Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Films: From one extreme to another

The movie theatre was over-cooled and at about 60 degrees; we were freezing. Fortunately I brought a shawl and both of us huddled under it while watching, or being assaulted by the trailers for the remaining summer block busters. Explosions, fantasy creatures and special effects blasted, screamed and crashed on the screen. We plugged our ears and waited for it to cease.

Elle Fanning
Finally Super Eight started up and we sank easily into the nostalgia of 70's. In a typical middle class neighborhood, a grieving boy and his appealing young movie-making buddies are looking forward to summer fun. We relaxed and started to engage with these winsome kids making their zany zombie film. The young actors in this film are great. But then the first crash came - a train wreck blasting onto the screen. A train wreck is a horrible event right? When we want to emphasize a catastrophe we compare it to the worst possible thing - a train wreck. But J. J. Abrams and crew had to make it train wreck + ++ and it ends up like a nuclear blast. It goes on and on and on with explosion after explosion, rail cars fly into the air...grinding, screeching, squealing. The film proceeds to slide downhill faster than greased pig on ice skates.

After watching J. J. Abrams deliver a TED talk on creativity I was so looking forward to this film. I knew it was heavy on the homage to Steven Spielberg. Fair enough. But it ended up being nothing but cliches and strings of imitative bits from all the classic horror/disaster movies ever. You'll recognize Alien, Close Encounters, ET, Stand By Me, King Kong,  even District 9 -  and they all fall flat. Seven or eight story lines are squished into the few minutes between explosions and chases - they flash by at warp speed, impossible to connect with.

Si Si Lui, Bai Qing Xin
By contrast, earlier in the week we watched "Springtime in a Small Town", a well reviewed Chinese film about nothing. There are three or four characters in the film and absolutely nothing happens and you don't get to know the people. If you like watching old ladies knit, you'll love this film.

The winner of the week for us was "Secretariat" which we watched on On Demand. A wonderful tale, told well - nicely balanced between the action of horse racing and the interesting stories of Secretariat's breeding, training and gutsy female owner. A great film to watch just before Del Mar opens next week!
Diane Lane and John Malkovich



  1. Most of the blockbuster films fail miserably at telling a decent story. There have been a few that I have recently seen that I have liked, including Avatar and Inglorious Bastards. I would suggest watching those.

    Some other good films that I have seen are; Hard Candy, Momento, Mulholland Drive, Inside Job, and if you can stomach controversial content, I even enjoyed A Clockwork Orange.

  2. I almost forgot....

    500 Days of Summer was a good film to.

  3. I don't know why these theaters think that they need to put you in a deep freeze during the movie. So you will eat more overpriced popcorn and warm up?