Movie Roundup: Late June, Early July

I have finally finished up with my qualifying exam paper, and I am only now starting to catch up with everything else going on in my life to start writing about films again. For my 51st blog entry, here is a post with some of the films I’ve seen recently.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011), Dir. John Schultz, 91 min., in theaters

In the tradition of manic pixie dream girls, Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) arrives to whimsically entertain and uplift our protagonist, the sulky Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty), after her summer plans are ruined by vacationing friends and parents. It may surprise you, but I did not voluntarily elect to see this film; Nicole had to watch this as part of her research for a conference paper she presented a few weeks ago. I haven’t seen many films made for children in the last fifteen years or so, but this film is certainly not a gateway back to that genre. Fun is quantified and hyper-fetishized (Judy is obsessed with scoring “thrill points” by accomplishing “uber-rare” dares) which I would expect of children growing up in this era, yet child characters in the film rarely use computers or mobile phones (perhaps they are too young??) and live in a 50’s style suburban dream world, with parents and friends who look like they stepped off the set of Leave it to Beaver with flip hairdo’s and round glasses (one of Judy’s friends is practically Alfalfa from The Little Rascals). The whole thing looks like a middle-aged woman’s view of childhood on crack. Also, the dialogue, whether it comes from a children’s book or not, is atrocious–a sample:

“We can beautify the world with our amazing art”

“Aunt Opal says when all else fails, dance”

“Let’s go on Google! Let’s Google fun!”

That is just terrible. I went home and watched The Goonies the same night, and noticed that it’s not much better, but I will defend that film over Judy Moody for the intangibles that make that film a classic, a status that I predict this film will never achieve. For the ‘rents, if N and I could sit thought it without hanging ourselves, you can probably survive just fine.


Collateral Damage (2002), Dir. Andrew Davis, 108 min., Netflix (disc)

The appeal for this film is that I have seen pretty much every other Arnold Schwarzenegger film every made, except this one (not very a very strong rationale, but it’s also summer). Schwarzenegger had made several pieces of garbage-iola in the run up to this film (Jingle All the Way, The 6th Day, End of Days, etc.), but this really is the prize pig of the bunch. The plot trajectory is basically the same as Commando (1985), except that instead of being a kick-ass, special-forces, black-ops killing machine, Schwarzenegger plays a fire fighter. Don’t get me wrong, I respect a man or woman who can rush into a burning building, drag out a half dead victim, and then resuscitate said victim; however, I don’t necessarily want to see that person take on a Colombian drug syndicate and lose, repeatedly, without firing a gun or beating anyone up. To credit the writers’ attempts at trying something new for AS, they do attempt several ways of integrating his knowledge of firefighting and explosives investigation into the means by which he disposes of the baddies, but all for naught. To wit, the final scene involves AS disposing of someone with his superior fireman knowledge and a fire axe, and the fire axe does not cleave any of the baddies–it is merely your standard chopping utensil and not a close-quarters combat weapon…even Backdraft has that. Also, in the ultimate sin of an AS movie, there were no good one liners.


Other films I bumped into:

Khwaam jam sun… Tae rak chan yao (en: Best of Times) (2009), Dir. Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, 117 min., at the Chicago International Film Festival Free Summer Screening, Thai with English Subtitles

A humorous and pleasant romantic comedy which builds on many universal themes of longing and loss while interweaving them with Thai culture and beautiful shots of the Bangkok and Thai country landscapes. The first half of the film follows Keng (Arak Amornsupasiri) as he begrudgingly falls again for his lost first love, Fai (Yarinda Bunnag), who dated, wed, and subsequently divorced his secondary school best friend. The concurrent subplot consists of two elderly people courting and dealing with the constraints of Thai culture and their own infirmities, whom chance brings together with the younger couple. The delightful and equally bawdy humor melts away in the last third of the film and is replaced by (at times) a sappy, though well conceived storyline whose main detraction is the overly sweeping melodies that accompany the equally sweeping shots; they compound to create a sense of somewhat unearned sentimentality. That weak finish is incapable of taking away from the otherwise well written, shot, and acted film. It’s showing again this Saturday at 2p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center next to Millenium Park, and I would recommend checking it out, especially since it is totally free and open to the public. As a side note, there are a lot of great films coming up on the free summer screening schedule.


Films in my Netflix queue that I plan on reviewing:

The Room (2003): At the request of an old friend, I am going to watch what has been called out on Wikipedia as one of the worst films ever made. We’ll see how this baby compares to Battlefield Earth, which is also on the Wikipedia worst films list and which I will not watch again for any reason, ever.

Rear Window (1954): Nicole and I had planned to watch more Hitchcock films since our midnight screening of Frenzy at the Music Box last December. It should wash out the bad taste of some of the films I have seen recently.

That’s all for now. Try to do better about writing the next time.