Sorry for the belated Retrospective Review. Life and other projects got in the way of things. To make up for this, there will be two entries this week. The second is a special theme near and dear to my past self. In the meantime, here’s the first detailing my limited watchings from two weeks ago.
2/8/16: Green Lantern (Re-Watch)
Despite being a rather uninteresting film on its own merits, Green Lantern is a fascinating collage of clashing styles in superhero filmmaking during a rather transitional phase in the genre. Much of the structure and style feels extremely similar to a late 90s era version of an origin story, one that feels a comic book film should be genuinely goofy and silly. Not necessarily Batman & Robin style silly, but more in the vain of a Steel or Judge Dredd that feels written by committee with little to no understanding of the character and an abusive use of poor CG effects which, to be fare, are more five years dated than ten years dated. The villains are generic, from Peter Sarsgaard as a mutated peanut with daddy issues to a fart cloud from outer space. Yet, there’s also a clear attempt to make this similar to Iron Man by turning Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan into a womanizing badass who’s trying to get over his own personal issues, though he has some connection with his nephew for one scene and a clunky chemistry with his love interest and future real life wife of Reynolds Blake Lively. There’s the occasional inspired moment, mainly involving the stuff on Oa that includes an intriguingly on point performance from Mark Strong and some fun training sequences… for literally all of ten minutes. It’s a failure, but a fascinating one to see unravel from the perspective of a connoisseur of superhero cinema. But not on any other level.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Rings of Non-Power
2/9/16: Zoolander (Re-Watch)
Zoolander is one of many films here that feel definitively of their time. The styles of fashion, design of the graphics seen and use of technology all turn the film into a period piece for obvious reasons, but even in terms of Stiller’s style of comedy Zoolander feels like the last breath of his The Ben Stiller Show brand of silliness before he let his straight man style of reacting that dominated his film career following Meet the Parents. With that, Zoolander still holds up much better than one would expect it to, mainly when the sequences fully embrace the bordering on surreal moronic nature of its characters like the gasoline fight or the climactic encounter with Will Ferrell’s Mugatu, who remains the most consistent element of the entire film. Even Stiller and Owen Wilson are decently enjoyable, mainly when they’re just hanging out together said idiotic things rather than going through a belabored joke about a computer. The other supporting characters are a mixed bag, ranging from Ferrell’s non-stop hilarity to the complete uselessness of a Mila Jovovich, but it all culminates in a ride silly enough to stay energetic yet endearing enough to be worth rewatching.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Diverse Blue Steel Looks
2/13/16: Pretty In Pink
Pretty In Pink is one of the latter entries in the canon of late auteur John Hughes, though this was one he merely wrote and produced. His distinctive markings are still all over this though: eighties fashions, teen dynamics, Molly Ringwald. However, unlike The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the characters and themes of Pretty In Pink don’t feel as appropriate for the time yet timeless as his other works. If anything, they’re rather one dimensional to the point where the exact motivations or desires of any of them seem rather paper thin. Much of this is based in the rather two dimensional examination of classicism, which seems to be rooted in rather vague terms of rich & poor that don’t even seem to be highlighted very well on the part of Howard Deutch’s flat television style direction. The cast is an odd collection, some of which give a bit more dimension to their underwritten characters (James Spader, Annie Potts), seem rather miscast (Harry Dean Stanton) or are just plain terrible (Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer). The last two have their issues for completely opposing reasons, given McCarthy’s bland rich boy antics against Cryer’s manic self absorbed antics that constantly feel like annoying cries for attention. Cryer’s Duckie feels like the father of a future Men’s Rights Activist leader, which makes his comedic relief rather unbearable to watch… which sums up the least interesting teen production on Hughes’ resume.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Homemade Dresses
2/14/16: Beyond the Lights
Beyond the Lights saw a small release in November 2014 before being lost in the slew of bigger awards pictures, managing to scrape by with a Best Song nomination. Separated from all the awards traffic of the time, Beyond the Lights stands on its own as a wonderfully prescient love story that examines celebrity culture and the music industry all through the the prism of a relatable “kids from different sides of life” love story. All of this hinges on Gugu-Mbatha Raw and Nate Parker, who have a dynamic chemistry that builds from conflict to misunderstanding to a genuine respect that puts us immediately on their side even as tensions rise thanks to their place in society, as it does for supporting characters like Minnie Driver and Danny Glover. The film also shows their said places with blunt presentation, whether it be Parker’s attempts to help with a domestic abuse victim or Raw’s withering privacy in the face of constant attention she supposedly needs to stay relevant in the modern music industry. It all culminates in one of the more underrated romantic movies of the last decade.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Perfect Uses of “Drunken Love” by Beyonce