I saw six films theatrically this month. May is one of my favorite months of the year for moviegoing, second really only to December. Coincidentally, I have the same feeling for May as I do December-- I hate having to watch movies in these months with a critical eye! In May it's because I just want to have fun, in December, it's because I hate that you can't help watch each release thinking is it (top ten) "listworthy"?
I saw the four big Friday releases (skipping the fifth— Sex and the City), only one of them— Speed Racer— turned out not to be the big new release in it's weekend, What Happens in Vegas took that prize.
First off, Iron Man. What a great way to start off the summer (albeit still spring) movie releases. Iron Man was everything it was supposed to be— and my new most anticipated franchise-in-the-making. I just love the suit-- the way it works, the possibilities for action set pieces, the possible actual science behind such an invention. I wouldn't put Iron Man in any classic film pantheon, but, again, sticking to my loathe to criticize May movies-- it was a blast and I highly recommend it to the few who haven't yet seen it.
Speed Racer— the Poseidon of this year in terms of cost versus box office— seemed like it'd be a fun ride. I actually saw this with a crowd of friends who were all pumped up for it. I'm totally unfamiliar with the TV show; it just looked like it could be a lot of fun for its production design. And I guess it was. Kind of a bloated mess; it seemed that the people who did like it, were determined to like it based on their love of the original show.
I caught up on last month's Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. It's so much better than the critics are making it out. No, it didn't quite capture the "magic" (if you want to call it that) of the original film, but on it's own, still a very funny film. Although Neil Patrick Harris is still playing himself, despite his coming out since the last movie, he still "plays it straight" so to speak.
I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian at one of my favorite theaters in Los Angeles, the historic El Capitain theater (which exclusively shows Disney releases). The audience was kid-filled and very excited. There was a lot of clapping. I got caught up in the whole thing and enjoyed it too, but it's one of those movies that, an hour later, you're wondering what the heck it was all about. I read the book in the days before seeing the movie and I commend the filmmakers in starting the movie in the right place, making important cuts, and making a post-Harry Potter, post-LOTR, 2008 movie. However, I think they overshot it and went a little too big. A worthy effort nonetheless. I think I remember, from reading them as a kid, that the third book in the series, The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" was very good-- so I look forward to the third film, slated for May 7, 2010.
After mucho hype on Ebert (Phillips) & Roeper I caught The Visitor. By the way, have you noticed this month that the producers of the show came up with the "See It" of "Skip It" device-- poor Ebert thought he would always be able to use the Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down ace-up-his-sleeve as a negotiating device: they certainly called him on it. As much as I respect Ebert and have loved his reviews and opinions over the years it really is time to let go of the show. The title of the show really needs to be changed— it's been two years since Ebert's been off it. Anyway, I digress! I saw The Visitor because of the great reviews and because I haven't seen much independent stuff lately. Well I was "had." It wasn't much. I did like the fact that the central character was a bore and actor Richard Jenkins kept him interesting despite his being a dullard, without suddenly making him "change" at any point. Other than that, a warm nice-try, but highly skippable.
And finally the big one— Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I wrote a whole blog entry on Indy's latest adventure. Plus a follow-up about the earlier "Saucer Men" script. It was interesting to see Phillips and Roeper debate the film— Philips represented our minds (and my ranking it as "skippable") and Roeper represented our hearts (forgiving it of its many, many faults). I think audiences in general are completely in tune with this-- let's just hope Spielberg and co. understand that they got this free pass and don't make a habit of this kind of "filmmaking." In Spielberg's interview with Richard Schickel which has played on TCM he said it himself: 'I realized if I have a great script and I'm a great director (he was more modest, I'm paraphrasing) I could have a great movie' [he was commenting on Duel]. Well, that's exactly what happened here, the script was just a silly adventure, so we got a silly movie.
On TCM, I watched two movies I hadn't seen before. Five, Arch Obler's treatise on five survivors of nuclear war, felt exactly like a Twilight Zone episode (predating the series by 8 years). That said, it's only like a slightly-better-than-average Twilight Zone episode. It was pretty well directed, though, I must say, all things considered. Of course, the problem with such a movie is no matter what, it has a bleak end, no?
I also saw the cult classic Reefer Madness. I absolutely loved it. I can totally tell why it's a cult film. Despite the ridiculousness of it, it's such an entertaining flick. You'd think it would be "square" but compared to actual '30s mainstream Hollywood movies, it's kind of hip. It's like a square '60s movie.