Monday, June 24, 2013

Monsters, Zombies and Maniacs

From a summer blockbuster standpoint, this past weekend was better than average.

While few would argue that "Monsters University" was among Pixar's greatest works, I'd argue that only those with grinch-like tendencies would completely blow it off.

And while this prequel is not as good as 2001's "Monsters, Inc.," it is consistently entertaining, funny, witty and, often, moving without being sentimental. It's my favorite studio summer movie so far.

"World War Z" may not rank with the best of its genre, which would include George Romero's first two "Dead" movies and Danny Boyle's haunting "28 Days Later." But it's a well crafted, frequently intense and thoughtful enough big budget zombie picture.

The excessively gory and gimmicky remake of William Lustig's notorious 1980 cult classic "Maniac" is, on the other hand, relentlessly unpleasant. Its hypnotic electronic score is virtually the only element worth recommending.

I was far from a fan of Lustig's original, but I could at least admire its gritty perception of 1980s New York as hell on earth as well as its riding the coattails of films that came before it, such as "Taxi Driver," and paving the way for such disturbing Gotham tales as "Ms. 45" and "Combat Shock."

This new version, on the other hand, is merely scuzzy and an all-around feel bad experience of epic proportions.

Here are my Patch reviews.

By the way, anybody see last night's "Mad Men" finale. Wowzers. In one single episode, Matthew Weiner may have completely changed directions for the show's upcoming - and final - seventh son. Nicely done, I must say. It was personally my favorite episode of the season.

This coming weekend, I'll catch Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited," Neil Jordan's "Byzantium," "The Heat" and "White House Down."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Superman, Coppola, Apocalypse, Berberian

How exactly do you round this week's four new releases into one headline? As you can see, I have no clue.

Anyway, it wasn't a bad weekend overall - in fact, three of the four films I review received three stars, even though each of the three had some small issue or another.

I enjoyed Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," even though I think it may be my least favorite of her films. It doesn't quite have the ambiance of "The Virgin Suicides" or the in-depth character development of "Lost in Translation." That being said, it does include some pointed commentary on materialism and our culture's obsession with celebrity. The characters may be thin - even though Emma Watson sure nails it - but the film is overall enjoyable - and slightly disturbing.

I also liked "Berberian Sound Studio," Peter Strickland's nifty homage to 1970s giallo films, even though I believe he jumps the shark a bit at the end.

And Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" was a lot better than I might have expected, despite its overabundance of special effects and calamity in the final quarter.

The only disappointment this weekend was "This is the End," which is not nearly clever as you might think it would be or as clever as its creators likely think it is. There are a few laughs, but not nearly enough.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll review "World War Z," "Monsters University" and - God help me - the remake of "Maniac."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend Wrapup: The Internship, The Purge, Much Ado About Nothing

It wasn't the greatest weekend for cinema, I must admit - but I've certainly seen worse.

"The Internship" was the only film from the weekend that I can say I would recommend, despite most reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes being pretty middling.

It's not a great film, but Shawn Levy's comedy is, at least, funny, which puts it a level above most of the other comedies of recent months.

"The Purge" was this weekend's great success story at the box office, but the film itself is a good example of a decent concept with a mediocre execution. The film has its moments, but not nearly enough.

And my thoughts on Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" were somewhere along the lines of meh.

The one thing the film has going for it is that the actors appear to have a grasp on the Bard's language, which I can't exactly say for a number of the cinematic adaptation's of William Shakespeare's work.

In the case of Whedon's film, the problem is the tone and style. The play is, after all, a comedy, so why does the film not portray the material as such? Here are my Patch reviews.

In terms of new releases this coming weekend, it's a busy one. So, I'll try to catch up with all of the above - Sofia Coppola's "Bling Ring," the acclaimed "Berberian Sound Studios," "Man of Steel" and "This is the End."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend Wrapup: After Earth, Now You See Me, The East

Well, at least there was "The East" this weekend. Zal Batmanglij's follow-up to "Sound of My Voice" was another story of an infiltration - in this case, Brit Marling is an agent for a private investigation firm who becomes a member of an anarchist collective that punishes corporations that cover up their illegal actions.

On the whole, the film is a solid indie thriller. And much like "Sound of My Voice," I wouldn't call the picture a great movie, but it's a good step in the right direction for the director and his co-writer.

"Now You See Me" has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, but little in the way of context or content. That being said, it's amusing enough while it lasts.

On the other hand, M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth" is a little dismal. It's not as horrendous as the director's last outing - the virtually unwatchable "Last Airbender," but it's still pretty bad.

And what's with that strange accent that Will and Jaden Smith speak? And. Why. Is. Every. Sentence. Spoken. So. Seriously. In. This. Manner?

Here are my Patch reviews.

I was looking forward to Brian De Palma's "Passion" this upcoming weekend, despite the not-so-great reviews, but it appears to have been pushed back to late August.

So, instead, this weekend I'll catch "The Internship," "The Purge" and Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing."