Posted by: Sally Ingraham | December 8, 2011

Movie Mayhem: Summer 2011

How about some movie babble?

It’s been awhile since I’ve jabbered about any of the movies I’ve seen. I was almost going to let these movies pack up their dust bunnies and slip away into the oblivion of my lists file – but for one reason or another these particular bits of cinema magic are begging for a waltz with the duster, and a good word put in on their behalf. I feel obliging tonight.

super 8Super 8 (Writ. & Dir. J. J. Abrams. Stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Riley Griffiths. USA, 2011)
Easily one of my favorite movies of the year, this new offering from the brilliant and lens-flair-loving J. J. Abrams is about a collection of kids who set out to make a zombie movie during the summer of 1979. While filming a night scene they witness a catastrophic train crash, and soon after unexplainable and bizarre events throw their small town into turmoil. While the adults scramble to make sense of what is happening, Charles and Joe and the rest of the gang careen ever closer to the truth, super 8 camera in tow. Several things impressed me about this movie. The story had both classic, and pleasantly original elements, and the young actors were completely brilliant. Their incessant banter and rapid-fire delivery made a clever script sound perfectly natural. The special effects were excellent, but the train crash was EPIC. I saw the movie in the theater with my youngest sister and during the crash scene our jaws simultaneously hit the floor and stayed there. Funny, sweet, even heartwarming – but the gushyness was countered by some properly squee-worthy monster bits. Actually, come to think of it, Super 8 is kind of the kid-friendly companion to Monsters (which if you even remotely like alien movies you should go watch right NOW – my review of it is buried amid my other SF36 reviews here). Super 8 will without a doubt join it’s big brother, J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek, on my list of “movies worth watching more than once a year”. Highly recommended.

assassin in loveAssassin in Love (Writ. & Dir. Gareth Lewis. Stars Damian Lewis. UK, 2007)
A hit man who is trying to get out of the game accidentally becomes a baker in a remote Welsh village. Enough said. It’s delightfully silly. Especially when the villagers figure out that he’s a hit man and start ordering “hits”. Delighted with all the “cake” orders, Milo bakes up a storm – many hi-jinks ensue. The characters are a bit predictable and it gets rather whacked, but Damian Lewis is rather delightful as Milo Shakespeare. I am eager to see more of his work – wait a sec, I DID see him again this year, in the utterly foolish Your Highness (which I secretly laughed my ass off during…!) He was less awesome in that one. Oh well. If you’re looking for a quirky, funny, slightly romantic movie I would definitely point you in the direction of this one.

hamletHamlet (Dir. Gregory Doran. Writ. William Shakespeare. Stars David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, and Penny Downie. UK, 2009)
A recent twitter exchange with Redhead of Little Read Reviewer reminded me of how much I enjoyed this version of Shakespeare’s play. I admit that I watched it because Doctor Who/David Tennant stars in it, but ALSO I hadn’t watched a production of Hamlet since I was a teen and I had been meaning to revisit it forever. Redhead tweeted something about being shocked that she was laughing – at Hamlet! I agree that this production had me laughing too. At first I thought it was because Tennant’s delivery made some of the lines more humorous. As the thing progressed though, I became convinced that it was the lines themselves – it was the PLAY that was funny, in a tragic way of course. I’ve been meaning to watch another version to really compare, but I am aware that my slightly more mature sense of humor and sense of everything is much better equipped to appreciate Hamlet. I was blown away by this production – I loved it. Patrick Stewart in particular (not surprisingly) was frighteningly good as Claudius. I found myself hanging on his words, a bit breathless. The entire thing kept me on the edge of my seat – as it should have, because (finally, of course) Hamlet was totally brilliant! On my to-do list: watch the Branagh version, and watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead again.

mary and maxMary and Max (Writ. & Dir. Adam Elliot. Stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bethany Whitmore, and Toni Collette. Australia, 2009)
This is a strange, sad movie about an unlikely friendship. In 1970’s Melbourne, neglected, homely, 8 year old Mary picks a name out of a Manhattan phone book and writes a letter. Accompanied by a chocolate bar the letter finds its way into the life of Max, an obese, anxiety-attack prone man living on his own in New York. When he writes back and sends chocolate in return, a pen-pal relationship of 20 years sprouts. Animated and narrated through the letters, the small triumphs and moments of defeat in the lives of these seemingly mismatched but best friends is presented compassionately. It’s kind of a tough movie – achingly sad in some ways, but hopeful in others. The animation style is distinctive – not pretty, certainly not cute (although it has the charm and rounded edges of clay-mation). It’s a bit gritty, like the story. There’s beauty in it, but not unlike the beauty found in ordinary people, you have to coax it out.

parisMidnight in Paris (Writ. & Dir. Woody Allen. Stars Owen Wilson. USA, 2011)
Tagging along on her parent’s business trip to Paris, Gil and Inez enter rough relationship waters when Gil (a successful Hollywood writer who’s trying to write his first book) gets caught up in the mystery and magic of the city. Nostalgic for the golden age of the 20s, he can’t wrestle up much enthusiasm for her modern-day interests. When a midnight walk opens a door into a world of art and literature that he’s only dreamed of, Gil drifts further and further away from his fiance, but closer and closer to a better understanding of himself. This movie is delicious on many levels. First of all, Paris. Second, splendid cast. Thirdly, who are folks like Alison Pill, Kathy Bates, Adiran Brody, Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard, and Corey Stoll playing? Oh, just Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, other people like that. The movie is “a beginner’s guide to modernism” as an article from The Guardian so neatly put it (and wrote about). In a word, the movie is charming. It is a scrumptious feast of literary figures and artists, full of inside jokes and gentle pokes. Probably my favorite Woody Allen film, but I haven’t seen enough to be a good judge. This was the first of his recent works that made me actually want to go back to his early stuff and see what the fuss was all about, so I guess that’s something!

bride flightBride Flight (Dir. Ben Sombogaart. Writ. Marieke van der Pol. Stars Karina Smulders, Waldemar Torenstra, Anna Drijver, and Elise Schaap. Netherlands, 2008)
Three young Dutch women and a young man meet on one of the famous 1953 Great Air Race flights to New Zealand and the encounter forever changes the trajectory of all of their lives. An impossible romance, a secret pact, a terrible choice, and the promise of a better life – these are puzzle pieces in the picture that their stories paint. It’s a rather sweeping saga, treading dangerously close to soap-operatic, but somehow Sombogaart’s serious touch and the wonderful acting push the film onto solid ground. It is richly arrayed in period details – the costuming and color are lovely. While the inevitable outcome of it all seems apparent from the start, I got completely caught up in seeing how it all worked out for the characters that I quickly grew to care about. It’s a story that has lingered in my mind for months, a reminder of how much impact every choice we make could potentially have upon us. Heavy, melodramatic stuff, but told prettily enough here.

What was your favorite movie from the summer?

I’ll post about my autumn viewing in the next few days, then hopefully I’ll remain a little more on top of my movie mayhem for a few months…!


  1. Ooh, I’m glad to read your enthusiasm for Midnight in Paris, since I’ve heard mixed reviews and generally find Woody Allen’s later stuff VERY hit-and-miss. But with such delightful subject matter, it’s hard to deny the attraction…

    • I liked it well enough, taken on its own – but I don’t consider myself a Woody Allen fan and can’t judge whether or not its up to par with his famous works. As I said though, for the first time I’m actually curious to watch some of his older stuff. Let me know what you think of this one when you get to it!

  2. You have managed to fill a post with almost all the movies I meant to watch this year but didn’t manage to watch. Super 8, Midnight in Paris and Bride Flight are on top of the list.
    I haven’t watched a lot or nothing I really liked that much. I want to watch Melancholia soon. My hopes are very high for that one.

    • Unbelievably, I’ve never seen a single Lars von Trier movie although half a dozen of them are floating around on my TBW list. Melancholia does look good – Kristen Dunst is not my favorite, but the rest of the cast is great and the story sounds intriguing. I do hope you get to see something you really like soon. 🙂

  3. Super 8! I LOVED that movie. I totally agree with you about the jaw dropping train scene.

    • Right? It’s ridiculously huge. Every time I thought “surely that must be the last flying train car” another one came careening out of the screen and into my face!

  4. yes, agree w/ everything you said about Super 8! We will likely be watching it again this weekend.

    Will have to check out the Assassin in Love. I would and will be watching Hamlet for David Tennant, too. 🙂

    We have Mary & Max on our Netflix cue since forever. will have to give it a go.

    Sean and I had just come across mention of that Midnight in Paris, and were intrigued by the cast. We’ve mixed feelings about Woody Allen. Your write-up is wonderful and now I definitely have to see this (love Modernism)

    love your eclecticism.

    I can’t think what my favorite summer film was. Super 8 was the quintessential summer film, and one of the few I was able to see in the theater. Now you have me thinking I should start on that end of the year “best of” thinking a few weeks early.

    • You will get a kick out of Tennant as Hamlet I think – he brings a passion to the role that is only intensified by his particular style of manic. Thanks to him I finally got Hamlet. Heck, I want to go watch it again right now!

      Thanks for calling me “eclectic”. If you had seen the rest of my movie lists from those three months you might be more inclined to believe that my movie “stomach” is one of steel – capable of digesting a veritable smorgasbord of movies…

      While I have read reviews of movies you liked a lot from this year, I will eagerly await your “best of” list. Lists are my favorite. 🙂

  5. So happy you liked Hamlet! and that you were laughing while watching it! and yes, I watched it for Tennant as well. and Patrick Stewart was incredible (as usual) as well.

    I so want to see Super 8. Can’t believe I missed that one in the theatres.

    • How is it possible that you haven’t seen Super 8? You’ll love it.

      Speaking of Patrick Stewart, I just remembered that I glimpsed him in a scene from Dune that I caught on TV. I just listened to the audiobook and I’m dying to see the film. Must get on that…

  6. I watched Mary and Max last year, on the advice of one of my co-farmers. Great movie. Odd and sad, but I really liked it. I really wanted to see Super 8 and hoped to catch it in one of the $3 theaters during a trip to Portland. Didn’t sync up with it, though. Hope to see it on DVD one of these days soon.

    • “odd and sad” – exactly. And so well done, with just enough humor to balance the rest. I need to track down Adam Elliot’s short Harvie Krumpet which won an Oscar a few years ago for Best Animated Short… I wonder if he’s working on anything else? Those stop animation/claymation movies take forever to make!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: