Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: JUNE 2-8, 2014

(2014)



This is a middling documentary about the digital age we’re now in and how it has completely changed the human mind over the last decade. There’s an array of insights that can easily lead to pertinent conversation points after the film. DSKNECTD would be more pertinent itself if it widened its scope beyond California and made up its own sometimes “closed” other times “open” mind.


★★½


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(2014)


From the director of Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens comes a film about a cook (played by director Jon Favreau himself) looking for a job after a fight with a food critic results in his termination. It’s a far cry from characters saving the world from impending doom but the result is my favorite of Favreau’s films that I’ve seen, go figure. A rich cast that would make Woody Allen bat an eye act out notable realism through strong local flavors.


★★★★


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(1955)


This is the first official sequel to Ishirô Honda’s original cinematic vision of Godzilla and appeared in Japanese movie house just a year later. The film is strongest during the stretches of spectacle only losing steam whenever the meddling humans reconvene. There’s odd joking among them that feels especially out of place with the impending destruction of their city. The bookended sequences on Godzilla’s island and the rumble at Osaka Castle are incredible if occasionally suffering from “man-in-suit syndrome.”


★★★★½


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(2014)


Forget Godzilla (2014), How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the big lizard movie of the summer! DreamWorks Animation picks back up their epic of vikings and dragons (with names like Hiccup and Toothless) and shows just how effective a sequel can be. Enormous entertainment and emotional weight make this nothing short of a masterpiece.


★★★★★


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(2014)



Even if the box office doesn’t quite declare it, Tom Cruise is still a blockbuster star and I gladly welcome him adding another sci-fi scalp to his belt. The time-loop premise is one audiences are well versed with and creates a surprising amount of humor for a film on the edge of humanity’s demise. There are some incredible set-pieces attached, but I found myself losing the battle as the film resorted to less impactful scenarios.


★★★½


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(2014)


For every bland vampire flick made Stateside it seems we’re privy to a novel offering from overseas. Rigor Mortis continues that trend with an action drama steeped in Chinese customs and Hong Kong’s own distinct history of vampire* films. (*They use the term interchangeably with “zombie” and it’s a different breed of beast than what Western audiences are accustomed to.) This film shows just how formidable the undead are. Thankfully the residents (and the actors playing them) of the towering apartment wherein the entire film is set are well versed in their ways.


★★★★


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(2014)


More like “that awkward script.” Three of America’s more capable leading men in their 20s (Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan) play three friends at various stages in their post-college, skirt-chasing lives. (This could actually be a sequel to Neighbors if Efron’s character managed to get a better job and become less funny in the process.) It’s rote and it’s saccharin and “You’re an idiot” is a favorite response for multiple characters. Despite this, the three leads along with Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis make each scene pass by with approval even if the film should be forgotten as a whole.


★★½


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(1962)


It’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Shinbone” is one of American legend John Ford’s final films. This (Anti-)Western weaves a tale within a tale that’s not about how the West was won but converted. James Stewart, John Wayne and Lee Marvin play familiar roles, each a differing definition of “man” that in turned defined and altered American history.


★★★★★


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Throughline
Drawing connections and conclusions on last week’s recently beheld


No film exists in a vacuum, nor should it. I am partial to discussing wherein any given film exists in the history of cinema, a filmmaker’s portfolio, its country of origin’s output, as part of a particular film movement or merely in acknowledgement, reverence or contradiction to a previous film(s).

- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has its place at the tail end of Ford’s long career of definitive American experiences. His two most famous Westerns (Stagecoach and The Searchers) are hearkened by John Wayne’s involvement alone.
- Rigor Mortis is the most recent entry in Hong Kong’s vampire sub-genre, a finale as much as a starting point for those who don’t know Mr. Vampire from Nosferatu.
- Godzilla Raids Again (and How To Train Your Dragon 2) is a direct sequel, hence the title. One of its most compelling scenes is when a council watches footage of Godzilla’s first attack (literally a sequence taken from the first film). The film also introduces the idea of other kaiju, something nearly every sequel and reimagining played with.
- Try reading a review of Edge of Tomorrow that doesn’t mention other films (especially Groundhog Day and Aliens). I’d love to read one if it exists.


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Seen any of these films? What did you see last week? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!



Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.

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