What We’re Watching – 6/15/11
What’s Brandi been watching?
In the theater:
I didn’t get to see Super 8 this past weekend, but after hearing such positive things about it, I decided to squeeze it into my busy Tuesday, treating myself to dinner and a movie. There I sat, buttered popcorn and Cherry Coke in hand (yes, that counted as dinner), ready to let a new summer adventure classic entertain me. I was very pleased that the film lived up to the good reviews. I love a band-of-kids-on-an-adventure film when the child actors are good, and this batch is universally great. I was already an Elle Fanning fan, but she’s marvelous here making the distant, unhappy girl into a very sympathetic character. I also loved the core friendship between Joe (Joel Courtney) and Charles (Riley Griffiths). Add in the darling pack of weirdos they run with, and it’s endlessly entertaining.
It was also nice to see the main parent characters getting to be more fleshed-out than is always the case, as well as a town setting that is just the right bit of nostalgic, but still feels like a real place. This is a film that’s absolutely filled with characters we care about, and that takes the time to build its stakes before crashing into action sequences. And when it gets to the action, it’s well-paced, and the effects are fun to watch, instead of an assault on the senses. I also appreciated the level of sincerity in the script—I don’t mind having my heartstrings pulled at a little bit, but this is how you do it without feeling manipulative. All in all, a very solid film that is extremely welcome in a sea of summer sequels.
Due to a combination of the panicky rushed feeling that comes with the “this store will be closing in five minutes” announcement and a rousing speech of peer pressure from Allen, I recently blind-bought the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981). Now, I am not a collector. The films I have in my house are a hodge-podge of stuff I’ve been given as gifts, things that were super cheap and picked from a bin (“16 Horror Classics!”), and just a few films that I need to have available at any time. Though I have purchased a few particularly interesting-looking Criterion releases, dropping $40 on a movie is not regular behavior with me—and doing so with a movie I’d never seen was a first. Doing so on a De Palma movie after making my feelings for Scarface known to the world…only these particular circumstances could have made that happen.
Luckily. Luckily. This is a great film. It’s often beautiful to look at (oh, if De Palma always knew how to practice restraint!), and I wish more mysteries were plotted like this. It’s not all about manipulating what the audience sees and what the main character knows until some third act key bit of information brings it all together. The tension here, when the characters are aware of the danger of their situation, but the audience knows more specifics about why and how it’s so dangerous, truly enthralls. Plus, our hero John Travolta and villain John Lithgow both perform at the top of their game. (I also quite like Nancy Allen, and wish she’d ended up a bigger star. If only the high-pitched, ditzy affectation she puts into her voice here hadn’t been so annoying…it’s my one real complaint about the film.) This is a film worth seeing multiple times. Good thing I own it!