The Morning After: June 6, 2011

It has been a hectic three weeks. Trying to get everything caught up so that I can write the large backlog of reviews I have is very difficult. I’ve been trying to de-stress a bit, so while I have had a small amount of free time, I’ve been using it to unwind. My apologies for not writing more. But, so you know that I have been busy watching films, here’s a list of all I’ve seen with their star ratings and a brief snippet of my initial impressions. As soon as I can mentally and physically catch up, I’ll share more complex thoughts.

So, here is what I watched this weekend:

The Remains of the Day


A beautiful, quiet romantic drama starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Long, mournful gazes; simple fading-history effects; and stellar performances make this a fine film.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie



This is a movie that requires a great deal of thinking and may end up taking me longer to craft a review for than any others. You don’t just pick up a French New Wave pic and write a quick, non-pensive review of it. It’s a movie that seems at once to be about nothing, but with reflection has some interesting commentary on the absurdity of the upper classes.

X-Men: First Class



I’ll probably get lynched by Dark Knight fans, but this may well be the best superhero film yet made. A fine ensemble, plenty of emotional resonance and a minimal amount of black-and-white evil/good paradigms.

Kung Fu Panda 2



Such a beautiful film in a number of ways, this is one of the finest animated sequels to date and is very close in quality to the Pixar Toy Story sequels in terms of breadth, depth and passion.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers


Trying to improve on an original is a dangerous thing. Many filmmakers can’t understand the power a classic film can have when compared to a newer work. This film never tries to surpass the original in terms of quality. It doesn’t try to do something so monumentally different as to mar or malign the face of the original. It stands perfectly fine on its own merits.

Being There



This is a movie that seems far more pensive than one would expect from a traditional comedy. There are some interesting comments the film makes on societal standards, the profundity of a simple idea taken as a complex thought.

TRON



The backlit animation is a bit distracting at first, especially when you’re accustomed to 29 years of newer, more realistic visual effects technology, but it’s a rather marvelous experience visually and aurally.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


While the series may never live up to the quality of the original, this is a fine step forward. While I tire a great deal of Johnny Depp, this film seems fresher and more inventive than either of the last two films.

Bones (through Season 5)

After the first couple of season of fresh inventiveness, the show seemed to take on a stale procedural nature that, while not always disappointing, left a lot to be desired. One of my biggest complaints was the lack of through-story, a plot that weaves itself through every episode of the season. First there was the mystery of Bones’ parents, then the secret society set and then, after the weaker Gravedigger arc, the show seemed to forget about that aspect. While all of the characters have been quite interesting (except for maybe Sweets, the psychologist), each episode follows a very familiar formula that seldom diverges, making for a frequently frustrating experience. Each episode seems to be an effort to come up with a more inventive and gruesome set of circumstances without finding a humanity to make them seem real. I will probably continue watching the show as seasons become available on Netflix streaming, but I’m very close to finding myself disinterested.

Skins (Seasons 1, 2 & 3 partial)

British TV series are significantly shorter overall than American series and Skins seems to be among the shortest. A scant 9 episodes per season serves the series better than were it extended to the common American length of 26. This show tells the lives of a handful of loose-knit friends attending a college together (for American audiences, that’s High School, not University) wherein their sex-starved, drug-addicted, eating disorder-addled friends combat each other and their environments trying to live as best they can. The series deals with a number of dark and important subject matters that a lot of American shows (and even movies) shy away from because of the puritanical desires of many citizens. Yet, there has rarely been a better written, better acted or better realized drama on television. The first two seasons feature one cast, the next two another and the fifth and likely future seasons will deal with even more divergent ones. The first two seasons are, without question, the best so far of the series. Each character, despite their frustrating flaws and at-times unlikability, you truly care about their health and well being. The third season, which carries over only one character, are less interesting and feature a handful of characters that, as yet, have seemingly no redeeming qualities. The third season, which I’m about two episodes shy of completing, is still a riveting series of episodes, I’m less intrigued and less impressed with its overall progression.

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  1. While I still contend The Dark Knight is a better film, X-Men First Class runs a tight second and what made it so great was, like you mentioned, it was the first time it felt like an ensemble piece, not just the Wolverine show. As a longtime fan of the comics, this was the movie I had been waiting for since I started reading them. Not only that, but Michael Fassbender’s Magneto was so much darker than McKellan’s because of the richer backstory they gave him. So, if this is what you choose as the better comic book movie, I won’t argue. It’s a fine choice.

    1. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to call this one the better as Dark Knight is a fine film, but where X-Men: FC works better is that it actually speaks more about our society and our history than Dark Knight could.

      And I’d contend X2 is a fairly good ensemble piece and, until this moment, was my favorite of the X-Men franchise films. Even Wolverine and Last Stand didn’t bother me as much as it did others. But there’s no denying that this film stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.

      1. And, as an addendum, I think that were Inception classified super hero and not sci-fi, it would also surpass Dark Knight. I’d say Inception has a lot of elements of the classic superhero genre.

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