has only just begun! Here to bring the summer spirit to everyone experiencing the cool breeze of autumn, I've written ten (count em', ten!) mini-reviews for the summers biggest movies. So pull your Hawaiian shirt out of the closet, go to Goodwill and get the cheapest flip-flops you can find, and grab a beach chair, cause here are the ten mini-reviews of summer!
John Sayles' costume drama set in the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 despite covering a seldom treaded topic (the only other film I can think of set in the Philippine-American War would be The Real Glory), ends up a surprising result of style over substance. Already doomed by a cheaply melodramatic script written by John Sayles himself, the extreme amounts of overacting give the film more of the feel of a 4:00pm CBS soap opera rather than the Iraq war commentary/war epic it was most likely intended to be. There is a scene in the film where a character is water boarded for no particular reason, and if Sayles excised it, the film's commentary would be subtler and frankly there would be no drastic change in the story. Though I have my complaints with the film's acting and script, there is no denying that this is an absolutely beautiful film to look at. Despite only doing cinematography work on a few short films and commercials, Lee Meily's first attempt of being the cinematographer for a big film is so sensational I cannot wait to see what else he does in his career. This is a film that could easily be nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography, and for good reason: It is strong enough to make this potentially boring slog of a film worth recommending.
Attack The Block
I almost don't feel the need to write this review, because I pretty much agree with nearly every critic who gave Joe Cornish's mildly new sci-fi mini-buster a positive review. This is a clever and fun film, which uses its minuscule (or minuscule by at least alien blockbuster standards) budget to create creative and unique experience from almost every angle. In my review of Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens, I criticized the film for its severe lack of new, or at least non-generic aliens. For this film, I believe the absolute opposite. Using what I believe to be a combination of inventive puppeteering and very light CGI, Cornish creates a pack of aliens of which I dare anyone in the audience to say they've seen anything like. To quote a character from the film, they're "gorilla wolf motherf*ckers".
The film is also anchored by great performances from a more than willing cast, but the main standout would have to be newcomer John Boyega as the main leader of the gang who starts the intergalactic feud. He brings a type of depth to a role that could've easily just been a generic "teen saves the day" character, but when thinking about the film, little can be considered as generic. This is the kind of movie where if given the chance, it could've been a breakout hit if given a wide release. However, this is an entertaining film that should be undoubtably sought out.
Midnight In Paris
Imagine Paris in the 1920's. Congratulations, you've just shared the same thought as Woody Allen! Starring Owen Wilson as Woody Allen as Gil, Midnight In Paris is a taxi car entrance into the magical world of 1920's Paris. Though this is an undoubtably flawed film, it also happens to be a ton of sophisticated fun. The film is essentially a neurotic Night at the Museum, which is not entirely a bad thing. Allen throws as many celebrity impersonations of famous writers, artists, and poets at the wall as he can, and most of them stick. It's only toward the end of the film by around the Adrien Brody point where the cameos grow tiresome, but until that point most of the material is "smartly goofy".
Using a very loose plot of Gil's engagement to an incredibly unlikable Rachel McAdams (whose performance along with Kathy Bates are the only real two duds of the film) as a springboard for historical cameos and Woody Allen-esque conversations about the pseudo intellectual. Once the film ends, there really isn't anything to chew on, but that doesn't make the film any less of an entertaining experience. A blockbuster for the history buff.
Our Idiot Brother
I can't tell you enough how desperately I wanted to enjoy this movie. With a cast containing four of my favorite actors working today (Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, and Elizabeth Banks), and trailers which made the film look like a hilarious and heartfelt comedy, I frankly couldn't wait for the film to be released. However, once it was, it was impossible to conceal my disappointment. Any movie with the title Our Idiot Brother has no right to attempt to tackle heavy material unless the film's tone is somber enough to match it, which unfortunately, this film does not. Opting to take as many tonal changes as possible rather than to maintain one steady tone, despite containing several well committed performances the film falls apart about halfway through its runtime and never fully recovers. How can you successfully blend the stoner slapstick plot line of a rescue of one's dog from an equally stoned hippie, with the separate plot of a lesbian woman becoming pregnant through an affair with a man? Simply put, unless masterfully executed, you can't.
Though the tones of the film change nearly as rapidly as the jokes are fired off, there is one scene that almost makes the film all worth while. Towards the end of the film, once Ned's (Paul Rudd's happy-go-lucky brother) havoc has already been wreaked upon his sisters, there is a scene in which the whole family, each in their own separate state of turmoil, sits down to play a game of charades. What follows is a brilliant scene, filled with stunning performances from around the board which contains every element the film has been juggling since the beginning: Humor, love, cruelty, kindness, stupidity, tension, and family. It's a near pitch perfect collage of separate themes, and though not enough to recommend the film, certainly extremely well done.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, if nothing else, an incredible technical achievement. The apes seen in this film are some of the most detailed and lifelike creations CGI creations I've seen since James Cameron's 2009 Avatar, (Fun fact: Both Avatar and RPA used the same company for special effects), and when interacting with humans it can be difficult to tell that no actual apes were used once when making the film. It's also to the film's bonus that the film itself is just as well made as its CGI chimps.
In Rupert Wyatt's sophomore film, he shows just as much skill with a camera as someone who has been directing blockbuster entertainment for their whole career. He always knows where to put the camera, making scenes which could've been generic blockbuster fluff into genuinely enthralling and edge-of-your-seat battles. In the film's near final scene, a climatic duel between ape and man takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge. In the hands of a director like Michael Bay or Jon Faverau (who is not a bad director, but I really can't think of any standout scenes from his movies), this could've easily turned into "Transformers with Apes," but under Wyatt's direction we are treated to the ultimate climax we truly deserve.
Also notable are the performances by Andy Serkis and James Franco, who both do near phenomenal jobs in their respective roles. The only mediocre performance comes from Tom Felton of Harry Potter fame, who gives probably a wimpy enough reading of "Get you paws off me you damn dirty ape!" to make Charlton Heston turn over in his grave. However, Heston would probably get over it quickly, knowing how otherwise successful the film was.
I think every film critic, self proclaimed or otherwise, is allowed one or two films a year that they are allowed to completely blast in their review. Well, I cashed in my first with The Smurfs, so I guess I'm using up my second on the Kate Hudson and John Krasinski romantic comedy Something Borrowed. If Something Borrowed was an average romantic comedy, I would feel no reason to review it, mini-review or otherwise. However, this film is no average romantic comedy: This is a romantic comedy for people who hate themselves.
Ignoring convention for all the wrong reasons, this is the cinematic equivalent of being humiliated in front of the school on prom night. In other words, this is Saw for romantics. No characters in the film are remotely good people; even our supposedly likable lead (played by Jennifer Goodwin doing her best...actually who cares?) is having an affair with her best friend's fiancee. Do you think she will learn her lesson, ditch the smarmy fiancee who is encouraging her to break her best friends trust, and end up with the guy who is obviously meant for her? If you said yes, you'd be absolutely wrong!
The film ends with her marrying the fiancee, thus destroying her friend's friendship and upcoming marriage, and the nice guy moves to London for no apparent reason. Do you feel satisfied? Of course you don't! Movies like Chasing Amy and (500) Days of Summer have been successful in creating unhappy endings simply because it is apparent the relationship will fail, but creating a generic film but chopping off the final 20 minutes just doesn't work! Just remembering this film makes me angry, and I don't think it deserves anym
I feel guilty for writing Richard Ayoade's British coming of age dramady Submarine as a slightly more clever than average Wes Anderson knock-off, but unfortunately that's where I come off on the film. Armed with enough quirk to make Zooey Deschanel blush, Ayoade attacks us with scene after scene of a building avalanche of quirk. No, Jill Tate's (the main character's mother) ex-lover cannot only just move in next door, but he must also be the leader of an "almost" cult encouraging people's inner colors to be let free. No, not only does the main character's father have to be boring, but he must also constantly speak like he's part of the undead.
Though adding to the overwhelming amount of quirk, the uses of narration and interpretation Ayoade do make the film a more enjoyable experience. Done in a way reminiscent of what a British high school set Scrubs would look like, it adds more to the film than just being a mounting pile of quirk. Though the film is deeply flawed, the performances of Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige as the protagonist and his girlfriend are both fairly good, but it's a light compliment to a mostly mediocre film.
The Devil's Double
If I get one cop out during this set of mini-reviews, it would undoubtably be the Dominic Cooper dual role biopic The Devil's Double. Because of the disturbing imagery, content, and general nature of the film, I couldn't make it past the hour mark. For severe lack of a more sophisticated term, the only way I can honestly describe the film would be: Screwed up insanity oh my god what happened *cringe*. Though clearly not a coherent sentence by any means, there really is no other way to explain the film. Maybe I have a stomach of Styrofoam, but watching this film felt felt like the equivalent of being tortured by Uday Hussain, the film's psychotic and sadistic antagonist. Perhaps the film was meant to be the vile experience it was, and I guess I could give the director some credit for that. Though the film was too hard for me to stomach, credit has to be given to Dominic Cooper for a good job playing Uday sadistic to the point of insanity. Ok, I'm not going to think of this film for a while.
In Michael Winterbottom's road trip comedy The Trip friends and rival comedic actors Steve Coogan (in his second appearance on the feature) and Rob Brydon go on a tour of England's finest restaurants. This would be the general summary for the film almost anywhere, but while watching the film it's clear the restaurants have little to do with the actual plot. Instead, the film functions as an insightful look into the friendship between two very different yet equally insecure men. Though I understand that both Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, this fact does not dampen the effects of the film one bit. Actually, I'm glad they're playing these fictionalized versions, because otherwise I doubt the film would be nearly as interesting, as both Brydon and Coogan would both probably be much better adjusted in real life than they are in the film.
I have also sadly failed to mention until this point how absolutely hilarious this film is. The dueling impressions of these two actors make for a successfully hilarious running joke, and even the regular conversations usually contain a few good lines. The funniest moment of the film derives from a scene set entirely in a car, using only a funny conversation to generate more laughs than most comedies with much more tools at their disposal for the scene. It really proves how if you can get two actors with enough chemistry, and with a strong enough script combined with fast improvisation, how funny everything can turn out.
Winnie the Pooh
Like many, I was depressed at how little people went to see Winnie the Pooh over the summer because it was eclipsed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Also like many, I was complete hypocrite because I was one of those people who didn't notice Winnie the Pooh because I was caught up in Harry Potter instead. Luckily, Winnie the Pooh's DVD release date wasn't the same day as Harry Potter's, so I wasn't too distracted to see it.
Honestly, Winnie the Pooh was the major reason why I decided to go back and review the old summer movies. It's hard to believe a 30 million dollar widely marketed film based on well known property could be considered a hidden gem, but it truly is. This film is the ultimate counter argument to anyone cynical that all remakes, reboots, or updates are awful. Winnie the Pooh combines nostalgia and pure sweetness to create the quintessential children's film of 2011. Running at only 63 minutes including credits, the film never overstays its welcome, and delivers enough near plotless fun to make even Uday Hussain smile. The film seems to exist in an alternate universe in which Shrek was never created, and cheap jabs and references to pop culture in animation were unheard of. Heartfelt, sweet, nostalgic, and gentle, Winnie the Pooh really is the film of summer 2011.