They say camping is roughing it. But on a recent camping trip – travelling around Lake Superior – perhaps the roughest part was finding a decent movie to go to in the evening. I tried to pick campgrounds near towns that were large enough to have at least one movie theatre. In Mackinaw City Michigan, for example, there was the Courtyard. In Iron Wood, Mi. – a stone’s throw from the Wisconsin border in the UP – there was Cloverland Cinemas. And in lovely Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – a tourist and outdoor recreational mecca north of Green Bay – there was good ol’ Cinema 6. In one city, Thunder Bay, Ontario, I decamped in a motel because of a massive downpour. The helpful clerk at the reservation desk recommended Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors with Zac Efron and Seth Rogen. But when I discovered my room’s cable had Turner Classic Movies I knew I need not go anywhere else and opted for Howard Hawks’s 1938 Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and an extremely zany Kate Hepburn. Finally in South Haven, Michigan, the only movie at the Michigan Theatre (how many Michigan / State Theatres are there in the state of Michigan? There are also ones in Ann Arbor and Traverse City) I hadn’t seen was Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. But by this point I had had my fill of schlock so went back to the campground to make a, well, campfire instead….. The thing to know about small theatres in Anywhere North America is that the offerings are, shall we say, limited (and not in engagement). Let’s call them Top of the Schlock. So in Mackinaw City I chose what I thought was the best, or least worst. That was Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent. In Iron Wood, it was, alas, Neighbors. And in Sturgeon Bay it was Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla. Here are capsule reviews:
Maleficent: It makes sense that Stromberg, who directed the otherworldly and spooky 2006 Pam’s Labyrinth, made this, since Maleficient’s forests are as exotic and creepy. This is a remake of Sleeping Beauty, folks, and the special effects are impressive. If you like sci-fi, chivalry, knights and castles, and all that stuff, this is for you, though it didn’t seem to set the few kids in the audience on fire.
Neighbors: I have to hand it to director Stoller. He threw everything into this kind of Animal House update. The arguments, fighting, and alcohol and drug induced partying seemed all very real, taking me back, er, to my own high school years. But for all the fireworks and mayhem this seemed labored and beside the point.
Godzilla: This very realistic remake has Godzilla battling monster bird like creatures, all feeding off of radiation, as per the reason for the original Godzilla franchise. The scenes of a destroyed Waikiki Beach or San Francisco are extremely well done – what they can do with effects these days! But this is a dark and depressing movie, making one feel there is no human hope to survive powers we cannot control.