Every so often a film is released that causes both critics and audiences to become besotted with praise. Such films are compared to Citizen Kane, and are predicted to sweep the Oscars. The last time such a furor erupted it was for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Joaquin Phoenix. I hated it.
A really good documentary film is at its best when it chronicles the life, times and works of a truly exceptional individual. Such is the case with Life Itself, based on the autobiography of arguably the most famous film critic of all time, Roger Ebert. Oscar-nominated director Steve James, most famous for his basketball epic Hoop Dreams, was given an all access pass to Ebert during his final months before he died of cancer. It didn’t help his condition that a botched surgery left him with no lower jaw, unable to speak or eat.
The old saying goes “everything old is new again.” Except when it comes to the summer movie crop of 2014, in which all the retreads, reboots, and remakes seem like those that came before. And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is no exception. This particular cycle of cinema began in 1968 with the original film Planet of the Apes, which spawned four sequels, two TV series, a 2001 remake from director Tim Burton which was less than well-received, then 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I recall was actually pretty good. Now comes the 2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is pretty much a casserole of plot points, social commentary, and high-tech action scenes in yet another effort to mine bags of box office coin from a proven commodity.
If you’re tired of the sci-fi genre being hijacked just so Tom Cruise can make another movie, or director Michael Bay can churn out another overlong, turgid Transformers epic, then there’s a new film you should flock to immediately. It’s called Snowpiercer and it’s not playing everywhere, so you’ll have to seek it out.
Once again it’s summertime, and the living is… well, in many instances… mobile. What with enjoying the seasonal events and travels, and the upcoming weekend of big racing at the Kentucky Speedway, I started thinking about the symmetry between two of Americas great loves: cars and movies.