Recently Beheld: June 30th - July 6th, 2014

As much as every film deserves its own full-fledged review and as much as I would love to provide that for every film I see it's difficult to get around to that. The next best thing in my mind is to provide a capsule review of everything I see on a weekly basis. I'll run through my Monday-through-Sunday viewings and conclude with some overall observations. Here's my Recently Beheld:

 

The Terminator (1984)

This is a touchstone of '80s cinema and the mere sophomore directorial effort of James Cameron at that. It's difficult to examine this film without the lens of popular culture and its still-growing branches. Beneath the leather jackets and perms remains thrilling action sequences and some of the most bombastic depictions of a future war-torn world I have ever seen. The film celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year and is deserving of your re-visiting or (for the love of cinema) your long due first stay.

 

Manakamana (2014)

This documentary is set entirely in cable cars going up and down a mountain in Nepal. It sounds menial and monotonous, but I found it to be mezmerizing... and monotonous. An active viewing of Manakamana will give the viewer more head-talk than they'll know what to do with. Instincts, ideas and interpretations will flow forth during this reincarnated journey over the sprawling river valleys below.

 

Tammy (2014)

Melissa McCarthy has been on a roll lately but that comes to a screeching halt with Tammy. If you somehow find her pathetically pitiful character's hardships the least bit funny, it speaks less to your sense of humor and more to your sense of sadism. My wife (who has never walked out in the middle of a movie before) got up and left me stranded within the first thirty minutes. I seriously envied her decision but had previously made a pact with the cinema gods that I wouldn't desert a film in the theater (barring an emergency). There's several other talented actresses involved but none can save this sinking ship scuttled by the script, which McCarthy wrote. It's her first screenplay, co-written with her husband who directed the film; it's his first time directing. McCarthy needs to trust in the material provided her and quickly bounce back to our hearts. After last year's Identity Thief and now this she's on an alarming fast track to becoming the female Adam Sandler.

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

The fourth (fourth?!) film in Michael Bay's adaption of the toy line serves as a long-needed reboot of the human cast and brings back Optimus Prime and the gang to face off against a whole new host of enemies. Bay has pumped this entry so full of his usual sweaty, shiny and explosive visual style that it borders on self-parody. After the decimation of the American Dream in last year's Pain & Gain, Bay now bids us bon voyage as he sails/sells the Hollywood blockbuster to China. This may prove to be one of the most pivotal films in the history of the industry and I'd be amiss to say there were not some spectacular sequences in the bloated exchange. (I subjected myself to a 4DX screening of this film, which you can read all about here.)

 

Afflicted (2014)

Afflicted puts a nice spin on both the found-footage and vampire horror sub-genres. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse co-direct their first feature film and play versions of themselves in the process. They set off with intentions to document a trip around the world, this quickly goes awry after Derek grows increasingly ill. His condition is met with alarm, curiosity and then downright terror. It's Chronicle meets REC and is frequently as radical as that sounds. 

 

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

Last weekend Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister) served up what may be his weakest horror entry to date. It kicks off with plenty of polish and and promise but falls headfirst into the mire of "been there, done that" of the exorcism film. It becomes comical during its climax, but not enough to recommend for those seeking entertainment value. Someone deliver us from these rote rites with nothing more than flickering lights, scratching sounds and jump scares.

 

The Book Thief (2013)

If you can get past the bewildering use of the English language (which sometimes magically switches to German) in a story set in Nazi Germany you'll be in the clear for a heart-warming yet war-brewing tale. It's gorgeously reconstructed and photographed and told through a most interesting narrator that takes the horrific historical events and gives them a more digestible guise of magical realism.

 

Life Itself (2014)

Roger Ebert's passing has made the documentary about his life all the more moving and dramatic, something I'm certain he'd be proud of. You'll learn far more than his rise to the world's most renowned critic, not least of which is his quintessential relationship with his wife Chaz. My only complaint is that it covered so little of one my hero's lifespans. Full Review

 

In Summation:

I am intrigued by where films fall in a filmmaker's body of work and how that manifests itself through the scope of time. Take James Cameron's The Terminator and you'll see where this technical master first demonstrated that he was going to change the face of cinema every time he made a film. I wonder what Clif Prowse and Derek Lee will go on to accomplish and what early signs lie within Afflicted. We think we have Michael Bay and Scott Derrickson pinned down, but they are both capable of surprising and disappointing still. I have expressed opinions on several directors and a couple of actors in this post. How many of them will receive a biographical document at the end of their career or life? Just as every film deserves a review, every filmmaker deserves to be a subject of one themselves. Life Itself is a beautiful tribute that reminds us of the subjectiveness of film analysis and how we are each the star and director of our own film in life.