Monday, October 02, 2006

Summer Movie Review

Each of the movies below were some of the most hyped and likely to be most successful movies of the year (in the case of Pirates it seems of all time!). When and where we saw them might serve as benchmarks for different events or stages of our summers. Perhaps our summers are never as life changing or the journeys of growth so often depicted in movies but for me the movies themselves are the best vehicle of escapism we allow ourselves. That and a six month trek to New Zealand of course! Highlights of the summer not included in my preview list from last May include the noir high school drama ’Brick’, Al Gores’s documentary ’An Inconvenient Truth’, ‘Dave Chapelle’s Block Party’ intermingling the music and organisation of Chapelle‘s free Brooklyn concert, ‘The Science of Sleep’ from the director of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, Tommy Lee Jones directorial debut ‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’ and ‘Monster House’ the best and most original of the summers spate of animated movies. Below is a short review of each of the movies I listed as worth our viewing time this summer:
Mission Impossible III
Fans of Alias, J.J Abrams’ now retired spy drama series will know that Mission Impossible III was effectively a 2-hour episode of the show. From telling a section of the story in flashback, double crossing and triple-crossing within the organisation to characters being lifted directly from the show there is an over boding sense of familiarity. Cruise selected Abrams as director having watched the first 2 series of Alias, which contains some of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen, so I can’t help feel disappointed at the outcome of the movie, lacking the tension, tight structuring and complexity of Alias. There is spectacle, thrills and a bridge set kidnap attempt will surely be one of the action sequences of the year but these glimmers are strung together by slivers of character, over long exposition and a saccharine sweet ending. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent in his role but as with Kevin Spacey in Superman, discussed below, you can’t help but wish he was put to better use. Far superior to its predecessor and absolutely worth an evenings viewing on DVD, this movie is beleaguered by unfulfilled potential.
X3: The Last Stand
Many people have been disappointed by the third instalment in the X-Men series. More lumbering and fractured than Bryan Singers’ work, the movie did seem to loose some of its epic feel. The story of Dark Phoenix was one of the most dramatic and popular in the X-Men comic book series, here it effectively bookends the movie and feels under-developed. Nevertheless, the movie remains strong on story, numerous as they are and respectful of the core characters. Each of the stunt sequences and effects are necessary, glorious eye fodder and tied to the story with the build up to and confrontation between Wolverine and Phoenix on Alcatraz being a highlight of the year for me. Nacho Libre
‘Nacho Libre’ was a surprise gem. Produced by Nickelodeon your are unprepared for the strangely engrossing hybrid of Laurel and Hardy buddy slapstick, the look of chop socky martial arts movies and the feeling you are watching a period Mexican movie. The result is that what could have been an over familiar, seeming retread of the story line of ’The School of Rock’ is given a feel good, broad based humour and affirming story.

Superman Returns

I have already reviewed Superman Returns (here). I would also recommend reading Empire Magazines excellent online review. No movie this year has been made with such respect and care and we were presented with the most grown up comic book adaptation yet produced. Not since Sleepy Hollow have I been so drawn into a movie world by its look. The cast are pitch perfect, the nods to previous Superman incarnations wink knowingly at fans and I want to gush endlessly about the awe this movie from the opening trill of its score stirs up.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest
If the summer belonged to one film, it was Pirates of the Caribbean and not unjustifiably as Dead Man’s Chest is the most fun we have had at the cinema this year. Topping every chart and box office poll imaginable, these set of characters with Captain Jack Sparrow affirming his movie icon status and a sense of adventure not seen since Indiana Jones have developed a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. All the elements were in place to recreate the magic of ’The Curse of the Black Pearl’ and though this follow up is certainly not on a par with the first Pirates, it is not so much that is disappoints- it is still rip-roaring and sets the stage for a fascinating conclusion next summer.
Miami Vice
I don’t have a lot of respect for people who sit through and pin point mistakes and minutiae plot point failings in movies. Maybe it is some deep set need to affirm their intelligence and people are entitled to their opinions but for me it just seems to instil a pettiness that proliferates in the world I use movie watching to escape. Anyway I’m sure such people would have a field day with Miami Vice, which does suffer from a coherency of plot and a logical progression. However even to judge the movie as a whole with the gravitas a Michael Mann movie is usually partnered with, I was unable to feel the seriousness and intensity that was so desperately being churned out on screen. None of it is believable or gripping. Fox and Farrell play a well established team, Mann intentionally dipped into their story at a stage where they knew each other so well there was little need for dialogue between them or any form of exposition of their working relationship- it is never really made clear if they are even friends. The monotones of the LA backdrop seem to seep into the characters and atmosphere of the movie, not leaving you with any strong feelings towards the movie, just merely one of indifference. Even movies that are reviled leave a mark, Miami Vice however will not.

Timing and release dates have meant that I have not seen ‘The Sentinel’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or ‘The Omen‘. If anyone reading has seen and would like to comment on these movies, please do. I have yet to see ‘World Trade Centre’ but I intend to.

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

While it may not have been the best movie of this summer, Nacho Libre definitely sticks with me as the most charming one ... I need to see it again soon!