Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Viewings

This Is the End entertains with an interesting premise: how the real Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride might act during a disaster, but when the what-if nature of the story wanders off into nonsense involving the Biblical apocalypse, the premise and the crude jokes get stretched out of all workable shape.

With Man of Steel, you need to steel yourself for an endless barrage of spaceship blasting; explosions; and superhero pounding. Superman and his enemy, General Zod, endlessly pound away at each other and throw each other into many exploding things - all to no dramatic effect. Man of Steel tries to personalize the Superman myth, the story of the alien boy who comes down to Earth and must adapt to an alien environment. Fitting in is difficult for Supe. He suffers ostracism and feels like an outcast. These few quiet moments are good, but the few quiet moments are immediately drowned out by excessively long sequences of head-splitting combat and destruction.

The Internship is a delightful Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn vehicle that follows the formula of unlikely underdogs ultimately triumphing, specifically, in this case, making it big at a Google internship camp. Wilson and Vaughn are genuinely funny, and Rose Byrne adds her charming presence, as the story cracks jokes at the drawbacks of technology, connectivity, and all things "on the line" that dominate our 21st century culture.

The Kings of Summer poignantly and memorably explores issues of coming of age; father-son conflicts; and falling in love, as three boys run away from home and go Walden in the woods, building their own house, trying to live off the land, communing with nature, and struggling to come to terms with all the painful elements of growing up and striking out on your own.

Before Midnight completes the Before Sunrise-love-story trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, who are "married" with two children now. On vacation in Greece, they talk about the factors that brought them together as well as the issues stemming from their decision to live together. Jesse worries that he needs to live closer to his son from his first marriage while Celine worries that she has sacrificed her aspirations for marriage and parenthood. In long takes, with a minimum of scenes, the film touches on all things important, and frustrating, about life and relationships. As the film bites incisively into these issues, Hawke and Delpy portray a relationship that appears lived in and deeply developed. Before Midnight attains a realism that makes you feel the warmth of life's wonders and the discomfort of life's complications.

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