I've seen a whole slew of films, and been unable to use the computer much, due to class and the heat wave...
214. Monster on the Campus [C-]
215. It! Terror From Beyond Space [C-]
216. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [A]
217. The Town [B-]
Monster on Campus: Typical of Jack Arnold directed sf from the 1950s, this B-movie has "science" that was probably questionable at the time, and is certainly ridiculous now. And yet it can't help but be quite fun, despite the laughable production values and the usual science has encroached upon God story. In many ways, its a progenitor of Altered States
(1980) as well as the TNG episode, "Genesis."
It! Terror From Beyond Space: Often cited as a chief influence on Alien
, this Jerome Bixby scripted B-grade sf movie is not without its charms, but neither of those later films are the rip-offs some texts seek to suggest. The similarities mostly relate to general plot points (an alien slowly picks off the crew of a spacecraft one by one) rather than anything specific, and stylistically this movie couldn't be any further apart from any movies in the Alien
series. There's not any kind of attempt at serious sf here, so when the crew smokes liberally, detonates grenades, uses gas bombs, fires bullets, and even employs a bazooka, it's no surprise that they're oblivious to the effect this might have on their air supply.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: This might be my favorite studio film of the summer, and it is a damned shame it didn't reach a wider audience. I suspect there's simply fatigue due to Michael Cera playing similar roles over and over and over again, which is a shame, because he's perfect for the part here (if only he had taken some time off rather than waste his image on medicore films like Year One
and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
). The pace is brisk, fun, and full of cultural gags and references that are sure to elicit more delight upon repeated viewings (the Nintendo-style Universal logo at the beginning says everything about the tone of the movie to follow).
The Town: Ben Affleck delivers a film that is more believable than the third act machinations of Gone Baby Gone
(until the end), but also much more conventional. Familiar stock characters of the genre are trotted out one by one: the bank robber with a good heart who wants to make a change (who nevertheless continues to rob banks), the girlfriend who doesn't know this secret, the obsessive detective who will stop at nothing to catch his prey, and the impulsive bank robber with a personal history to the lead and a inclination for violence. You've seen it all before (and better, especially in Heat
), but Affleck executes the story well, and managers to deliver performances that are either good or decent. Alas, we don't get to know these characters very deeply (Hamm especially, though he manages to be charming, is also a cypher, with absolutely no personal backstory). Of the four-man crew Affleck leads, only Jeremy Remmer is developed. The other two guys might as well not even be in the movie, beyond the need of four guys during the robberies.
And then there's the ending.
The police have been tipped off towards Affleck and crew's latest robbery. They surround the parking garage with at least a hundred police officers and FBI, and a firefight ensues. One guy is killed instantly, and another sacrifices himself on a suicide run to obscure Affleck and Renner's escape (why this guy would do this is unclear, except, of course, his character doesn't matter and the two important guys need a distraction). Their escape is brief, as Hamm is tipped off that Affleck and Renner are disguised as police officers. Hamm spots Renner, and they have a shoot-out. Renner is blown away. During this whole scene, however, Affleck simply stands out in the open with his mouth agape. Out of hundreds of police, nobody seems to notice him. Affleck drives off. Somehow, he's then able to murder "the florist" and his goon (who the police know he's working for, but seem to have no surveillance of), approach within 100 feet of his girfriend's apartment (to leave a note for Hamm) where dozens of police are stationed, and escape via public transport despite his face being everywhere (Affleck pays off the bus driver, but, c'mon, nobody else notices him?). And then, apparently, Affleck escapes to Florida, long enough for his character to grow a beard. Yeah, right. There's no way the FBI's manhunt would be so ineffective.
I've heard that earlier cuts of the movie were very different, and that the happy ending was added late. I wonder how the novel ended? It's a good take, on a familiar concept and genre, that is marred by an unbelievable Hollywood ending. If Affleck wants to keep working as a director (and a screenwriter,as he receives co-writing credit) he'll need to improve some more yet.