2013 log (5-6-7)

(2 May) The Dark Knight Rises (2012, Christopher Nolan) [ review ] 95

(4 May)    Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, Nicholas Stoller)  [ review ]   67

(6 May)    Iron Man 3 (2013, Shane Black) 62
[ Coming after the extraordinary “The Avengers”, which may have been the best goddamn superhero movie ever made (give or take the “Dark Knight” trilogy), this third “Iron Man” flick demands that we lower our expectations somewhat. It’s a fun enough watch, maybe not as fresh as the first one, but less scattered than the second one… In any case, it’s certainly not on the level of “The Avengers”. Maybe that’s why Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., as great as ever) has a panic attack every time he thinks about the otherworldly events that happened in New York? Seriously, I liked the way they played with the fact that that whole mess in “The Avengers” really shook up Stark. Which makes him somewhat more vulnerable when the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) launches a series of terrorist attacks, ostensibly to teach America a lesson. Making things even more challenging for Tony is the way the plot keeps him out of the Iron Man armor or puts him in a not fully functional one for most of the movie. A superhero being put to the test like that is not unheard of, but writer-director Shane Black (reuniting with Downey Jr. 8 years after their enjoyable “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” collaboration) makes it work well enough here. I also liked the sparse but effective use of voice-over narration, plus Black cooked up a couple of twists that are quite clever. The one thing I really wasn’t crazy about is the subplot involving Guy Pearce’s character and all those quasi-T-1000 henchmen who can burn through stuff and regenerate themselves… Felt silly to me, and the action scenes involving them are so-so in my opinion. At this point, I don’t know how much we need another “Iron Man” movie. But I’m still looking forward to seeing him show up in “The Avengers 2”!   ]

(12 May)    The Great Gastby (2013, Baz Luhrmann) 85
[ I’m a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann, particularly of his “Moulin Rouge!”, which is just about my favorite movie of all time. So it was a delight and a thrill to catch his latest, especially since it features everything I love about his cinema, at least at first. Adapted of course from the classic F. Scott Fitzerald novel, it bring us back to the Roaring Twenties, at a time when Wall Street was booming, people were getting rich and everyone was seemingly partying it up, especially in and around New York. Tobey Maguire plays a naïve, innocent newcomer to this world, not unlike Christian in “Moulin Rouge!”, and like that character, he’s tempted early on into taking part in the decadence of his surroundings. You see, he happens to now be living next door to the titular Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious man who lives in a spectacular palace where he hosts equally spectacular soirées every weekend. The scenes depicting this are wildly entertaining and filled with all things Baz: dizzying cinematography and editing (in 3D!), gorgeous art direction, plus breathless storytelling that blends history with pure fantasy… It’s the past and the future at the same time, the film is both modern and gloriously old-fashioned, meticulously recreating the period while using all kinds of 21st century tricks and special effects…  Everything is wonderfully choreographed, we swing along in an overdose of glamour and luxury, to the sounds of jazz music mixed with hip hop… “It’s like an amusement park!” Exactly. But then, maybe halfway into it, the party slows down and “The Great Gatsby” becomes more about the specifics of the plot. Gatsby, we discover, has made himself into a man of wealth and fame all in the hope of winning back the love of his life, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who lives across the bay and is married to a rich heir (Joel Edgerton) who shamelessly cheats on her… What happens to them is interesting and eventually grows into a veritable romantic tragedy, but I can’t say it involved or moved me as much as I wish it did. Ultimately, I found myself missing the tremendously enjoyable audiovisual extravaganza of the first half. I still liked the film a great deal, even though it feels a bit unbalanced. Oh well, that’s okay, Baz, we’ll always have “Moulin Rouge!”.    ]

(24 May)    Side Effects (2013, Steven Soderbergh) 72
[ Right from the opening moments, I was into the very Soderberghian nature of it all…  The cinematography, the tone, the rhythm… Steven Soderbergh has explored various genres these past few years and told different kinds of stories, but his touch always remains distinctive. His films maintain a balance between indie and Hollywood, mainstream and artsy, visceral and thoughtful…  I was also grabbed by Rooney Mara’s performance. I adored her in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and in a more low-key register, she once again proves to be an exceptional actress. Her character here suffers from depression and she conveys this in all these subtle little ways. It notably has to do with how she’s not like super-sad all the time…  She smiles, she goes along with things, she seems fine… And yet there’s this grey cloud hovering over her, this fleeting vulnerability in her eyes, this occasional sense that she’s slightly askew (there’s a shot early on of her looking in the mirror that depicts that exactly) . The cast also features Soderbergh’s recent BFF Channing Tatum as Mara’s husband, who is released from jail in the first few scenes after serving time for insider trading, plus Jude Law and Catherine Zeta Jones as, respectively, Mara’s new and former psychiatrists. Which brings us to the seemingly casual way drugs are being prescribed in the film. Antidepressants, to be precise, which can work, but can also have all these, well, side effects. Plus, there’s the fact that it’s not always clear whether doctors are prescribing them for the right reasons… Without spoiling anything, I can mention that “Side Effects” ultimately works in some thriller elements, but interestingly, it kind of goes in and out of them…  Like, you’ll get the feeling it’s becoming this twisty plot thing, but then it turns back on itself and returns to being a rather down to earth thing. It’s hard to describe without going into specifics, but it’s captivating the way it plays with your expectations until the very end. ]

(25 May)   The Hangover Part III (2013, Todd Phillips) 50
[ It’s fun enough to go for another ride with the Wolf Pack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis), following them to Tijuana and then back to Las Vegas while they chase that darn Chow (Ken Jeong)…  But there’s just no way they can rekindle the magic of the original film, try as they might. There are some outrageous things happening this time again, but nothing quite as iconic as their first (mis)adventures. I should also mention that it felt like most of the movie’s gags had been spoiled by the trailers and TV ads, which didn’t help. I’m still glad I saw this third episode, but I can’t say I laughed all that much.  ]

(25 May)   Spring Break (1983, Sean S. Cunningham) 18
[ This 80s sex comedy isn’t notable for much.  You got these 4 morons in Fort Lauderdale getting drunk, getting high and getting laid (or trying to anyway)…  There’s a wet T-shirt contest, a bikini contest…  Some nonsense about one of the guy’s stepfather sending men to track him down… And that’s about that.  ]

(5 Jul)  Bachelorette (2012, Leslye Headland) 66
[ Here’s a darker, less comedic twist on “Bridesmaids”, in which a woman (Rebel Wilson)’s imminent wedding brings out all of her friends (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan)’s issues…  It’s kind of an odd film, with some laughs here and there, but mostly a lot of uncomfortable moments involving drug use, a diehard eating disorder, a long-ago abortion, suicide attempts and whatnot. It doesn’t all work, but the actresses do their best to keep us involved.  ]

(7 Jul) Sharks in Venice (2008, Danny Lerner) 35
[ The title says it all: we’re in Venice and there are sharks in the water. Plus Stephen Baldwin is being chased around by bad guys looking for Medici treasure… The highlights, of course, are the shark attacks, which are somewhat incoherently shot and cut, but which remain enjoyably bloody and ridiculous. And then there are a bunch of fights and shootouts, too. This is a B-movie all the way, but it’s action-packed enough to be watchable. ]

(9 Jul)   Man of Steel  (2013, Zack Snyder) [ review ] 70

(12 Jul) Pacific Rim (2013, Guillermo Del Toro) [ review ] 78

(12 Jul)   Sharknado (2013, Anthony C. Ferrante) 45
[ It’s a tornado… filled with sharks! So there are not only bloody shark attacks in the water; sharks are also blown on shore and in the streets and into buildings…  So it’s not just a shark movie, it’s a full-on disaster movie, with endless wind and water hitting L.A….  None of it is very well made but, if anything, the action pretty much never stops. It’s all intense weather, sharks eating people and people fighting back with shotguns and chainsaws. That, and sucky acting (hello, Tara Reid!). A fun time at the (B) movies.  ]

(19 Jul)   This Is the End (2013, Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen) [ review ] 67

(19 Jul)   Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 (2011, Alex Zamm) 29
[ What am I doing watching a direct-to-DVD sequel to a silly, silly Disney movie starring a bunch of talking dogs? Well, you see, the wife and I are seriously thinking about adopting a chihuahua, so we figured we oughta watch this “documentary” about that oh so cute breed. Again, this is a silly, silly movie. But if you’re mostly interested in seeing a bunch of chihuahuas running around, this should do the trick. ]

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