The Strawberry Criterion: So Far Summer Movie Round-Up

For brevity’s sake, I’m going to offer up three condensed reviews for The Tree of Life, X-Men: First Class, and Super 8, respectively.  Two of these movies more than justify substantial and explorative analyses, but I’m only afforded so few seconds of life, and even as I’m writing this death inches closer, closer.  If I die before I complete this post, or you die before reaching the section concerning X-Men: First Class, know that that movie is a genuine filmic miscarriage.  May that one certainty provide you peace in the end.

The Tree of Life!

Like his literary analogue Thomas Pynchon, Terrence Malick is renowned for his towering ambition, virtuosity, devotion to craft, a fatal allergy to the media and allowing whole decades to pass for a project to properly gestate.  Malick has been intermittently working on The Tree of Life for the entirely of his forty year career as a filmaker (a career that has spawned only five movies).  It shows.  Only a handful of movies demonstrate such a genuine, fierce reverence for life, nature, the universe and how we exist within it.  Visually, The Tree of Life is one of the most affecting and ascetically-baffling movies ever made.  Like life, it has no true central narrative.  Like life, it presents a multitude of questions and only a few dozen answers.  It, like life, is challenging.  At turns, the movie is frustrating and enlightening and tiresome and profound and everything at once and nothing at all.  I believe that words and images are equally capable mediums of relating the exploits of being a living, breathing, doing being, but The Tree of Life demonstrates that the world outside us can rival, humble the world within, if it’s shown as it should be.

Strawberry Verdict: N/A Strawberries out of 5 Strawberries

X-Men: First Class!

I had high expectations for this movie.  Because of Kyle Kraig’s affinity for X-Men, a warm corner of my heart is reserved for the franchise, and this reboot had the makings of what could have been an excellent movie.  Unfortunately, X-Men: First Class is tirelessly, consumingly, time-haltingly awful.  I could enumerate the failings of this movie until my body processes cease, but that would be doing a disservice to those of you lucky enough to have not seen it yet.  To summarize: pan-directional badness.  From the direction to the score to special effects to the cameos to the character development to the makeup to the casting to the superpowers to the January Jones diamond avatar, too little thought went into every aspect of this cinematic mess.  One of the characters is a stripper with dragonfly wings that hocks mucus balls of flame.  Another manufactures flaming hula-hoops from his midsection.  Another has the power to fit his grotesquely malformed feet into everyday penny-loafers.  Another is-doesn’t resemble, is-the devil on the cardboard inset that accompanies devil halloween costumes.  There are no parameters for the powers.  Professor X, who can both stop the flow of time and glamour anyone into doing anything, leverages these powers to absolutely no end.  I will not even touch upon the mute that conjures visible wind.  Kevin Bacon.  I can’t even formulate a sentence in regards to that.  Kevin Bacon.

Strawberry Verdict: 1.5 Strawberries out of 5 Strawberries

Super 8!

If I were the head of the MacArthur Foundation, J.J. Abrams would be (along with Sufjan Stevens, Paul Thomas Anderson, Carles, Dirk Nowitzki, and myself) immediately endorsed as one of the world’s true geniuses.  The versatility of his storytelling is unfathomable.  No matter the otherworldliness of the story, Abrams never removes the focus from his characters.  Never does he de-prioritize his audience’s enjoyment.  Never does he insult his audience’s intelligence.  He celebrates the real humanity in fantasy and everything fantastic in quotidian human existence.  In addition, this movie features insanely high levels of child acting, particularly Elle Fanning.  Given: there are moments of melodrama, and rehashing of Cloverfield’s subterfuges, but every flaw is offset entirely by how much Abrams cares about what’s going on onscreen, what’s going on in you, watching.

Strawberry Verdict: 4 Strawberries out of 5