August 19, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The X-Men get the swingin’ 60’s treatment, complete with miniskirts and Cuban missile crisis. Like those old bond movies (from which it borrows a little, much like the Austin Powers films), the gang battles an over-the-top villain, portrayed by no other than Kevin Bacon. By now, movies almost have to be a little tongue-in-cheek for us to consider Bacon as anything else than hilarious, and as a super-bond-like-villain, he fulfils the role nicely. The young actors nicely fill in the shoes of their older counterparts (with even some funny references to their ‘older’ versions from the previous movies) and overall make for an entertaining, not bad but not great, film. The inclusion of the Russians was a nice touch, and the ever-lovely January Jones makes for a great bond villainess, complete with diamonds. The Russians and the CIA are caricatures at best, with mostly character actors hired to play each part. Thankfully there was no bad Kennedy impersonator, and instead they opted for real footage. Overall not great, but definitely watchable and definitely fun. A must if you’re an X-Men fan.

August 14, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Not sure what the target audience for this film is. The English lit name dropping would probably confuse the average rom-com goer, and the reductionist simplification of art history -turned plot device -turned character growth -turned emotional life lesson would be dismissed by the very people that would actually be familiar with all the literature lore. I can only assume Allen was trying to hit as many targets as possible, with at least *most* of the audience at least recognizing *some* of the figures. Personally I enjoyed the Buñuel bit where he is presented with the premise of a plot about dinner party guests that can’t leave the dinner party (the plot to Buñuel’s El ángel exterminador, which I adore). Adrien Brody is also excellent as a young Dalí, and in fact the whole surrealist scene was a gem as well. Plot-wise it’s tightly wrapped together, with the usual Allen signatures of relationship issues and hilarious overwritten dialogues, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the downside is Owen Wilson, which I had a hard time buying as the intellectual struggling writer that he attempts to be, but is quickly dismissed with a scene where he is talking to himself admitting he failed high-school English. Overall fun light comedy that straddles the line between intellectual literary masturbation, inside humour and dumbed down Hollywood fare. It barely makes it but it’s overall watchable. Certainly better than most of the dumb rom-com fare out there right now.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The prequel series reboot by novice director Rupert Wyatt meets expectations. it has all the winks to the original series that the fans might expect, complete with statue of liberty, the ‘damn dirty apes’ and ‘madhouse’ quotes and even a cameo of sorts by Heston (try to spot it). Ultimately though, this is just a CG monster flick, with most of the plot progression nicely anticipated. If anything, it plays it safe with the evolution crowd - the apes no longer evolve naturally into a smarter society, but rather gain their intelligence from a miracle drug. In this sense, the miracle drug reduces the plot to the use of an Unobtainium, but more broadly reduces the philosophical implications (of evolution, intelligence, man-animal interaction) to a mere plot device and has more in common with a zombie flick than with the original. It is not a bad movie overall, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, sure it was better than the 2001 Burton remake, despite how much I would have liked that one to have worked. Franco is solid and Pinto is as lovely as ever, although they are both underused. Lithgow and Cox were strong as well, although I can’t help but think that they were just fulfilling a role and nothing else. Definitely to see if you’re a planet of the apes fan, and also if you’re not, as it’s surely better than a lot of the other commercial stuff that’s in the cineplexes these days.