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Thursday, June 06, 2013  

M. Ovie Reviews: May Movies

Obviously I’m pretty behind on reviewing the movies I saw last month, it now being this month and all. So I figured it would be better to do capsule reviews of what I saw in May in all one post rather than a full review of each of them, which I think we all know was never going to happen anyway. Better partial than never, right?

Iron Man 3

I knew this would have to be better than Iron Man 2 (of which I remember nothing but a lot of whining about existential crises and daddy issues), but not as good as The Avengers (last year’s damn-near-perfect movie), and probably not quite as good as the first Iron Man (a revelation, in multiple senses of the word), and I was dead-on. Go me.

Here’s the thing: the comic-book title is The Invincible Iron Man, which makes it a little tricky to come up with the Credible Threat that every action hero needs to face. The first movie solved this by having Tony Stark spending a lot of time and effort getting to the point where he can be sucked through a jet engine and suffer no injuries that couldn’t be healed by a little Bondo. In the second movie, Tony’s greatest threat was from within. Boring. Here, however, events conspire (with Tony, it must be said) to hurl him time zones away from home with a broken suit and no resources, not to mention a whole new, much less boring existential crisis. In short, dude is in a position to take himself a really thorough vincing.

But here’s the great thing. If Captain America’s challenge to him in The Avengers -- "Take away the suit and what are you?" -- remains hanging in the air, despite how effectively Tony batted it away with a verbal response, then this movie is a case study in how actions speak louder. Turns out that even without the suit, Tony's still kind of a badass. 42 suits? Forget about it.

Not to mention, probably the most underrated area of his genius is in usability, because damn.


Based on a true story about one of the most amazing, remarkable, brave, spectacularly stupid feats of exploration ever undertaken. In 1947, Swedish anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl set out to prove that French Polynesia was initially colonized by Aztecs from Peru, who floated across five thousand miles of the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft -- by attempting to do the same thing. Most people who know enough about the story to bother seeing this movie already know how that turned out, but that doesn't stop the final reel from being as tense as that of this movie's spiritual sibling, Apollo 13. This isn't an especially talky film, for two likely reasons. One is that it was filmed simultaneously in two languages, so who would want to double an excess of dialogue? And the second is that six Scandinavian dudes, even confined to a tiny space for more than three months, much of which time is spent lounging around in boxer briefs, aren't going to get all that chatty anyway. Heyerdahl's persistent hope and optimism is probably intended as a beacon of leadership, but it starts to come off as infuriating as he insists that what they're attempting succeeded before. Well, maybe, but probably not every time. After all, nobody's ever been able to get an exact replica of the Wright Flyer off the ground, Sunshine.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

People seem to either like ST:ID or get pissed off by it. Here's how you know which one you'll be before you see it. Do you already know who Carol Marcus is? If not, you'll probably like it. If so, it'll probably piss you off, at least during the parts you're not busy liking it.

I have a whole separate, unresolvable issue with Star Trek movies anyway, which is that Star Trek is supposed to be a weekly series, not a big, overblown, two-hour-plus event that blasts onto screens at intervals of multiple years. I'm never as invested in the captain (with the exception of Benjamin Sisko) as I am in the whole ensemble, and the limitations of a movie series by necessity squeezes out any stories that don't center on the top of the chain of command. Like. I want to know more about Sulu, and all he ever gets is a moment or two. Not to mention the movies can't take on a plot that isn't about the very survival of Earth, the Federation, or humanity itself, because when they attempt that we end up with Star Trek: Insurrection and nobody's happy.

That said, this is a big, loud, dumb, fun movie. I've seen a lot of remarks that it's not a true Star Trek movie, as though such a narrowly defined thing actually exists any more. You never see people complaining about something not being a true Doctor Who episode these days, do you? That's because there are lots of definitions, and now we have a new one for Star Trek. It may not be as much of a reboot as a remix, with old elements like Tribbles and Klingons and references to Harry Mudd thrown into a blender with some 24. Yes, 24, and not just because Peter Weller is in it.

That's because both the once-and-future Fox series and ST:ID explore what happens when an open democracy faces devastating terror attacks and responds by becoming violently, self-justifyingly paranoid. That, I've decided is what the title refers to. The refreshing thing is that ST:ID seems to be arguing the opposite side. When Spock is urgently trying to talk Kirk out of a pragmatic but "morally wrong" course of action, one can easily picture Kiefer Sutherland thumping Zachary Quinto on the head and stuffing him in a supply cabinet before doing what he wants anyway. Just like I'm sure he wanted to when ZQ was on the show during Season Three.


With Trash being done traveling for a while, and me being between shows for a while, she's been insisting on having me go see movies some nights even when there's nothing I want to see. Hence Quartet. Here is a redemptive, feel-good tale set in a British nursing home for retired musicians. The cast is headed by Maggie Smith, who for the first time in her long and celebrated career gets to step in front of a movie camera with her actual hairstyle. As you can imagine, there are lots of fragile, wrinkly people drifting about at all times in various states of battiness, and there's so little happening that we spend the first half of the film just waiting for one of them to keel over. Instead, when Maggie Smith shows up, her arrival completes the foursome who decades before gave a triumphant performance of Rigoletto, and the rest of the movie is spent overcoming the entirely tedious obstacles that prevent them from doing a reprise. The most obvious obstacle is, of course, the fact that it's impossible to imagine any of the four (Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly fake-aged to look like the current John Cleese) ever having been opera singers, let alone now. So the end is of course a giant cheat, and then we have to see the credits that show photos of all the aged, frail, wizened supporting players in the glory days of their energetic, vital, balls-out youth. Which in most cases were taken after I was out of high school. Yep, it seems I'm one generation younger than people in nursing homes. The only comfort was in imagining the director's deceptively youthful presence behind the camera: Dustin Hoffman (75).

The Sapphires

As for why I saw this, see above re: Quartet. It's easy to imagine The Sapphires as an abortive attempt at a star-making vehicle for Chris O'Dowd that never really got rolling, the problem being that if there's anyone not ready for a starring vehicle, it's Chris O'Dowd. It's set in 1968 Australia and Vietnam and is centered around a singing group composed of four Aboriginal relatives, so you can imagine there's plenty of social and racial injustice to really dig into. Think an antipodean The Commitments if the trailer had been set to the strains of "For What It's Worth." Well, in terms of how this movie tackles the heavy issues, the music's quite good.

Iron Man 3

Saw it again on May 31. Still holds up, mostly.

posted by M. Giant 8:40 AM 0 comments


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