Monday, July 1, 2013

Cinetopia Golden Ticket: June 2013

So, it seems I’m averaging about six movies a month at Cinetopia with my Golden Ticket. As I write this, I can feel the sunburn on my back tingling, so it’s not like I’m depriving myself of time outside in the beautiful weather. That’s good to know. Still, I’d like every movie I see to be worth not being outside for. For the most part, I did pretty well. So, here’s how my June in the darkened theater has been:

Movie Twenty: This Is the End – Ironically, this movie works better as a trailer than an actual feature film. In other words, the bits and pieces are more amusing than the full scenes. I actually found the party at the beginning much more entertaining than the rest of the movie. The apocalypse kinda ruined everything (as, I suppose, the real apocalypse actually would). Part of the problem is that they kill off most of the celebrities within the first action sequence. It would’ve been more satisfying to have them gradually picked off as the movie went on. It worked in Mars Attacks!* Another problem is the portrayal of the characters. It’s usually amusing to see celebrities play caricatures of themselves (like Being John Malkovich and Neil Patrick Harris’ appearances in the Harold & Kumar series) and, generally, the more cynical, the better. But, these guys all kinda come across as mean dicks – and “dicks” is the perfect word because this movie is obsessed with penises. Well, it’s probably even more obsessed with marijuana, but penises are a close second. If you find that stuff hilarious, you’ll probably like this movie a lot. I don’t, so I didn’t.

*Seems like most people would disagree since Mars Attacks! has the reputation of being a pretty bad movie, but I loved it and found the arbitrary extermination of so many A-list celebrities to be the most entertaining thing about it. Regardless of anybody's feelings for Mars Attacks! I have a hard time understanding why anybody’d think This Is the End is any better.

Movie Twenty-one: The Purge – Here’s another one I had pretty low expectations of but was amazed by how much it drew me in. It’s been largely chided by the critics because it sets itself up as a social allegory of class warfare and an examination of what’s behind the friendly facades we indulge as a civilized society, then it devolves into a straight-up action/horror thriller. While it’s true they squandered the opportunity to achieve something more profound, it still succeeds in what it actually sets out to do. And that’s not a bad thing. This movie plays like a white-collar Assault on Precinct 13. It’s tense, unsettling, and ultimately satisfying. It’ll probably vanish into obscurity by this time next year because it borrows from so many other movies (Straw Dogs, Panic Room, The Strangers, to name a few), but I’d actually like to see more movies about “The Purge”. By that, I don’t mean sequels, I mean spin-offs, i.e. the experiences other people around the country have on the same night. It’s a pretty intriguing scenario that (still) has great potential. But, if this film is all we get, I’ll take it. If I have any complaint, it’s that they didn’t go far enough into the dark places society probably would go if something like “The Purge” actually existed. That movie would probably be too hard to take, though.

Movie Twenty-two: Man of Steel – I suppose it’s unfair to compare this movie with any other Superman story because there have been soooooo many different versions over the years (not just in movies, but television, comic books, novels, cartoons and even radio shows) that really any deviation from the legend we’ve already seen should be a refreshing change. Why not have something completely different? And Man of Steel certainly does shake things up a bit. Most people’s reaction to the film will almost certainly be based on whatever their current favorite incarnation is (or, at least, whichever one they’re most familiar with) and how married they are to it. For the record, I think Richard Donner’s Superman from 1978 is, not only the best Superman movie of all time, but the best comic book movie of all time. Consequently, I found myself constantly evaluating Man of Steel’s take of Kal-El’s origin with that prejudice in mind. As the movie went on, though, I found those thoughts evaporating. Not because Man of Steel is so good that I accepted it as the new Superman canon, but because it’s such an excessive assault on the senses, it was hard to be distracted by anything else. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an entertaining movie and great fun to watch, but there is so much relentless destruction in it that it barely feels like a Superman movie and more like a disaster flick. I liked it and it’s totally worth seeing, but just know going into it that it has more in common with Transformers than Batman Begins.

Movie Twenty-three: Monsters UniversityMonsters, Inc. has always been one of my favorite PIXAR films. To date, I think it’s the premise that allowed for the most boundless creative imagery – not only in the look of monsters, but in the infinite settings provided by the international “doors”. And that climactic “door chase” is hands-down one of the most imaginative action sequences ever put on film. Not to mention, the whole movie is peppered with hysterical comedy bits on par with classic Looney Tunes and yet also manages to be overwhelmingly sweet without feeling the least bit sappy. Those reasons and more are why I’ve always been perplexed by the general population’s assessment that Monsters, Inc. is one of the weaker PIXAR flicks. Hopefully, Monsters University will reinvigorate people’s appreciation for Monsters, Inc. It’s not a better movie, but it is a very effective prequel and thus enhances Monsters, Inc. accordingly. There’s a particularly brilliant scene where Mike and Sully have to scare some adults in order to save themselves, so they crank up the fright beyond kids’ level and, you know what? It’s pretty damn scary. A perfect lead-in as to why Mike and Sully are so good at their jobs in Monsters, Inc. From now on, anybody who hasn’t seen either film should watch them in the order they occur rather than in the order they were made. It was smart of PIXAR to do a prequel instead of a sequel. They’ve been getting a little heavy-handed with the sequels lately. In fact, they just announced a Finding Nemo sequel scheduled for release in late 2015. That’s fine, I guess, but if they’re gonna keep returning to familiar territory, I wish they’d get to work on a follow-up to the movie that downright begs for a continuation: The Incredibles. Now, that’s something I can’t wait to see.

Movie Twenty-four: The Heat – I actually wasn’t intending to see this movie at all. I was heading up to Cinetopia to catch Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, but a car accident on the I-5 bridge made me late (I wasn’t involved in the accident, by the way, and it didn’t look serious, in case you were wondering). Anyway, I didn’t want my drive to Vancouver to be for nothing, so I took a look at what else was on the menu. The Heat was starting in about a half hour and, under the circumstances, I figured it was worth a look – even though I’d previously decided I wasn’t going to bother with it. Turned out that this movie was pretty hilarious. It’s such a nice (and rare) surprise when that happens. It’s peculiar that the trailer made it seem like a contrived and sophomoric comedy, but the truth is I laughed a lot and it maintained that consistent level of humor throughout the entire film. While watching it (and enjoying it right off the bat), I worried that maybe it was merely starting strong and would taper off quickly. Not so. I really enjoyed it thoroughly. In fact, my experience was pretty much the opposite of This Is The End. This Is The End had a very funny trailer and turned out to be a pretty mediocre comedy that started strong, but got old fast. The Heat had a mediocre trailer that turned out to be probably the funniest movie I’ve seen so far this year. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so grateful for a traffic jam in my entire life.

Movie Twenty-five: White House Down – After subjecting myself to the vapid nonsense that was 2012 (I’m talking about the movie, not the year), I swore to myself that I would never sit through another Roland Emmerich piece of crap ever again. I meant it, too. But, lo and behold, the freedom of my Golden Ticket coupled with how unexpectedly pleased I was with The Heat made me say, “Why not?” I figured it at least couldn’t be as bad as Olympus Has Fallen and might make for an interesting comparison since they’re almost exactly the same plot. Boy, was I wrong. It’s not as jingoistic or cynical as Olympus Has Fallen, but it’s way more idiotic and far less entertaining. It might have been fun to sit there with a pad and paper and make a list of all the implausibilities, inconsistencies and downright errors in this movie. I started trying to keep track of the absurd discrepancies, but there were too many to keep up with. Had it been a drinking game, I’da passed out about 20 minutes in. It’s seriously ridiculous. I can only imagine how offensive people who work for the Secret Service would find White House Down. This film would have you believe that the Secret Service never keeps track of people coming and going, that the White House never locks any doors, and that the President hob-nobs with tourists. Let me give you an example. This is how the terrorists blow up the Capitol building: Some guy walks in, gets a cleaning cart from the custodian’s closet, fills it with explosives, walks it to the middle of the dome and leaves. He literally runs into a Secret Service agent (a high-ranking one, no less) on his way to deliver the bomb and is allowed to proceed by simply saying, “My supervisor told me to come through here.” Oh, how this movie made me want to punch myself in the face. I don’t know how a director could get worse and worse with every movie he makes. Who’da thought I’d actually think Independence Day was a pretty good movie by comparison? So, I say this, here and now, in writing: I will never see another Roland Emmerich piece of crap ever again. I realize that putting it in a blog is by no means legally binding nor an unbreakable vow, but at the very least, it’s a reminder that nothing is worth sitting through a movie as bad as White House Down. It’s totally my fault, too. If you keep going back to a poisoned well, you deserve to get sick.

So, overall, June was a pretty good month – better than May, anyway. We’ll see how July measures up. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what movies to see and which to avoid, but it’d be nice to get a few good surprises in there (like The Purge and The Heat) and less disappointments (like This Is The End and White House Down). If nothing else, there’s air-conditioning.

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