The Bling Ring (2013), directed by Sofia Coppola
Man of Steel (2013), directed by Zack Snyder
Much Ado About Nothing (2012), directed by Joss Whedon
You know those times when you just can’t shake the sleep off? You feel like your head is in the clouds as you struggle to focus and get on with your day? Well, you know what the cure is.
Oh yes, we’re turning it up a notch today, my readers.
(OK, so what’s really up is I’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately but haven’t had the time to write about some of them so I’m doing it this way to catch up. The other way sounds more intense though, no?)
Up first is Sofia Coppola’s latest peek into the lives of the rich and narcissistic, The Bling Ring, a sort of Spring Breakers-lite on the trappings of a materialist and celebrity obsessed society.
The film is based on the real-life robberies of some of LA’s who’s who by a group of high school kids who managed to slip into celebrity homes and sneak out with millions of dollars worth of “product.” And we’re not talking drugs and money here. Well, some of that, but mainly purses and whatnot.
Few have more insight into the pitfalls of privilege than Sofia Coppola, who grew up in its midst thanks to her birth into New Hollywood royalty. I’m not a fanatic fan of Coppola, aside from her last film, Somewhere, which is terribly underrated and a brilliantly quiet meditation on the emptiness of fame and excess.
Unfortunately, Coppola’s style doesn’t meld well with the subject matter of The Bling Ring. Any points Coppola makes about celebrity culture and errant youth are grasped early and firmly in the film, and really no elaboration or deeper insight is gained by going any further. Instead we have scene after scene of robberies and partying, which through the unblinking stare of Coppola’s lens is, well, just plain boring.
It’s not without some lovely touches and shots, such as a one-take wide angle of the teens slipping into a celebrity home and quickly ransacking its goods. The lights turning on and off and the ant-like movement of the thieves provide a jarringly macro perspective of the crime.
Ultimately though the film is an exercise which may sound good on paper, but fails onscreen. Its points are obvious, its setup dull. And plus, call me crazy, but isn’t one of the main points of the film the danger of celebrity worship? Is making a Hollywood film about these kids really helping that?
Man of Steel, about the budgetary opposite of The Bling Ring, is a film I saw about a week ago and haven’t thought of since. That’s not a good sign.
I stick up for Zack Snyder, but I’m not sure why, other than I rather liked The Watchmen and nobody else did. In any case, this is his retelling of the Superman origin story, along with his massively scaled showdown with General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, one of my favourite actors.
It’s not so much the film is bad, it’s rather that it’s not exceptional in any way. I don’t think we needed another origin story for Superman, but even so, this one adds nothing new to the mix other than massive (albeit dark and shaky) special effects and an attempt at grandeur which falls well short of the mark.
I’m normally a proponent of the modern darker retelling of superhero stories, but if any of them lend themselves well to an old-timey spirit of good versus evil, right and wrong, it’s this Canadian creation (that’s right) and I’ll take the simplicity of the Richard Donner films over the muddled anxiety of Man of Steel any day.
Man of Steel is one of the more major disappointments of the summer so far.
On the other end we’ve got the director of the one of the biggest superhero movies of all time, Joss Whedon, going indie in all sorts of ways for his modern retelling of the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
After the grandiosity of The Avengers Whedon must have been looking to slow his roll a little, because it doesn’t get much more stripped down than this film. Largely in one location, shot in black and white and using only a handful of actors for dialogue Whedon needed only to shape and contextualize, Much Ado About Nothing approaches Shakespeare with a crisp, cool simplicity.
I’m no Whedon fanboy at all (I disliked Cabin in the Woods and have never watched his TV shows) but his nerdy humour and eye for quirk work well with the play’s story of mixed messages and veiled love.
He approaches the material with a breezy zaniness, staying true to Shakespeare’s comedy, which, let’s face it, was often rather silly.
Much Ado About Nothing is best for its humour. It was pretty neat to be in a theatre full of regular ole people laughing themselves silly over Shakespeare. It’s a lovely blend of the humour of the words working with the sometimes slapstick work of the actors to create a movie I imagine anyone finding funny. It’s really a lot of fun.
Beyond that the black and white looks great, the actors seem to be having a lot of fun (especially Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk as bumbling cops) and the whole thing comes off as a particularly enjoyable lark.
Well done, Mr. Whedon.
So there, I’m glad we had a chance to catch up. How are things with you anyway?
The Bling Ring, Man of Steel and Much Ado About Nothing are in cinemas now.