Monthly Report: May 2012

31 May

Compared to the previous two months, May was a bit disappointing in terms of both quality and quantity. The quality is unfortunate, but it’s due to knowingly dumb choices on my part. As for quantity, I was on my way to another movie-filled month until a certain video game called Diablo 3 derailed everything. No need to worry, though. I’ll be back in the swing of things sooner or later, with a planned Saturday viewing of Prometheus likely to get my film-watching back on track.

For now, enjoy this overview of the films I saw in May.

The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)
I wish I had gotten to see this one before seeing The Avengers, because it’s hard to be all that impressed with the action here after seeing what Hulk does in that other movie. To be fair though, The Incredible Hulk puts in a good effort action-wise, as the stakes are carefully ramped up throughout the film. The climactic battle is satisfying. More problematic is the story, however. Bruce Banner is an interesting character, arguably moreso than the other Avengers, and Edward Norton is quite okay in the part. Unfortunately, Norton’s Banner disappears when CGI Hulk jumps into the fray, and the disconnect is there. The lack of strong supporting characters also hurts the narrative aspects of the film. Still, this remains a decent movie. The tale of an unwilling and tortured soul of a superhero is compelling, and the action is solid. The Incredible Hulk ranks somewhere in the middle when comparing the pre-Avengers films.

Frantic (Roman Polanski, 1988)
Well-crafted thriller in which Harrison Ford – at the top of his acting game – tries to find his wife (Betty Buckley), who has gone missing on their vacation in Paris. The first half or so is particularly good. The Pace is methodical, everything is uncertain and tense, and there’s a realistic tone to everything. Unfortunately, the film eventually boils down to something we’re more familiar with from regular Hollywood thrillers, and the atmosphere weakens a bit – something not helped by a few unnecessarily humorous touches. Still, Ford himself performs admirably from start to finish, and the end result is a positive one even if it doesn’t quite measure up to the Polanski thrillers of earlier days.

The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
There were scenes and moments in this road movie that I found quite beautiful, but they can’t make up for the dullness that surrounds them. The mood of the film never quite seized me, despite a stunningly wonderful performance by Richard Farnsworth. I could see myself growing to like this movie with time, but for now, it’ll have to settle for lower marks.

Puncture (Adam & Mark Kassen, 2011)
The problem with basing a story on real events is that you need to stick somewhat close to reality. Puncture features an interesting tale of lawyers trying to work against a health care conspiracy, one I found myself quite engrossed in. However, the lead character (a very good Chris Evans) is a junkie, and this aspect eats up too much of the screentime for my liking. It feels like an unwelcome distraction. Still, you couldn’t really make the movie without touching upon it, I suppose. This one could have been even better than it was had it chosen a different way to tackle parts of its subject matter. Enjoyable nonetheless.

You Don’t Know Jack (Barry Levinson, 2010)
Al Pacino shows that he’s still capable of great performances in this biopic on Dr. Kevorkian and his struggle to legalize euthanasia. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can’t match him. As important as the issue is, it doesn’t make for a very interesting story. Pacing is also an issue as there are slow stretches where the plot doesn’t go anywhere.

American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (John Putch, 2009)
There’s a scene in this movie where an old ugly hooker is performing oral sex on a guy and uses her dentures to nibble his nipples. That actually made me snicker for a split-second. It’s the comedic highlight of this movie, the rest of which is absolute horse manure. No, wait, that’s not fair. Horse manure at least has useful fertilizing properties. This movie is worthless.

Hesher (Spencer Susser, 2010)
To begin talking about Hesher the movie, one must mention Hesher the character (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He has the kind of larger-than-life presence that commands attention. He’s a heavy metal Joker, only he’s in a family/grief drama with a slew of black comedy, rather than in a superhero movie. He operates on Hesher logic, something distinctively different from real logic. The movie is infected by his “agent of chaos” ways, and it makes for a really fun ride for the first half or so. It’s one of those movies where you have no idea where it’s going to go, which is a rare quality to have. That it eventually becomes apparent that not even the movie knows where it’s going is a shame, and Hesher the character becomes more of an ill-fitting obstruction than anything. When it’s all said and done, this film offers quite a few laughs and has some good acting on display, but it is also uneven and awkward. A for effort, but not for the end result.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Mark Herman, 2008)
Holocaust drama from the eyes of a German child (Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield) who befriends a jewish boy (Jack Scanlon) stuck in a camp. The film does a pretty good job of filtering the unknown horrors of the situation through the main character’s innocence, and there’s little faulting the performances – I was particularly impressed by Vera Farmiga who plays the worrying mother of the protagonist. I’m a bit torn on the ending, though. It’s sad – like most holocaust films tend to be – but it also felt vaguely manipulative. I’m not entirely sure whether this was due to my own expectations of where the film was going or not. Nonetheless, I wasn’t entirely enamored by the way the story ultimately went. A fine film, but not a great one.

Beginners (Mike Mills, 2010)
Here’s a case where the selectiveness of the awards season can lead to conveying the wrong ideas about a film. Christopher Plummer got all the attention for his supporting performance as the old gay father, which had me thinking that this would be the sole stand-out quality of the film. Oh, how wrong I was. This is a wonderfully bittersweet movie from top to bottom. Oliver’s (Ewan McGregor) problems with love and commitment are juxtaposed with the situation his dad was going through, showing us the guards and masks we subconsciously put up in order to avoid hurting ourselves and others. This one tugs at the heartstrings in all the right ways, and the result is a great movie.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (Uwe Boll, 2007)
I’m torn on what score to give this video game adaptation. I watched it and its sequel back to back, and this first one is certainly the better one. That’s not saying much though, because this is still a bad film. Are there enjoyable parts of it? Sure. While most of the actors sleepwalk through the movie, there are at least some that realize what kind of movie they’re in and decide to ham it up quite a bit – Matthew Lillard in particular. And there is at least some modicum of effort evident in making the film look good design-wise. I’m tempted to give it a score of 2, but… no. The Lord of the Rings-wannabe script is ridiculous, and Uwe Boll has no idea how to shoot action scenes. This gets a 1 and likes it. Only recommended for Jason Statham completionists. Like me. And even I regret seeing it. Uwe Boll has done it again.

In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds (Uwe Boll, 2011)
And again. Because if there was one thing missing from the first one, it was a fish-out-of-water angle to the story where a guy gets transported from our world to medieval fantasy. And Dolph Lundgren in the lead instead of Statham. And tracing the plot of The Matrix rather than Lord of the Rings. This movie is an utter failure, even when compared to the already bad first film. In that one, there was at least budget (60 million dollars!) to get some name actors onboard and to stage big battle scenes. This one, by comparison, feels like some dozen guys running around the woods in shoddy LARP costumes. An even bigger problem is the fact that nothing really happens for most of the film. It’s not just a bad movie, but also a boring one. Stay the fuck away from this one.

Total # of new films seen: 11
Average score: 2.5 / 5
Best film of the month: Beginners
Worst film of the month: In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds


Posted by on 31 May, 2012 in Monthly Report


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14 responses to “Monthly Report: May 2012

  1. Pete

    31 May, 2012 at 11:34

    Quite a lot of films I haven’t seen here. And I don’t think I’ll be watching them anytime soon! Do want to see Beginners and think I liked Hesher a bit more than you did. A very strange film but one I could happily watch again!

    • Emil

      31 May, 2012 at 11:49

      I would want to revisit Hesher at some point as there might be further insight to be had now that I know where the story is going.

      Beginners is a must-see for sure. Other than that, the only film from this month that I’d urge people to watch is The Straight Story. It’s one of those films that deserves to be seen, even if it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I’ve already softened a bit on it myself since writing this mini-review right after watching it.

  2. Travis McClain

    31 May, 2012 at 11:43

    I’ve seen The Incredible Hulk and Frantic. I don’t even remember much from Frantic, to be honest, though I’m amused that your cursory evaluation aligns nicely with the impression I remember from it: Nice setup and ambiance before devolving into something kind of generic.

    As for The Incredible Hulk, I did see it before I saw The Avengers (by just a couple of days). It was the last of my Avengers solo movie viewing (I made my way through all five in the span of less than two weeks, having managed to not see any of them until then). It was actually my favorite. Yes, Tim Roth’s character is kind of uninteresting, but I thought the Banner-as-a-fugitive story was completely solid and I really liked Norton in the role. It was easy for me to sympathize with him. The story makes it clear that we’re meant to see a disconnect between Banner and The Hulk; it’s a sort of Jeckyll and Hyde thing, where one personality not only suppresses the other, but transforms the physical self as well. Still, I felt the scene in the cave did a nice job establishing that Banner was still in there somewhere, “pointing it in a direction” as he later says.

    The action wasn’t bad, but I didn’t see anything I hadn’t already seen before with one exception. When The Hulk ripped out one of Tim Roth’s (I forget his character’s name) bones and actually stabbed him with it, I was pretty impressed. That was hardcore, and I admit: I hadn’t seen that before.

    • Emil

      31 May, 2012 at 13:03

      I’m not all that familiar with The Hulk as a character, but I’ve always assumed that the green guy is an altered version of Banner, rather than a completely different entity. Perhaps your take on it, where it goes a step further to create a bigger rift between the two, has more merit. Even so, my problem with the character is that everything that’s fascinating about Banner gets tossed to the sideline when Hulk shows up for the action scenes. This happened in The Avengers too, but that was clearly more of an action-driven movie overall than The Incredible Hulk, which puts a bit more emphasis on story.

      My gripes with the supporting characters goes beyond just Roth. Both Hurt and Tyler were largely uninteresting too. This is an issue I had with Captain America as well, where Cap was just about the only character worth paying attention to. Iron Man, and to a lesser extent Thor, did a better job of handling their respective supporting crews, which is at least part of why I like those films better in the pre-Avengers canon.

      • Travis McClain

        31 May, 2012 at 13:15

        Unfortunately, the matter of uninteresting supporting characters is prevalent in the world of superhero storytelling. The X-Men and Spider-Man have solid rosters, but after them there’s at most one interesting villain per hero in the Marvel Universe. DC has a gold mine with Batman (really, the richest roster of all superheroes), but things get pretty thin after him. The Green Lantern mythology is pretty expansive now, but few of those characters are actually known or cared about outside the readers of that comic. Hell, most people didn’t even know much about the Green Lantern character before last year’s movie, with many confusing it with The Green Hornet.

        In this, Marvel has been wise to build toward The Avengers, where the gimmick is in seeing the heroes interact with one another. That gee whiz factor will sustain their series for a little while, but eventually audiences are going to need to see some spectacular antagonists, and there really just aren’t that many to be found in the Marvel Universe that aren’t already staked by Fox or Sony.

        • Emil

          31 May, 2012 at 14:07

          That’s something I’ve noticed in at least the films of Marvel and DC: Marvel has interesting heroes but bland villains, whereas DC is more the opposite. Granted, there are exceptions on both spectrums (Loki and Doc Ock were both handled very well, and it’s hard for Batman to ever be entirely uninteresting even if he’s overshadowed by his rogues gallery), but it does seem to be a bit of trend regardless.

          And chalk me up among those who’d sometimes have to think twice to figure out whether its Lantern or Hornet. I haven’t seen The Green Lantern, and based on what everyone’s saying about it, it seems I’m not missing out on much. The Green Hornet was decent entertainment though.

  3. Shala

    31 May, 2012 at 17:13

    I love that you loved Beginners! It was one of my favorites last year. I wished it got alittle more attention for how good it was. I think I liked Puncture alitte more than you. For all the little flaws in the movie, Chris Evans did a really great job and he pretty much carried the movie. I think it’s one of his best performances to date. I’m watching Hesher today so I’ll see how I feel about it but thanks for things to think about/consider as I watch!

    • Emil

      31 May, 2012 at 17:54

      I definitely agree that Evans was very impressive in Puncture. He’s one of those actors who is always at least solid, and every now and then puts in a really strong performance when you least expect it – for instance, I thought he was great in Sunshine. I watched the movie due to a recommendation from a friend of mine, and he said it really grew n him on his second watch, so I might revisit it at some point.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Shala!

  4. Dave

    31 May, 2012 at 18:24

    I, too, am glad you enjoyed Beginners. It’s one of my favorites of 2011. Everything about it just clicked for me. I liked Frantic more than you did, but I completely get what you’re saying. I don’t entirely disagree with your thoughts.

    We’re on the same page re: Hulk, though I might have enjoyed it slightly more than you. One thing I completely disagree with you on is You Don’t Know Jack. I didn’t think it was uninteresting at all, and thought Pacino was just about perfect. Loved Sarandon, Goodman and Brenda Vaccarro too. Really strong acting and a very emotional script. Sorry you didn’t dig it, man.

    Nice wrap up, but dude, go see some better movies. :-)

    • Emil

      31 May, 2012 at 23:04

      Yeah, Frantic was seen due to your recommendation. I’m glad I checked it out. Best Harrison Ford performance ever?

      I was pretty tired when I watched You Don’t Know Jack, so it’s quite possible that affected my enjoyment of it. I’m in no hurry to give it another go, though.

      And yes, better movies should be forthcoming hopefully. The real stinkers this month came as a result of irrational completionist tendencies (“Well, I’ve seen all the other American Pie films…”), drunken promises, and general stupidity. Hopefully there’ll be less of that in the coming month(s).

  5. Dave

    2 June, 2012 at 05:26

    Frantic was not Ford’s best performance – I think you might be confused with The Mosquito Coast. Now THAT one I can stand behind. Still, glad you gave this one a shot. It’s Harrison Ford in a role we don’t see often enough.

    • Emil

      3 June, 2012 at 08:52

      That’s one I have yet to see, admittedly.

  6. Hannah M

    3 June, 2012 at 22:47

    That was the response I had to Beginners! Totally misadvertised in trailers to make it seem to be all about Christopher Plummer. And then it turned out to have all these layers and be fantastic.

    • Emil

      4 June, 2012 at 00:09

      I haven’t even seen the trailer for it. The Plummer thing is just something I picked up on from all the buzz swirling around it some months back. But I also kept seeing it pop up on people’s 2011 top 10 lists, so I figured the movie itself probably wouldn’t be terrible. I’m glad I didn’t put off watching it too long.


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