Friday, June 10, 2011

Lost Horizon

It's hard to get this challenge going again without any momentum. Not impossible, but very difficult. I find myself lost now that the end of the list is not on my horizon...but I'm trying to find a way to carry on. So forgive me if I seem to be losing my footing at times.

A reader once told me that when I got to Traffic (2000), I would recognize the use of gritty images and the manipulation of colour balances in its shots because many films after Traffic mirrored its style. Well, that day has finally come, and I can definitely agree. Stylistically, this film is brilliant, edgy, and original, saturated with Stephen Soderbergh's distinctive guidance. But as a whole, this one didn't do much for me. The intertwined storylines were supposed to give the film intrigue and keep it at a galloping pace, but only one of them really interested me. Maybe it's too grown-up for me...I don't really know. I can't really relate to any kind of struggle with cocaine or Mexican drug dealers, so a film about such subjects is bound to fall flat with me.
Even so, the performances were still fantastic. Benicio Del Toro (where has he been lately??) brings smoldering Latino flare to the washed-out scenes in Mexico, while Michael Douglas keeps us hooked for the stateside scenes. Topher Grace surfaces for a few key moments, reminding us of the dramatic promise he once showed (and where has he been lately??). My verdict: great performances, fascinating delivery, unimpressive story.

The summer surprises just keep rolling in: X-Men: First Class is actually watchable. Maybe not just that- it's even a little bit entertaining. I was expecting to roll on the floor in agony, but I was stunned by its poise. A star-studded cast helped guide it through its minor kinks, and a fast, fluid plot moves the film along quickly enough so that we can't stop to think about its flaws. Kevin Bacon- always a blast to watch- has so much fun in his villainous role that we can't help but join in, and Jennifer Lawrence shows us her fun side as well, fresh off her wild Winter's Bone ride. My verdict: not a complete waste of summer-job money.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Graduate

That's right. After years of toil and struggle worthy of my own striking drama, I have finally graduated. The parties and celebrations have finally come to an end, the checks have stopped rolling in, and the confetti has at last you know what that means: it's movie season again. Just when you thought I'd never be back...I am, and I'm more ready than ever to take on my massive list.

First and foremost, I have to ackowledge the lone movie I managed to fit in during those few weeks of graduation. It snuck up on me and took me by complete surprise--but it ended up being one of the best movies I've ever seen. Seriously, it blew my mind. Hands down, best film off the list so far.

The Reader (2008) knocks the wind out of you with its powerful emotional punch. I can't even begin to describe the plot without feeling my tear ducts firing up, so I'll just say that it's a sweeping story of acceptance and unswerving true love. Painful, magical, gripping true love. Stephen Daldry delivers brilliantly in his directorial masterpiece. Kate Winslet muscles up the best performance I've ever seen her give, and Ralph Fiennes shows us his sensitive side in one of his better dramatic turns. For me, the real scene-stealer was David Kross. He is absolutely delicious and I have now decided that he is replacing James Franco as my future husband. Sorry, James, I hope you understand-- David is just too good to pass up.

Another crazy surprise I recently encountered? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Biggest shock of the summer so far: it's actually good. The Pirates team out-did themselves in this one, whipping up the best installment in the series since the very first swash-buckling smash back in 2003. Hans Zimmer scores it again (in my opinion, his music makes these movies), giving that old familiar punchy tune a fresh new tone.
Sailing on sans Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, producers were taking a major gamble betting that Johnny Depp alone could take the helm-- but their faith in our favorite maritime outlaw definately paid off. Granted, he did get a hand from newcomers Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, and from familiar faces like the pock-marked mug of Geoffrey Rush...but let's face it, this is Depp's movie. And it's a damn good one at that.