My Week in Movies: Sept. 1-7

The past few weeks have been a bit hectic ’round here, which left me away from the blog and, for the most part, movies in general. Things haven’t quite returned to normal, but normal is on its way, following a layover in Tulsa. Until then, here’s a brief My Week in Movies post. Enjoy.

The World’s End (2013) After months of being unable to visit the multiplex, I returned in a big way by catching up with the latest from Edgar Wright. The first half hour is pitch perfect in its study of nostalgia, midlife crisis, and those who cling too tightly to youth. Then comes a turn in the storytelling, and suddenly we’re in the middle of a sci-fi/horror actioner that, despite the frenzy, manages to underscore all the themes the prologue so carefully sets up. Call it John Carpenter’s This Is 40 – underneath the gooey mayhem is a lovely, occasionally heartbreaking tale of want and regret, of pining for the better days, of accepting imperfection. I’m still not sure if I like the epilogue or simply tolerate it, but that’s a decision to save for a repeat viewing. And I’m looking forward to many, many repeat viewings.

The Blue Umbrella (2013) The Pixar short accompanying Monsters University is close to being a great movie, but it makes one huge mistake that leaves it merely so-so. The wordless tale (it’s pretty much Paperman but with umbrellas) does wonders in bringing inanimate objects to life by finding faces in patterns throughout a crowded city street – mailboxes smile, drain pipes gasp – so why does it go to such unnecessary lengths to paint fake faces on the titular umbrella? The filmmakers prove we don’t need it in order to feel for it as a character bursting with life; adding it in feels like a cheat and drains the movie of its potential magic.

Monsters University (2013) Speaking of drained of magic, here’s another Pixar sequel. Or prequel, if you will, because while Monsters Inc. is one of the few Pixar efforts to actually deserve a sequel (I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Boo as a teenager, or perhaps even an adult? How did her experiences with “Kitty” shape her future? Or did she forget them with time? And are kids around the world still laughing instead of screaming? Ah, such possibilities!), instead we get a sometimes charming, often very funny, mostly too lightweight comedy about Mike and Sully’s college years. Monsters University rarely dares, and that’s too bad. One unexpected upside, however: the script playfully pulls the rug out from all those “you can do anything!” morals from most kiddie fare, instead delivering a more honest message of “no, you can’t do anything, but maybe you might find something else you actually are good at, and so what if that’s not your dream?” Too bad such a welcome subversive idea is buried within a run-of-the-mill campus comedy.

The Artist (2011) Slowly but surely working its way to becoming one of my all-time faves. Its intelligence, warmth, and humor still shine through in this umpteenth viewing. And that ending! Those last five minutes are among the best last five minutes I’ve ever seen. Watch it again? With pleasure.

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