Monday, August 13, 2007

Flick the Button

1. Pan's Labyrinth: Quite good. I understand the people who are overwhelmingly effusive with praise, and I also understand the people whose expectations were too high and therefore were underwhelmed. I figure I'm in the middle of that. I liked the storyline set in reality much more than the fantasty storyline, but I thought they worked fine together. I want to say that this was one of the better movies I've seen this year, but I've seen a lot of crap. Objectively, I set this as pretty good, but not a classic. Steak Knives.

2. Breach: Surprisingly decent. What I liked about this was how instead of a tense, tradecraft, twisty thriller, this set all of the tension and twistiness in a plain white walled, blue suit, bland bureaucracy. I definitely got the sense that I was looking in on an actual government agency, and not the dark-lit, wall-of-plasma-screens-with-satellite-feeds offices of most ridiculous Hollywood versions of government agencies. Chris Cooper is great as usual. And Billy Ray seems to have quite a talent for bringing out decent performances from young actors with questionable abilities (see Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass), as Ryan Phillippe was believable and support-drawing. Could've used more of Laura Linney and President Palmer though. Steak Knives.

3. Cars: I was disappointed. Pixar has been so consistently good, that I suppose they were due for a letdown. I just didn't find it clever, or really all that sweet. And the eyes in the windshields bothered me far far far too much. Sadly, this made me think what I normally think about non-Pixar computer animation movies: that the movie is secondary to the sale of tie-ins. I didn't think that way about Finding Nemo, or my favorite, Monsters, Inc. This felt like they just wanted to sell Happy Meal toys, rather than actually make a good movie. You're Fired.

4. Shooter: Here's what's odd about this movie: there are like 4 moments in it when the move jumps the shark, but it never gets to the point where the ridiculousness makes it fun. The script felt rushed, there are quite a few plot holes, and the acting was just bad for most of it. The climax scene with Ned Beatty's 45th try at recapturing his scene in Network was so painful to watch without laughing, but it wasn't even close to funny. Just weird. Either they should've gone totally realistic and cut out the ridiculousness, or they should've hammed it up with some winks and nods. Instead, we're left with a movie that could be unintentionally funny, but isn't. You're Fired.

5. Alpha Dog: Very watchable, but very flawed - and that seems strange to me, since the movie looked like it had been shelved for a while (long enough for them to have noticed some of the problems and break out the scissors). What was good was the energy of the movie, and the realistic performances from some of the young actors - especially Timberlake, who definitely captured "in-over-my-head immaturity" better than most in the movie. And Ben Foster's scene-chewing was really entertaining. The bad: the opening credits were atrocious; Bruce Willis' interview scene at the beginning almost made me turn it off; how the movie provided us no explanation for why Emile Hirsch's character got respect; the way Ben Foster's character disappeared for the last 45 minutes; and, worst of all, Sharon Stone's Oscar Reel scene in a fat suit at the end (probably the worst 5 minutes of film I've seen all year). The movie could've used more subtlety, more backstory, or more procedural (the references to each character as witnesses was OK, but they could've gone further with that). Instead, it hammered the point across too strongly. Decent performances by most of the kids, really bad performances from all of the adults. I'm writing a lot about this one because it's kind of troubling to me. I actually enjoyed watching it, but the more I think about it, the more I actually want to not just not like it, but hate it. It's rare that I have such a different response to the same movie from my eyes and my mind. You're Fired, but I'd recommend it.

6. Norbit: Ain't gonna lie to try to maintain credibility... I laughed a lot at this. Obviously, it's a cheap movie, with ridiculous plotlines and jokes we've heard 100 times before. It's also enoyable and funny if you've got a little buzz on. I'd watch it again, no question about it. Also, I find it funny how some people think Eddie Murphy lost an Oscar for Dreamgirls by releasing this during the voting period. If so, that's stupid. First, I actually liked this movie more than Dreamgirls. Second, and more importantly, it just displays snobbery. I mean, it's Eddie Murphy in a fat suit with fart jokes. It's not like the point of the movie was to cut to the heart of emotions and the core of our existence. A movie like this should be judged solely on whether it's funny or not. And I'm not too ashamed to say that I thought a lot of it was. But take note: drinking makes this a lot better. Steak Knives drunk, You're Fired (and you have a bug up your ass) if sober.

7. And not a movie, but I spent a couple of weeks re-watching the entire series of Arrested Development. The best comedy that has ever been on television. Period. Even the episodes I didn't like the first time around (the Martin Short episode and the Wee Britain episodes) had great moments. Here's hoping that Superbad blows up and someone greenlights an Arrested Development movie to make money off of Michael Cera's impending domination of Hollywood.


Peter Bean said...

Brief, hastily (or not at all) explained opinions from a reader:

Breach: I had the same reaction. I absolutely expected a dud (along the lines of Firewall, but was pleasantly surprised. Nothing brilliant here, but it was a strong enough effort. It was also filmed at my old office, which was probably the only reason I made sure to catch it.

Cars - totally agree and, in fact, it was the first movie I walked out on in a while. It never grabbed me, and a better movie was starting in the adjoining theater.

Shooter - Just wanted to ask, LD, if you read the book on which this movie was based? As disappointing as the movie is, as far as great airport thriller novels go, Point of Impact is a great one.

Arrested Development: My second favorite comedy of all time. NewsRadio by an inch.

(I love the reviews, LD. Always look forward to 'em.)

LD said...

In re Shooter: I hadn't read the book, though I can see where it'd be better in that format. Failures of the actors and time constraints forced some bad choices.