Friday, August 03, 2012

Seen in July

Generally, I tend to see a lot of summer movies, if only to hide in the darkened air conditioned theatre from the heat, and those are the most crucial letters of the alphabet. A/C. No 3D please, just give me the A/C from DC, thank you very much. This season hasn't been as busy as usual, maybe just because I've been busier than usual. In any event, summer viewing is always a mixed bag of good, bad, popular or banal.

Maj-Britt Nilsson as Marie in Bergman's 1951 film, Summer Interlude, via

Summer Interlude
Ingmar Bergman film from 1951 of a woman's remembrances of a beautiful teen-age summer affair that ends tragically. The woman is 28-year-old Marie, and her memory of that idyllic summer is contrasted with her bleak (of course), loveless existence in a theatre to which she has devoted her life. She's an aging principle dancer with nothing to look forward to and only bittersweet memories behind her. It's a Bergman film so the sound of wind is the primary score and there are lines like "…build a wall around your heart to protect yourself from the misery" and "I built the wall but instead of protecting me, I became a prisoner" which is kind of the whole point. The tragedy of that summer spent in Stockholm's nearby archipelagos have kept her from allowing herself to love anyone else as fully as her teen-age love, Henrik. It's funny, but the summer flashbacks really reminded me of the recent Moonrise Kingdom where two star-crossed kids romantically run away together to Maine's rocky shores - so similar to the Swedish islands Bergman filmed in 1951. Coincidence? Given Wes Anderson's homage within homage nostalgia, I doubt it.

Seth Macfarlane's story of a little boy who wished his teddy bear could talk then grew up with a magical talking plush toy companion is a ribald extension of his television characters and storytelling élan. There are anti-gay/Jewish jokes galore which may be unsavory to some and there are so many pop culture references that the comedy comes with a very short "Best Before Date". The film's main allegory appears to be that every man-child must grow up to become a man to commit fully to the woman he loves. Yet audiences have no need to grow up and accept death. This a funny and fully realized film all tied up in a tidy ending. One could imagine a continuation of the tale when John Bennett moves into the next phase of being an adult — fatherhood. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

The stuff bad dreams are made of. A sort of paternal nightmare — "I brought you into this world, I can take you out." I think that kind of sums it up. Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron add to the list of badass lady leads while Michael Fassbender impresses as the android David. I could write a lot about the whole "creation/motherhood" themes but why bother. Just go see it.

21 Jump Street
Predictable but uncynical parody or reprise of the 80s television series of the same name. Generally harmless fun except for the now common off-colour and crude humour and for the fact that a romantic side story involves a 17-year-old high school girl and a 24-year-old (presumably) undercover policeman. This age gap romance breaks the "half your age plus 7" rule but I guess by Hollywood rules that's okay, right? Any dads out there okay with your 17-year-old poodle-faking with a 24-year-old? That's cool, isn't it?

The Inbetweeners
Ridiculously funny British comedy series about a group of 4 teens failing every test adolescence hands them (or "dead hands" them?) It's remarkable not just for the quality of the humour but also for the crassness and honesty of it. What teen-age boy doesn't want to be knee-deep in "clunge" or as an alternative find a large cache of beer? Will the lads ever win? No, probably not.

The Amazing Spider-man
The Spider-man "reboot" for the Twilight set. I am getting a little tired of actors in their late to mid-twenties playing high school seniors but this is still a good movie. What the Chris Nolan films owe to the Frank Miller's Dark Knight, this version of Spider-man seems influenced by the Todd Macfarlane take on Spidey. In Macfarlane's series, Peter Parker really isn't a nerdy dweeb but a quietly talented though troubled hipster, well-regarded but not often noticed by his peers. Also, Macfarlane rendered Spider-man uniquely as a lean dancer, lithely slipping from steely cables rather than a typical muscular superhero which suits Andrew Garfield's slight frame. Garfield's webhead is still humorous and wise cracking as a kid from Queens but slightly more earnest and heartfelt than the Sam Rami - Tobey Macguire version. It's that slightly more emotional tone delivered by the likes of Martin Sheen that really distinguishes this film. While Andrew Garfield is well cast as a Macfarlane-esque Spidey, Emma Stone is a perfect incarnation of Steve Ditko's Gwen Stacey. The great Jack Kirby may have co-created Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-man but I grew up on the Steve Ditko Peter Parker and like Parker, fell hard for the glamorous blond in mini skirts and thigh boots known as Gwen Stacey (maybe just a blond version of Mary Jane but I always thought of that as a possible Vertigo aspect of Peter Parker's love life). Spoiler alert — I was devastated when she died in the comics. Does the same fate await Emma Stone in the next instalment?

The Increasingly Bad Decisions of Todd Margaret
This David Cross series showcases a character that is a cross between his ineffectual Tobias Funke of Arrested Development and the crass wickedness of his own stand-up humour and rolls him into a pathological liar who lands in London to sell "an exciting new energy drink" Thunder Muscle. Even things that couldn't possibly go wrong, go horribly wrong.

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