NO, NOT THAT KIND OF "ADULT MOVIE:" I haven't blogged about movies in a while, but is it just me, or are we in the midst of one of the best movie summers for grown-ups in quite a while? After a May and June riddled with movies that were oriented toward the lowest common denominator like "Van Helsing," "Troy," and "The Chronicles of Riddick," most of which were commercial and critical dissapointments, as we've moved into the heart of the summer, we've gotten a series of movies that have decided to not underestimate their audience's intelligence, and have turned into some of the biggest hits of the summer.
We start with "I, Robot," which, in spite of an early ad campaign which made it look like yet another Will Smith quip fest, turned out to be a surprisingly smart and provocative story about what "protecting humanity" really means. Not even a performance as stiff as Bridget Moynahan's here can spoil the fun. Yes, it's not Asimov--not even close--but it is a thoughtful and intelligent sci-fi movie for the summer, which is a refreshing change.
It's followed by "The Bourne Supremacy." Never mind that the title makes no real sense (what exactly is Bourne "supreme" over?) and that the plot is almost too complicated for its own good, the movie shows guts with a major first act plot twist that had me surprised, and by instead of casting people for looking like action stars (Vin Diesel, I'm looking at you), casting real actors/actresses (Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, and Brian Cox). Add to this a style of shooting that heightens the intensity and intimacy of the story (most of the film is shot with handheld, shaky, cameras), and you've got a deligtful summer movie. What's interesting is that "Bourne," which take pains to force the viewer to work out what's going on, will probably be one of the most profitable of the "big summer blockbusters" because cost was kept low.
This week, we get an unexpected treat in "The Manchurian Candidate." I haven't seen the original Sinatra/Harvey/Lansbury version, so I can't judge it by comparison, but what Demme and his cast does with the premise makes for an exciting ride. Particularly of note is the fact that in a straight thriller, Demme (as he did in "Silence of the Lambs") is able to get great performances out of his three leads. In particular, Liev Schrieber is frighteningly good as the titular character, who probably has the toughest job in the script. Demme's filmmaking technique (a lot of askew shots and extreme closeups) does, at times, bug, but like the similar camera work in "Bourne Supremacy," it brings an immediacy to the film.
Next week looks to continue the trend, with Michael Mann's "Collateral" arriving, which, by early accounts, is another high quality movie for adults.