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My Summer So Far: Quick Reviews of Beginners, The Tree of Life, and X-Men: First Class

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that, since I was cooped up in France, drowning in baguettes and wine, and getting floored by the overall sexiness of everyone around me that I was completely blind to what was going on at the movie theaters for the month. Am I on to something?

Well, you're wrong. Yes, I missed out on catching such things as Super 8 and Green Lantern, though I'll get to them later. But, there are movie theaters in France, go figure. The town I was in, Tours, actually had a pretty sweet set up. There was a theatre that played a lot of American movies in English with French subtitles for rull cheap. I managed to find time in my busy schedule of classes, excursions, and drinking to see two movies. And then, of course, I get home and head straight for the theatre.

Care to know my thoughts? Of course you do. You've been practically dead inside without my dry wit to hold you over. Well, satiate yourselves. Hit the jump and frolic in the awesomeness!!!

Hotel de Ville

Beginners: I'm happy that this was playing and that my friends bought the tickets without my knowledge. Beginners tells the story of a loner sketch artist, Oliver, coping with the death of his recently out father, whilst simultaneously enjoying a serious relationship with a beautiful french actress. It's a pretty standard plot, but the way writer/director Mike Mills makes the story interesting with it's non-linear progression, helped along by the chemistry of his three main stars.

Ewan McGregor is excellent as Oliver, and Christopher Plummer is also very good as his father Hal, though they are both overshadowed by Melanie Laurent, perfectly cast as Anna. The movie is good, very funny and charming, with a refreshing optimistic mindset. But it doesn't really do anything to help it stand out from any other comedy of it's sort. It's a well done feature, but you'll forget about it a couple days later.

The Tree of Life: Now, this on the other hand, is a movie that you won't forget a couple of days later. As a matter of fact, you'll never forget it! Put simply, The Tree of Life is an absolutely fascinating and breathtaking piece of cinema. It's, at times, a detailed and honest look at a troubled childhood, at others a surreal and beautiful imagining of the creation of the universe. And it is always engrossing.

Brad Pitt plays Mr. O'Brien, a man who's brutish methods often cause him to clash with his sons. Jessica Chastain, beautifully restrained, plays his husband. Sean Penn has gotten top billing as their son, Jack, but he's actually only in the movie for, like, seven minutes, and has less lines. The real star is newcomer Hunter McCracken as Young Jack. The performances are all, uniformly, excellent. Every actor does a great job, handling writer/director Terrence Malick's sparse, poetic dialogue.

There is actually too much to say about Tree of Life that, even if I dedicated a whole post to it, I wouldn't have even scratched the surface. Just know that it's an absolutely wonderful movie, easily the best I've seen so far this year.

Also, dinosaurs!

X-Men: First Class: Hot of the plane from Europe, and the first thing I do is get my ass to a theatre to check this one out. In short, it's easily the best movie in the X-Men franchise, full to bursting with mutants running around doing cool shit, with great performances and a feel totally foreign to superhero movies.

First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn, tells the story of how Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr became friends and, eventually, enemies. Under Vaughn's keen eye, the film ditches the brooding, blue grey look of the other X-Men movies for a bright and colorful palette, complete with a ton of political tension and intrigue. Indeed, X-Men: First Class feels like a Bond movie, if Bond and his nemesis had super powers. The bad guy has a super powered submarine, and Charles is super smooth, hard drinking, playboy. All the performances rock, especially Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr.

However, I'm only slightly let down, but that has everything to do with expectations. Being in France when this came out, all I could do was read the reviews. A lot of the reviews I read put this one right up there with The Dark Knight. Imagine my excitement. Unfortunately, it's not quite that good, nor is it the best superhero movie so far this summer (that's Thor). It is still worth every penny. With plenty of exciting action and solid performances, X-Men: First Class is plenty capable of braving the competition in what is shaping up to be a super strong summer.

And there's a cameo from a certain someone that is far and away the best cameo of the year! You'll see.

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