Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer 2k9: Movies

Being "productive" connotes that one actually produces and advancement in their lives; from nothing (or stagnation), desire is borne anew to seek greener pastures, be those personally or professionally.

Yeah, I have not been productive this summer...

Instead, I have decided to try and sift through things that I think I may have learned along the way in swelter of 2k9.

Today, I will try to bring together what I have gathered about this summer's movie season.

Movie Sequels

Whatever collateral good will the movie industry earned last summer with The Dark Knight was generally destroyed this year thanks to bigger and dumber sequels. The marquis names: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Wolverine.
  • Wolverine opened up the summer, and really the only thing it successfully accomplished was to lower my expectations for the rest of the season's fair. The peaks of coolness that the character reached in X2 - you know, the guy with shank-hands that would go into a rage and skewer people to refrigerators - yeah, that Wolverine has sadly been replaced by a nonsensical Wolverine, or rather Hugh Jackman posing as a Canadian mutant that fights in U.S. (?) wars while mostly appearing in a lumberjack outfit and falling in love with some chick who tells him he is a Wolverine because of her weird Eskimo religion thingy. Also, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the Austin Powers parody of a Tom Cruise action-fest where Powers' somersaults over a helicopter with two machine guns, Wolverine literally does the same thing, except this time from a motorcycle. In the ultimate fuck-you to our intelligence, the producers even went so far as to give Wolverine amnesia at then end; so really the whole movie is basically worthless. I can't wait until he shanks the statue of liberty. Oh wait...
  • Transformers 2 - where do I begin? You know I am down with Megan Fox money shots as much as any guy, but that's not why I want to go see a live-action Transformers movie. I also don't go for the mini-Decepticons firing from their cock-lasers or the pop-culture laden characteristics or references (often racist stereotypes) that make up the Autobot's character-group; the prime example of the pop-culture-bot gone terrible wrong are twin robots that are lazy, illiterate, homophobic, have big ears and gold teeth, and speak "urban," and - what's that you say? - they share as much screen time as Bumblebee and Optimus Prime? SOLD! No, What I go into Transformers expecting is robots beating the shit out of each other the whole damn time in creative ways. Sadly, there are three great actions scenes in this movie, placed (probably deliberately) an hour apart in this three-hour bloated teenage-boy wet dream. What makes up the rest of the movie: Shia LeBouf screaming and robots humping Megan Fox.
Both of these movies are prime examples of producers and directors not giving two shits about the property. One would think that if you tried to make a film in a potential series that took the franchise to new and original heights, in the long run you would make more money from the critical and financial success. Maybe it was the economy, but these movies represent a half-assed attempt to make serious bank on all the cross-promotion and toys and leave me really with nothing but the expectations that came before. Oh and a really great Linkin Park song (fail).

The Answer
If I had to sit down and choose, my three movies of the summer:
  1. District 9
  2. Star Trek
  3. Inglourious Basterds
I won't talk too much about D9 and IB because they are both out now, late in the summer. I believe the key as to why the two movies are destined for greatness is that the two movies are strikingly original properties (even though Basterds shares a name with a previous movie) that respect the viewer and the power of cinema to take its audiences on a ride that is often full of unexpected turns. Where Basterds is fueled by the methodical wit and unpredictability of its characters and their cartoon-ish acts of violence, District 9 is a deep Sci-Fi apartheid allegory that builds tension slowly, often thanks to a mostly westernized unease about seeing the horrors of the third-world play out.

Star Trek at number 2? It's not an original property, and because of its lore can really be considered a sequel. However, I give props to ST because it pulled off (like Batman Begins) the difficult task of being an origin story that is also a damn good movie on its own. By loosely staying true to the established canon in creative ways, the movie and its characters were unfettered from many preconceived notions on how events, and people, should play out. What results is a movie that is intelligent, witty, and one of the most beautifully shot sci-fi action movies in years. Unlike Wolverine and Transformers, Star Trek was taken seriously and with tremendous care to make it a great movie as well as perhaps the second best Star Trek movie. As a result, I am genuinely excited to see a what comes next in the franchise.

That's really everything that resonated with me this summer. Other than Avatar, this is going to be pretty bleak for awhile.

Up next...the horrors of Schlitterbahn

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