Monday, January 16, 2006

Movie Mon. - I Almost Numchucked You, You Don't Even Realize!

Not only did I get quite a few movies watched this week, but I enjoyed the majority of them quite a bit. Of course, several of the ones I enjoyed are of the "who would I recommend this to?" variety, but what else is new?

The Cave: Horror/action movie about a group of cave explorers who come face to face with some strange underground creatures. Mildly enjoyable film that's hampered by jerk/shaky camerawork that often makes the action unintelligible; equally confusing was the topography of the cave system; it all might have made sense, but if so, that sense totally escaped me.

Frankie and Johnny Are Married: Semi-autobiographical film about writer director Michael Pressman's attempts to put on the play "Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune" with actress wife Lisa Chess. Although highly fictionalized, Pressman and Chess play themselves, with several of Pressman's co-workers from Chicago Hope following suit; Alan Rosenberg also plays himself, but a horribly jerky version of himself, totally at odds with his usual nice-guy roles. An odd film that blurs the line between reality and fiction; I have no clue how much of the story is drawn directly from Pressman's problems staging the play, and how much is just for entertainment value. In the end, that question hardly matters, I suppose; the important thing is that I enjoyed this low-key comedy quite a bit, more-so the parts after Rosenberg self-destructs than the parts before; his behavior became just a little too jerky for comfort.

A Hole in One: Very odd independent film about a gangster's girlfriend (Michelle Williams) who decides that she needs a lobotomy to make herself feel better. Yes, that's right: a lobotomy to feel better. It's not quite as crazy as it sounds (pun partially intended); the film is set during the 1950s when neurologists were actually advocating the use of lobotomies for treating depression, chronic anxiety, and OCD. The film is told from the highly disjointed P.O.V. of Williams' character, which means it's very non-linear; The Mag is sure to hate it. While I thought it had some nice moments, I had a hard time staying interested.

Red Eye: Thriller about a woman (Rachel McAdams) who finds herself caught up in a political assassination plot while on a flight home. The previews for hadn't done much to entice me; the whole "terrorized while on a plane" plot struck me as limiting. Boy, was I wrong. I liked this one quite a bit; Cillian Murphy is effectively creepy and menacing here, while McAdams does a great job as the resourceful heroine. There was only one thing that was a bit over-the-top for me, and it was pretty visible in most of the trailers; the rocket launcher attack. Very seldom can a film pull off a rocket launcher attack successfully; this one was a forgivable bit of blockbuster shenanigans in an otherwise taut and suspenseful thriller.

Broken Flowers: Another off-beat indie from Jim Jarmusch. The plot revolves around Don Johnston (played by the always excellent Bill Murray), an aging lothario who gets blindsided from a letter from an anonymous old flame telling him that he might be getting a visit from an illegitimate son he didn't know he had. He tries to ignore the letter, but his mystery-obsessed neighbor takes it upon himself to track down all of Johnston's exes from the proper time frame and set up a travel itinerary for Johnston to track the identity of the letter writer. Some really funny moments sprinkled throughout the film; I especially liked his encounter with his ex who is making a living as a sort of New Age Dr. Doolittle, as well as all scenes with his wannabe-detective neighbor. While I enjoyed the film, its slow-moving pace might be a chore for some.

Wedding Crashers: Comedy about a couple of swinging bachelors who regularly crash weddings to pick up women. Going in, I wasn't expecting to like this much; lo and behold, the lowered expectations paid off, and I liked it a lot. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are both sort of hit or miss actors for me; this time around, they were definitely firing on all cylinders. Vaughn's little tirades in particular amused me greatly. It was strange seeing Bradley Cooper playing the overly competitive jackass; he'll always be wishy-washy reporter Will Tippin to me.

The Constant Gardener: Low key political thriller about a British diplomat investigating the death of his activist wife in Africa. Fine acting all around, but its languid pacing early on tested my attention span; I definitely wasn't in the mood for this film when I saw it, making it hard to give an objective review.

The Chumscrubber: Very off-beat dark comedy about disaffected youth in the suburbs; probably my favorite of all the movies I watched this week. Lots of star power here: Glenn Close, Allison Janney, Ralph Fiennes, Rita Wilson, and the continually impressive Jaime Bell, who's come a long way since Billy Elliot. Basic plot is this: Jaime Bell’s character is the first to stumble across the body of Glenn Close’s drug-dealing son after his suicide; Bell is then coerced into helping the dead boy’s former partners recover some of his hidden stash when the desperate dealers kidnap his brother . . . or, at least, the kid they think is his brother . . . Reactions to this movie tend to run to either the "love it" or "hate it" extremes of the spectrum, with little room in between, or at least so the IMDB boards would have you believe. A lot of people insist on calling this a Donnie Darko rip-off, which is overstating it a bit; yes, the films are similar in tone (which would help explain why I enjoyed this one so much), and both feature a main character who is a bit of a hyper-intelligent outcast, but beyond that the similarities end. Is this movie perfect? Not at all; there are a few sections where the shift in tone is a bit jarring, and the climax of the feuding wedding and memorial services was a bit unsatisfying for me. However, the scene right after that between Jaime Bell and Glenn Close where they talk about the suicide was pretty powerful; got me a little choked up.


Tina said...

I really enjoyed The Wedding Crashers myself. My significant other however, found it hard to believe that anyone would be so pathetic to use this approach to get laid.
I love both Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Vaughn was in some movie long ago where he played an extreme sicko/murderer. What was it?

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Well, he did play Norman Bates in the remake of Psycho, but you're probably thinking of Domestic Disturbance where he played the step-dad from hell.

The Photographer said...

I was thinking Psycho but was unsure.