Sunday, August 05, 2012

What I Watched in July

A few trips to the theater made for a surprisingly pleasant time at the movies last month. I actually really liked all three ventures into the darkened palace which was a little shocking. Am I becoming easier to please as I get older or am I just choosing my films more wisely? Tough call.

The trailers for SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN had me curious about this slightly gritty take on the classic fairy tale. I was less than thrilled with the fact that Kristen Stewart was the star as I think she is a very limited actress but over the past year I’ve become a fan of Chris Hemsworth and I can’t say enough good things about Charize Theron. The surprise with the performances is that Miss Stewart was not too bad in the film as long as she wasn’t asked by the script to stretch too far outside her small range. That means that the one moment in which she needs to bring some real gravitas to bear pretty much fails and as it is the third act ‘rally the troops’ scene that is a shame. The good news is that there is so much done well that it doesn’t harm the film overall. And I was stunned to see who they got to play the dwarves! I had no idea that Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Toby Jones were even in this film so when they showed up and were seamlessly integrated as little people I was surprised and thrilled. Good choice and very well done.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was a very good ending to Chris Nolan's Batman story even if I felt it wasn't quite as good as the previous film. The only real complaint I can lodge against it is that the third act feels a bit too rushed. Its as if they were trying to keep the film from stretching to the three hour mark. Interestingly, they manage to use this problem to good effect to keep you from asking one important question that would have cast doubt on a particular character's loyalties. I've been thrilled with all three of these movies and its great to have this version of the character and his world wrapped up so well. I love the fact that Batman is a character that can be interpreted in so many different ways and still be identifiably the same person. I can't wait to see how he is portrayed the next time a group of creative people decide to try their hand at the task.

And color me surprised by how good THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN turned out to be. I had lowered expectations for this unnecessary retelling of the origin story and I was of the opinion that after the disaster that was Raimi's third Spider-man it might be time to let the franchise lie fallow for a decade or more. But as I saw more bits of the film in trailers I had to admit that I liked the actor playing Peter Parker much better than the previous guy. I have always felt that Toby McGuire was pretty over-rated as an actor so the chance to see Andrew Garfield emote as my favorite wall-crawler was enticing. The rest of the cast was interesting too- Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben; Sally Field as Aunt May; Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy (nice to have that character brought in correctly) and Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy. Wonderfully the film gives each of these actors several moments to shine. They all felt like real people reacting to events in a realistic way. This is a well done film and one that I truly hope spawns at least a couple of sequels with everyone reprising their roles. Oh- and bonus points for bring back the mechanical web-shooters and making Spidey a joker as he always was in the comics. Thumbs up!

SUPERSTITION  (1982) - 5 (not bad haunted house gore-fest)
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)- 9 (Fantastic)
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012)- 8 (excellent version of the fairy tale)
THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE (1938)- 8 (fascinating crime tale with a great cast)
THE BROTHERS GRIMM (2005)- 8 (rewatch)
HARPER (1966)- 9 (there's a reason Paul Newman was a major star)
WILD BEASTS (1984)- 7 (trashy, exploitative, gory animals on the loose madness)
COP HATER (1958)- 4 (flat, low budget adaptation of an 87th Precinct novel)
TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE (2008)- 1 (terrible, half-assed try at a film)
TWINS OF EVIL (1971)- 8 (rewatch)
BIG FISH (2003) - 10 (rewatch)
INK (2009)- 7 (well made low budget fantasy film)
THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967)- 8 (very fun film)
CASH ON DEMAND (1962)- 9 (brilliant Hammer thriller)
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011)- 6 (over-the-top, hyper-violent exploitation throw-back)
THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944)- 7 (excellent European set mystery with the fantastic Peter Lorre)
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)- 8 (very good retelling of the origin tale)
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN (1935)- 5 (hour long version of the serial)

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