It has been a while since my last Summer Series post and I have watched quite a few movies in the meantime. We are also approaching the goal for this summer, 100 movies, and I will surely be passing it within the next week or two.
Way back during the Criterion Marathon, I rewatched what I think is one of the best Rom-Coms in years: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Yes it is cheesy, yes it is predictable, but it offers a little bit of a shakeup in the formula. Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell made a great duo, and having starts like Kevin Bacon and Julianne Moore also helped elevate the movie.
Immediately after the marathon, I watched one of my favorite Mark Wahlberg films, one right near the beginning of his acting career: Boogie Nights. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favorite directors, and when he brings a cast together as big as this, he can seldom do wrong. From Phillip Seymour Hoffan, to Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, and more, the movie works on so many levels; and the best part is it’s about a porn star. Taking cues from movies like Saturday Night Fever to Raging Bull, Boogie Nights is just fun to watch. Yet, like many of PTA’s films, they delve into the darker material, and it can be pretty graphic.
Switching gears to a movie that oddly reminds me of summer for whatever reason that is, 40 Year Old Virgin was a sort of revolution in some regards. In 2005 and earlier, raunchy comedies held a taboo. They were immature, pointless, and stupid. 40 Year Old Virgin blew the doors open for the genre to take on a new life, and Hollywood has never been the same. Sure there have been raunchy comedies before, but nothing like 40 Year old Virgin.
With all the buzz about the upcoming Mad Max film, I decided to finally watch the original now that it is on Netflix. Way back in 1979 before Mel Gibson made Braveheart, way before Passion of the Christ, and before everyone hated him, Mad Max was just a sci-fi thriller from Australia. It is a decent film, the score is great, the chase scenes are awesome, and Mel Gibson is great. Of course, everyone knows that the sequel is better, and that nobody likes Mel Gibson now, so I doubt anybody would actually be willing to watch this little gem.
Another summer favorite, Swingers, is a hilarious and cringe-inducing movie. Before Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau made it big, they were just two comedians trying to get by. The film, which was rather independent, turned out to be slick and stylish for a comedy. Favreau is getting over a breakup, and Vaughn and Ron Livingston are trying to get him out of his slump. It is clear that Favreau has a love for movies because the script is littered with numerous references to movies and spoofs of scenes from movies that inspired him. This is definitely a guys movie though, and anybody going through a breakup will surely relate to Favreau.
Far from a comedy, Shutter Island was Scorsese’s return to a genre he had done briefly before in Cape Fear and Bringing Out the Dead. With a great cast, incredibly haunting atmosphere, and an eerie score, Shutter Island gets under your skin and pulls you along to an island shrouded in mystery. Though it is not a “horror film” per se, Shutter Island does indeed make you scared at times, not because of the creepy patients, the ominous lighthouse, or the fact that it is essentially Alcatraz for crazy people, it makes you wonder what is real and who actually has control over your life.
A semi-autobiographical tale about Cameron Crowe’s younger years, Almost Famous is one of the best movies about music. We follow young William as he follows a band around the country, after lying about being older to write for the Rolling Stone Magazine. The band has members played by Billy Crudup (yeah, whatever happened to him?), Jason Lee, and Noah Taylor. Also in the movie are some of the first roles from Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, Eric Stonestreet, and Rainn Wilson.
Finally, the book we were all forced to read at least once, and if you didn’t you’re missing out: To Kill a Mockingbird. People always bash movies that fail to live up to the novel, yet there are so many novel adaptations that have succeeded that the argument is pointless. Gregory Peck perfectly embodies Atticus Finch and his performance has stood the test of time. The movie won three Oscars, and it also introduced the world to Robert Duvall, who, though appearing for just a brief stint, went all out in his preparation for the role. The movie, like the book, still remains powerful today. If you haven’t seen it or read it, go out and do so.