Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I Watched In May

I was able to catch three movies in the theater last month and the first was the very good horror film OCULUS. As a horror fan I am often angered by the lack of support for high quality entries in the genre and I find myself pissed that there isn't more talk around this smart film.

The plot involves a young brother and sister that experience the murder of their parents.  Years later as the brother is released from a mental hospital his sibling forces him to join her as she sets out to prove the deaths were caused by the supernatural. That is all I'll say about the plot to keep from spoiling this clever story but I was thrilled to see smart characters with different opinions processing a traumatic experience like (young) adults. They deal with things logically and at every point seem to be doing the best thing to resolve the problem at hand. The sister uses observations and research to prepare for the dangerous plan she sets in motion and the lengths to which she goes to prove her version of events is moving. This is a very well done horror film and one more people should see before it disappears into the background noise of the world of video.

Much whining has been done about the decision to reboot the Spider-Man movie franchise after the disaster of SPIDER MAN 3. At first I understood but then I saw the new film THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and I loved it. It wasn't perfect but to me it much better captured the sense of fun and kinetic energy that I always associated with the comic books when I was a kid. This film was looser, funnier and incidentally more emotional and touching by virtue of being less staid and serious about its core character.  Yes- Peter Parker has tragic events in his life but he is resilient and tough in ways that make him more than a younger form of the Nolan Batman. Spider-Man jokes his way through his fears using humor and often silly actions to gain an advantage and confuse villains. The previous trilogy never got that aspect of the character and suffered for it. Plus, I've never thought Tobey McGuire was all that great in the role.

So we come to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and the whining continues. I'm so tired of the complaints that I'll just note that I loved this film and am very happy with this new series so far. I like the casting, the choice of villains, the relationships, the action scenes, the CGI and pace of the movie. I will admit that at times the film feels a little ramshackle as if its covering too many bases for its own good but I never felt as if I was being shortchanged. To be honest, I could have watched another thirty minutes of this world and been very happy. I like everyone onscreen - even the creepy guy playing Harry Osborn! And I think Andrew Garfield is fantastic as Peter Parker because he gets that the only way this guy gets through life is by making light of the things that he can so the harsh parts of his life don't crush his soul. His scenes with Sally Field as Aunt May are brilliant at getting across the deep love between the two while acknowledging their shared loss and grief. I believed every human interaction in this film and I could never say that about the Raimi films - as good as the first two were they were a bit too distant and cold. These movies are warm in a way that feels like we are visiting friends not often seen but missed every day.

And, by the way, the visualization of Spidey web-slinging around New York is incredible! I have never seen anything in a fantasy film that more perfectly captured what I saw in my mind's eye as I read the source material. Amazing indeed. And this fluidity of motion and the  ingenuity of how they use the physicality of Spider-Man makes the fight sequences jaw dropping. They are well choreographed, organic and pure fun to watch! I'm sure the bitching about these movies will never end but for this fanboy - sign me up for part three.

So, American filmmakers got a second shot at GODZILLA. This time instead of turning it over to under-talented hacks incapable of crafting a story with discernable human emotions the producers went with the idea of quality. Director Gareth Edwards has made one film previous to taking on this huge project but that film was MONSTERS (2010) and it was excellent. If you have seen that film the creature creating skills of Edwards are obvious but what made it such a solid film was the care taken with the human characters that have to deal with the titular monsters. Much the same approach is taken with GODZILLA and it pays off very well. The film follows the 'hide the big guy' strategy of the original 1954 classic but with the added twist of giving us two other Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects for 'Zilla to battle. And battle they do! The final thirty minutes of this film contain some of the most satisfying giant monster fights of all time. Wonderful stuff!  I do feel that the movie could be about ten minutes shorter - ten minutes removed from the first half - just to pick up the pace but this is a good addition to the Godzilla legend and one that I hope spawns sequels. 

OCULUS (2014)- 8
DOC SAVAGE - MAN OF BRONZE  (1975)- 5  (rewatch)
THE HANGING WOMAN (1973)- 7 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966)- 5 (rewatch)
BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)- 8 (rewatch)
GODZILLA (2014)- 7
TARZAN THE APE MAN  (1932)- 7 (rewatch)
TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)- 8 (rewatch) 


Kal said...

I agree with all three of your opinions. All three were fine films and I don't usually go for the Horror ones but Oculus was genuinely creepy.

Rod Barnett said...

Oculus is destined to be considered a minor classic.