Though the Netflix queue may be in a sad, semi-stagnant state, I've managed to see a good number of the summer fodder being tossed to the masses this year. Being about one month into the season let's do the first in a three parter here and take a look at a few of the ones that came first out of the gate.
The Judd Apatow Movie Factory has already produced a couple of winners over the past few years - the Will Ferrel vehicles Anchorman and Talladega Nights. But it was the dark horse success of Apatow's own directorial debut, The 40-Year Old Virgin, that's given him creative freedom to produce and direct what might otherwise be considered some risky propositions in Hollywood. Like putting Seth Rogen as the lead in a very R rated, 2 1/2 hour comedy about making an odd-couple relationship work in the event of an unexpected pregnancy.
The movie's hilarious, touching and if it weren't for Hot Fuzz, it would be without competition for the funniest movie this year. Super Bad, the next movie to come out of the JA Factory, might give both of these a run for that title, but I digress.
There are three detractions to this movie that I've heard and I'd like to debunk these quickly. One, the movie is misogynistic. The Phoenix's Peter Keough has always been a lame, predictable, pretentious blow-hard but he used to have a smidge of a sense of humor. But I now consider him to be a humorless, lame, predictable, pretentious knee-jerk liberal of a blow-hard. Possibly for fear of this movie coming off as too much of a guy-movie, Peter tackles the movie in the role of an over-sensitive feminist, finding misogyny around every corner of Knocked Up. Reading his review reminded me of listening to Bill O'Reilly give his opinions on the latest Michael Moore movie three months before its release based on what his lunch date told him it was about.
Ok, maybe not that bad, but Peter was like a bulldog with a new toy -- he grabbed onto one aspect of the movie and couldn't let go, couldn't see past it. Yes, Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, has the juicy yet thankless, role of the, well, kinda bitchy sister to the title role's character. Indeed, she's not a very likable character for the most part -- but she earns a nice redemption at the end that Peter didn't even mention. Is she also supposed to represent what marriage is like for men? I would say no, she's what marriage is like for Paul Rudd's character. Another thing Peter didn't mention is that the men in this movie come off no better -- yes, in fact worse (but in some sort of double-standard playing men coming off as asses is just funny whereas women coming off as asses isn't?) -- than the women do. And also, that this is a comedy, and that generally in these kinds of roles tend to be exaggerated.
Which gets me to the other complaint -- where's the abortion? Hmm, as my girlfriend said, I'm sure there's a hilarious movie waiting to be made about a couple discussing whether or not to get an abortion, sadly Knocked Up isn't that movie. To the people who kept propagating this argument about why abortion wasn't brought up in the movie: First of all, it was. She briefly discussed it with her mother and that discussion had a lot to do with why she didn't go that route. Secondly, this isn't a movie about an odd couple having to make a decision about what to do with an unexpected pregnancy. It's a movie about an odd couple who decide to have a kid. Fer cryin' out loud, the movie's already 2 n' half hours long -- you want to add another 10 minutes in there for the hilarious abortion discussion?
Yeah, so I liked the first two Pirate movies... They're by no means great movies. The first one still stands as pretty damn good if only for reminding people that Johnny Depp is one of our national treasures, even if he decides to reside in France. Sadly, it's true that with the third time around a lot of the charm of the first one has led to a bombasticness that doesn't so much thrill as try hard to keep you interested in the proceedings. The criticism that these proceedings are hard to follow is what has marked the decline of the series is something I find a bit ridiculous. These character's are not very complex -- it's not like were watching a David Mamet movie here, the apparent double/triple crosses are all fairly meaningless. This is one of those complaints that you'll find professional critics spout about summer movies all the time so that they don't sound like joyless bastards.
There's still a good enough time to be had with this one. I enjoyed it less than the second but that's simply because it's kind of the Jedi of this trilogy. There's a pretty good beginning, but the ending just didn't knock it out of the park like the last one did. I'll say right now that I don't want anymore of these movies to clog up the summer movie faire, but give it ten years or so, I could see returning to the characters as a very cool ONE MOVIE project.
This one caused a lot of hullabaloo. Thor knows why. Having been going over the pages of geek debate when this came out -- the majority of it stems from the "evil Peter Parker" sequence and having too much going on by having two/three villains in the movie. I can see where they're coming from on the last point there, but the "evil Peter Parker" musical sequence was, and still is, one of the most memorable film moments this year. And that's coming from a film AND comic book geek. Back off, I got the long boxes to back this shit up.
The real problem with Spider-Man 3 was that they peaked with #2. Really, it's a fool’s job to try and top that one. So they went with the obvious choice... go dark, get into some relationship issues. And that's what Spider-Man 3 is all about. And I say bless the shoes Sam Raimi walks in because he's got the nerve to actually keep himself interested in this series even though we all know he didn't want to put Venom up in this. So ok, you say someone else should have done the Venom movie. Yeah, someone like a fucking Ratner a Tim Story, or a Mark Steven Johnson? Someone that would creatively bankrupt the series yet given you all your bang boom jollies? To hell with that noise. Cross your fingers that Raimi continues the series or at least has a voice in who picks up the ball. Because if he doesn’t you know they’re going to try and reduce their budget by picking up someone with a cheap price tag who’s just competent enough to film an action sequence.
If Sam doesn’t have a say in the next Spidey, you'll most likely end up with the shit storm that is the Fantastic Four film franchise. I'll tell you right off the bat that I didn't see the first one. Even on video. It just looked horrible. First off, as much eye candy that Alba is I can't justify putting dying her hair blond and putting her in the role of Susan Storm. For shit's sake there are, I'm sure, dozens of capable blond actresses who could act circles around Alba. Why have a walking paradox emoting in your movie?
The Thing. Thing is the meat of the F4 comics. If we can't wait for technology to catch up to us, can we at least employ some of the tricks we pulled in Lord of Rings. Ian McKellen isn't three feet taller than Elijah -- Robbie Coltrane isn't an actual fucking giant. Can't you give us a Thing that is more than 5 foot fucking 8 and a half?
That isn't the biggest crime in this horrible, greasy fart of a movie. There's just no camaraderie. The whole point of enjoying a Fantastic Four story is the interaction of the family joining forces to defeat whatever evil of the month it is. In this lame duck there's one (count 'em, one) scene with the four of them working together. And what does this scene function as? To tell us that they can't work together. Sure, that's a little misleading since they've been given the Silver Surfer mojo, but we don't get anything remotely go team after that. Hell, this movie isn't worth any more words than this. Horrible. For the record, I'm ok with who they have playing Mr. Fantastic and Johnny.
Ahh, like cracking open a beer on a Sunday afternoon. The Ocean's movies are doing their job of making up for the lack of Steve McQueen in our generation. Three cheers for Soderbergh and the rest of them. I say. The summer movie viewing process is like journeying from one hot house to the next – watching an Ocean’s opens up the windows and gives you a nice breeze and a sunset. (I'm sure Paddy will enjoy that analogy.) We're not here to see a guy with adamantium claws fuck shit up; we're here to see some casual badass motherfuckers fuck shit up for a guy that doesn't follow the badass motherfucker's code. I’m not one to advocate remakes. But in the case of Ocean’s they’ve taken the idea of the original movie and made it something tangible to this generation. There’s even a nice meta theme through out this one – A guy who’s shaken Sinatra’s hand should know better than to fuck with another guy who’s shaken Sinatra’s hand.
I don't think these movies are any sort of guilty pleasure either. I don't really believe in guilty pleasures. You have a great director who works as his own great cinematographer and a handful of some of the best actors working in the business. And yes, watching actors work off each other can be worth the price of the ticket alone. How else do you explain the lasting value of movies like Roman Holiday, Neil Simon movies, and ensemble comedies in general. Again, this is going back to those rat pack movies themselves and why they were popular. Not to mention that the heist movie genre is something very dear to my heart.
Well, my time's up here. I'm off to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago tomorrow morning so I have to get some sleep.
Stay tuned for a contest to win a new, unopened, perfect condition Second Season Twin Peaks DVD set. I just have to figure out what the contest is...