These are three movies from the cineplexes that should not be overlooked from the summer:
3. Fahrenheit 9/11
To be completely honest, I cannot vouch that everything in Michael Moore’s latest documentary is true, nor would I even try to defend this film as an unbiased viewpoint. That said, “Fahrenheit 9/11” is Michael Moore’s best documentary yet, and perhaps one of the best documentaries of all time, for other reasons. Firstly, for the first time in his filmmaking career, Moore is able to convey his point well without making himself look terribly haughty or intrusive. Through a combination of extremely apt clips and facts and tact in the questions he asks, it is the people he documents — most notably the Bushes, Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush Administration — who receive our attention, not the man asking the questions. Secondly, Moore shows an extremely acute talent for knowing when to be subtle and when to be very obvious.
A particularly powerful moment in the film is when Moore shows a copy of George W. Bush’s dismissal papers from the U.S. Army to a two-second clip of Eric Clapton’s classic, “Cocaine.” Finally, to summarize all that makes the film brilliant, Moore just picks the right things to show us and the right order to do it in. There is no making fun of rednecks (as there was in “Bowling for Columbine”) and no ladies skinning rabbits (as there were in “Roger and Me”). The film is a compilation of at times humorous, but more often disturbing images of the people in charge of our country. There is no promise that the film is a complete story — at its heart, it can really be called more propaganda than documentary — but what we are shown accomplishes just what it’s meant to, striking more fear than ever in Americans that perhaps the greatest threat of all to our national well-being comes not from without, but from within.
2. The Bourne Supremacy
The second chapter in Robert Ludlum’s story of rogue CIA operative Jason Bourne wins my vote for one of the best films of the summer for accomplishing something that every film, and particularly every action film should strive for — total unpredictability. The film begins with an interesting case of dramatic irony; Bourne (Matt Damon) has been framed for the murder of two CIA agents and, immediately thereafter, an attempt is made on Bourne’s life. Each thinking the other party is responsible, CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Bourne begin a game of cat and mouse, both trying, in vain, to hunt down the other and hopefully shed light on the situation. Meanwhile, Bourne experiences new dream-like visions from before his accident (from the first movie) and tries throughout to determine what they mean. Making matters all the more difficult, seemingly every time that the truth comes at all in sight, all new alliances and betrayals are revealed and everything settles back into chaos, leaving the audience perpetually in limbo. Also of note are the interesting styles of cinematography, camerawork and use of focus implemented by director Paul Greengrass and cinematographer Oliver Wood. The camera is often shaking and moving, especially during action scenes, which is surprisingly not frustrating; it adds an apt sense of chaos and loss of control to the raucous goings-on, including the brilliantly done chase scene near the end of the film. Finally, the film strikes a very resonant chord with audiences this summer, taking on CIA mishaps and international intelligence disasters while making the ever-present and always chilling comment that such chaos is by no means a fantasy.
1. Spiderman 2
It’s always a pleasant surprise when the sequel to a movie is better than the first. But “Spiderman 2” is more than just better than its predecessor; it redefines the action movie genre. The second installment in director Sam Raimi’s epic of the Marvel Comics web-slinger is one of the most ground-breaking action movies of the past several years, and for reasons you might not expect. There is more than enough action –Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman faces off against deranged physicist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a.k.a Dr. Octopus, in a bank, on rooftops and even on a moving train. But the film’s real strength is what comes between the action sequences. Spiderman 2 focuses less on those who need Spiderman’s help and more on the troubles of Peter Parker himself. Parker, overburdened with his superheroic duties, finds himself doing poorly in class, angering various employers and insulting his friends and family with his perpetual scarceness.
Eventually, Peter’s depression causes his powers to weaken: his friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) is bitter over Peter’s job photographing Spiderman, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is engaged to be married and even Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) begins to resent Peter’s behavior. All of this leads up to the low point of the film, when Peter renounces his responsibilities with the saddening line, “I am Spiderman … no more.” The film is less about Spiderman than it is about Peter, the man who has to live with his Uncle’s words, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” “Spiderman 2” is so meaningful and powerful because the message is more than we all need our hero. More often than not, it’s the hero who needs us.