Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Summer Has Left the Building

Well, that's the end of that. Labor Day has come and gone. Now is the time to put your white shoes away for another year 'cuz summer is outta here. The cinema was chock full o' the usual crap,lotsa toys made into disposable garbage for the landfill, but I was able to mine a few nuggets here and there. Among them:

STAR TREK-Totally worth the dollar admission I paid to see it in second-run. This re-booting of another franchise didn't exactly set my phasers on stun. As TREK movies go, it ranks very high, the gold standard (well, gold plated anyway) still being the great WRATH OF KHAN, but I find it hard to get to worked up about yet another TREK movie. It turned out to be a competent, entertaining piece of work that I have trouble recalling anything memorable or significant beyond Zachary Quinto's Spock. The rest of the cast were all adequate enough, but I find it hard to believe Paramount will be able to reassemble this cast intact beyond the next installment. A good effort, but honestly, what's all the hub-bub, bub?
And what the hell is all the backlash against THE NEXT GENERATION all of a sudden? TNG was a better TV show than the original, but the original had better theatrical films. Maybe if Nicholas Meyer directed a TNG film instead of Jonathan Frakes, they would have had something.

DRAG ME TO HELL-Sam Raimi's attempt to recapture his EVIL DEAD credo after spending the last decade in mega-blockbuster film making kind of flounder, albeit with lots of the gory slapstick for which he is most famous. It's too bad he didn't totally commit to the project, relying too much on Hollywood bombast, dragging his picture out about 15 minutes too long. Star Allison Lohman should get the Good Sport of the Year award for what Raimi put her through, but actually the film would have benefited from a female Bruce Campbell, an actress that could go way over the top and back again. Ultimately, a good future rental with plenty of decent sight gags-both literally and figuratively.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS- Once again, Quentin Tarantino proves that there is nothing more he loves than the sound of his own voice, something that worked so much against him on his last work, the wretched DEATH PROOF, that he almost lost all creditability with this one singularly horrible film. This time, however, he returns to form with his crazy-ass combination OF THE DIRTY DOZEN and CINEMA PARADISO. This is almost his bloody valentine to film itself, a geek forever sampling works from the world cinema while trying, sometimes in vain, to maintain his voice. Sometimes, his tributes take me completely out of the film, like much of the Ennio Morricone music, mainly because I know what movies they came from initially. And the theme from the CAT PEOPLE remake...so far out of left field that I was actually enchanted when I should have been sneering. Quentin...you big goof. I wanted more of the Basterds themselves. I think they were short-changed. How about a little scalping tutorial or some kind of training for these guys? I also would have welcomed a battle scene. Tarantino can stage action beautifully, but he's kinda stingy here except for the superb climax. I could have done without the Mike Myers cameo also. Brad Pitt? He's one of the best as far as I'm concerned. When he plays goofy, as BURN AFTER READING or TRUE ROMANCE, he's aces in my book. His reading of "BONE JORNO" had me rolling. The breakout stars have to be Melanie Laurent as Shoshanna/Emmauel Mimieux-beautiful, sad and mighty damn fierce and of course the much-heralded Christoph Waltz as Hans "That's a bingo!" Landa, the best villain of the new millennium. With his giant head, Waltz looks like a real-life Gerry and Sylvia Anderson puppet. Shortcomings aside, 2/12 hours went by like nothing. I actually wanted more. In the end, Quentin got a bingo.

DISTRICT 9- I'll gladly jump on this bandwagon to proclaim Neill Blomcamp's sci-fi film the best movie of the summer and of 2009 thus far. Imagine STARSHIP TROOPERS (satire included)
mashed together with Cronenberg's remake of THE FLY in the framework of a South African version of THE OFFICE and you've got yourself just a fabulous piece of film making, miles above the stench of Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS or GI JOE: THE RISE OF CRAPPY SUMMER FILMS. Sharlto Copley is brilliant as the weaselly little bureaucrat who is unfortunately transformed into an alien, making him more human in the process. An exciting, funny, sometimes gross and finally heart-breaking work, DISTRICT 9 is divine. That's right. I said it.
And once again, I treated myself by watching DISTRICT 9 at the Roseway Theater, the best venue in the Portland area. Beautifully crisp digital projection and superb sound helped push this baby over the top for me. This was a 50 mile round trip from my home that I didn't mind at all.

Sometimes you have to go the extra mile and that's the fact, Jack.
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