Archive for Movies

The Town

Ben Affleck has directed a second movie with a real sense of place in Boston, The Town. Since I grew up outside of Boston, it’s really nice to see a movie which is set in Boston and has characters whom one can believe actually grew up there. Plus it has several scenes in Cambridge, where I grew up, and they were actually shot in Cambridge.

The only slightly discordant note was that it was hard to believe that the Rebecca Hall character would actually live in Charlestown. She looked and acted entirely South End to me. I know people who have lived in a lot of different neighborhoods in Boston and the surrounding cities and towns, but I’ve never known anybody who lived in Charlestown who didn’t grow up there. Still, I suppose there must be a few.

It was also a good movie apart from the setting, by the way. Ben Affleck seems to be heading toward Clint Eastwood territory, which is probably a good thing for him to try considering the number of horrible movies he’s been in.

I also recently saw a movie which completely failed to have a sense of place, although it was essential to the plot. Going the Distance is about a long-distance romance between Drew Barrymoore in San Francisco and Justin Long in New York. The movie was adequate, but for me it was really damaged by the fact that despite the plot hinging on where the characters lived, the San Francisco scenes were very obviously not shot in San Francisco.

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I enjoyed watching Inception, and as far as I could tell it was a consistent if complex story for the world that it set up. But that world was a very weird one. If my subconscious mind wanted to get rid of some outside influence within the context of a shared dream, it certainly would not resort to people with guns. There would be a massive tidal wave, or everybody would be swimming through jello, or something equally odd. I don’t remember many of my dreams, but the ones that I do remember are nothing at all like the scenes in Inception. And if I were dreaming the Cillian Murphy role when he finally confronted his father, I’d like to think that even my subconscious would be a bit suspicious, and just see the scene as an example of wish fulfillment.

Still the movie is certainly worth seeing.

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Shrek Distances

I’m sure I’m not the only person troubled by the loose geography in the Shrek movies. In the first movie Shrek takes a couple of days to get to the dragon’s castle. In the second movie Shrek and Fiona appear to take a few days to get from Shrek’s swamp to Far Far Away by coach. However, in the fourth movie, Shrek walks from his swamp to the dragon’s castle and then to Far Far Away all in a single night. There is no explanation. How is this possible?

Even allegorical fairy tales are weakened by a lack of internal story consistency.

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Iron Man 2

A few thoughts on Iron Man 2.

I liked it.

How odd to see a decent romantic comedy mixed into a superhero movie. Most recent romantic comedies have been terrible. Forgetting Sarah Marshall wasn’t too bad, but the last one I can remember as being solidly good was Fifty First Dates.

The movies was much more like a comic book than most, with a few scenes of subplots tossed in every so often. In comic books it works because you get more of the story every month. Can they really make that pay off in other movies which are at best a year later? Or is it mainly aimed at people who read the adaptations?

Don Cheadle and Scarlet Johansson did good jobs with minor characters, which shows the importance of getting good actors. Samuel L. Jackson was amusing as always. Mickey Rourke was excellent.

The final scene, after the credits, sets up for Thor, which according to IMDB is going to be a movie next year. Thor is everybody’s favorite Norse god, but he’s a much weaker character than Iron Man. He has no character weaknesses, except for a tendency toward bravado which becomes rapidly uninteresting. His difficulties are all structural: take away his hammer and he turns back to human. All the best Thor comic book stories are very long, very cosmic, and concentrate mainly on the characters around him. The very best one, the multi-year epic by Walter Simonson, starts off by finding a character who is an even better Thor than Thor himself, and has a whole issue in which Thor does not appear at all. None of this suggests a good movie to me. IMDB does list Kenneth Branagh as director; he’s made some great movies (my favorite is Much Ado About Nothing) and some very weak ones (Frankenstein).


When Titans Clash

I didn’t expect to like the recent remake of Clash of the Titans much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Most movies of this sort have a simple underlying theme. For this movie the theme was going to be that humans could stand on their own and did not need help from the gods. But, due to either horrible or inspired writing, they botched the theme, even admitting it in the final scene. This gave the movie a refreshingly strange feeling in the middle of the usual monster fights.

Particularly strange and quite wonderful was the short sequence in which the intrepid band rides along in howdahs strapped to giant scorpions which grew from the blood of the hero’s mother’s husband who had been given strange powers by Hades. That one was surely bad writing trying to rework an idea which sort of made sense in the original movie, but while failing turning it into something weirdly original and striking.

I’m not sure I should recommend seeing this movie, but if you go in with low expectations I think it should be quite enjoyable.


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