Quick Takes On Summer Releases (Flack’s Article)

Posted on | August 30, 2013 | 1 Comment

Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, and Jacob Lofland in Mud (2013)Here’s a quick wrap-up post on five films I’ve seen this summer but haven’t yet reviewed. They’ve been out for a little while but some are definitely worth seeking out.

Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer in 20 Feet From Stardom20 Feet From Stardom: 4 1/4 Stars (Limited release, on DVD soon): You know their voices but not their faces. That’s basically the concept of this fascinating documentary about back up singers (many African-American women) for artists like the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sting, the Talking Heads, Lou Reed, and many more. The women spill the secrets of being a back-up singer and even discuss more wide ranging topics about the music industry. The movie’s funny, insightful, fun, and a good time. Just like listening to your favorite song, you’ll never get tired of this one.

Shark v.s. man in Kon Tiki (2013)Kon Tiki 4 Stars (Limited Release, on DVD soon): A good ol’ fashioned adventure in an age where everything exciting must be out of this world.  The film tells the true story of Thor Heyerdahl, as he leads a small crew of fellow men on a balsa wood raft to cross the 4,300 miles of the Pacific and prove South Americans settled in Polynesia during pre-Columbian times. Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have a particularly strong eye for action and have a real sense of location. They’re slightly less talented in the story department; some scenes are too long, others too repetitive. In the lead role, Pål Sverre Hagen is a bit wooden. But for the most part this is a wildly entertaining survival story with depth, seamlessly realistic special effects, and a thrilling shark sequence that makes the film worth seeing alone.

Alexi Denisof and Amy Acker in Much Ado About Nothing (2013)Much Ado About Nothing 2 1/2 Stars (Limited Release, On DVD soon): Joss Whedon’s black and white remix of Shakespeare’s comedy classic tries to be modern and old fashioned, hilarious and solemn. It ends up as an incoherent mess saved by some talented actors. The main problem is that Whedon misunderstands Shakespeare; he directs the early scenes with zero- interest in the source material. Whedon also doesn’t have a clear vision of his interpretation: it’s neither a home movie nor a professional film, and some scenes have a comic fizz while others reek of pretentious melodrama. Luckily, the third act has more comedic energy and dramatic importance than the rest of the film. For the most part you can give the thanks to Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, as Benedick and Beatrice. Unlike their weaker co-stars, the two have the gusto of stage veterans and the timing of stand-up comedians. They deserve to be stars. There are other strokes of brilliance (some unforgettable slapstick, some fabulous dialogue, beautiful cinematography). But for the most part, the rest of the film lacks the two leads’ energy.

Tye Sheridan in Mud (2013)Mud (Limited Release, Now on DVD) 4 1/4 Star: This Southern drama is part romance, part thriller, and part coming of age story. Thanks to the capable hand of director Jeff Nichols, all the parts turn out incredible.  The cast is phenomenal: Matthew McConaughey gives a hauntingly commanding standout performance as the title character, but it’s Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, as two teens vowing to help Mud escape the law and reunite with his girlfreind, who steal the show. The rest of the cast is dominated by terrific character actors including Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon (playing against type), and Michael Shannon. This is exactly what a movie should be: moving, exciting, and funny. The film had a small release, but you won’t want to miss it on DVD and iTunes.

A robot falls down to earth in Pacific Rim (2013)Pacific Rim 3 Stars (Wide Release, On DVD Later This Fall): I don’t mid a rock-em sock-em action movie that tries to be just that. But Guillermo Del-Toro’s robots v.s. monsters epic (Jaegars vs. Kaju, if we’re getting technical) is overly pretentious. It tries to have soul and character, and sometimes does, but you can feel Del-Toro is fighting between his film-making smarts and the 8 year old mindset that’s required for this type of film. If only he had given in to the 8 year old. Instead, we’re left with some strong material: admittedly cool action, a bit more character development than you’d expect. But there’s also some weak stuff; for example, while the cool action scenes are fun to watch once or twice, the battles have are derivative of each other. Alas, the film feels like a B-movie with some extra heart.

Well that’s it! If these films have left theaters near you, seek them out on iTunes and other streaming/renting devices. Enjoy your the end of another summer at the movies!


One Response to “Quick Takes On Summer Releases (Flack’s Article)”

  1. Papa
    September 1st, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    Great concise reviews, I concur with your opinions on the three out of five that I have seen and, based on your reviews, feel better about having missed Pacific Rim and Much Ado About Nothing.

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