Playing Catch-up: An Ode to an Awful Summer, Volume 1

Let’s face it, we all know this summer’s been a dreadful one for the movie-going public. From unnecessary remakes of beloved genre classics and countless adaptations to sequel after sequel (after sequel), most of which I both willingly and unwillingly subjected myself to, it’s hard to believe that this year could get any worse. With enough promising titles on the horizon to help establish but a glimmer of hope for us cinephiles, I took it upon myself to revisit everything I missed in theaters in an honest attempt to redeem what in my opinion has been a generally lackluster year in cinema. Wish me luck, and keep in mind that these are not ranked; I listed them according to their theatrical release dates!

The Mechanic (dir. Simon West)

Statham’s remarkable inability to break free from some unfortunate typecasting hasn’t necessarily worked in his favor as of late, but in Simon West’s remake of the 1972 crime thriller of the same title, it doesn’t hurt matters any. Remaining firmly in command of the entire production, Statham effortlessly coasts from bloodbath to bloodbath as some admittedly slick action sequences keep us pinned to our seats. With not much else to offer outside of a central story arc as thin and unimportant as they come, all we’re left with is the uneasy partnership between our leads as the story itself unfolds. All in all it’s extremely forgettable, but not at all a terrible experience.

Cold Weather (dir. Aaron Katz)

Easily identifiable as another entry into the ever-expanding “mumblecore” subgenre of filmmaking, you’ll find as much an emotional connection with Aaron Katz’s latest as you would a pair of tube socks. Does this take away from how refreshing a take Cold Weather is on the tired detective movie formula? No, no it doesn’t, and although the film can prove to be tiresome to say the least, the latter act remains rewarding and the entire production feels a lot more grounded in reality than other cookie-cutter mystery thrillers thanks to its aforementioned mumblecore sensibilities.

Cedar Rapids (dir. Miguel Arteta)

As subtle and straightforward Cedar Rapids blatantly is, it’s hard to deny that there exists a more competent blend of vulgarity and downright sweetness in any comedy to be released over the past few years. Ed Helms proves he can handle his duties as the male lead with enough gusto to keep us from disliking his character Tim on account of his many faults, and to observe him emerging from his shell of naivety  is alternately heartwarming and hilarious. It may not be as outlandish as a majority of this year’s comedic catalog, but for what Cedar Rapids lacks, it more than makes up for in the form of an excellent cast of characters and ample laughs that don’t distract us from Tim’s string of moral dilemmas that ultimately shape him into an upstanding, level-headed man.

I Saw the Devil (dir. Jee-woon Kim)

Length aside, there’s no denying how big a punch I Saw the Devil packs in the form of prolonged bouts of gratuitous violence and emotional intensity. Alternately examining depravity at its worst and the moral reprehensibility of revenge itself as a secret agent plays cat-and-mouse with his fiancée’s killer, we’re offered an unflinching glimpse at the transformation of a once humble man into the type of monster he’d never have expected to become. Shock value galore, a thin yet compelling narrative and stylish direction ensure that Jee-woon Kim’s latest remains one hell of a thrill ride from start to finish in light of some superfluous content.

Sucker Punch (dir. Zack Snyder)

I don’t like Zack Snyder. I don’t like his “style,” intended overuse of creative flourishes included, and I’m not particularly fond of the mindless, shallow niche he’s established for himself in Hollywood. Harsh words indeed, but keep in mind that Snyder has only had a go at directing, and with Sucker Punch, the man in question felt bold enough to write his own hilariously inept, misogynistic script that’s as thought-provoking as an episode of Blue’s Clues. Objectification of women aside, the entire production constantly suffers from a wide variety of flaws that would take much more than a measly paragraph to outline and subsequently tear apart. I once heard that this film was nothing but a nearly two-hour long music video, and truth be told, this statement isn’t far from the truth given the predictability of it all. One muddled mess of a film.

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