A number of directors in the last two decades have been excellent at picking music to be a part of their movies, but for my money, the one who manages to always impress me is Wes Anderson. Starting with Bottle Rocket, Anderson has been smart to pepper all of his movies with great music. Who can think of “Judy is a Punk” by The Ramones without thinking of the visual file of Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums? Or “Let Her Dance” by The Bobby Fuller Four without thinking of Mr. Fox and family dancing at the end of Fantastic Mr. Fox? Or even “This Time Tomorrow” by The Kinks at the start of The Darjeeling Limited? These are three perfect examples of great music in Anderson’s films, but for my money, his best compilation of music comes from his second movie, which was released in 1998. The movie was Rushmore.
Following the success of Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy (the third installment of which went on to become only the second entry in that elite “Billion Dollar Club”), it seemed like every studio wanted to jump on the fantasy-adventure bandwagon. And increasingly, the inspiration for such films has seemed to come from books targeted primarily at younger readers. The more popular franchises to arise from this trend were the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia series. (The seventh and eighth Potter films are in theaters now and next summer, and the third Narnia film hits in December.)
But for those tired of the big franchises and looking for more one-off adventures, there is a pair of films that were produced by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies in the past decade that offer plenty of thrills and spills, and entertaining journeys into fantastical realms. They are clearly targeted at family audiences, but it is my opinion that there’s plenty to enjoy in them for adults as well, and I like them both more than the average Potter or Narnia film. So step into the Reel Rumbles ring for a battle of fantastic proportions as we take on The Spiderwick Chronicles vs. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Like the universe itself, film is a fragile medium that can produce monumental changes with just the slightest tweaks, twists, or turns. In life, a decision to stop off for a loaf of bread and a six-pack of beer on the way home from work can mean the difference between a lonely weekend and meeting the love of your life. Likewise in film, a change of genre can result in a vast improvement over a weaker effort or a new creation of wonder and excitement equivalent to its original source. Such is the case in this week’s Reel Rumbles as two modern classics go head-to-head, each taking a previous film comedy and twisting the concepts into different genres for fresh, exciting, and provocative filmmaking. Taking its cue from the less than stellar Dana Carvey comedy Clean Slate (1994), Memento revitalizes the film noir genre with a mystery told in reverse, while a touch of teenage angst and ominous foreshadowing makes a classic like Harvey (1950) into a dark and supernatural tale of apocalyptic proportions. So question your identity, follow the clues, and leap through the time travel continuum, it’s time for Donnie Darko vs. Memento.