Tag Archives: locke peterseim

The Great Lie at the Peak of “Everest”

Summary: Here Locke Peterseim reviews the new film “Everest”. As he does so well, he provides insights not just about the film, but also about the story it tells of business and personal adventurism in the 21st century. See the links at the end for the trailer of “Everest” and for stunning views of the actual Mt. Everest.

Poster for "Everest".

 

The Great Lie at the Peak of “Everest”

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
Reposted with his generous permission.

In recent years I’ve often used the term “spectacle” as a critical slur when it comes to CGI scenery over substance.

But there’s reason I get on my soapbox about moviegoers’ increasing addiction to grand cinematic (usually CGI) imagery, and it’s not just because a growing number of popular films spend so much time and budget on money-shot visuals and so little on characters, story, or themes. It’s because spectacle doesn’t just dazzle, it seduces. And in that seduction, it can deceive, delude, and betray.

Anymore I cringe when I hear some hack refer to Hollywood as “The Dream Factory” — not because I don’t think films shouldn’t ever contain hope and inspiration or even escapist fantasy or stress-relieving comedy. It’s because those things should always be earned and supported by strong, multi-dimensional films.

But if you let children vote for what they want for dinner, they’re gonna choose candy and cupcakes most nights. And in the past 50 years, corporate Hollywood has come to increasingly let the audiences’ box-office vote become the only voice the Industry listens to. So we’re not getting escapism and empty-calorie dreams once in a while for dessert — we’re getting them for nearly every (at least mainstream Cineplex Hollywood) meal.

We’re all aware of this when we watch a Jurassic Park or Avengers or Fast and Furious movie. Think of those as Hostess snack cakes — everyone knows what’s in them when they buy and eat them; everyone knows they’ll get a sugar rush and later a stomachache. The problem is that our steady diet of empty cinematic calories, usually in the form of awesome CGI grandeur, has numbed us to our own addiction. We ingest so much spectacle, we’re no longer consciously aware of what it does to us.

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Black Mass: a light film about an important story of US corruption

Summary: Here Locke Peterseim gives one of his typically excellent reviews. He looks at Black Mass, explaining not just the film but also how and why it gets brought to the screen. The film tells one of the most important stories of corrupt law enforcement in US history, showing how the system is fundamentally dysfunctional. Unfortunately, unlike the revelations of Frank Serpico, there was no equivalent of the NYC’s 1970 Knapp Commission to drive reforms. We’re not what we were, but can become so again.

Poster for "Black Mass"

The Hollow Weight of Black Mass

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
Reposted with his generous permission.

We’re all familiar with the Big Pivot the Cinematic Industrial Complex makes over Labor Day, when suddenly the theaters are no longer stuffed with superheroes and exploding action vehicles (starring Good Actors Paying for New Homes in Southern Europe), but instead begin to fill with Important Meaningful films about things (starring Good Actors Doing Serious Acting).

But whether their subject is Transforming Super-powered Race Cars or Exploring Human Nature and the Quest for Truth, the questions remains the same when approaching the new seasonal slate of films: Why is This Thing Here? Or more importantly, Why Am I Expected to Spend Two-plus Hours Watching It?

The answer to the first question is simple: To win awards. I know that sounds crass and cynical, and I know very well that many really talented and artistically sincere writers, directors, and even actors make truly amazing films because they share a desire to say something with their cinematic work — not, to get awards. (Though most will admit after a drink or two that awards are certainly nice, in terms of gratification and appreciation, but they also come in handy when lining up future passion projects.)

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The one review for all this summer’s hottest blockbusters!

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim gives us something different than his usually insightful review of a summer blockbuster; he gives a macro-review of summer blockbusters as an art form. What does their triumph over what might be called “real” films (i.e., with plots, characters, etc) reveal about us? This is one of his best. Post your thoughts in the comments.

Avengers Age of Ultron poster

Lost in Movies’ Magical Moments!
………Or How I Didn’t Spend My Summer

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
Reposted with his generous permission.

Oh hey, look, it’s officially the end of the summer movie season.

I had a half dozen clever ways into this piece, but let’s cut to the chase (scenes, literally): I didn’t write much about this summer’s big blockbuster “air-conditioning-and-popcorn” movies.

I didn’t write much about the summer’s small art-house indie films, either, for a variety of reasons I’m working to remedy, but in part because even as I near 50, I’m still somewhat conditioned and programmed to focus first on the big-name, big-box-office summer action movies. They get “stuck in my craw,” and when I couldn’t write about them this summer, for reasons I’ll elaborate on here today, I found myself unable to write about much else until I cleared the flue. Or craw… or whatever this metaphor was about…

Since my youth, I’ve been told (by studios and entertainment media, in the past couple decades by online social media, and always by myself) that Summer Movies are “special;” that if they’re not always cinematically deep, they’re culturally, seasonally, personally important. Most of all, Summer Movie Season (and the upcoming Awards Season) is intentionally, collectively branded by the studios and the Grand Entertainment Marketing Machine as Something We Are Supposed to Care About (i.e. “Spend Our Money On”).

In past summers I’d written about the nostalgic pull of the “idea” of these big summer movies, all of it keyed directly into the warm emotional glow of my 10-16-year-old self’s rose-tinted memories of lining up on summer sidewalks to see films like Star Wars, Empire, Raiders, E.T., and even, in a rare case of my young-adult self successfully capturing that childhood thrill, Burton’s first Batman (which I saw in my early-20s rather than my teens). Right up until the last five years (not coincidentally, around when I began to write about film professionally), I could still muster something like that excitement and giddy anticipation for the Summer Movie Season, all of it, again, fueled almost purely on nostalgia, not reality. “Chasing the experience,” we call it.

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Review of “Inside Out”: fun for kids & disturbing fun for adults

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Inside Out. Kids love its great story and fine graphics. Adults love it for more interesting and perhaps disturbing reasons. Read on to learn more.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Inside Out - Poster

Where Were Sullen, Bitter, Grumpy, and Cynical in Inside Out?

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
23 July 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Growing up, we ‘70s kids had 3 revolutionary social-emotional concepts rammed down our impressionable youthful minds by pop culture and the public school system (or both, in the case of Sesame Street and the multi-media, post-hippie, self-empowerment Free to Be You and Me):

  • Be yourself, no matter what other people think.
  • Nurture and maintain your Inner Child all your life.
  • Get in touch with your feelings.

(Tied for fourth place were “Don’t go in the water” and “May the Force be with you.”)

Those messages arrived in sharp, reactionary, post-‘60s contrast to the stoic American Pioneer culture of our parents and grandparents, whose hard-bitten mantras (at least in my rural Midwest) were more along the lines of Don’t stand out, Grow up and be responsible, Work hard, Bury your hardships (and a large number of your family members) and move on, and Keep your damn feelings to yourself. In fact, much of 20th-century literature, film, and television was a steady Modern, then Post-modern, effort to undermine exactly those repressed and repressive societal and emotional restraints.

All of which, in part, helps explain why adults (ranging from college kids to post-grad media hipsters to young parents of their own young children) have lost their damn minds this summer in over-the-top praise of Pixar’s (admittedly well-crafted and highly entertaining) animated feature Inside Out. Or, to put it less fairly, “Just what we need: Another kids film that makes adults bawl over a ‘lost’ youth they’ve never really grown out of. Don’t you have to fully leave childhood before you can miss it?”

Okay, I’m being overly snarky about Inside Out, so I want to be clear on two points: Yes, it’s a delightful film, and No, I’m certainly not saying we as a culture should go back to being stoic, emotionally closed-off lumps of repression. But I can’t help but feel that as a culture (and with all the sweeping hypocritical generalities that statement entails) our “embrace your emotions” pendulum may now have swung about as far to the touchy-feely left as it needs to, with poor Inside Out as Exhibit A.

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Tomorrowland: If You Don’t Like This Movie, You’ll Kill Our Future

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Tomorrowland, Disney’s “ode to a pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate, pre-counterculture past when the early ‘60s, Space Race, Camelot-fueled notion of tomorrow was still bright and gleaming, filled with shining spires and Jetson-styled flying cars and jet packs — it’s pure nostalgia for a lost future.” It’s only a lost future if we no longer believe it’s possible or no longer work to make it happen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We’ve been looking for someone like you for a very long time.”

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland: If You Don’t Like This Movie, You’ll Kill Our Future

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
2 June 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Disney’s Tomorrowland — directed by Brad Bird, written by Damon Lindelof, and starring George Clooney — is a plea for a New Frontier of imagination; for positivity in the face of seemingly overwhelming negativity, fear, and pessimism.

It is that rare giant, tent-pole summer blockbuster that asks — nay, begs — us to set aside the doom and gloom of disaster movies and Apocalyptic dystopias (darn you, Mad Max!) and be more creative and constructive humans. To turn away from fear and apathy, roll up our metaphorical (and literal) sleeves, and get to work envisioning and building the bright and shining jet-pack future we once dreamed of.

All of this nifty messaging is (barely) disguised as a young-adolescent action-adventure tale full of sci-fi flights of nostalgic retro-futurism fancy, noble scientific elegance, and can-do inventive spirit.

It’s packed into a two-hour-plus film chock full of “dazzling, entertaining fun and excitement,” complete with spectacular visuals, crackerjack action scenes, an antique steampunk rocket ship hidden in the Eiffel Tower, and George Clooney proving he can be effortlessly charming even when playing an (only on the outside!) embittered, curmudgeonly crank.

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Our Burning Skull: The Dark, Brutal Ritual of Mad Max: Fury Road

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim pens the review you’ve been waiting for — Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s America as seen in the funhouse mirror.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Mad Max: Fury Road

Our Burning Skull: The Dark, Brutal Ritual of Mad Max: Fury Road

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
17 May 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Mention the Movie Summer of ’82 around fan boys of a certain age, and you’ll be met with a mix of ecstatic exhortations and hushed reverence.

Quickly someone will begin reciting the litany, the ode to what is considered the Greatest Geek Summer Ever: Blade Runner, E.T., Poltergeist, Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III, Tron, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Thing, Night Shift, and of course, the summer ’82 American release of the 1981 Australian action-sequel The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2).

Imagine what that was like back then; getting off work from your crappy summer job and going to the air-conditioned theater every weekend to see another of those films for the first time. (Or later in the summer, for the second or third times.) (Or likewise, the Summer of ’83, as more homes started to get cable TV and premium movie channels for the first time only to find those Summer of ’82 films playing non-stop. A very important alternative for those geeks under 17 who lacked “cool” parents to take them to R-rated movies in the theater.)

If you talk to (mostly male) film critics and genre fans over the age of 35, they’ll effuse rightfully over the amazing quality, or at least daring and influence of those Summer of ’82 films. (The 30th anniversary a few years ago produced a tsunami of gushing blog ink.) They (myself included) will bemoan the fact that, coming as it did in a glorious cinematic DMZ between the fading independent American film spirit of the ‘70s and the coming Rise of the ‘80s Summer Blockbuster Franchise and the Dawn of the Soulless Excessive Blockbuster, 1982 was the last time you could see that many truly impressive, universally enjoyable films in one summer. A seeming last oasis before “popular entertainment” and “box-office hit” didn’t automatically equal “bland, branded, over-hyped and over-marketed commercial studio product.”

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Review of Avengers I: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews the first Avengers film, a timely flash-back that helps us put A2-Ultron in context. Unsurprisingly, much of this review applies just as well to Avengers-Ultron. Disney manufactures entertainment products to tight standards.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Avengers poster

The Avengers: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
4 May 2012. Reposted with his generous permission.

For decades now the Official Summer Movie Season has kicked off the first weekend of May with a big action movie, and eight out of the last ten of those have featured Marvel superheroes. Three of the last four have been parts of Marvel’s ambitious “Avengers Initiative” franchise in which 2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2, and last year’s Thor and Captain America laid the building blocks for the coming together of this weekend’s super-group geekgasm The Avengers. *

The Avengers must court a variety of patrons. To comic-book fans, it’s the fulfillment of decades of furtive wishing. To the rest of the movie-going public, it once again marks that heady, hyped, and welcome start of the Cineplex Summer. To Marvel Studios it is the payoff — and massive box-office payday — to a long, risky franchise gamble.

As if all that wasn’t enough for a perfect storm of pop-culture expectations, The Avengers is multiplied into stratospheric geekery by the adoration of dedicated Whedonites — those of us fans of the film’s director and writer Joss Whedon who worship every insightfully clever and achingly melancholic bit of genre genuflection penned by the self-deprecating Buffy/Angel/Firefly auteur.

The Avengers is nothing more — or less — than a superhero movie giant-ized to Team-Up size. It’s not a gritty reinvention or sub-textual exploration or masterpiece of the superhero genre. It’s big and shiny and full of lots of moving parts (including — be still my fan-boy heart — the Helicarrier and Quinjets!), not all of them meshing in perfect cinematic clockwork. In many ways it’s like any other of its ilk — all the familiar tropes and action beats are here. (My lord, I’d give up my Limited Edition Aquaman Under-Roos for a new action film that doesn’t feel compelled to have yet another pointless, mindless car chase.)

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