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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Summer’s movies in review: sleeper gold, lackluster hits

    “Jaws” is dead. That is, modern summer blockbusters are rarely as stimulating and smart as the film that spawned the blockbuster trend. Now, summer movies usually fall into three categories: (1) the popular but superficial, (2) the passable but flawed and (3) the outstanding but unwatched. The following reviews highlight each of these summer film types.
    Transformers
    Directed by Michael Bay, a man known for his moneymaking yet horrible body of work (“Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon” and “The Island”), “Transformers” is surprisingly one of the most overrated films this year.
    One problem with this picture is its misleading title. “Shia LeBeouf’s Summer Situational Comedy” would have been more telling. The robots in disguise and their battles remain absent during the majority of this film. Instead, Bay thought it would be cool to waste minute after minute with LeBeouf attempting to distract his parents from gigantic robots in his front yard. A few viewers argued that focusing on the human characters and their situations allowed us to see the Transformers from their eyes.
    What these viewers failed to note is that my eyes work very well. If I can find my way to the movie theater by car and then stumble into the ticket booth, I don’t think one-dimensional human characters portrayed by untalented or washed-up actors are necessary.
    Perhaps the greatest flaw of “Transformers” is how you have to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder to understand why certain shots were even used.
    For instance, at one point Jon Voight’s character mentions battleships in a sentence. You then see an overhead shot of battleships for about two seconds before the camera refocuses on Voight. Never again do these battleships play a role in the film.
    Similarly, Bay sprinkles in pointless shots of humans looking around during the final extended battle sequence. And by “sprinkles” I mean about every three seconds, thereby serving as a distraction from what this movie is supposed to be about (read: action).
    Sadly, the screenwriting and technical hiccups of this movie could fill up a book. A kid on a bicycle outruns a car. An alien robot with advanced weapons can’t kill a few human soldiers about 20 feet away. A Linkin Park song plays as the ending credits roll. These images and sounds should only make a sane person shake his or her head.
    The Simpsons Movie
    Within the first ten minutes of this film, the rock group Green Day is killed off. At the band’s funeral, a music sheet reveals the song being played: “American Idiot (Funeral Version).”
    Some of the best humor from “The Simpsons” television show is unspoken. That is, many jokes are text-based, perhaps missed by a careless eye the first time around. “The Simpsons Movie” is wonderful in this respect. Tell me how Grandpa Simpson reading a magazine called “Oatmeal Enthusiast” isn’t clever.
    Unfortunately, the other jokes are hit and miss. The “Spider Pig” joke was funny during the initial previews months ago, but it’s already tired by the time you see it in the film. Bart, the iconic bad boy son of Homer Simpson, is his usual irreverent self for about 15 or 20 minutes before becoming an unfunny nice kid who wants neighbor Ned Flanders to be his dad. Albert Brooks plays a corrupt and scheming senator, flatly reciting his lines without any sense of irony.
    On the other hand, the film contains a scene that ranks up there with the greatest Simpsons moments. After Bart decides to skateboard nude, the scriptwriters go out of their way with various objects and characters to obstruct the character’s yellow package, only to-at the very last minute-go out of their way again to show off what Bart’s been hiding all these years. It’s been a while since any mainstream cartoon has been that daring and intelligent.
    Rescue Dawn
    Director Werner Herzog’s films are consistently overlooked. “Grizzly Man,” a Herzog documentary released in 2005, didn’t even receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary despite its high-quality directing and thematic material.
    Furthermore, I was one of seven people viewing “Rescue Dawn” when it opened in Starkville weeks ago.
    To say the least, “Dawn” is substantially different from more commercially viable war films like “Braveheart” and “Behind Enemy Lines.” And even though movies such as “Platoon” have clearly portrayed war as unglamorous, there were points in those films where you could think, “That was a good action sequence.” “Dawn” is far removed from that possibility.
    Undoubtedly, this is all due to Herzog’s documentary style. In contrast to filmmakers like Paul Greengrass, Herzog can make events seem realistic without resorting to trendy techniques that involve shaking the camera and throwing it on the ground.
    Backing up the direction and script is leading actor Christian Bale, who plays his most energetic and spunky role since “Empire of the Sun.” (Coincidentally, Bale played a kid who dreamed of flying in “Empire.” In “Dawn” he plays a grown-up pilot.) But Bale doesn’t steal the show completely. Steve Zahn, who flexed his dramatic muscle somewhat in “Shattered Glass,” continues to grow as a serious actor, sometimes drawing your attention away from even Bale. Jeremy Davies, among others, rounds out an understated cast.
    The one flaw in this film is the enthusiastic ending, which mishmashes with the detached journalism of the previous scenes. However, because the film is based on a real pilot’s survival story during the Vietnam War, one may assume the conclusion is fairly accurate and therefore suitable.

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    Summer’s movies in review: sleeper gold, lackluster hits