Where did this summer go? I know this blog has been drier than a retired hooker but fear not, I have been to many movies of the cinema this summer, and instead of trying to write countless reviews and spend many man-hours of blogging, I’ve decided to just do many mini-reviews of all my summer movies in one nice, little, tidy bundle. So let’s start from May and go till the tail end of August.
May was probably the best month out of the summer, starting with the slam-bang action movie of the summer , a hilarious comedy and then giving us two independent film contenders for best film of the year.
Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster, The Rock
Yea, Yea. I know this film came out in April, but it was really the first big summer film that came out. The film brings back all the major players from the first four films and sends them to Rio for a mix of “Bad Boys 2” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” As ridiculous and over-the-top the movie looked and sounded, it turned out to be one of the best films of the summer and one of the best action films of the year. Diesel and Walker have always been mediocre action stars but paired together they have undeniable chemistry together, and paired with the additions of Ludacris, Tyrese, and The Rock, the film becomes a shit-ton of fun, featuring multiple shootouts, car chases, foot chases, and brawls. A theoretically ridiculous train heist sequence because one of the most insane, jaw-dropping action sequences Ive seen in awhile featuring realistic stunts and effects and little CGI. An ending action sequence featuring two cars, a bank vault, and a police chase through the streets of Rio isn’t only of the best car chases of the franchise but one of the best of the past few years in cinema. However, at almost 2 and 1/2 hours the movie does drag when it tries to balance all its characters, the movie still has a breakneck pace, with a kitchen sink attitude of film-making that manages to work. A movie that shows no matter how crazy and ridiculous it is, it can still be insanely fun.
Directed by: Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
The movie was called “The Hangover” for girls but I think that’s being generous to “the Hangover.” “The Hangover” was four guys who try to figure out what happened the night before after alot of heavy drinking, while the “Bridesmaids” is the story of Kristen Wiig and a 30 something modern female with no career, husband, or prospects in life, and dealing with the people you care about moving forward without you. Some pretty adult ideas for a romantic comedy with juvenile humor. Wiig pulls off the lead role flawlessly and is finally given a role that balances her dramatic/comedic chops with a chance to be in the limelight. However as good as Wiig is, the movie wouldn’t be as good without the phenomenal supporting cast. The always reliable Maya Rudolph, a perfectly matched foil to Wiig in the form of Rose Byrne, a hilarious Jon Hamm, an adorably sweet Chris O’ Dowd, and the breakout success of Melissa McCarthy, who I imagine will see the same success as Galifianakis did from the “The Hangover.” The movie does have the Judd Apatow syndrome of making a comedy over two hours and scenes could have easily been cut, especially in the third act, but these are minor quibbles. The movie was highlighted by the fact that it was a raunchy comedy with mostly all females. What people don’t realize is that females have always been gross, we just needed to find the right ones to make it into a good movie.
Midnight in Paris:
Even though I was a longtime Woody Allen fan, I didn’t dig deep into his filmography until this year. Say what you want about him, he is one of the most talented, consistent American filmmakers today. Allen churns out an insane number of films, and sometimes has dry-spells but still delivers an overall entertaining product. “Midnight in Paris” is a welcome return to classic Woody Allen. Many of Allen‘s films from the 2000’s have been hit or miss, and sometimes experimental, but “Midnight in Paris” reminds us why he is one of our most beloved filmmakers. The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil (playing the Woody Allen surrogate) as a California screenwriter on a trip with his fiance, struggling with a first novel, in love with the city of Paris, and during his midnight walks he is magically transported to 1920’s Paris where he runs into many famous people from the literary and art world, and finally feels right where he should be. The movie has the beautiful shots of the city and is obviously Allen‘s love letter to Paris, along with his traditional jazz score, witty dialogue, and eclectic cast of characters, Allen crafted a charming, lovable film that takes full advantage of the oddball concept and makes great use of character actors playing roles of Hemingway, Dali, and Gertrude Stein among other famous artists and including a hilariously pretentious performance from Michael Sheen. The movie is almost a great study of Art history as much as a travelogue to Paris. People questioned Owen Wilson as the lead,but he actually helps propel this movie above and beyond. His charming and neurotic personality fits the surrogate Woody Allen role like a glove and is one of the best actors besides Woody Allen himself to play the role. His chemistry with Marion Cotillard is also one of the better on-screen romances to appear in 2011. A likable, fun, diversion. A love letter to Paris, as much as it is a love letter to a golden age, while being a study of our modern relationship with nostalgia. Bravo.
Tree of Life:
This may be one of the best movies ever made or one of the most pretentious. This is one of the best films I’ve ever seen that I’d have trouble recommending to anyone. Malick‘s near masterpiece is a grandeur cinematic near-masterpiece about life, death, heaven, earth, and everything in between. This is a highly ambitious, one-of-a-kind film that is hard to categorize, at times confusing and frustrating, but full of moments of extreme beauty and poignancy. A difficult film to describe, a majority of the story is about the summer of a small-time Texas family in the 1950’s who raise three young sons under the aggressive and emotional abusive of Brad Pitt, as Mr. O’ Brian, and Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O’ Brain, the angelic, caring mother. The film alternates between images of the universe’s creation and Sean Penn as the grown up version of the young son Jack. Granted, some of the parts of the film, such as the moments with Sean Penn, feel drawn out and almost at times pointless, but mark my words, the Academy Awards will be a travesty if this film does not win Best Cinematography. The film ranks of one of the most beautifully photographic films of all time. Seeing this film on a large screen, is almost heart wrenching in its astounding beauty. The movie although is highly experimental, and is a commitment to sit through and absorb, this is not the kind of film you can tune in and watch on autopilot, it is a masterclass in filmmaking and full of metaphorical imagery and layers of complexity whether it be the value of life, family, science, religion, and our place in the world. The kind of film that deserves to be seen by everyone, but will have a difficult time finding an audience. Many people will claim that it is long, has no story, is boring, and makes no sense, and for many people this will be the truth, but for some people who are willing to sit back and be engrossed in a rare motion picture, the experience will be extremely rewarding. For me, it was.
I also saw the film “Thor” theatrically in the month of May but have a separate review already posted that can be found here: http://prodigalfilmstudent.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/thor-2011-review/