I don't know if I've ever actually posted in this thread before, which is weird considering I'm a film student, but whatever. Anyway, I've seen a handful of this summer's movies in the past week or so, so I guess I'll share some thoughts on them:
X-Men: First Class- I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Professor X and Magneto were both written and performed well, and the history-incorporating plot was silly in a fun way. All in all it was nothing special, but aside from some seriously groan-inducing dialogue, it was a decent enough summer movie.
The Tree of Life- I'm not going to pretend to fully understand it after just one viewing, but I will say that it was an amazing, often awe-inspiring experience with some of the most beautiful cinematography I've ever seen. It's incredibly ambitious in its scope, themes, and style to the point where it's one of those rare movies that makes the plot of every other movie seem silly and trivial in comparison. It's about nothing less than the immensity of the universe and our little tiny place in it. It reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey in that way, and the two films are almost like inverses of each other. Where 2001 is cold, distant, and entirely intellectual, The Tree of Life is deeply personal, emotional and spiritual.
It's a very interesting new angle on similar ideas, but I think it's also what keeps me from connecting with it at the same level as I did with 2001. As a Northeastern Jew who grew up in the late '90s and early '00s, I had kind of a hard time connecting to the themes through the experiences of a Southern Christian kid in the 1950s. But still, it's a great film that you should definitely experience for yourself if you get the chance.
Super 8- This is everything that a great summer movie is supposed to be. Well-drawn and likable characters who seem like actual people and not just plot vehicles (er...for the most part), fantastical elements presented with nerdy enthusiasm and excitement, mystery, suspense, action, fun, humor, heart, wonder, sentimentality that's probably a little unearned but you let it slide and get wrapped up in it anyway because the whole thing's just so damn magical (or, "the Spielberg Effect"). The movie's got it all.
It's recycled magic, sure, but magic nonetheless, and that's a hell of a lot more than I can say for the latest piece of schlock about indistinguishable blurs of CGI banging into each other. Along with its derivative nature, there are a few other problems that hold Super 8 back from true greatness (the emotional throughline is kind of clunkily executed throughout, and as a result the ending doesn't quite work, plus the whole filmmaking angle is gradually dropped, which sucks because that's far and away the best part of the movie), as well as a couple other nitpicky issues to point out (seriously, J.J. Abrams, enough with the fucking lens flares), but overall this was one of my most anticipated movies of the summer and it absolutely delivered.
Something tells me that more than a few of the younger kids in the audience are leaving Super 8 cinephiles for life, if not actual filmmakers, and that's a quality that's important, special, and sadly rare in today's entertainment.
Also, as a side note, I just want to point out that X-Men and Super 8 (but especially X-Men), each rated PG-13, both make brilliant strategic use of their one allotted "fuck." If this becomes a trend in these kinds of movies, it'd almost make the MPAA's stupid, stupid rules forgivable. Almost.