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Summer Movie Retrospective

Observer Scene | Thursday, August 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:If not the perfection fans had hoped for, the fourth film in the Indiana Jones series, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” is a rollicking ride. The plot crosses the fine line the series has always walked between mythology and the supernatural a little too far in parts, but who can complain when the man in the hat is finally back? Suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in the adventure. Harrison Ford reprises his iconic role with relative ease and recaptures Indiana while gracefully ageing the character. The return of Marion Ravenwood (played by Karen Allen) is a treat, even if her character has been softened from the barkeep that could drink anyone under the table. Shia LeBeouf and Cate Blanchette both take up the hard task of introducing new characters with relative success. LeBeouf’s character, Mutt Williams, plays up the new 1950s setting and is a fun sidekick and Blanchette captures the cold, Soviet Col. Dr. Irina Spalko well. But at its core the movie was still about an archaeologist, his revolver, his whip and his mileage, and that’s more than enough. WALL-E:Wall-E will take the Oscar for best animated film. There are whisperings that it may even be the first film since Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 to receive a best picture nomination. It certainly deserves one. Ben Burtt, probably most famous for his work on Star Wars, scores again in this film. The sound design is astounding. The first forty-five minutes of the film have no dialogue, but you couldn’t even notice as the robot heroes conversed in beeps and whistles. Beautiful and skilled animation bring a fluid and vibrant life to the characters. Wall-E is lovable and more real than the protagonists found in many films, despite being both a robot and animated. The storyline of “Wall-E” is appealing to all ages, a classic adventure love story filled with humor, while maintaining a timely relevance to world issues. Pixar has succeeded again. Wall-E is charming, funny, and a work of art. The Fall:Shot on location in over 28 countries around the world, Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall” is a spectacular epic that has not been seen in a long while. A story within a story, “The Fall” begins in a 1920’s Los Angeles hospital. Severely injured stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) tells a story to another young patient, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), about five mythical heroes and their quest to rid the world of the evil Odious. But Walker’s story begins to blend with reality as the characters learn more about themselves and each other and soon it is Alexandria who must save the story, and her new friend, from his own destructive tailspin. In her first film, Catinca Untaru is a captivating young actress that expresses the imagination, curiosity, and innocence of her character. Like his previous work, Singh’s film is so aesthetically stunning that it could be watched for just that, but it is bolstered by a moving story and endearing characters. Tropic Thunder:Newsweek called it the “funniest movie of the summer,” The New Yorker wrote it off as “flailing and unfocused,” and yet Roger Ebert gave it 3 and 1/2 stars. The truth of the matter is this: “Tropic Thunder” is dastardly obscene, politically incorrect and the funniest movie you may see in years. It’s a story following the filming of a blundering Vietnam War epic which falls behind schedule, vaults into insanity with a Reality TV twist and lands well behind enemy lines. It’s a story about men on their way out: a peaked action star (Ben Stiller) struggling for acknowledgement as a serious actor, a coked up fart-joke movie star (Jack Black) losing touch with reality, a five-time Oscar winning, self-indulged Australian actor (Robert Downey Jr.) whose controversial “blackening” procedure leaves him with an identity crisis and a rap-icon (Brandon T. Jackson) on his way out of the closet. Tropic Thunder is a film egregiously loaded with insults and caustic wit surely to offend and provoke laughs at the same time. But the film’s best treat, hidden behind Stiller, Black and Downey’s leading roles, its most profane and entertaining performance, comes from an actor whose name I won’t reveal, because not knowing the actor’s identity makes the discovery all the more amusing.The Dark Knight:”The Dark Knight” was, there is no other word for it, epic. The story was epic, the effects were epic, and so was the running time. Christian Bale reprieves his role as Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy who spends his free time donning a cape and saving Gotham from all levels of crime. When we meet him, most of the crime has been cleaned up, leaving a void that one man, well, creature, seeks to fill. Cue Heath Ledger, in the role that will most certainly earn him an Oscar nod, if not the Oscar itself, as The Joker. Once his twisted, mesmerizing character walks onto the scene, the performance is so enthralling that one easily forgets he is gone. Ledger will never again grace the screen, but that fact doesn’t overshadow the film at all. It comes as almost an afterthought, something to mull about as the credits roll. Instead, the film builds and builds and just as it seems there could be nothing more climactic at all, it turns around and does it all again. Go ahead and see it again, if you haven’t already started your ticket stub collection.Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog:What do you do when all your writers go on strike, the TV show you are developing stops production, and your creative mind is still boiling as it always does? You make a straight-to-internet series of musical video shorts, of course! At least, that is what Joss Whedon does. The man behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” roped together a filming crew and a few actor buddies to create “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog,” a tale of one misfit criminal mastermind, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), as he attempts to join the Evil League of Evil. His master plans are overrun by Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion, reprieving his role as a captain, though this time without the spaceship and duster). The quest gets complicated when the girl of his dreams, Penny from the laundramat, starts going out with Captain Hammer. Melodies reminiscent of the musical Buffy episode abound, as does classic Whedonesque humor. Though he plays straight into his niche audience, the Joss Boss manages to create a 45-minute story that is sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. It can be seen on Hulu and downloaded on iTunes.