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Double Feature: August 2013

| July 31, 2013

The World's End

Warning! Sitting around watching hours and hours of video will totally fry your brain! But if you do it right, watching movies back-to-back can illuminate wildly different details, create a whole new viewing experience, and totally BLOW your MIND. Plus, it’s fun! Here’s your monthly guide:

Wow, that was . . . loud. The World’s End (in theaters Aug. 23) is a suitable finale to this summer movie season, flaunting the most direct title in a series of movies falling over themselves to out-desolate each other’s cataclysms by sending crumbling buildings atop millions of people.

My two picks earlier this summer crash right into this competition: Pacific Rim features a lovingly detailed sketch of a Kaiju-ravaged, not-too-distant future – plus an awesome friggin’ Charlie Day! Sometimes slogged down by melodrama, the movie’s highlight is a behemoth of a monster/robot slam-a-rama in Hong Kong. And then it’s over, and yay! Fun!

Not so with Man Of Steel. There are fascinating/infuriating choices made by director Zack Snyder (who turns out to absolutely be the wrong guy for the job) throughout this ambitious/dreary almost-epic. But the most mind-boggling decision was to pummel the audience over and over and over with endlessly annihilative wrestling matches in a garish apocalyptic wasteland.

Also, let’s backtrack here: MILLIONS OF PEOPLE! CRUSHED TO DEATH! And yet, nobody in these stories really seems to notice or care about this little fact. Not even that guy with a big S on his chest (whose name is apparently ohmygawd! so embarrassing to utter even once).

There is a strange tendency to avoid the true scale of the devastation toyed with in these flicks, which causes the events to lose a lot of weight and simply become a barrage of loud noises and images.

Of course, this isn’t something unique to 2013. Hollywood has become increasingly preoccupied with fantasizing about mass destruction and global extinction ever since CGI allowed such things to be portrayed convincingly.

No matter how silly filmdom can seem, at its core, it truly does reflect the dreams and nightmares of the uneasy masses.
Which brings us, naturally, to comedy – and the finale of the joyous Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. When Shaun Of The Dead lit up screens in 2004, director/writer Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg reminded us that throwing lively, witty, relatable, everyday characters into extraordinary, convincingly frightening, even intensely gory, situations can create something gloriously hilarious and suspenseful.

Obviously, a marathon of SOTD, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End is a future must-do for movie buffs. But let’s start off this month’s Double Feature at Spook Central:

First up:
Dir. Ivan Reitman, 1984
DVD/Blu-ray – available now

“Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say: YES!”

Of course, the earnest nerd Ray could never muster such an answer. He and his pack of once-feckless colleagues have somehow found themselves confronting Gozer and a pair of demon dogs in order to save a specter-infested Manhattan.
The story of how they got into this situation is as classic as nearly anything else in motion picture history. It’s one of those greats that people born after the late ’70s generally don’t even remember the first time they ever saw it – it was just always there.

It’s astonishing to think that a studio was ballsy enough to trust the money required for cutting-edge FX to a comedy about ghosts and “lovable losers,” but now it’s taken for granted – it is still the highest-grossing movie by far in the wonderful genre of horror comedy. But above all, it is the absolute testament of how you can tell an energetic, charming story with something genuinely scary threatening the balance.

War Of The Worlds
Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2005
DVD/Blu-ray – available now

Tom Cruise bouncing on a talk-show couch has overshadowed most of the spectacle of this underrated adventure. Steven Spielberg made this the same year as one of his most shocking and unsettling dramas, Munich, and you can see that dark things must have been haunting him.

A neighborhood smashed to pieces, a river of bodies, a full-scale battle against alien invaders, human beings harvested to create a horrifying blood colored planet.

The scope of the CGI is pretty enormous in this one, but it is always grounded in genuine awe and horror – The Beard’s specialties. And that’s what he gets better than almost anyone else in the VFX game – that you must experience the wonder and awfulness of every pixel. This is what gets our blood flowing in the summer.

Let’s just hope that the autumn brings us only people drinking tea and playing with matchsticks or something.

— Rob Fagin

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Category: Columns, Double Feature, Monthly

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