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The Rest of the Year: Stay at home or what?

Birdman
Wikipedia

I recently read an online column which, as with my own efforts, dealt with movies. But after that the resemblances seriously broke down. In the column the author was gushing enthusiastically about the new Adam Sandler film: "Men, Women & Children".

Sigh.

There is a construction term which applies to correspondents such as this, and the term is "tool". After my gagging and choking had been brought under control it occurred to me that this was usually the time when I looked over the releases for the rest of the year, singling out particular titles for recommendation, discussion or howls of derisive laughter. I mean, if all the cinema world has to offer is Adam Sandler, then I say bring on the Apocalypse.

So saddle up, buckaroos.

Birdman
Birdman Wikipedia

Birdman

Okay, pumpkins, the more I hear about this film the more I want to see it. Nowhere near an average superhero film (and consider how far we've come when I can use a phrase like that), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film deals with an actor trying to put together a Broadway stage play. Among his problems is the baggage he carries from having played the role of a costumed superhero. The film stars Michael Keaton (who doubtless brings more than a dollop of verisimilitude to the role), and it has already generated some serious critical buzz overseas . . . which, of course, means most of the people in this country won't understand it.

The Equalizer
The Equalizer Wikipedia

The Equalizer

Right off the bat I get warning bells in my head whenever a movie poster exhorts the audience to "experience the film in IMAX".

Uh huh. Right.

On the other hand, this does star Denzel Washington. It's based on the CBS television series from the late Eighties (in the days before the plague of "reality" shows thoroughly polluted the medium), and director Antoine Fuqua has demonstrated a watchable style on occasion. This could actually work, and it'd be nice to see Washington in action.

Interstellar
Interstellar Wikipedia

Interstellar

Young Son and I have been discussing this one, and we both have our reservations . . . and you know it means Serious Trouble when both Young Son and I look askance at a film. Yes, it's directed by Christopher Nolan.

But . . .

All the vibes I've been getting on this film leave me with a feeling that it's going to be 2014's answer to Cameron's "Avatar" (or Scott's "Prometheus"). In other words: a science-fiction film purposefully made for people who normally do not appreciate science-fiction. Yes, I know that's a bit confusing, but bear me out. Instead of being a honest SF film, "Interstellar" feels as if its emphasis is on wanting acceptance from the mainstream. Nolan's a good director, and he might pull this off, but this could turn out to be drearily pompous.

St. Vincent
St. Vincent Wikipedia

St. Vincent

Ever since seeing the trailer I have so been wanting to catch this film. Bill Murray playing a role which seems to have been tailor-made for him (and could further cement the fine reputation he's acquiring at this stage of his career). Here he's a drunken retiree who finds himself babysitting a 12-year-old neighbor boy. Subsequent humorous bonding ensues.

As good as Murray is the choice of Jaeden Lieberher as the 12-year-old who falls under Murray's tutelage. Not one of the overly smarmy hipsters from the John Hughes films (or the chronic bedwetters from the Spielberg films), the little I've seen of Lieberher conjures up ghostly memories of Barry Gordon from Fred Coe's "A Thousand Clowns". This could turn out to be my "must see" for the rest of the year.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Wikipedia

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The poster and trailer trumpet this as "the defining chapter".

Come again?

Obviously this is the defining chapter as far as the character of Bilbo Baggins is concerned. But compared to the War of the Rings? The War of the Last Alliance? The theft of the Silmarils? The Battle of the Five Armies is a mere smidgen on Tolkien's time scale.

This is not to say that the film won't be worth watching. Despite the problems I had with "The Desolation of Smaug", there could be some good moments here. And now we'll see if Peter Jackson can find life after Tolkien (or how long it'll take before he considers "The Silmarillion").

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner Wikipedia

The Maze Runner

Another item which starts red lights blinking furiously in my cortex is the phrase "based on the best-selling novel". In this context it translates to mean: "we're hoping it'll turn out to be as profitable as Harry Potter".

Surprisingly enough, "The Maze Runner" is a "best seller" I've actually read, having encountered James Dashner's book in the library a few years ago. I found it to be an interesting SF thriller. Nothing near what I'd call a classic, but there might be an interesting film in the concept of young people finding themselves inexplicably trapped in a giant maze.

One possible problem? Wes Ball has never directed a feature film before. Obviously one has to start somewhere. But . . .

The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything Wikipedia

The Theory of Everything

Okay, pumpkins, here we've got a film directed by James Marsh ("Project Nim", "Man on Wire", etc.), starring Eddie Redmayne ("Les Miserables", "Powder Blue", etc.) and Felicity Jones ("The Tempest", "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", etc.) in a film about Stephen Hawking. What's not to like?

Okay, yeah I know. But I had you guys pegged as a more sophisticated audience and I'm sticking with my story.

Who is John Galt?
Who is John Galt? Wikipedia

Who is John Galt?

Criminy . . .

Herein we have an excellent example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. I had seen the first two "Atlas Shrugged" film installments . . . dreary, dreary, dreary. It is difficult, if not impossible, to turn fervent ideology into effective filmmaking. The trick is not to rely solely on dogma, but on narrative and memorable visuals. John Ford could film good ideology. Eisenstein and Riefenstahl managed unique takes on it. The wrong way to do this sort of thing, though, is to stridently push forward with the source material, spears lowered and eyes sharpened against every threat of apostasy. You don't end up with a film but, rather, with a dirge.

"Atlas Shrugged" could've become an interesting trilogy of films (King Vidor managed a flawed but interesting version of "The Fountainhead"). Regrettably, the project fell into the hands of True Believers who cared less about making a well-rounded piece of cinema, and more about delivering a sermon. The problem is that they'll finish the trilogy and nod in grim satisfaction, knowing that The Message had been sent out. The Faithful will genuflect before it and to Hell with the others.

I might've considered seeing this. But I draw the line at paying good money to watch a film with a cast that includes Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. I'll watch Adam Sandler before that happens.