Thursday, August 24, 2006

Flick the Button

Backlog. And I really haven't seen a good one in a while. Hope I'm not forgetting any.

Shopgirl: The wife picked it out. I was kind of bored with it and read for most of it. Martin's narration bothered me. Can't remember much more about it, which I think is kind of a bad thing. You're Fired.

Kicking & Screaming: The Will Ferrell one, not the Noah Baumbach one (which I really really really liked). This gives a bad name to the title, and to the sport of soccer. Wishy-washy: it didn't know if it wanted to be a sweet kid's comedy or a slow burn Ferrell explosion get-off-the-shed comedy. And it ended up neither. Waste of Duvall and Ditka. Just another stupid sports movie. I'm pretty sure the pitch included the words "montage" and "Smash Mouth song" in the same sentence somewhere. Avoid it. You're Fired.

The Family Stone: Another wife's pick. Another movie that didn't know what it wanted to be - touching, heartfelt dusfunctional family drama or madcap comedy - and it ended up being nothing at all. The thing about this movie was that it reminded me of when I write something really fast, and just hit publish or turn it in to someone without re-reading it, and there's some ridiculously obvious errors. That's what this movie's like. I mean, did the director or screenwriter not realize the evident creepiness of a dude wanting to propose to one woman, then hitting on her sister over the course of the same day? Not funny, except unintentionally. And I actually laughed my ass off when Sarah Jessica was getting dressed down by Coach. Just another piece of crap studio picture. DO NOT WATCH THIS WITH YOUR FAMILY THINKING IT'S FUNNY. I cannot stress that enough. You're Fired.

Date Movie: When I was a kid, I loved Airplane and The Naked Gun movies. Scratch that. I still love those movies. But I wonder if I grew out of sight-gag comedy or if it just wasn't as funny as it used to be. Probably more the latter, but this movie (and I saw some of one of the Scary Movie movies a while ago and it's the same thing) isn't really sight-gag, either. It's simply recognition humor. Oh... they're making fun of Wedding Crashers here. Oh... now it's Napoleon Dynamite. Oh. The jokes themselves aren't funny, they just reference something that might've been. This wasn't funny, except for one scene (the use of 50 Cent as a romantic troubador worked). The most surprising thing about this movie to me was how the core spoof was of My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Hadn't that movie left the national consciousness like 3 years ago? Can you even do a parody on something like that? You're Fired (yeah, get used to it).

Madagascar: Slapped together. Could've been funny (and yeah, the Penguins were good). But it just seems lazy. The last scene where they reveal the moral of the story felt like the end of an episode of the Simpsons where Homer tells us what we learned, only without Lisa reminding us that we didn't really learn anything and everything Homer just said is inane and moronic. It wasn't even a pretty-to-look-at animated movie. You're Fired.

The Aristocrats: One might think that this would've been right up my alley. But one would be wrong. I appreciate blue humor as much as anyone, but the problem is that my own sense of humor, unfortunately, is far more depraved than most of the people interviewed in this doc. The worst part about it is how so many of the comedians' jokes are so similar - same piss and shit, which just isn't as shocking to my senses as maybe someone else. The Sarah Silverman joke was at least really dirty, but it didn't live up to the hype I'd heard. In fact the only real laugh I had was about something Bob Saget did, but not his version of the joke. The movie might've worked better had it been a stage event - some kind of symposium where comics can riff off each other. As is, it didn't work that well for me. You're Fired.

Kingdom of Heaven: A failure. The first 45 minutes is totally useless - exposition that leads to nothing, character development for characters that disappear as quickly as they arrive. Bloom probably can't carry a film. Yet another movie that might've been good - there's probably something about the Crusades that could make for a good film. But this wasn't exciting, enlightening, or even all that interesting. There are a couple of nice looking battle scenes, I guess, but nothing to get all that worked up about. It wasn't even campy like Troy. You're Fired.

Darwin's Nightmare: Not really about ecology, and not really something I was all that interested in. Globalization can be bad for the lowest classes. OK. Not that much new there. And the second half's constant harping on whether the planes flew illegal arms in (when there didn't seem to be much evidence of it) was forced. Also, it didn't offer any solutions to the myriad problems. If the goal is to draw attention, fine. But this was a kind of boring movie, so it didn't keep my attention much. And I'm extremely sympathetic here. The movie didn't do the job it might've, could've or even wanted. You're Fired.

Amistad: I like Spielberg. A lot. But this did not work at all. The acting was kind of bad, save for Honsou. It was about an hour too long, especially for a pretty simple story. The scenes on the ship are powerful, but everything around it seems like filler. And there's something else about this movie that kind of bothered me: the religious angle. Had Mel Gibson directed it, I think most critics would've panned the hackneyed scenes with missionaries and the part about the guy learning to read via a Bible. But it was Spielberg, not Gibson. I'll call it what it is: a hack job. Did something bad happen to him in 1997? Because his two worst movies of all time were that year (this and the second Jurassic Park). You're Fired.

Star Wars - Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: Of the newer, first three installments, most people liked this OK and panned the crap out of the others. I actually didn't loathe Episodes I and II all that much, so I kind of had high hopes for this one. Didn't meet them. There's too much jammed in, but they take too long on the wrong, less interesting things. It's a little less serious than the others (or at least I hope so), but not quite as thrilling. Yes, it's kind of cool to see how things match up. The NOOOOOO! is funny (I watched it like 15 times). But for some reason the dialogue and bad acting bothered me more here than in the others (and there was bad acting and dialogue there too, I just wasn't as annoyed). I just didn't like it that much, and now I wonder if wanting to like the others affected my view. I wanted to like this too, but it didn't happen. Oh well. You're Fired.

Hostage: I liked this better than any of the above, but it still kind of sucked. It's stupid and mindless, but watchable. Ben Foster made a surprisingly creepy villain - I was stunned to be as put off by his character as I was. The little kid is scrappy, just like you'd want him to be. It pushes no buttons that hadn't been pushed before, and doesn't even pretend like there's another outcome other than the one you'd guess. But I kind of liked it. Of course, not enough to drag it out of the bad category. It is what it is. You're Fired.

If you're keeping score, that's 11 You're Fireds this time around. But I did see a few decent movies too...

Syriana: Looking back, this is probably the best movie I've seen in months. And I'd only say that it's pretty good. I like the casting, especially Wright and Plummer - pitch perfect. The plot isn't as convoluted as some reviews suggest. In fact, I thought it was pretty easy to follow. I read the book, but it had pretty much nothing to do with the film. It's a big movie, but it doesn't overreach - which is the best part about it. In some ways, I think this is superior to Gaghan's other multithread epic, Traffic. The scenery is exceptional, and it does tell a story that hadn't been told enough. I'm a little surprised by this film - it's not that sensational, but that makes it better. In choosing not to make it sensational, it probably cost the film publicity, and therefore viewers and revenues. But it's a better picture for it. Steak Knives, but this movie has gotten better in my head with time. Upon a second viewing, I might elevate it.

House of Flying Daggers: Last year I panned Hero, and I still think that movie kind of sucked. While watching this movie, I felt like I was taking a new approach to this kind of movie. I'm not an expert on martial arts films, but I've seen a few of them. I'm sure someone else has hit on this before, but now I'm starting to think that I should critique a martial art film as if it's porn. The plot doesn't matter (and in some instances the more ludicrous it is, the better), and all that matters is camera work, set design and the moves. If you've got that, it's all you care about. I liked the scenes in this movie quite a bit, especially the dance sequence and the bamboo forest scene. This movie didn't blow my mind, but I liked it. And Ziyi Zhang is a looker. Steak Knives.

Breaking the Waves: Perfectly cast. Exceptionally acted. Beautifully shot. And the tunes during the interludes were the jam too. And I can do nothing but respect a filmmaker that attacks questions about sex, religion and mental illness with the fierceness of Von Trier. But the question is... did I really like it? And I'm not so sure about that. I respect it, and I'm glad I saw this, but I don't think I liked it. Maybe Von Trier didn't want me to like it, just to think about it. In that case, mission accomplished. A film deserving of credit. I know the Oscars aren't always perfect, but how on earth did Katrin Cartlidge and Stellan Skarsgaard not get nominated that year? I mean, Lauren Bacall in The Mirror has Two Faces? James Woods in Ghosts of Mississippi (and Cuba Gooding won that year!) One last thing... the ending... yeah... not how I'd have finished it (the very very very end). Steak Knives.

One Day In September: A good companion piece to the flawed but decent Munich. This had everything I like in a documentary - it told me something I hadn't seen before, showed me a different perspective of things, personalized actions, and made it seem just real. Time well spent, and I already knew a good amount about Munich '72. Steak Knives.

There you have it... my last four months or so in movies. And nothing that I thought was really great. Might see Talladega Nights this weekend. Here's hoping...