Monday, May 20, 2013

What I'm Looking Forward To...

I didn't want to leave you completely hanging on this topic, Ben.  There are a few films I'm really looking forward to in the coming months, as well.  Here are my most anticipated for the summer:

BEFORE MIDNIGHT - As it stands now, easily my most anticipated film of the year.  I even recently bought the first two films just so I could bask in them again as I wait for this to (hopefully) come to Ithaca in the next month or so.  I've still yet to see the trailer (thank you very much for almost spoiling that, Cinemapolis), which may be the first time in my life that I've intentionally avoided images from a film that I'm genuinely thrilled to see.  But, without actually reading any reviews, the brief comments I've read here and there on it seem to suggest that it is as miraculous as the first two.  Can't wait.  Definitely an opening weekend film for me, as well.

MAN OF STEEL - My comic book and superhero love is exclusively divided between Batman and Superman.  They're the only characters I give a damn about, to be honest.  New films centered on them are probably the only childlike excitement I experience over Hollywood blockbusters nowadays.  I remain cautiously optimistic about this one.  There are many things to feel positive about from Nolan's involvement to Michael Shannon as General Zod.  The one major concern, of course, is that Zach Synder is at the helm (sigh).  If a better, more trustworthy director were in charge of this, my excitement would be overflowing.  For now, it's guarded, but I'll still be seeing this opening weekend regardless.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES - if it comes to theaters anywhere near here, I will definitely be seeing it.  As Brandon said, I do love Gosling as much as the next hipster dude and every girl on the planet.

BLUE JASMINE - Woody's latest.  I want to see a trailer and hear the word on it first before deciding whether it's worth seeing in theaters or not (if it even comes near here).  It's got the insanely talented and still completely beautiful to these eyes Cate Blanchett in it, so I'm hoping it's decent.

THE CONJURING - I still haven't seen INSIDIOUS and don't know how to feel about James Wan, but I'm completely drawn to this one due to the stellar teaser they released featuring a pretty wicked game of hide-and-go-seek.  I'm an unabashed haunted house movie lover, so I'll probably see this in theaters barring some extremely negative reviews.

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS - Apparently this one's getting a limited release in August.  If and when that means it will ever play near here is still up for question.  If it does, I'd definitely see it considering the positive vintage Malick-esque buzz I've been hearing on it.

Also interested in:

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS - I liked the first one.  I'll probably see this with my dad since he'll buy my ticket for me.  Not overly excited for it, but interested enough to sit through it at least.  It's got Benedict Cumberbatch in it though, which is a serious plus.

UPSTREAM COLOR - If I don't ever see it, I won't be too disappointed.  I'm not that big a fan of PRIMER or the trailer to this one, so I don't know what to expect or how to feel about seeing it.  Word's been pretty positive on it though (and Ben seemed to love it while Brandon liked it too), so maybe it'll be worth seeing.

THIS IS THE END/THE WORLD'S END - two likely stupid apocalyptic comedies that I'm fairly interested in seeing and hope are funny.

FRANCES HA - The major word floating around is that this is easily Baumbach's best film.  It's in black-and-white so I'll be curious to see it when it comes to streaming or DVD.

I may be missing others I'm excited for?  This is all that springs to mind at the moment.

Getting Caught Up

Those were exemplary posts on PINES, John and Brandon.  I'm sorry I don't have much to add.  I think John summarized my opinions on it much more eloquently than I could, but I also think that Brandon brought up some pretty insightful points that illuminated much of what I missed in my own review.  PINES does try hard, and I'm sure it's in earnest; it just gets so turgid from excess that it feels clumsy, overbearing even.  There are individual moments that I respect (even beyond the first third) but too many narrative missteps and dead ends.  Brandon did a nice job of unpacking what worked and what didn't throughout it's inordinate plotting and seemingly interminable running time.  It's a respectable film in a lot of ways, but it's ultimately an immensely sloppy failure.

I don't have much to add to what John and Ben remarked about MUD either.  I had a great time spending the afternoon and evening with those two gentleman (the best parts obviously being when I had to run out of the theater to avoid the BEFORE MIDNIGHT trailer and the old couple who randomly decided to sit right next to me).  Like John, I too am taken aback by MUD's 98% tomatometer score considering the lasting impression it leaves is one of quiet appreciation and nothing near exuberance or awe.  It's a simple, solidly made story.  It doesn't do anything particularly great, but it hardly contains egregious flaws either.  I agree with Ben that coming off of the exceptional TAKE SHELTER, MUD seems like a timid lateral step (if not a step backwards) for Nichols.  He's still a wonderful and promising filmmaker in these eyes, I just found less to be impressed by with MUD.  Still, there are a lot of things to like about it, particularly the relationship between Mud and the boys and the many father/son emotional dynamics at play.  Nichols, as with SHOTGUN STORIES, does an astute job of articulating male, familial bonds while keeping a precarious eye on burgeoning and faltering male relationships with females.  In a lot of ways, it's a very male-centric film (perhaps to the point that it fails to understand its female characters).  Regardless, am I alone in thinking it could have used a little more Michael Shannon?

Funny enough that Ben and I talked briefly about my not having seen LET ME IN on the way back from Ithaca because I was able to watch it a few days later with a friend of mine.  I still vastly prefer LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and its grimier, more cryptic feel, but Reeve's film is no slouch.  It's well-made in its own way, and even distinguishes itself enough visually to not be a complete carbon-copy.  Still, it lies sheepishly in the shadow of the original.

Re-watching THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for the first time unequivocally confirms how much I like that movie.  It really is a blast from start to finish.  Its ridiculousness is entirely vindicated by its jovial sense of humor.

Also, re-watching THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS for the first time in years reminded me just how wonderful and hilarious it is.  Easily one of Wes Anderson's best achievements.

Minnelli's FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) is decent.  It's a fairly innocuous wedding story (which, I kind of hate, to be honest) but it's mostly propped up by the humorous and generally stalwart presence of Spencer Tracy.  He keeps the ship afloat even when you don't care if it sinks or not.  Also, I love Joan Bennett, so that helps additionally.

THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1938) is largely delightful even as it feels grounded by a kind of sobering moribundity.  Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart again make an invariably charming pair (lovers of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER will know what I'm talking about).  But the film is probably most noteworthy for having such a gutsy ending.  Its unflinchingly realistic depiction of loss (and its final close-up shot) recalls STELLA DALLAS, which came out the same year.  I don't think this kind of brutal honesty was prevalent throughout the 40s, but in the late 30s its on full display and remains stark and ultimately powerful.

GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939) was a bit of a revelation for me.  I knew of its elevated status among A-picture Hollywood dramas, but figured it would be dull and dry like many of the "important," humorless melodramas of the era.  I was quite wrong.  It's hardly the auteurist masterwork, but it's an incredibly generous film.  It radiates kindness for humanity and a goodness of character.  It's as gentle-spirited as one could possibly imagine, which is really remarkable.  And Donat gives a wonderful performance as Chips.  Another genuinely outstanding film to add to 1939's robust yield.

In some non-film related news, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 4 arrives this weekend, and I couldn't possibly be happier about it.  Long time coming.