In NYC for work this week, so I’m a bit behind. Keeping with my resolution to watch more movies, here’s what I took in this past week:
The World’s End, dir. by Edgar Wright, UK, 2013.
I think Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were two of the best action comedies to come out in the past two decades. Seriously, I loved them that much. I also think Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the Laurel & Hardy of their generation, a dynamite duo who are razor-sharp smart and have insanely perfect comedic timing.
That legacy remains intact with The World’s End, although it takes a bit of a beating. The film was massively enjoyable, and Pegg and Frost, along with an amazing supporting cast, are all in top form as they discover that their hometown has been taken over by alien robots. It’s essentially Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead with a different antagonist. Which is fine.
But the film suffers from a shockingly bad third act that I simply could not comprehend coming from Edgar Wright, who I hold as one of the top ten directors working right now (the others are P.T. Anderson, Spike Jonez, David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, Steve McQueen, Quentin Tarantino, Gaspar Noe, The Coens and Jonathan Glazer - let the debates ensue) and the film suffers from a narrative choke that is pretty epic. After two acts of brilliant comedy and action, the final act is bogged down with incessant speechifying and a literal god machine. The conclusion is cool but it cannot compensate for the rushed denouement before it.
I don’t know. The film holds a 90% on the Tomatometer and while it’s good, I’d never say it’s that good. Maybe we’re at a time when so many movies are mediocre that something remotely good and polished will garner a positive aggregate. Or maybe that’s the problem of using aggregators as a benchmark of a film’s quality, as one review stating “it was ok, but…” and another stating “I loved it!” will both be counted as an equally “fresh” rating. It’s disconcerting.
Neon Genesis Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance, dir. by Kazuya Tsurumaki and Hideaki Anno, Japan, 2009.
Of all the million subgenres of anime, I’ve always cherished the mecha subgenre. Starting with Robotech and Voltron back in the day to later masterpieces like Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell, the melding of man and machine has always held a deep fascination for me. One of the very, very best of the genre has been the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, which straddles classic mecha conventions with at times overtly-religious themes and iconography.
I’ve always loved the sheer intensity of the Evangelion movies, there’s so much fucking stress that it feels like the movies will crack the screen. There’s massive weight, both in mass and in the characters’ decisions, that lends the series a lugubrious density and scale that I’ve yet to encounter in any animation since Akira. A lot of this credit goes to Studio Gainax, who in my opinion are right up there with Studio Ghibli as one of the greatest exporters of Japanese culture. I treasure FLCL and Evangelion as much as I do Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi.
That said, the Evangelion universe is vast, and it’s taken me some time to catch up to it. After watching Neon Genesis Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance, the second of three feature-length movies in the series, I need to fill in the blanks asap. 2.0 gives us all the classic Evangelion storylines, brilliant mecha designs and action, weird sexuality and of ends on an absolutely epically biblical note - it’s classic Evangelion but amped up to eleven.
Sure there’s tons of melodrama away from the mecha action, but that’s in classic Japanese tradition of juxtaposing personal relationships with the relationship between man and machine and the corresponding militaristic duty and honor that comes with the job. But in Evangelion it largely works because of the ace voice acting, in both the Japanese and English versions.
If you’re new to anime I wouldn’t recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion as an entry point. It’s heavy, intense stuff. But it also contains some of the most fiercely realized giant robot action you’ll ever see anywhere, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Sharknado, dir. by Anthony C. Ferrante, USA, 2013.
So yeah, I was curious. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. This was a piece-of-shit, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy its gall, its worse-than-bad visual effects, and its b-movie trappings. Totally ridiculous and completely insulting if you’re a filmmaker, as even for a low-budget affair (est. $1m) it’s shockingly incompetently made. But it’s fun in a “I can’t believe this was even made” kind of way, and there’s definitely a place for that. And the cast, save for a completely vacuous Tara Reid, is surprisingly earnest. Ian Zeiring busts his ass in this thing, and I can appreciate that. Color me a fan.
August 26, 2013 - Elysium, Murder on the Orient Express, TRON: Uprising.
June 6, 2013 - The Invisible War, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Fast & Furious 6.
May 26, 2013 - Upstream Color, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
April 21, 2013 - Through the Weeping Glass: On the Consolations of Life Everlasting (Limbos & Afterbreezes in the Mütter Museum), The Art of the Steal, Repo Man
April 4-14, 2013 - Gate of Hell, White Mane, The Holy Mountain, Scenes From a Marriage, Homeland
March 31, 2013 - Room 237, Strange Circus, The Darkest Hour.
March 24, 2013 - Spring Breakers, The World According to Dick Cheney, Hope Springs.
March 17, 2013 - The Loved Ones, Pink Ribbons Inc., The Seducers.
March 10, 2013 - The Master, Sound City, Perks of Being a Wallflower
March 3, 2013 - Holiday, L’Enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot, The Woman in Black, Savages, Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles
February 17, 2013 - Les Miserables, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste; Galaxie 500 1979-1991,
February 10, 2013 - La Marge (The Margin), The FP, Kill Bill V2
February 3, 2013 - The Night Porter, Gantz, Bitten
January 26, 2013 - Eames: The Architect & The Painter, Luck By Chance, School of Rock
January 19, 2013 - Silver Linings Playbook, We Are Legion, Zero Dark Thirty