I’d like to reflect on my summer at the movies with my first – sort-of — movie review piece.
Super hero movies rule Hollywood right now, for better or worse. And while I will blindly admit that the Marvel Universe far exceeds DC in both quality and quantity, I won’t pretend that I am a super-hero movie buff.
The only film in this genre that did draw me in this summer was Logan. Logan was the final installment of X-Men and Wolverine movies starring Hugh Jackman which span 17 years.
I would argue that Logan was a tour de force. We had seen Jackman’s character, James “Logan” Howlett, aka The Wolverine, progress and change through the years, even becoming embittered. Or maybe he has always had that disposition. One of my favorite examples of this classic “Logan” attitude is found in a scene from X-Men: First Class (2011) in which a young Xavier (James McAvoy) is recruiting mutants and approaches him at a bar only to be vulgarly eschewed.
The evolution of Logan’s relationship with Professor X is portrayed throughout the many films with the twilight of their relationship depicted in this film. Xavier is mentally ill, and Logan is a caretaker to him. Without complete congruency to the most recent X-Men films, the audience is brought to the year 2029, where mutants are at the brink of extinction.
The cinematography is remarkable. It is both gory and action filled, and surprisingly emotional. A new character and plot line is introduced, in which Logan becomes guardian to an 11-year-old girl named Laura (Gabriela Lopez) with a similar mutation (and temperament).
He risks his life, and the life of his beloved professor, to bring her to safety. Not going to lie, the climax of this film brought me to tears. Anytime a movie, especially a super hero movie, can make me cry, I consider it a success. So I left this one satisfied.
The next notable summer blockbuster I was dying to see was War for the Planet of the Apes. Andy Sirkis deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of Cesar in this series. Or at the very least, an MTV Movie Award for Best Actor.
This was the third, and perhaps final, installment of the latest reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise. I liked it, I didn’t love it, and here’s why: I wanted it to be the best of the trilogy, and for me, it just wasn’t. The first Planet of the Apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (starring James Franco and John Lithgow) was, in my opinion, a modern classic. It was set almost entirely in one place, yet had so much character and plot build up that you were on the edge of your seat. And it is in the first movie where Cesar speaks.
Particularly memorable in movie two – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – is the closing scene, where the camera zooms in on Cesar’s fierce eyes and then fades to black. With a stunning ending like that, a two-year wait for the third installment felt unbearable. Unfortunately, I spent those two years building up high expectations.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a good movie, don’t get me wrong. Just not the battle I was hoping for, personally. It is a war between the apes and humans, fighting for the survival of their respective species. But there aren’t any real “war-like” battle scenes. And, dare I say, Cesar speaks too much in this one? I mean, the most exciting part of Rise was when he uttered the word “No!” for the first time. But now, I kind of wanted him to shut up and be more chimp-like. And he is just way too humane, unlike the brutal Cesar we remember from the old Charlton Heston movies. You grow to love him for his grace in the series, but at this point I was like “Come on, man, humans are ruthless! This is war! Quit turning the other cheek!”
Still, the countless hours spent on CGI alone are impressive, and it is probably the most seamless of the three, visually. Woody Harrelson plays a Colonel and main antagonist, and is one of the film’s highlights. They tried to add some comic relief to a pretty tense storyline by introducing “Bad Ape” (yeah, that was his name). He was kind of the Jar Jar Binks that killed it for me. It still got 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is “certified fresh” but only 7.5/10 on IMBD, which I agree with.
The next two films I saw this summer deserve an entire article to themselves. But I will do my best to summarize. Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy), is a war masterpiece. However, it is really more a survival movie than a war movie. It was refreshing to see a Hollywood World War II film that does not focus on U.S. involvement, because the evacuation of Dunkirk took place before the U.S. entered the conflict. Hans Zimmer does the score, and it’s part of what keeps the entire movie feeling quite suspenseful. Nolan has used “ticking” in scores for quite a few of his films, including 2014’s Interstellar. It is even more prevalent here.
Overall, I found Dunkirk breathtaking. And, as he is famous for, Nolan brings it to an emotional crescendo that leaves you saying, ‘wow.’ I saw it in Mankato opening night, and the entire theatre started clapping and cheering at the end. That sums it up for me.
In my debut article for Scene, I mentioned that Baby Driver, written and directed by Edgar Wright, was on my list to see. Well, I saw it, and I loved it! It is entertaining from start to finish – fast, action packed, hilarious, heartfelt, and centered around an amazing soundtrack. You will hear tunes as diverse as Queen’s ”Brighton Rock”, 70’s Brit punk band The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat,” Run the Jewels “Chase Me,” to songs from the Commodores and Martha and the Vandellas. The movie itself was inspired by a music video Wright directed a decade ago for the band Mint Royale.
It stars Ansel Elgort as Baby. Even after the Divergent series and Fault in Our Stars, Ansel Elgort is not yet a household name and there was something endearing about him as the main character. I will be watching for more from him. As a child, it is explained, Baby falls into some trouble while stealing cars, and is indebted to a mob boss played by Kevin Spacey. He spends years as Spacey’s “driver” for various heists, and because of tinnitus caused by the car accident which tragically claimed the life of his mother, Baby wears headphones and carries his iPod everywhere he goes, hence the soundtrack that drives the movie.
It is utterly creative. Edgar Wright presents a unique style that stands apart from mainstream Hollywood. You can actually watch the first six full minutes of the film on YouTube. Seriously, do it. It includes a bank robbery and epic car chase and gives you a good taste of the film’s energy. And what song is used during the closing credits? “Baby Driver” by Simon and Garfunkel. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
We will talk more about movies next time I’m sure… The new It debuts this month! If you don’t like evil clowns, you may want to skip my next column.
By Molly Penny
Molly Penny is a local radio personality and MSU Mankato alum. It was her love of pop culture that got her interested in doing a morning show gig for KOWZ 100.9. She is now Music and Promotions Director at KOWZ & KRUE Radio in Owatonna and can be heard on various airwaves in southern Minnesota, including Hot 96.7 in Mankato. She resides in Mankato with her movie buff husband and YouTube obsessed children. Need to contact her? Shoot her an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or catch her on Twitter at @mollyhoodUSA.