When you, in your freshman year English class, read Holden Caulfield for the first time and came to class the next day and begged your teacher to tell you more about this Salinger dude because he seriously blew your mind, she smiled and said certain words: “recluse,” “private,” “camera-shy,” “hermit,” “genius.” Then you did some Googling and you saw these words over and over again in reviews and interviews. A story formed in your head. When you re-read Catcher in the Rye or read for the first time Salinger’s other stories—which you loved even more than Catcher, and from which you memorized passages you would have tattooed on yourself had your parents let you—you were enamored, consciously or subconsciously, with an image of this man in a snow-covered cabin in the New Hampshire mountains.
I’m offended by the title Kick-Ass 2. No, I’m not offended because I’m unsettled by profanity or by its inherent blandness. I’m offended because this movie was a sequel to the 2010 Kick-Ass in name only. The sequel completely departs from what made the original Kick-Ass so exciting. Nobly trying to reinvent itself into a more psychological and philosophical superhero movie, in the end it simply alienates the audience that was so loyal to the original.
Man of Steel is not a Superman movie. The Clark Kent on the screen might seem familiar: he leaves his home planet for Kansas as an infant, he knows how to fly, and he wears the classic cape and tights. Played by the preternaturally handsome Henry Cavill, he certainly looks the part. But this is not the hero you may know and love: this Clark Kent steals, doubts, and lets civilians die. The name “Superman” is bandied about once or twice, but it’s more of an obligatory homage than an unreserved embrace. Man of Steel borrows freely from the preexisting mythos, but it blazes its own path to create a surprisingly thoughtful big budget sci-fi flick.
Man Of Steel had so much potential. It looked to be a gritty new take on Superman in the same way that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy rewrote superhero rules for Batman. Nolan himself even worked on the film as an executive producer. But while the movie performed very well at the box office and already has a sequel in the works, it unfortunately doesn’t live up to the expectations raised by an excellent trailer.
This summer my mother saw the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg directed apocalypse stoner comedy This is the End, upon my recommendation. The following is a close paraphrase of her reaction: “One of the worst, if not the worst movie I have ever seen. Just a bunch of random shit thrown together by funny guys with big egos playing on the fact that people know they’re funny.” I hadn’t heard a reaction that negative to a movie I recommended since I forced my Dad to take me to the Pokémon movie when I was seven. (He wouldn’t let me pick a movie again for years.)
Everyone can remember the feeling all too well: that boiling, under-the-skin itch you got in middle and high school when no matter what your parents did or said, they were absolutely insufferable. Your mom’s comment, your dad’s joke – everything was so embarrassing and terrible and gross. During the worst of those parental offenses it felt like you might actually die.
As a French major interested in film, I thought Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha would be great, just from the trailer—not only for its unusual monochrome aesthetic or music borrowed from the New Wave but also because the title character is broke and has no idea what she’s doing with her life. I thought I wanted a cinematic celebration of the all-too-familiar twenty-something existential crisis but realized that, with a growing sense of frustration throughout the movie, I’d like to grow out of it someday, too. Frances Ha explores a quest for fulfillment that resonates with a younger audience but offers us visual escape over thoughtful reflection, flat archetypes over compelling characters.
Director Dennis Iliadis brings his penchant for skin-crawlingly graphic violence to his new indie film +1, but it looks like that’s about the only remarkable quality he has brought to the project. If you saw Iliadis’s 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left, you know exactly what kind of violence is at play when Iliadis is at the helm. And while there are no head-in-microwave-death scenes in +1, there’s certainly more gore than you’d expect from a college party film.
With the advent of Netflix and OnDemand, it takes a really strong recommendation to get me to actually schlep to a movie theater and pay $15 to see a movie. 2012’s Chronicle was one of those cases. When it hit theaters last year, a friend of mine called it “The Blair Witch Project of superhero movies.” Now, I’m not averse to the found footage genre: District 9 and End of Watch are two of my favorite movies in recent years. However, I didn’t see those movies because they were found footage, but because they had intriguing premises. That’s where my friend turned me off Chronicle: I had no interest in sitting through a predictable superhero movie where the hero discovers his powers and then uses them to defeat a villain (and on and on—you know the drill), while also dealing with constant shaky-cam and spastic editing. I did finally see Chronicle via OnDemand, and I can confidently report: this is a groundbreaking, must see movie that you should move to the top of your entertainment to-do list.