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It hasn’t all been block-busting superheroes and science fiction. Occasionally, I’ve opted for the lighter, the artier, the sillier, the grimier.

Moonrise Kingdom
My first Wes Anderson film was Rushmore. I didn’t know anything about the film, or the director, and saw it on a whim. It was such a delight. In the days that followed, I bought the brilliant soundtrack (back in the days when people actually purchased CDs) and sought out Anderson’s first film, Bottle Rocket. I was hooked. I was lucky, too: the local cineplex pulled the film from its roster a week later.

In the years since, I’ve seen every one of his films. I adore his quirky style, his use of music, his interesting cast of characters, many of whom make repeat appearances. Naturally, then, I made it a priority to see his latest, Moonrise Kingdom.

I’ll say this: while it isn’t his strongest film (wedged between Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited, in my humble opinion), Moonrise Kingdom is good fun. And the soundtrack, which mined Benjamin Britten, was a lovely reminder of my choirboy days of yore. Oh, and Bill Murray’s madras pants were awesome.

Magic Mike
Steven Soderbergh made a movie about male strippers. It features Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum and some youthful lad named Alex Pettyfer—all of whom are filmed in various stages of undress. What more do I need to say, really? Oh, right: a nude Olivia Munn.

But seriously, if you peel back the layers, get past the sun-drenched Florida scenery, beautiful bronzed bodies, hilarious dance numbers, McConaughey’s scene-stealing shenanigans, and yes, a nude Olivia Munn, you discover a tender movie that documents one man’s journey from innocence to experience, a veritable celluloid Bildungsroman for our times.

Cough! Hack! Spit!

Do you believe that bullshit? Me neither. Magic Mike was simply a great bit of summer fluff—and most importantly, showed a lot of skin. Enough said.

Killer Joe
A darkly comic southern romp with more sex and violence—gratuitous, of course—than you could possible shake a fried chicken leg at.

And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this bit of cinematic pulp with a screwball storyline only made believable by the sincerity with which the cast plays it. Indeed, Killer Joe works precisely because of the actors, all of whom seem to revel in their parts; no one more so, however, than Matthew McConaughey, who is mesmerizing as a deviant, murderous psychopath.

It’s not for the feint of heart, or those with a low tolerance for violent sex and sexy violence. However, if you’re willing to give it a go, don’t mind a bit of art for art’s sake, then this one is a hoot.

Ted
How could I pass on this, Seth MacFarlane’s first feature film?

Not only does MacFarlane write, direct and provide the voice of the title character, a foul-mouthed teddy-bear, he also manages to convince Patrick Stewart to narrate the thing and co-opt Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis to go along for the ride.

Ted is funny, filthy, and yet tender-hearted, too. It has “repeat viewing” written all over it. Indeed, when I think about each of the aforementioned films, I only foresee myself reaching for Ted again, and again. Frankly, MacFarlane’s created a modern comedic classic. Hats off to him.

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I’ve never understood the aversion to seeing a movie alone. Is there a more anti-social activity than sitting in a darkened theatre to watch a film, during which time talking and texting are verboten? Just ask Fred Willard.

But seriously, I love going to the movies. I’m easy to please, too: my tastes run the gamut of art-house to big-budget, drama to comedy, epic to epically stupid.

Moreover, with the humidity keeping Toronto’s average daily temperature hovering around +30C, simply sitting for a few hours in an air conditioned theatre is a treat unto itself.

And so I’ve found myself at the movies a fair bit this summer, often opting for the big-budget blockbusters. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Herewith, I humbly offer my take on…

The Amazing Spiderman
Like so many people, I was skeptical this reboot would hold up; so much so, I avoided the film in its first few weeks. Then, a random outing to the cinema and a sold-out first-choice meant I was stuck: see this film, or turn around and walk home. I saw the film, and was I ever pleasantly surprised. Tickled, actually.

The Amazing Spider-Man was a romp. Funny, full of action and even a little camp, it was a near-perfect summer blockbuster. But what made the film all the more entertaining, to me, was seeing, nay feeling the on-screen chemistry between the two leads, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Electrifying. I suppose it helped they’re real-life-lovers, whatever that means in Hollywood. No matter. Good fun. Money well spent.

Prometheus
Whoa. Ridley, buddy. Prometheus is at once an example of you at your best and, alas, your worst. Being a bit of a sci-fi fan (okay, nerd) I grew up on Blade Runner and Alien. Blade Runner‘s dark, dystopian future Los Angeles all but defined the look-and-feel of the future, and Alien remains the gold standard for sci-fi horror. Naturally, I was pumped for Prometheus. After your hiatus from the sci-fi genre, I, along with countless fans, was ready for your return to it.

I guess I should have done a better job of managing expectations. Your cast was solid; Fassbender was Oscar-awesome, for example. Your premise so terribly promising; a big, bold morality tale that seeks to answer one of humanity’s most enduring questions: where did we come from? Frankly, dude, you had the chance to make this generation’s 2001. And yet, you opted for something far more… pedestrian. You replaced brooding with bombs, drama with dynamite. Bummer. I fear, as with Blade Runner, we’ll have to wait for the zillionth “Director’s Cut” before we see your full vision realized. Sigh.

The Avengers
It’s all about Robert Downey Jr., er, Tony Stark. Seriously, buddy is hilarious. And this movie, The Avengers—another vehicle for him to zip around in that suit, in all its CGI glory—is classic “summer blockbuster” fun. Loud. Silly. Packed with action. Samuel L. Jackson.

I haven’t been a faithful follower of the films that culminate in this one, Marvel’s Magnum Opus. However, I’ve been told I didn’t miss much by skipping Thor, though I’m sorry I didn’t catch Iron Man 2. Nevertheless, for even a casual comics fan, Joss Wheddon managed to bring me up to speed pretty quickly on whatever it might have been I missed in what passes for a plot in Marvel’s universe. Not that I was expecting, or looking for a densely-packed, character-driven drama in this one; no, it was undoubtedly a hot day and I was merely looking for a bit of light-hearted escapism, which is precisely what I got.

Thank goodness.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight RisesI’d been waiting for this one. So, too, was just about everybody by the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s near perfect second Batman flick, The Dark Knight. Nolan did not disappoint.

Among other things, I respect Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker because he, like Roger Ebert, loathes 3D technology, preferring to use other means, like IMAX, to enhance and expand cinema-goers’ experiences. While I did not have the pleasure to see The Dark Knight Rises in all its IMAX glory (nearly a full hour of the movie was filmed with IMAX cameras), I don’t think I suffered much without it. I was still able to appreciate the scope and sweep of Nolan’s vision, this time situated in Pittsburgh.

As with his previous Bat flicks, the standout wasn’t the Bat himself, though Bale does an admirable job; nay, as before it was the supporting cast that really made the movie soar. Tom Hardy is brilliant. I could listen to Marion Cotillard speak for days. Anne Hathaway manages to do the impossible: make Catwoman interesting, deep and not the butt-end of a joke (a task mastered by Halle Berry). And of course, there’s Michael Caine, who is, as always, a pleasure as Michael-Caine-As-Alfred.

As I say, though, the film isn’t perfect: it lacks the… discipline of the second. It’s not as tightly-woven, or cleanly executed. It plods, if only a little. Still, as both a film unto itself and the final film in Nolan’s trilogy, it is solid—and my hands-down favourite of this summer’s blockbusters.

I can’t recall the last time I went to the movies. Regardless, I sprang at the chance to attend a screening of Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight in Paris,” with friends the other night.

What a wise decision.

I’ve long been a fan of Allen’s films — save for, “Annie Hall,” which I loathe with a rage that burns hotter than a thousand suns. (More on this in a moment.) His wit, his charm, his outlook on life; I adore them all.

His latest offering, in which Owen Wilson more than capably stands in for Allen himself, is a real gem, and a true return to form for the septuagenarian auteur.

Aside from the fact it features an extraordinary cast, many of whom ape artists and other literary icons from the 20th century (Adrien Brody’s take on Salvador Dalí is hilarious; Alison Pil is a riot as Zelda Fitzgerald; and, Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway is a scene-stealer), it puts Paris, itself, centre stage. And for that alone, I absolutely loved this film.

I fell madly in love with Paris at about this time last summer. And Allen manages to capture the magic, the mystery, the magnificence of the city in every shot, every scene. (A skill he has used to great effect when documenting New York, across the pond.) So much so, in fact, that when my friends and I were leaving the theatre, we experienced genuine culture shock when we spilled out of the Towne theatre onto the mean streets of Winnipeg’s Notre Dame Avenue — a far cry from the Notre Dame of Paris, I assure you!

Yes, I was so absorbed by Paris — of today, of the 20s, of La Belle Époque — I was momentarily disoriented by the crumbling sidewalks, empty streets, neglected façades of my hometown. For a brief second, I was at home in Paris, a foreigner in Winnipeg.

And it was that fleeting feeling that I think best captures why I loved this film so much.

Of course, I cannot say the same about Annie Hall — neither the film nor the character, herself, played painfully by Diane Keaton. (Those hats, those pants, that simpering manner. Gag me.) I suppose had I seen the film when it was first released, I might be more sympathetic. I did not, and so cannot be. I find it grating, contrived, and altogether unbearable. Thankfully, “Midnight in Paris,” is none of those things.

I highly recommend Allen’s latest film. It’s a marvellous summer treat, and a pitch-perfect postcard for the city that gave it its name.

I’ve often thought of myself as young-at-heart.

Heck, on a good day, I’d say I was damn-near cool. And yet, recently, I’ve had to confront an uncomfortable truth: I’m old.

Of course, age is relative: to an octogenarian, I’m a spring chicken; to many of my classmates, however, I’m ancient.

I was reminded of this generational divide recently, during a coffee break with some of them.

We were chatting about seminal movies from our youth. Naturally, I listed off some of my favourites: Tron, The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Labyrinth, E.T., The Dark Crystal, The Never-Ending Story.

Crickets.

Evidently, a decade might as well be a lifetime; most of my colleagues hadn’t even heard of these movies, let alone seen them.

Sigh.

A Single Man.

The film. Financed and directed by fashion designer extraordinaire Tom Ford in his directorial debut. Adapted from Christopher Isherwood‘s novel of the same name. I had the privilege of seeing it yesterday afternoon – and make no mistake, it was a privilege indeed to fork over the $10 to do so.

There are a great many reasons why I loved this film: the set design, sumptuous and meticulously executed; the musical score, hauntingly beautiful; the cinematography, hypnotic.

Most of all, however, I loved this film for the performances, most especially Colin Firth‘s. His was, to me, one of the most gut-wrenching, yet beautiful performances I’ve seen in years. (It’s no wonder he’s been nominated for a slew of awards; they are deserved, absolutely.) With his face alone, he conveys such pain, such anguish – and he does so with subtlety and with grace. It’s hard not to take your eyes off him – despite Ford’s best efforts.

Of course, Firth isn’t the only stand-out: Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult all deliver equally brilliant performances and compliment Firth’s wonderfully. Like Firth, each of them is restrained, thoughtful, delicate. (It’s a welcome change from the Pacino-esque bravado often favoured in Hollywood.)

Make no mistake, however; this is a depressing film. If you see it – and you should – be prepared to spend the rest of your day alone, exhausted and emotionally spent.

However, in the quietude of your misery, with the images replaying themselves in your mind, be prepared to be thankful, as well. For Tom Ford, an artist in the truest sense of the word, has created a thing of beauty. And you were lucky enough to see it.

Yeah, I saw it. I’m glad I did, too. Avatar is every bit as good as most critics have said it is.

Granted, I had a spitting headache after the film, which I chalk up to my eyes’ inexperience with the 3D visuals; however, that doesn’t take anything away from the film itself, which was glorious.

Whether or not you’re a fan of science fiction, if you’re a fan of movies I encourage you to see it.

As Roger Ebert said, “Once again, [Cameron] has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film.”

Extraordinary indeed, Roger. Extraordinary indeed.

I have a confession to make: I’m a Trekker.

That’s right, I love Star Trek. (Fear not, I love Star Wars, too.)

I’m partial to the films, rather than the television shows — which, for me, only include the original series and The Next Generation (Captains Kirk and Picard, for the uninitiated.) Like so many fans, I was also apprehensive about J. J. Abrams’ cinematic reboot, Star Trek, released earlier this year. I was not disappointed.

And just yesterday, the film was released on Blu-Ray. Naturally, I picked up a copy and my brother and I watched it last night. I’m happy to report it was just as good in the comfort of our home as it was in the IMAX theatre.

Pine, Quinto and Urban absolutely nail their respective performances as Kirk, Spock and Bones. Anton Yelchin and Simon Pegg delight as Checkhov and Scotty. And the Enterprise, she does a bang up job, too. (Then again, she always does.)

Abrams’ well-documented obsession with lens flares wasn’t a distraction either; on the contrary, I think they give the film an ethereal, exciting quality. (Yes, the future is that bright!)

What else? Oh yeah, two words: Leonard Nimoy.