Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer 2011: Seen, Unseen or Just Observed

Summer 2011 is almost one for the books, so here is a summary of random observations. I'll kick it off by a short list of movies I paid good money to see this summer.

BTW: Did anyone else notice that the movie at the bottom of this week's Box Office Mojo, as noted by Dan, was called The Worst Movie EVER? It made $11, one admission. Anyway, on to that list:

• Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Fine entertainment, just stuffed with little hidden call-outs to the original series. I saw this in San Bruno, which is coincidentally the home of the fictitious San Bruno Simian Center, where the ape revolution begins.

• Bridesmaids: Excellent. See if you can spot the sequence Judd Apatow added to make it more, um, palatable to male moviegoers.

• The Tree of Life. Okay, it's not perfect, but it's one of the most challenging, beautiful and moving films I've seen in quite a while. Not a few reviewers tried to take Terrence Malick to task for adding stuff like the Big Bang and dinosaurs to his story, but for me it seemed like he was just being thorough, like writing a novel that has the family trees of all the characters in it. I tried to get as many people to go see this with me as I could, and failed.

• Stuff I didn't see: Cowboys & Aliens (strongly warned away by friends) Hangover II, Transformers III, Cars 2 (couldn't muster the interest) The last Harry Potter, X-Men First Class (couldn't find the time).

• What I'm following on TV these days: An excellent new season of "Futurama," "Breaking Bad" and "Wipeout" on ABC (Basically "Castle Attack" with LA wanna-be actors getting slammed by foam rubber apparati while the hosts crack wise). I'm following "True Blood" too-- but as my wife put it, several of the plotlines on this show need to be sentenced to the True Death.

• What I'm looking forward to on TV this fall: The return of "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Walking Dead." The "Mad Men" inspired series kicking off this fall: "Pan Am" and "The Playboy Club." It seems Hollywood has finally responded to "Mad Men," and that response is: bring us more Joan Holloway and complicated undergarments!  Speaking of mid-century retro shows, the 1956-set "The Hour" on BBC looks pretty good too, but I'm going to get that from streaming sources rather than BBC America (who hack 20 minutes out of each episode).

• Strange Pattern-Seeking Observation #1: Is it just me, or are the character dynamics of "Breaking Bad" basically the same as in Back to the Future? Obsessive scientist, dopey trouble-making kid sidekick, involved in reality-bending adventures?

• Strange Pattern-Seeking Observation #2: There is a trailer cycling on TV for Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, yet another urbane, sophisticated Adam Sandler comedy offering. The titular character, played by Nick Swardson, is a rural idiot man-child with a blond pageboy haircut and big joke-shop front teeth. At one time Mr. Sandler specialized in this sort of pathetically delineated doofus, but considering the sourness of his late characters (Funny People, Just Go With It) he obviously makes too much money to mug anymore (though his upcoming Jack and Jill will likely prove me wrong). Anyway, the observation: The first thing that struck me about Bucky Larson is his strong resemblance to Simple Jack, Tugg Speedman's "serious" character from Tropic Thunder. You know, "Never go 'full retard?'" Is Bucky Larson just another half-assed Adam Sandler attempt at comedy, or is it something more sublime-- the first example of art imitating art imitating art imitating life?

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