Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Origin Movies

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join our merry band of regulars by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE! My favorite holiday is here once again. A time where we have to focus on nothing but the good things in life: namely food and all the things we're thankful for. And dear reader, I have to say, I'm thankful for you. Yes, YOU. Whoever you are that's reading this. Because there's something unsatisfying and slightly sad about writing a blog post that no one reads. So thank you for taking the plunge and reading these posts. I know I don't post as often as I probably should (follow me on Letterboxd for more frequent, albeit short, movie reviews), but I do want to post more often. It's just that life doesn't always allow for it. And every time I think I'm turning a corner and will be able to devote more time to this here little blog, something else pops up. But it's okay! Because when I can, I post, and when I post, we can have a conversation in the comments - and that's REALLY why I do this. To have conversations with people about movies. Movies we love, movies we hate, and movies we're mixed on.

This week on Thursday Movie Picks, we're talking Origin Movies. Which I guess just has the "superhero" implied, as I can't think of anything else that might have an origin movie. I welcome others to challenge that notion with their picks.

Frankly, the recent spate of "origin stories" has been mind-numbing to me. They're pretty much all the same, and of generally similar (low) quality. But that could just be my annoyance with superhero movies rearing its ugly head. There are just too many of them nowadays, and none of them have left me completely satisfied. That said, I do generally like these particular films more than I dislike them.

X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn, 2011) I make no bones about the fact that I much prefer the X-Men movies to any of the other Marvel movies, but that's because I have memories of the Saturday morning cartoons, and because there is a HUMONGOUS cast of characters. Yes, it sucks that according to the movies the only ones worth a damn are Professor X, Magneto, and Wolverine, but the constant team dynamic is always engaging - don't like the main character in this scene? Don't worry, your favorite will have a big moment in 5, 4, 3, 2... And these characters are just more fun to watch than the (surprisingly) sullen Avengers. Plus, this particular movie takes place in the swinging '60s, and makes fantastic use of that in moments. Plus, there has never been a better superhero pair than James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, here seen when they meet and take on a crew of youngsters who have mutant "powers". First Class is surprisingly fun, even for a series that always was fun, but more importantly handles Big Issues with the importance they deserve while still keeping a light touch. As a bonus, it features the greatest use of the one PG-13 F-word EVER.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011) There was NO reason to ever expect that this was ever going to be anything but crap - was anyone clamoring for a prequel to the Charlton Heston classic Planet of the Apes? Much less one starring James Franco? But whoever was behind this did two things right: They gave the story an undeniable, emotional storyline (a baby chimp is given a potential Alzheimer's cure that increases his brain function, by a well-meaning scientist whose father is suffering from the disease), and they hired Andy Serkis to play that chimp, named Caesar, and digital effects house WETA to bring Caesar to life. Serkis works wonders in the role, and while skeptics and naysayers may discount his performance as all digital trickery, there's no denying that the film's most powerful moment - Caesar finding his voice - is all him. This is one of the most thoughtful, well-constructed blockbusters of the '00s.

Monsters University (Dan Scanlon, 2013) No, this one isn't really great. The story is rote (jock and nerd are roommates, compete against each other and then together for a common goal), and a lot of the jokes are surprisingly stale. But this is a world you just want to savor, with something new and creative lurking in every corner of the frame. You really get the feeling watching this that the Pixar animators were just given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, and they played around with EVERYTHING. Character design, set dressing, sound design... there is a sense of unbridled creativity coursing through every frame of Monsters University. Which makes it even more of a pity that the story itself is so been-there-done-that.


  1. I’ve seen the first 2 and enjoyed both. When I heard they were remaking Planet of the Apes, I did give a couple of eye rolls because I thought of the Mark Wahlburg movie and even the sequel with James Franciscus. I actually enjoyed this film and the sequels and think Andy Serkis is excellent. The origin X Men film is good and I liked the cartoon but I have become confused with all the X men films. I still have to see Monsters Inc.

  2. I'm thankful for you too,Dan! Me felliw tap dance lover lol.

    I really love the POTA franchise. It got better and better. The other two didn't work for me.

  3. HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you too!!

    I too am suffering Superhero burnout but X-Men:First Class was a good film in the series and explained a great deal of how things came to be.

    I haven't seen a single one of the new Planet of the Apes. I saw all the 70's originals, hell I even watched the short-lived TV show that starred James Naughton but that piece of crap redo with Mark Wahlberg killed all my interest in continuing. I've heard frequently that they are good so perhaps I'll break down someday.

    Do I even have to say I haven't seen Monster University? No I didn't think so. :-)

    I thought superhero too when I first saw the theme for the week and then scrupulously avoided them. Perhaps I looked at it differently than I was supposed to but I went with the first in each series of films.

    The Bourne Identity (2002)-A young man (Matt Damon) is found floating in the ocean by fisherman, bullet riddled and with no memory of who he is or how he came to be in his situation. As he recovers he discovers he knows many languages, is versed in complex defensive skills and for some reason has a computer chip implanted in his hip. Sensing danger he assumes the identity Jason Bourne, the name on his passport and sets off to discover the facts of his life. He is actually a pursued agent with the bulk of the film following efforts to eliminate him during which he uses his skills to defend himself helped by a young woman (Franka Potente) he enlists along the way. Kinetic, exciting opener to the series followed by several excellent (and a few not so hot) sequels.

    Dirty Harry (1971)-With San Francisco in the grip of a maniac known as Scorpio police inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is put on the case since others have been ineffective. Harry, untroubled by things like procedure and rules, opens a can of whoop-ass on a variety of lowlifes and criminals in his pursuit of the lunatic. Responsible for the catch phrase "You've got to ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" this massively successful film lead to four sequels.

    A Family Affair (1937)-First film of the enormously successful Andy Hardy series follows the everyday adventures of small town California Judge Hardy (Lionel Barrymore in the first/Lewis Stone in the series), his wife (Spring Byington in the original/Fay Holden series), two children Marion (always Cecilia Parker) and Andy (Mickey Rooney) and their live in Aunt Millie (Sara Haden). This time out the judge is up for reelection but crooked politicians and a hack at the local paper try to throw the vote. Meanwhile oldest daughter Joan (who more or less vanished later on) returns home because of troubles in her marriage but after Andy jumps into action and has a man to man talk with his dad all turns out A-Okay! Sprightly piece of Americana was so successful (earning over 2 ½ million on a budget of less than 200 thousand) it begat a series of 15 follow-ups that proved such a money mill MGM used them to introduce their most promising up and comers including Lana Turner, Kathryn Grayson, Esther Williams and Judy Garland who became a semi-regular as next door neighbor Betsy Booth who pined for Andy though he was going steady with the short tempered Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford). These helped turn Rooney into a top 10 box office attraction for many years including twice at number one.

  4. Oh, I love all three of these movies! Great picks!