Mosaic / Reviews / September 20, 2012

Summer movies in review

Prometheus

It’s not an “Alien” prequel, Ridley Scott insists, and it might not be. I don’t know. I do know that “Prometheus” is no more than a mess of genre, tone and painful dialogue disguised as somber meditations on faith and the human condition. The landscapes are pretty, the aliens are grotesque and Michael Fassbinder is predictably brilliant, managing to fill his chilling, inquisitive android with pathos. However, behind its expensive shell, it’s clear that “Prometheus” has little to say, besides that it wants to say something.

Moonrise Kingdom

The latest offering from American auteur Wes Anderson (the man responsible for “Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) may actually be a perfect film. Every shot brims with wonder, and the film as a whole boasts the surreal quality of a children’s story book. Set against the woodlands of Rhode Island, the film speaks softly but resonates as it follows a pair of young lovers. “Moonrise Kingdom” is further bolstered by, bar none, the best child actors in recent memory and an adult cast that’s no trifle either (Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton). I’ve never felt so entranced in a movie theater, even after the fifth viewing.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Is the existence of this film a joke? No doubt. Is it a well-told joke, droll as Buster Keaton on a good day, weighty but light enough to jump, twirl and bust vampire heads? Mostly. Benjamin Walker plays Honest Abe with a ferocity that invests the film’s first hour — the pre-Presidency days — with a semblance of character drama that remains recognizable amidst the rote action beats, never demeaning Lincoln’s accomplishments but rather framing them with fantasy elements. The Civil War, curiously, starts and ends with little fanfare despite its significance. If you want a history lesson you’ll have to look elsewhere but if you’re looking to watch Lincoln practice ninjitsu in the Oval Office, you’ve come to the right place.

Brave” 

Pixar’s first original story since “Up” masquerades as female empowerment for the whole family, but peel back the layers and you’ll find a sadder truth: Pixar is a boy’s club and a boy’s club they’ll indefinitely remain. Merina is the sanitized tomboy: supposedly dirty, rough and “badass,” but vacant when it comes to real personality. The film breaks its back maintaining this image, to the point of keeping the drama in a painful, permanent stasis, and the plot never leads anywhere aside from a strange repeat of Disney’s “Brother Bear.” It’s not a bad film, just misguided and milquetoast.

Ted

Seth MacFarlane’s live-action debut highlights the controversial animator’s Beantown roots and loose, blue-collar wordplay. By voicing a fully-dimensional CGI bear instead of a flat, dead-eyed cartoon, MacFarlane gains a real presence in this tale of arrested development, growing up and watching “Flash Gordon” while Mark Wahlberg proves a worthy sparring partner. If only MacFarlane could write female characters with the same level of wit he reserves for himself…

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Its star is six years old, the actor playing her father is a baker with no previous acting experience and both deliver performances on par with the Hollywood greats. This is clearly a testament to the unpredictable charm of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Quiet, poetic and familiar, even as it shows us the unexplored dimensions of the New Orleans bayous after Katrina, you won’t see any other film quite like it. It’s an American fairy tale, grown from a culture rather than one mind.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield as Andrew Garfield meets Emma Stone, playing Emma Stone, and they fall in love. They remain in love for two agonizing hours, never developing, never growing as characters, until something almost pulls them apart and then they fall in love again. Somewhere along the way, Garfield gets bitten by a spider and receives superpowers, and after some bland CGI fight scenes he celebrates by skateboarding. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Spider-Man film?

The Dark Knight Rises

Caught in between two tragedies — the passing of Heath Ledger and the now notorious Aurora shooting — The Dark Knight Rises” disappears behind the event of its release. Its politics, Nolan’s prestige and the weight of all previous Batman media further complicate an objective viewing. Pressed to pass judgment, I’d call it “satisfying” — it wraps up the trilogy fully, if not too neatly, and showcases Tom Hardy’s brand of physical bravura acting as Bane, equal parts menacing and goofy. Think “Return of the Jedi” but with more artistic integrity (and fewer Ewoks).

ParaNorman

A late August surprise with a special place in Knox’s heart – it features alum Christopher Murrie ’95 as editor – this second stop-motion film from “Coraline” makers LAIKA translates the Burton breed of gleeful macabre into something subtler, an ode to all middle-school outcasts and their favorite horror films. Note to fans of grindhouse zombie films: the first five minutes will plaster the biggest grin on your face. Bring patient children for this stunningly-animated, funny, touching treat.

Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.

Tags:  Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Alien Andrew Garfield Beasts of the Southern Wild Brave Christopher Murrie Christopher Nolan Emma Stone Moonrise Kingdom ParaNorman Pixar Prometheus Ridley Scott Seth MacFarlane Ted The Amazing Spider-Man The Dark Knight Rises Wes Anderson

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Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.




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