When you have a house full of sick people, you watch movies. So here’s my report…
The Sound of Music. Like every boy that grew up in a house where a girl was present, there are certain things I’ve been exposed to against my will. Like knowing every ABBA song without ever listening to an ABBA record, or the words to Summer Lovin’. I’ve never actually seen the Sound of Music, but it seems every song has somehow been inexplicably downloaded into my hard drive. I hope this kind of thing goes both ways, and there are girls out there who’ve never touched a comic book who instinctively call bullshit on Tobey Macguire’s organic webshooters.
At any rate, the first thing I noticed about Sound of Music was the absolutely stunning photography in it. And not just the opening number in the Alps, but the imagery of Salzburg, its countryside and the interiors of the nunnery Julie Andrews resides in. The colors are phenomenal, rich and romantic; modern filmmakers can give us Middle Earth and Krypton, using state of the art digital and 3D modeling, but they just aren’t able to capture what Robert Wise and Ted McCord were doing back in the day.
There were parts of the film that I really liked (when a local boy comes sniffing around the eldest daughter and they share a duet in a gazebo, the way Julie Andrews wakes Christopher Plummer up to the fact he’s missing out on his kids, Plummer’s defiance to the Nazis). But then there were things I kept thinking about that bugged me. Plummer is set up as a pretty strict dad (hell, he uses individual whistle tones to summon each kid!) Once his cold front shatters, he revels in his kids and their singing voices, allowing them to be the Von Trapp family singers. I kept thinking of guys like Brian Wilson and Michael Jackson — and hearing stories of uncompromising fathers forcing their kids to perform with smile and cheer while criticism and control awaited them backstage. I have no clue if this is the case with the real Von Trapp family or not, but I kept thinking “what if little Gretyl doesn’t want to sing A Few of My Favorite Things that night?” Is there a high pitched whistle tone to make her comply?
That kind of thought-line is a boner-killer for the joyous tone the film is committed to, and I’m glad the tone is more infectious than the possible reality. In the end, the film offers a nice message: getting over loss, allowing yourself to be open to change, accepting love when you yourself are lost in your own bullshit. Who doesn’t like that?
Magic Mike 2. It’d be easy to make snide remarks about a movie like this. Its cup brims over with schmaltz and awkward scenes (I was ready to eject it after an unconvincing exchange at the beach between Channing Tatum and Amber Heard). But, despite my initial judgments, there’s a lot of good things going on in the picture.
The most important (for me at least) is that these guys (a group of traveling male strippers) are committed to one another’s well being. There’s no berating or catfighting amongst them, and they genuinely encourage each other’s growth. It’s like a modern day Round Table (of bro’ peelers!) who elevate the others in their circle to find what makes them happy.
There’s no villain — like some cheesy competing stripper group or uptight conservative trying to close their club down. If anything, the main obstacle is their own insecurity. My favorite moment in the movie is when they find themselves in a rich cougar’s den and said cougar explains that a life of fidelity to the wrong man has led her to teach her kids to live a more hedonistic lifestyle. One of the older strippers counters her; he’d give anything for a life considered “mundane”: a home filled with intimacy and stability. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Fantastic Four. I love David Cronenberg’s The Fly and I love John Carpenter’s The Thing. I enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and I’m a big fan of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. So I’m not a prude when it comes to breeding a somewhat different animal from an original source material.
In the case of the Fantastic Four, they’ve made an interesting twist, taking a family of super-powered adventurers known in the comics for their celebrity, bickering, humor and pathos and turn them into a band of braniac whiz kids who (almost) turn into government assassins, that then 180 into super-heroes (I guess?). It’s an interesting twist, but whoever was really pulling the levers in the backroom couldn’t really keep the concept on the rails.
If this wasn’t a Fantastic Four movie, it would’ve been really interesting. It would be about some think tank kids going to another dimension and starting to change: physically and psychologically. If that concept would have gone down it’s own logical end, it would have had some Lovecraftian vibe, carrying heavy questions on the nature of Cronenberg body transmutation, probably ending with someone sobbing over a dead body.
But no, it also wanted to be a super hero movie. So it goes from a pretty interesting science fiction concept to a “let’s save the planet from a Power Rangers villain” concept — in the same time it took me to write that sentence. And yes, the villain looks amazingly silly. Again. How hard is to get Doctor Doom right? The guy is the most interesting Marvel villain of all time: he’s kingly, arrogant, narcissistic, honorable. The man makes Trump’s ego look like Woody Allan’s. It’s like going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and you discover Snooki’s playing Christine Daae. Anyway, Fantastic Four: good twist on an old story, fucked up by a boring corporate desire to make the round peg fit into the rectangular hole.
Ted 2. What can I say? It had some funny bits. I watched the unrated version, which clocked in at two hours long. It didn’t need to be.