Thursday, June 30, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Comments On: Small Town Theaters

So... I'm sure you all noticed a recent drop in review activity. So the next question is probably this:


Well, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. I'm in the very small town of Oberlin, Ohio at the moment, with the nearest multiplex a long drive away. Trust me, it's a long drive to the nearest one.

That's the downside.

The upside?

There's a small-town movie theater across the street from where I'm staying. Why is this a good thing?

I get to experience one of the more charming ways of seeing a movie in America.

Generally, it's just a better experience overall. For one thing, it's not owned by a major movie theater group like AMC or Regal, so there's no annoying preshow feature. For another, we actually don't get oversaturated with trailers. We just get trailers for the next two features that are playing in the movie, and then it's on to the movie itself. Therefore, it's all nice and brief and gets immediately to the picture. For one more thing, it actually feels like a fairly intimate setting. To be sure, the theater seats are all fairly worn and the whole thing seems needlessly fancy in some places, but for me that just adds to the charm.

The only real downside? It plays the same feature for weeks on end, instead of bringing in movies. Given that it only has one screen, I can't say I blame them, but it's still more than a little disappointing to not be able to see a new movie every week or so the way I usually do. But that's a downside in a world of charm.

Oh, yeah, and the tickets are cheap. That too. I kid you not: when I was here, I paid seven dollars to see Toy Story 3 in the newly fitted 3D screen. Yes: I paid less money to see a movie in 3D than I normally would to see a matinee feature at the Regal multiplex close to where I am in Boston. And the employees actually care to look at you when you make purchases of stuff.

So overall, it's a pleasant experience. I don't know what makes it so charming, but I guess it's good that small theaters like the one at Oberlin, Ohio still exist. I'm not sure where I was going with this, but... hey, I figured I'd just talk about how it is to watch a movie in a small town like this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"The Hangover: Part 2"

Yes, I'm aware that it's taken me a while to get to reviewing this movie.

But that's probably because I'm not that interested. So when I find myself at a small town with a one-show theater... well... you get this, since it's playing there.

So let's get to today's movie.

The Hangover: Part 2

Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Allen (Zach Galifianakis) are back as three guys who wake up in a hotel room in Bangkok two days before Stu's wedding having no idea what the hell just happened to them. Thus, they go around Bangkok trying to find the brother of Stu's wife-to-be while piecing together just what happened.

And... it goes on from there.

I'll be frank. I really didn't find this movie to be that funny. One of the big reasons I feel this way? Almost the whole movie feels like it's treading the exact same ground as the first Hangover. A lot of the gags are the same, but... different. But not that different. And somehow, they're just not as funny the second time around, especially with some of the things they try to do to make it "different".

So as a result, I found myself laughing a lot less than I did with the first Hangover--and let's be honest, I wasn't laughing as much as the rest of America was during the first pass either. (Not that I didn't think it was funny, but I did find it slightly overrated.) The whole thing thus becomes a little less interesting to watch after that: the characters just aren't as interesting the second time around, especially since we know where all this is going to wind up eventually.

So... yeah. The main problem with The Hangover Part 2 is that it's too similar to its predecessor. It follows every gag exactly, and the end result is that it's just not as funny as it was before. And that drags the rest of the movie down in quality.


It has its moments, but overall you might be left disappointed.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Comments On: Malick's Imagery

Warning: this commentary will contain major spoilers for The Tree of Life. You have been warned.

As I've been going around these past few days, I've found that The Tree of Life has stuck with me in a lot of ways. This I think is the sign of a great movie: it sticks with you for periods of time like this.

But then I also came to a realization: Tree of Life is about as far away from a conventional movie as anybody can get in today's day and age. It's a great movie, but it sure as hell isn't as accessible to the general movie-going public as you'd think. Technically, it's not for everyone.

So I thought I'd go ahead and comment on some of the movie's stranger shots, see if I can help make anyone else make sense of it. Some of the shots are there simply for symbolism, and while the symbolism can be clear at some points there are plenty of instances where the imagery gets extremely obtuse as to be indecipherable.

Keep in mind, the symbolism behind these images are how I personally interpret them. Someone with more knowledge of film or someone who worked on it (hint hint, Terrence Malick himself) will know much more about what the imagery means than I do. But I thought I'd supply an interpretation of his more symbolic shots. So here we go:

The Boy Swimming Out of the Water

If you've seen the trailers for this movie, there are two shots of a boy swimming out of a submerged room. It's a scene that could have come straight out of Inception out of context. But in context, it's actually the least obtuse image in the whole movie: basically, that bit is symbolizing childbirth. It's a really strange way to symbolize birth, but it's the most easily deciphered image in the whole movie.

The Mother Dancing in the Air

One of the stranger images that the trailer doesn't show is a four-second shot in the middle of one of the montages where Jessica Chastain's character is seen next to a tree... and she's floating up and down like she's freaking Wendy from Peter Pan. It kind of comes from the middle of nowhere, so at first it's a difficult image to figure out.

I think the key to this particular image is that events later in the movie give some context to it. The mother is more the kind of mother who dotes on her children: it very well could be that it symbolizes what Jack thinks of his mother looking back on it. This is from a montage from fairly early in Jack's life, too, though I have trouble remembering if it was early childhood or if it was after the birth of one of his brothers. Either way, Chastain is shown to dote a lot on her child, and in doing so she seems like the happiest woman alive. So I think that image symbolizes that.

The Beginning of Time

One of the things that annoyed me about the movie was that it spent a large part of the beginning on all this establishing stuff that sets up a framework for meditating on the significance of life. So it goes through the big bang and the dinosaurs before we eventually end up with our suburban family in the 1950's.

It's a framework establishing thing, but honestly, I don't see the point of it. The reason for this, though, is most likely because I don't see this movie in quite the same way as most other critics have. They see it as a meditation on man's place in the universe: I see it as an experience of life, with a little thought on what it means to be human. A large part of the movie is shot like the way we would remember life: we only remember snippets from our past, with the more important events taking precedence. It's essentially a coming of age story with a little bit of universe placement-pondering the way I see it. Hence, you can likely understand why I see some of this imagery as being a little too much.

That said, though, I can see why other critics place more importance on that. Sean Penn's character only appears for about half an hour of screentime (despite his billing) and he doesn't get that much to do. However, it should be noted that all his scenes occur at the very beginning and the very end of the movie. Essentially, Malick establishes that one of the brothers died in Sean Penn's piece of time. (No, we don't actually find out which one it is that died.) As well, Penn looks lost in a lot of his scenes, like he doesn't know where he's supposed to be or even why he's where he is in general. Hence, the whole movie reads like it could be interpreted as a man trying to find his place in the universe.

The Beach Gathering

Also not featured in the trailer:

There's this incredibly weird scene that comes right out of nowhere near the end of the movie: basically, all the characters of the movie (including Sean Penn) get together for about five minutes and walk around a desert/beach area. It's one of the stranger symbols, and I have absolutely no definitive idea what its significance is to the rest of the movie. I am not sure what to think of this scene, as the movie could have ended right afterwards.

But we get some shots after that establish Sean Penn's location.

This leads me to believe that it's a sort of 'coming to terms with oneself' in its significance. Every character the young Jack associated with is there, including... young Jack himself. It comes a bit after Jessica Chastain gives some narration about how love is the meaning of life, so it lends itself to the interpretation that he's finally come to terms with everything that's happened earlier in his life. The movie in general also seems to linger on the more negative moments of Jack's childhood, so he comes to the conclusion that even if life sucks it is still a part of existence. I wouldn't know definitively, but I think this is the strongest interpretation of that particular scene.

So those are my thoughts on some of the images of Tree of Life. There are plenty more where that came from, but I'd likely be stuck here all day if I tried to decipher all of the movie's stranger shots, so... you get this one. I hope you enjoyed it, and for all you film critics out there, feel free to mention what you your interpretations of some of this imagery are.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Super 8"

Okay... after the incredibly profound Tree of Life, it's tough to think about a movie in quite the same way. So today, we're doing something completely different.

Now... we're going over to the Steven Spielberg asthetic. Why? Because everyone remembers E.T. fondly. Well, most of you do anyway. Right?

Either way, we have an homage to early Spielberg on our hands. So what's the story with that?

Let's get to today's movie...

Super 8

Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) has just lost his mother, and is helping his friends make a zombie movie. While they are making the movie, however, a mysterious train accident occurs at the station they are filming at, and soon after a slew of strange events begin occurring around their town, along with a nice helping of military dudes showing up. Joe and his friends then decide to look into it, while the government does its best to cover stuff up and Joe finds himself trying to mend his relationship with his father (Kyle Chandler).

And so on and so forth. Let's get started.

This film has the 80's feel down perfectly. It feels almost exactly like the early works of Stephen Spielberg, which can only be a good thing. The aesthetic matches, the storyline matches... everything matches, and it works quite well as an homage.

But on its own merits, it also works really well. This is one of those movies (again) in which the one thing they have to get right will help the rest of the movie click into place. And this is in watching what the kids in this movie do. And they get it really well. All of the child actors in this movie are incredible, and they give some incredible performances, especially from Elle Fanning. That helps many of the movie's elements click together, as we can empathize with them and that only makes the action scenes that come up in the third act more intense.

Some of the elements don't always seem to gel, though: the government conspiracy bits and the parts with Joe's father all feel like afterthoughts, not like things that would have worked in the actual movie. Still, they work pretty well with what they are, and even if they are afterthoughts they still feel like they add up to something.

So yeah. That's Super 8, being an incredibly entertaining film. I for one think it's a vast improvement over J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot (which I found to be heavily overrated), and I enjoyed it a lot. So... yeah.

Go check it out.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"The Tree of Life"

Well, we have a movie that won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival today.

I... I honestly don't have a lead-in, so...


Ah, let's just get to today's movie.

The Tree of Life

... (Brad Pit, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn)

Yes, this review has no summary.

Honestly, this is one of those incredibly rare movies that defies being summarized in a short little paragraph while leaving the rest of the review to talk about what makes the movie work/not work. You could say it's because the plot is paper thin. You could say it's because the characters aren't named. You could say that it's because there's not enough said even in the silence.

But I say that it's impossible to summarize because it's just not that kind of movie. This movie is not about plot in any tangible sense. It's not about characters in any specific sense. If I tried to read this movie as a story with plot and characters that follows a structure, I'd be appreciating it wrong.

And I say this because watching this movie is like experiencing life. Hell, this movie is probably the best embodiment of life ever portrayed in cinema, particularly for a person looking back and trying to make sense of his place in the universe. Some of director/writer Terrence Mallick's visual imagery can be a little obtuse and very difficult to understand, particularly towards the beginning and the end of the movie. As well, there are a few needless bits that are there, and it takes a while to really get going. But ultimately, I argue that it works like life: the movie never works in climaxes, only in moments, but then we usually remember life in the important moments in life that define us. Hence, why the more drammatic moments appropriately take center stage when they need to. It's a meditation on life and our place in the universe, and Mallick's bold vision drives the movie to all of the right places.

Honestly, The Tree of Life is an oxymoron. It's extremely difficult to talk about how the experience of watching it is, and yet I know exactly why I found myself so awestruck when the credits rolled. This movie... I wouldn't call it a movie. I would call it an experience. It's a movie that requires a lot of patience and is probably not for everyone, but if you are patient enough, then it is a movie that is unlike anything you have ever seen.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"X-Men: First Class"

So... there is lots of Marvel Universe stuff that's going down over the course of this coming summer.

So what better way to do stuff than to keep up with it, right?

This, of course, brings us to today's movie.

X-Men: First Class

It is the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis is on the verge of becoming reality. Behind the scenes, however, there seems to be something strange brewing: a new kind of people, the mutants, who have powers beyond those of normal men. The CIA has thus adopted an initiative to help them, with the bulk of the efforts led by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). With the team that they have built up, they set out to avert a world on the brink of war.

So yes, we get a whole lot of set-up for the X-Men universe.

Honestly? It's all incredibly entertaining to watch unfold.

Action? Honestly, it's bigger than any X-Men movie that has come to us so far. It's big, it's grand, and some of the set-pieces are absolutely jaw-dropping to behold. It also gives us some great showcases from leading man Michael Fassbender, as he and McAvoy both get a lot to do in the action scenes. Actually, just about everyone gets a lot to do in this movie's action scenes, and they are all incredibly exciting affairs. The characters, too, are engaging, and this only makes the action that ensues better when we like these characters so much.

And of course, the acting manages to help in making the characters so incredibly engaging. McAvoy perfectly embodies Xavier's fairly naive quality, and Fassbender pretty much nails Magneto with all of his hidden rage at the world that only rarely bubbles up. The two leads themselves are engaging, but pretty much the entire supporting cast is also incredibly engaging. I need not mention the astoundingly incredible Jennifer Lawrence: anything I said about her in Winter's Bone applies to her portrayal as Mystique as well, as she embodies everything about her character in this movie, but the other supporting cast manages to play their parts with great aplomb. The only possible exception would probably be January Jones as Emma Frost, but she did not get all that much to do to begin with.

If there's one issue I would have to bring up... well, it's a pretty big one. A big part of the X-Men franchise deals with how the mutants are hated just because they are all different. And as you'd expect, this movie has to deal with that given that it documents the falling out of Xavier and Erik. Unfortunately, this issue isn't tackled with as much aplomb as it really should be. There are times where the characters change allignments without any real build-up to said alignment switch, and the morality tends to come across as slightly overblown at parts. Thus, it is a major flaw in the story of this movie, and it's an issue that could have been handled much better than it ultimately was.

But don't let that stop you from seeing X-Men: First Class. Apart from the whole 'mutants are different' aspect of the movie, everything else about this movie works incredibly well. It has engaging characters, charismatic actors in their shoes, and everything else just fits incredibly well. It's an entertaining movie, and one of the best ways to start the month.


It has a few flaws, but it's still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.