As 205 rapidly comes to a close, I pause to reflect on one of my loves: Cinema. Nobody really uses that word anymore, but I think it embodies what makes films great. The darkened theater, the smell of popcorn, people laughing, clapping or crying during those key moments during a screening. Way back in 1977 I was VERY young, and went to see THE DEEP with my sister and her friend but we were quite bored by it; subsequently we snuck in to see STAR WARS and for me, it changed the way I saw movies. This adventure in space made me laugh and clap and nobody had really seen anything like it. Until then I had only seen “family” movies which were ok, but I already had a taste for horror flicks at my VERY young age and wanted to see more of the “dark side” of film.
As many of my friends and colleagues await the new STAR WARS this year, I thought about some of the hit and misses of the past year. Firstly, remakes. Hollywood can’t bear to pass up a retread of some classic, and it saddens me. POLTERGEIST starring Sam Rockwell is of course a remake of the 1982 Tobe Hooper classic (yes kids, Spielberg didn’t direct it, he produced) which reuses some of the scares but none of the character development that made us care about what happened to them. Rockwell is always great, as he is here, but the rest of the cast adds very little to the story; where’s the build up of the spookiness? Where is the dread? Ok there were some good bits but please, stop remaking the classics.
Comedy. I yearn for a really good, side-splitting comedy. I know everyone seems to love Amy Schumer, but truthfully, I had to look her up on Google. TRAINWRECK is truly just that, a trainwreck. I don’t find toilet humor all that funny, and it seems that newer rom-coms and funny material is about sexual situations or matrimony (see THE WEDDING RINGER, which is better,) Schumer’s sometimes funny dialogue is good for a few chuckles, but I cringed so much during this film that my face hurt.
Musical biopics got a huge boost with STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, a film which chronicles the rise of rap group N.W.A., five guys from California whose music reflected the times of living in the ‘hood in the mid-to-late-‘80s. Raw and sometimes shocking, the movie has garnered some negative press, but I found it pretty riveting and if you’re not a fan of foul language, don’t even bother, but it represented to me what that part of the country must have been like at that time.
For the action connoisseur, two eagerly awaited sequels hit their marks pretty impressively. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and JURASSIC WORLD. Director Colin Trevorrow along with the incredibly adorable Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard brought back the magic and suspense that made the first film great. Sure the two boys weren’t very well fleshed out as characters, especially the older brother, and yes, Bryce ran in those heels for some time before taking them off, but I enjoyed the action of WORLD immensely.
Grab the popcorn! AVENGERS slightly disappointed me after loving the first film, but watching it a second time, it grew to be my favorite of the two: more dialogue between the characters and a bit less action meant more development. Comic book heroes need to be fleshed out as human beings, or in sexy Chris Hemsworth’s case, an alien (in the comics he’s supposed to be a god, but we don’t do that in today’s overly PC world.)
Fantasy has always been for me, a guilty pleasure. CINDERELLA is actually a decent remake, although it’s a retelling, much as the new Broadway show is, and it’s magical. The lovely Cate Blanchett is fantastic as the evil stepmother, British Lily James and Scotsman Richard Madden are both entrancing as the protagonist and prince, respectively. The film actually bothers to develop the characters well, so when Cinderella gets her wishes after much tragedy in her life, it’s all the more satisfying. Go Disney!
Rounding out my list is CRIMSON PEAK for the horror genre, and THE MARTIAN for sci-fi (or sci fact?) Guillermo Del Toro knows his audience for scares, and masters them beautifully, crafting a film that could easily be just another “haunted house” thriller but instead brings us a great visual treat with fine actors, not a bunch of one-note teens and twentysomethings screaming about. Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN is a harrowing journey to bring back stranded astronaut Matt Damon, capitalizing on the newly popular I’m-stranded-in-space-come-help-me genre (see GRAVITY and INTERSTELLAR) but this one actually works well thanks to Scott’s talent as a director with a talented cast.
Well, as I wait to see STAR WARS again, I’m reminded of just how much movies are still relevant. I do enjoy watching movies at home, but walking into the cinema brings me back to a time when I was ready to be entertained, and boy was I ever. Be safe and be good to each other kids, and I’ll see you in the New Year.