June turned out to be a month of solid movies for me. Very… even. The vast majority ended up in the 3-4 score range. There were perhaps some films I had higher hopes for than that, but c’est la vie.
Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
It’s not Alien, but it’s a more than adequate tribute to it that manages to bring up some interesting ideas. There are a couple of scenes that have really stuck with me since I saw it, and Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are both great. My full review is available here.
Eat Sleep Die (Gabriela Pichler, 2012)
It’s rare for a Swedish film to accurately capture the way Swedes talk in real life. This one manages this perfectly. The story of 20-year-old Rasa (Nermina Lukac) who finds herself unemployed is a straight-forward one, but thanks to the characters and the down-to-earth nature of the material, it commands your attention more and more for each passing minute. There’s some real humor to be had here, the kind that’s funny because it’s true. I saw this at a cast screening, so the release is still some months away. Make sure to see it when you get the chance.
High Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)
A nice and simple premise sets the stage for a deadly cat-and-mouse game as a young woman (Cécile De France) tries to save her friend from a demented killer. This one took me by surprise with the frightening atmosphere it manages to pull off, often through the use of bloody violence. So often in horror films, gore is used for its own sake. Not so here. This is blood and murder to make you scared and worrying for the protagonist. The ending has apparently divided people on whether it’s good or bad. I wasn’t a big fan of it myself, and it’s the main reason why this one doesn’t cruise on to a full 5. I’d still call it the best horror film I’ve seen in quite a while.
Fast Times as Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
I feel like I’m missing out on some of the appeal of this one by not having seen it when I was younger. Nonetheless, this is a pretty decent high school flick. It didn’t make me laugh as much as it was hoping for, but there are some scenes of unexpected heartfeltness and maturity. If the movie isn’t quite as good as I had been led to believe, the same certainly can’t be said of Sean Penn as surfer/stoner Spicoli. He absolutely nails the part. I was also taken by Jennifer Jason Leigh‘s performance as curious Stacy.
Red State (Kevin Smith, 2011)
Easily the best-acted Kevin Smith movie I’ve seen, and I’ve seen most of them. John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks all put forth impressive showings. The film is very different from Smith’s usual fare in terms of content, yet some things remain the same. For instance, Smith remains better at writing than at directing. The dialogue is as compelling and snappy as ever – though less comedic than usual – but the pacing of the film is kind of awkward. Not his best work, but an interesting step in a different direction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (Gareth Carrivick, 2009)
Very self-aware British time travel comedy that keeps throwing surprises at you while still retaining an effective sense of humor. I like how it starts out narrow and “small” only to gradually widen its scope. Fans of the genre should definitely check this one out.
Turn Me On, Dammit! (Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, 2011)
Norwegian coming-of-age story about teenager Alma (Helene Bergsholm) and her struggling with ostracism and her sexual awakening. The film does a fine job of evoking small-town life, at times reminding me of Lukas Moodysson‘s Show Me Love in this regard. Compared to a lot of teen dramas of this sort, this one maintains a very low-key tone for the most part, something I found perhaps more interesting than effective. The story is compelling and held my interest throughout, although the ending ties things up a bit too nicely. It’s an okay movie overall, but I wish it had dug a bit deeper emotionally.
Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman, 2012)
This glossy musical succeeds and fails in roughly equal measures. I had a good time on average, thanks to the nice song numbers and Tom Cruise‘s superb performance, but I can fully sympathize with those who are put off by the wafer-thin story and the lack of an edge. My full review is available here.
Super (James Gunn, 2010)
I did not expect this film to be as violent as it was. Compared to other self-aware superhero films like Kickass and Defendor, this one comes up a bit short. It strives for a darker story, but its handling of its rough scenes are hit-or-miss. There’s a certain unevenness to its tone. Even so, it is reasonably entertaining, and Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon (why did I ever hate this guy?) all put in fine efforts on the acting side.
Hot Tub Time Machine (Steve Pink, 2010)
Not God-awful, but certainly not very good either. There are some laughs to be had here, but for the most part, the comedy here is lame and obvious. It’s also a case of wasted opportunity, as there is certainly a lot of humor that could be mined from having people revisit the 80s. None of it is taken advantage of here, sadly enough. I’m probably forgetting something, but off the top of my head, I’d say this could be the worst time travel movie I’ve ever seen.
The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2004)
For clarity, this would be the English language remake. A solid effort in the horror genre, with appropriate creepiness and a strong climax. It has some problems, however. The pacing gets a bit too hectic, for one. The jump scares become repetitive after a while. The story isn’t very original, and the non-chronological way of telling it adds little to the proceedings. These issues may sound big, but the movie still succeeds at being scary, so they’re largely forgivable.
Total # of new films seen: 11
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the month: High Tension
Worst film of the month: Hot Tub Time Machine