2012 log (7)

(1 Jul) Wanderlust (2012, David Wain) 72
[ My expectations were modest for this Judd Apatow production, which the wife and I wanted to watch mostly because we’re big fans of Paul Rudd, but it turned out to be not only killer entertainment, but a genuinely good little film as well. From a simple enough premise – straight-laced New York couple tries out the hippie commune lifestyle, hilarity ensues – writer-director David Wain and co-writer Ken Marino develop a witty, insightful, engaging character comedy about a married couple being put to the test in many ways. Paul Rudd is awesome of course (his dirty-talk scene is simply uproarious ) and as his wife, Jennifer Awesome completes him wonderfully. But in many ways, it’s the ensemble cast of supporting characters that makes “Wanderlust” such a hoot: Justin Theroux, Malin Ankerman, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn, Jordan Peele, Kerri Kenney-Silver… They’re all really funny, man. Good times! ]

(2 Jul) Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012, Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz)  
[ Has there been a better bubblegum-pop album released since 2010’s Teenage Dream? I actually didn’t even listen to it until earlier this year when I was sent a promo copy of the Complete Confection special edition, but over the past two years, I’d been grooving to the sound of such ubiquitous hits as California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T. and Last Friday Night, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched the accompanying music videos, and not just because Katy Perry is basically a cheesecake version of Zooey Deschanel, as I once wrote. Needless to say I was dying to see Katy Perry: Part of Me, Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz’s concert movie/documentary about her 2011 California Dreams tour, which I had the chance to catch today during one of its “fan sneak previews,” and I wasn’t disappointed. Now, I guess you have to like her and her music to fully enjoy it, but why would you bother to go to her movie if you don’t? Then again, fan or not, you’d have to be really grumpy not to have a smile stuck on your face during much of Part of Me, what with it being, in its most jubilant moments (all the live song numbers, basically), a live-action cartoon of a Technicolor musical, in eye-popping 3D! The candy-colored costumes, the bright lights, the dancing cat, the fireworks, the bubbles, the confetti… It’s a veritable sensory overload. Intercut with the concert scenes is a bunch of interesting behind-the-scenes footage, plus old home videos and new interviews with Katy, her family and her friends that allow us to relive the life story so far of this preacher’s daughter turned Alanis Morissette wannabe turned goofy sexpot pop star. The structure of the film is quite similar to that of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, with which it also shares an understanding of the importance of social media in today’s pop culture and a willingness to include the fans themselves as much as possible. What makes Part of Me even better than the JB doc is, unfortunately for her, the way fate set up a truly dramatic arc in her life while the cameras were rolling. As you must know, while she was doing her big international tour and scoring a record five #1 singles in a row, her still-recent marriage with Russell Brand crumbled and eventually ended. That personal heartbreak must have been a bitch and a half for her, but it makes for really compelling cinema, especially because of the way it leads to Katy impressively embodying that famous phrase: the show must go on.   ]

(11 Jul) Sushi Girl (2012, Kern Saxton)

(14 Jul)    Batman Begins    (2005, Christopher Nolan)    [ review ]          90

(14 Jul) The Dark Knight  (2008, Christopher Nolan)         [ review ]  93

(18 Jul) The Dark Knight Rises  (2012, Christopher Nolan) 95
[ Having recently revisited the first two episodes of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy about the Caped Crusader’s journey in and out of Gotham City over multiples decades and realized more than ever how each was about an overarching theme (overcoming fear in “Batman Begins”, maintaining hope in the midst of chaos in “The Dark Knight”), I went into “The Dark Knight Rises” looking for one…  But of course, the first time you watch a movie, you’re mostly processing the twists and turns of its story – only after multiple viewings can you really look beyond the plot.  Still, right now, I would say this final film is about anger… or death… or redemption… or all three, and more. One thing’s for sure: this is one hell of an ambitious, provocative, epic picture.  I don’t want to spoil the countless surprises it holds, but you’re probably aware of the first gutsy move Nolan made: setting this sequel 8 years after “The Dark Knight”, establishing that after Commissioner Gordon covered up Harvey Dent’s psychotic Two-Face episode and allowed the Batman to take the blame in order to preserve the late district attorney’s legacy, the masked vigilante hung up his cape and cowl and hasn’t been seen since. What’s more, Bruce Wayne has also become a recluse. What will it take to make both his identities go out into the world again?  I’ll let you discover the details, but let’s just say it involves supervillains Catwoman (enjoyably played in full-on femme fatale mode by Anne Hathaway) and Bane (interpreted with imposing menace as well as a sly, wicked sense of humor by Tom Hardy)…  As well as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale in what may be his strongest, most complex turn as the Dark Knight)’s growing entourage, including the returning Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Gordon (Gary Oldman), who are all more endearing than ever, plus earnest young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, delivering one of the film’s most powerful performances) and romantic interest Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). After opening with an insane high-altitude set piece, “The Dark Knight Rises” takes its sweet time catching up with its cast of characters and introducing new ones, and it takes a whole act before the Batman even shows up! Through developments I won’t reveal, he’s soon enough forced into the shadows once again, as things grow darker than ever for Gotham, which is saying a lot. Even if you’ve seen glimpses of the explosive mayhem and terrorism that occurs then in the trailers, you have no idea how grand the scale of it is. It’s truly fascinating the way this all plays into the 21st century sociopolitical zeitgeist, while also brilliantly tying up story threads that were set up in “Batman Begins” then built upon in “The Dark Knight.” Is it the best film in the series? Not quite. [Since it opened a few weeks ago, the movie has kept growing and growing in my mind and has even become a powerful source of inspiration for me. So yeah, it’s totally the best of the trilogy for me, even though…] As written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and especially as played by Heath Ledger, the Joker towers above everything else in these three films. That being said, there’s still tons of mind-blowing, heart-pounding stuff in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Again, I don’t want to just spoil a whole bunch of stuff before you get a chance to see the flick, but allow me to just share how thrilled I was to find that, to me anyway, some of it plays like one of my favourite movies, “Rocky IV”, what with a seemingly washed up Batman having to train harder than ever to fight a seemingly unbeatable monster of a man. How awesome is that?  ]

(20 Jul) Resolution (2012, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead)
(22 Jul) it’s such a beautiful day (2012, Don Hertzfeldt) 100
(22 Jul) Lloyd the Conqueror (2012, Michael Peterson)
(22 Jul) The Devil’s Carnival (2012, Darren Lynn Bousman)
(23 Jul) The Victim (2012, Michael Biehn)
(24 Jul) Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012, Shinji Aramaki)
(30 Jul) Singham (2012, Rohit Shetty)
[ Part of our F a n t a s i a 2012 coverage ]

June / August