Saturday, July 06, 2013

What I Watched in June

Two trips to the theaters last month with one big budget film and one much smaller. MAN OF STEEL is the newest attempt to bring Superman to the big screen in a way that pleases both long times fans of the character and the general public with only the slightest idea of who Kal-El might be. The filmmakers seem to have found a way to please large portions of both types of ticket buyers but not all of either. Since I am a longtime comic book fan conversant in most things Kryptonian I am most amused by others of my tribe as they whine away. The FanBoys (as expected) are complaining about the liberties taken with the origin story and the terrible violent action that Superman is forced into taking near the end of the film. I was very happy with the modifications to the story of the baby alien being sent to Earth by his rebellious parents. I might have opted for less action during this segment of the film but the alterations to this part of the origin were very smart, I thought, as they immediately created the conflict for the second half of the story.

Also, I liked the fact that Lois Lane knows who Superman really is from the beginning. To have a supposedly world class reporter track this mysterious man to his home makes perfect sense and brings the two characters closer together for the future. Amy Adams was great in the role, moving to the top of the list of actresses saddled with this usually thankless part. Also fantastic was Diane Lane as Ma Kent. I've become a big fan of this lady over the last decade as I've seen her rise above some middling material to give strong, nuanced performances repeatedly. She is very good in MOS and deserves to be thought of at awards time. Both actors in the father roles are very good as well but I have to admit that I had a strange feeling watching them onscreen. It had nothing to do with the actors or their work but I saw MOS on Father's Day weekend and if you know the Superman story you know that the relationships between fathers & sons play into a few plot points along the way. I'm not above saying that I teared up a couple of times.

I liked MAN OF STEEL very much and can't wait to see where they go for a sequel. I would love to see Brainiac, the Parasite or even Bizarro pop up to make life difficult for Clark in his new home. 

THE PURGE is being marketed as a horror film but I think its more of a cautionary science fiction tale in the tradition of 1984, GATTACA or CHILDREN OF MEN. I can't claim its as good as those movies but it has more than a few fascinating ideas folded into its narrative that stick with you afterwards. Its near future tale of a United States that has 'controlled' its violence problem by making one twelve hour period each year a time when no laws are enforced is interesting on many levels. The obvious ability to get away with murder - literally- is the most acted upon desire which I found most telling. I have no doubt this would be the way of things in such a scenario but its truly awful when the probable aftermath is considered. The film hints at some of these ideas but not too much- it has other things on its mind.

Its these other ideas that I was most intrigued by in THE PURGE. By the time of the story we are watching this annual Hell Night has become so ingrained in American culture that certain ceremonies surrounding it have become very structured. The moments when people are enacting these ceremonies make it clear that this yearly releasing of the public id has started to take on the trappings of a religion with the 'New Founding Fathers' as high priests in a terrifying kind of secular church. And much like so many organized religions, it looks like this hierarchy is in place to keep the lower classes under control. I wish the movie had spent more time on this aspect of the story but what is there is very strong stuff for the observant viewer. This isn't a great film but its worth seeing.

THE FINAL DESTINATION (2009)- 6 (rewatch) (the weakest of the series)
HAYWIRE (2011)- 7 (very good spy thriller)
RED (2010)- 6 (rewatch)
THE BLACK ROSE (1950)- 9 (excellent 13th century epic tale)
BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME (1991)- 2 (starts out well then sleds downhill quickly)
SHOCK TREATMENT (1981)- 6 (follow up to Rocky Horror is pretty good)
WESTWORLD (1973)- 7 (rewatch)
MAN OF STEEL (2013)- 8
WIZARDS (1977)- 3 (15 minutes of story stretched out to feature length)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)- 9 (rewatch)
THE MILLERSON CASE (1947)- 6 (The 8th Crime Doctor film)
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009)- 7 (great, harsh action film)
THE PURGE (2013)- 6
SHEENA (1984)- 6 

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