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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I have managed to catch up on a couple of movies I’ve wanted to see for quite some time in the past couple of weeks. Through a combination of Netflix, Red Box, and good old fashioned movie-going, I’ve caught Chronicle, Winter’s Bone, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. In order to get some fresh weekend content for the blog, I’m going to compile three mini-reviews into one post and offer my thoughts and observations on each of these films. Enjoy!
I’ve been wanting to check out Chronicle for quite some time. I nearly caught it in theaters, but saw Journey 2 instead. I am weary of the “found footage” sub-genre of film, but Chronicle does it in a few different ways, which leads to it just being fresh enough to work. The focus of the story are three teenagers, one a popular school presidential candidate, one a deep, introspective student interested in philosophy, and one an outcast with an alcoholic father, who come into contact with a mysterious, underground object (a subterranean crystal of some sort? a downed spacecraft?). After their exposure, the teens come to find they can manipulate objects with telekinetic abilities, eventually becoming strong enough to fly. The first half the movie, with the boys coming to terms with their powers and “training” themselves (mostly by pulling pranks or by failing over and over again to learn new uses for their abilities) is the better part. The second half somewhat devolves into a story of teen angst, with one of the teens refusing to follow the “rules” they have set for themselves (such as, never hurt another living being). An obvious homage to landmark animated feature Akira (and taking more than a few beats from traditional American comic book movies like Spider-Man), Chronicle is more good than bad and definitely worth a watch. Though areas of it scream “Green Screen: The Movie”, there is quite a bit to like. Chronicle is available in the Red Box.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
Jennifer Lawrence’s break-out role is a bleak look into a rural Missouri teen’s life. After her dad, out on bail (and using his family’s home for the bail collateral), disappears, resilient teenager Ree Dolly (Lawrence), must do whatever it takes to provide for her family (two younger siblings and a comatose mother), including, in rather graphic on-screen depiction, hunting and cleaning squirrels. Ree’s journey to find her father leaves her in danger in several places, from a drug-abusing (but ultimately redeeming) uncle to an out-and-out beating from a local drug kingpin. Lawrence’s performance is nothing short of riveting (as is that of her uncle, played by the great John Hawkes). Though the story is simple, the film is effective in portraying just how bleak and dire circumstances are for the strong-willed Ree. Every decision she faces in her young life she must make for the good of her family, even it it means potentially joining the army for the financial benefits (and thus potentially abandoning her young siblings). No, it isn’t a complicated movie as far as the plot goes, but the journey Lawrence takes the viewer on is well worth a watch. Winter’s Bone is available streaming on Netflix.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
I have not seen the first Indiana Jones movie in probably 20 years. Just in time for the release of the Blu Ray, Paramount re-released Raiders of the Lost Ark into theaters as a promotional push. I decided to venture out to my local IMAX theater and check it out. I came out quite surprised. Though the picture quality isn’t the greatest (I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to clean up that original print), the movie is still fantastic. Anchored by an iconic, charismatic Harrison Ford (I greatly miss charismatic Ford) performance as Indy, Raiders remains an absolute blast and one of the best summer blockbusters of all time. Rewatching Raiders as an adult was a highly rewarding experience. As a child, I never noticed just how great Paul Freeman is as Rene Belloq, the French counterpart to Indy’s American explorer. I never grasped just how awesome of a villain he was. Story beats remain interesting, and I was caught by surprise by the amount of excitement, intrigue, and tension in the film. This is, quite simply, some of the best work Spielberg, Lucas, Kasdan, etc have ever done. Raiders of the Lost Ark is only playing in select theaters for one week. I recommend getting out there and checking it out if you have the access. If not, buy the Blu Rays and re-experience this great film.
What films have you seen lately? Sound off in the comments!