Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Opening Credits Sequence Theatre: Flash Gordon (1980)

I have to get up early tomorrow, so while I've got a couple of pieces cooking, enjoy the perfect blend of sound and image.

In Theaters: Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom poster
Poster via IMPAwards.com

Moonrise Kingdom is a true original. It's hard to describe just what it is- a story of young love, a children's adventure that's not entirely appropriate for children, a droll comedy that nonetheless can be deadly serious about the feelings involved. I've never seen a movie quite like it, but it's endearing, beautifully made, and even though it has so many of Wes Anderson's signature touches, it feels like a quantum leap for him. This is a special one, folks.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Random Movie Report #108: King Kong Lives

King Kong Lives DVD Cover and Amazon Link

One of the reasons for my recent Kong retrospective was that I've become enamored of the theory that giant apes can make any movie worth watching. Scientifically speaking, the only way to test such a theory is to see a really bad giant ape movie, so I decided to be a completist (read: idiot) and watch King Kong Lives, the sequel to De Laurentiis' Kong remake that mostly survives as a record of a bunch of really bad decisions. Honestly, I went in open minded, but it's a movie that doesn't work for a lot of reasons, chief among them a petty, exploitative atmosphere that does little justice to the majesty of one of the screen's most iconic characters. Now, we do get two giant apes instead of one, and they wreck things and step on people and do the things we expect giant apes to do, but I'm not sure if it falsifies my theory or not.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Random Movie Report #107: Matango

Matango DVD cover and overpriced Amazon link

Matango has long been a picture that intrigued me, ever since I first saw bootleg videotapes labelled "Attack of the Mushroom People" being sold at a convention. The movie didn't get much circulation in America until its 2005 DVD release, and it's too weird to easily fall into familiar niches- it's not quite a kaiju picture, nor a straight horror film. Instead it's a weird fable about dehumanization and conformity that articulates its metaphor through the central image of people turning into fungus. In some ways it straddles the line between Toho's conventional movies and the more surreal Japanese art films that began to flourish in this decade and afterwards, and it's a response to the same anxiety about rapid social change and technological progress. It's also an effectively creepy and atmospheric little picture that, if it drags a little, still has a Hell of a payoff.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Frasierquest 5.2: The Gift Horse

Niles and Martin with Agides

Roz (reading Sherry's invitation): "Come one, come all, to jump and jive, Marty Crane's turning SEX-ty five!"

This episode is a bit of a nostalgia trip, not just because I caught it on the first airing but because it takes place in a distant age when big-screen TVs were giant monoliths requiring heavy labor to install. This may not seem like a big deal, but a major plot element of the episode- Frasier weighing his desire to buy Martin the perfect birthday gift against the damage a giant slab of a television will do to his apartment design- is one that's almost foreign in the age of sleek flatscreens and tiny speakers. It's appropriate that this part of the plot feels out of date, since "The Gift Horse" is really an episode about things- or rather people- being out of date. Martin Crane is turning 65 (or "sexty-five" according to Sherry), and while his sons bicker over what to get him for his birthday, they're overlooking what this passage of time really means.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Theaters: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter poster
Poster via IMPAwards.com

Camp works best when taken seriously. The more absurd a premise is, the more heartfelt the people advancing it should be in their belief. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has its premise spelled out in the title, and it would seem to demand a tongue-in-cheek treatment from that alone. But not only have the filmmakers (including Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay based on his own novel) played the premise straight, they manage to justify it by making the familiar undead hordes into a symbol for everything Lincoln was seen to fight against. While many have complained about the serious approach the movie takes, in the end we've got a really strong and skillfully done action movie which is just funny enough to temper our disbelief. It deserves better than it's getting.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In Theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man poster
Poster via IMPAwards.com

As much as I strive to be impartial (or at least not so biased that my opinions are worth nothing), I admit that in my eyes The Amazing Spider-Man had a strike against it going in. This is a film made out of contractual obligation, rushed into production by Sony so that they could retain the movie rights to Spider-Man rather than let them revert back to Marvel, who are now owned by Disney and are unlikely to lend anything out again.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

In Theaters: Brave

Brave poster
Poster via IMPAwards.com

I may not be able to be entirely rational about this movie. Brave basically had its hooks in me from its opening scene, in which an adorably adventurous little girl buried under a mass of floppy red hair is given her very own bow by her warlord father before traipsing off into the woods in pursuit of will' o the wisps. This is Pixar's first film with a female protagonist, and she's a charmer, even as she manifests some all too real flaws of kids her age. As familiar as this fairy tale may be at times, there's a compelling emotional truth at the center of it.