Summer Film Round-up
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Topic Sentence: The Arts & Entertainment department takes on and critiques five of this summer’s biggest films.
If you spent the summer studying for SATs, writing college apps, or working job and internship shifts and haven’t had the time to hit up a movie theater, you’re in luck—here are our critiques of five of this summer’s biggest and most-anticipated theatrically released films.
Children are often inclined toward fantasy, giving life to the inanimate and shaping their perceptions of our complex world into something they can understand. The mysteries of aerodynamics can be explored through sitting in a cardboard box and flying through extraterrestrial worlds; the peculiarities of motherhood can be explored through dolls and automatons; the things in life that repress us and depress us—our inner demons—can be given a physical, monstrous form that members in the 100 Acre Wood call “Heffalumps.”
In the somber, bittersweet landscape of the film “Christopher Robin,” the protagonist of the same name (Ewan McGregor) returns to the Wood in order to bring Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) home. But Robin slowly discovers that while Pooh had lost his way, so had he himself, trading the lighthearted naïveté of youth for the weight of life and its responsibilities. Robin realizes that he has allowed his work to consume him, prioritizing it before all else. It is with Pooh’s return and observation of the world with an innocent perspective that Robin finds that everything in the 100 Acre Wood was never really imaginary; it was only a place that contained symbolic interpretations of reality.
The film’s trailer did reveal a somber mood through the setting along with the eerie character designs for the stuffed animal characters that reminded me of something out of a Tim Burton film, but I initially chalked these judgments up to my own biases. I had read the original A. A. Milne stories. Surely this was to be a saccharine movie that would cause me to simultaneously grin and giggle and eye-roll over how unrealistically utopian a plot could manifest, especially considering Disney movies’ outrageously happy endings. Not with this one, though. Indeed, it did end on a positive note, but not before it exposed various themes surrounding the idea of metamorphosis of one’s inner demons as they go through various life stages leading up to and including middle age, all without compromising the characteristics of the characters as they were made in the original novels.
"Eighth Grade" by Bo Burnham is a startlingly honest portrayal of growing up in the age of the internet. The movie revolves around 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) in her last week of middle school. Kayla struggles with confidence issues and social anxiety; she makes videos as a way to help others overcome the insecurities and anxieties that she herself faces.
Burnham shines in creating a seemingly simple plot that manages to feel both intense and real. As Kayla attends a pool party, visits her future high school, and tries to make friends, the acuteness of her emotions is felt by the audience. It's how aptly both Fisher, through superb acting, and Burnham, through carefully chosen camera angles, are able to wordlessly portray Kayla's inner struggles that makes "Eighth Grade" compelling to watch and allows it to resonate so deeply with viewers.
In what appears as a radical move on the big screen, the characters speak and look like eighth graders. This is a far cry from typical Hollywood movies in which teenagers are often played by actors older than the ages they are portraying. Protagonists seemingly look flawless without any effort and are always witty and eloquent. Kayla portrays the reality of being a teenager much more aptly. She struggles with acne, stutters, peppers her speech with "um" and "like," and uses modern slang. Kayla is also immersed in technology, spending her nights scrolling through Instagram and her mornings taking "#wokeuplikethis" selfies in full makeup. The unfiltered authenticity in which Kayla is shown trying to understand herself and the world crafts a powerful and beautiful film.
Just 14 years after Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles” (2004), America’s favorite superhero family returns with yet another comedic, action-packed story—complete with some extremely timely themes and messages.
The film is set right after the events of its predecessor, beginning with the Parr family going out of hiding during an attempt to stop the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), causing tons of damage to the city and getting the Parrs into legal trouble, as superheroes are still mistrusted by the general public. Fortunately, wealthy entrepreneur and superhero fan Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) plan to change public opinion by recruiting Elastigirl, also known as Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), and publicizing her heroic acts of fighting crime.
In a twist of gender dynamics, Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) ends up becoming (and struggling as) a supportive stay-at-home dad, while remaining conflicted with the idea of not being chosen for the job. However, the film manages to find much comedy in his antics with his three children and their issues, especially with baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) discovering his new powers.
While the film does try to cram very much into the span of only two hours, resulting in some aspects disappointingly not receiving much attention (such as the many new different superhero characters introduced in the film), “Incredibles 2” remains one of Pixar’s greatest—or rather, most incredible—works yet.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
The fifth movie of the “Jurassic Park” film franchise, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” is an unimaginative cliché that will hugely disappoint its fans.
“Fallen Kingdom” seems to be more of an action thriller than a sci-fi film. Though there are several points in the movie where the plot employs some hallmark sci-fi themes—such as the ethical problems of genetic technology, the greed of big corporations, and the implications of weaponizing clones—the inclusion of such subjects in the film is marginal at best, and the majority of the moral questions touched upon in the movie are left unanswered. It feels more like a setup for yet another installment in the series, rather than something into which an interesting narrative idea is directed.
In addition, the majority of the characters are flat and lifeless; they are only there to move the story along. One such plot-centric character, Maisie (Isabella Sermon) ends up being extremely two-dimensional. The audience is forced to believe in the credibility of her character, despite the fact that they are given virtually no background information on her other than the fact that she is the granddaughter of the wealthy philanthropist Lockwood (James Cromwell), who happens to have worked with the original creator of Jurassic Park. In addition, her actions are peculiarly mature and unrealistic for a young child, especially toward the ending, and her supposedly mysterious origins end up being underwhelming and far-fetched due to the film’s many unsubtle hints.
The original “Jurassic Park” displayed interesting themes regarding humanity's relationship with nature and our desire to bring it to heel throughout. This latest installment is rather conspicuously lacking in that department. Instead, we simply get scenes of wanton slaughter and a cool movie monster, and while that may seem compelling, the film ultimately disappoints and fails to live up to its potential.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”
Just as a spoonful of sugar can help the medicine go down, a few minutes of good-hearted laughs can help the dramatic truth of conversion camp sit well in the minds of the general audience. Starting in 2012 as a 480-page book banned from certain schools, the story has since been slimmed down to the bare minimum. Its last few chapters now lie reimagined in the hands of director Desiree Akhavan. Akhavan manages to portray the life of Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) and the challenges she faces during the summer of 1993 in a completely refreshing manner. Instead of a dated story skirting around the issue and trying not to upset anyone, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” gives a sense of timelessness and gets right to the point, accomplishing this in enough of a lighthearted manner to be fit for the main screen.
It all begins when Cameron is sent to the fictional camp God’s Promise by her conservative aunt. She soon makes friends with the outcasts of the group, Jane and Adam (Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck, respectively). A few classic soul-baring, weed-smoking moments later, the characters have found themselves and the audience can leave feeling they learned something about teenagers, the LGBTQ+ community, and the complex motives behind the adults working at a place like this.
However, despite the wonderful efforts of the director and cast, it still remains that the best part about this movie is the very fact that it exists at all. The fact that it went unrated, avoiding the certain fate of all LGBTQ+ movies: getting rated R because a girl kissing another girl is somehow more risqué than hetero sex. The fact that millions of Americans are seeing the trailers that interrupt their morning news, the posters all over the streets, and the ads on the internet. And most importantly, the fact that a movie has been created to talk in place of the people that try to ignore it.