Monday, April 17, 2006

Movie Mon. - Mixed Bag

While I enjoyed bits and pieces of several of the films I watched this week, there was only one which I fully enjoyed with no reservations whatsoever.

On to the reviews.

Fun with Dick and Jane: Jim Carrey vehicle about a downsized couple who turn to armed robbery to keep their family afloat. A lot of the film's enjoyability rests on whether you're a Jim Carrey fan or not; I am, for the most part, and so liked the film, for the most part. The part I didn't like occurs during the first third of the movie, in particular the couple's struggles with making ends meet; a few funny bits here and there, but quite a bit that left me cold. The last third of the movie was slightly stronger, but still not a tour de force of comedy. But the middle of the film . . . the middle of the film, focused on their crime spree, was comedy gold. My favorite bit in the film was the voice-modulator robbery, which gave Carrey a chance to do his usual wacky ad libbing (or at least, so I assume). Not going to go down as a classic by any stretch of the imagination (the pointless "race to the interview" sequence saw to that), but it made me laugh often enough for me to say it's probably worth a rental.

The Dark: Horror film about an estranged couple whose daughter disappears while visiting the father in a Welsh village which was once the site of a religious cult's mass suicide. I'm a little disappointed in this one; it had a strong start, and kept me interested for the bulk of the film, but the ending left me unsatisfied with its "ha-ha, got you!" mentality. I almost hate to recommend it, since the ending is more likely to tick people off than anything else.

Ellie Parker: Indie film starring the talented Naomi Watts as the titular character, a struggling actress on the verge of quitting the business for good. Yet another film that I only enjoyed in pieces; the first section of the film focusing on Ellie's audition process and the like was entertaining, especially the sequence where she's driving from one audition to another, transforming herself from a Southern belle to something resembling a trash mouth Jersey hooker on the way, highlighting the schizophrenic world actors live in. But once the film moved away from the inside look at the acting world, and into Ellie's crumbling personal life, it looses focus, and I lost interest. Despite Watts' usual fantastic job acting, I came out of the film feeling like I had just wasted an hour of my life.

Little Fish: Australian film starring Cate Blanchett as a recovering drug addict trying to rebuild her life, only to find her efforts thwarted both by society's refusal to accept her rehabilitation as a true fresh start, and by the continued presence of other junkies in her life, including her brother and her former boyfriend. Quite a bleak film; watching the main character's attempts to better herself slowly disintegrate before her was often painful. The blurbs for this one made it sound like a thriller, and while there was a little bit of action revolving around some drug dealers, the main thrust of the story is all interpersonal drama. A well-acted film, but not one that I can say I particularly enjoyed; I don't have any concrete complaints about the quality of the film, I just had a hard time getting into its depressing mindset.

An Unfinished Life
: Drama about a grizzled rancher (Robert Redford) whose life is thrown out of balance by the arrival of his estranged daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez), on the run from her abusive boyfriend, along with the granddaughter he never knew he had. Kind of a paint-by-numbers plot, in a lot of ways, as the granddaughter melts the old man's heart, leading to his reconciling with her mom, but there are enough fresh touches in the characterizations to keep the film from feeling like the same ol' same ol'. The scene between Morgan Freeman and the bear was a little heavy-handed to me, but other than that, an enjoyable film.

The Ice Harvest: Dark comedy about a nervous mob lawyer (John Cusack) who teams up with a cold-hearted pornographer (Billy Bob Thornton) to rip off a mob boss (Randy Quaid) around Christmas-time. Despite an impressive cast (which also included the very funny Oliver Platt as a very drunk friend of Cusack), the film never gelled for me; for something that billed itself as a comedy, the truly funny moments were few and far between. I think the trailers may have done this one a disservice, as they made it appear to be a much wackier, faster-paced film than what it truly is; it's possible that the clash of expectations and reality colored my perceptions a bit too much. My biggest complaint acting-wise was that the character of Renata (Connie Nielsen) played the Femme Fatale role a bit too much on the nose; to me, she felt like she belonged in some old film noir, which was a tad jarring. I'd have to give this film an over-all rating of "so-so."

City of God: Very well done Brazilian film based on the true-life story of gang wars in the Rio de Janeiro "favel", or slum, known as Cidade de Deus, as told through the eyes of would-be photographer Rocket, who bears witness to the rise of the sociopathic hood known as Little Ze. From the opening sequence where a heavily armed gang races down the crowded streets of the favel to capture a runaway chicken, I knew this was going to be a different sort of film; alternately funny and gripping, this film is even more impressive when you consider that the bulk of the actors were not only unknowns, but actual "never acted a day in their lives" residents of Rio's favels. Man, I thought Carandiru (another excellent Brazilian film) painted a stark picture, but at least that one was set in a prison. As I watched the film, all I could think about was how totally alien such a culture of thievery, drug peddling, and murder seems to a 30-year old white boy from Wyandotte, Oklahoma such as myself; I can't even conceive of how I could have coped growing up in a situation like that, although I'm pretty sure I would have been close to Rocket's "I'm scared of getting shot" philosophy. I'm curious about the Brazilian TV series inspired by the film, City of Men, which unfortunately hasn't been made available in the U.S. on DVD yet. Many thanks to Coronela for loaning this one to me.


Flunky lover said...

Just some FYI on City of God. It is based on a true story which I believe is mentioned at the end of the movie. They wanted to shoot the movie in the actual City of God but couldn't because of all the violence. I remember reading that when the movie came out.

coronela said...

Did you watch the clip at the end of City of God from the real interview? It's like the one in the movie, but with the real Knockout Ned. I'm glad you finally got around to seeing this movie. It's pretty crazy to watch young children running around with guns and actual see them kill someone....

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I thought the inclusion of the real Knockout Ned interview was a nice touch, although maybe I should say "the real Chicken Mané" since that's what his name (Mané Galinha) really translates to: his name was Manuel, which was shortened to Mané, and he stole chickens (galinha), hence Chicken Mané. However, the studio was afraid that people might think that he was being called a coward, they had the translation changed so that his name reflected his personality more (in their eyes, at least).

And there's your City of God Fun Fact, courtesy of IMDB