Monday, July 10, 2006

Movie Mon. - Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

A couple of weeks worth of movie watching here, so no time to dilly-dally with introductory mohoohoo; on to the reviews.

A Good Woman: Adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan about a notorious gold-digger (Helen Hunt) and the trouble she stirs in the lives of a recently wed couple (Mark Umber and Scarlett Johansson). I read the play many moons ago in my Modern British Drama class at OSU, but remembered very little about it beforehand. Since the film is taken from a Wilde work, you can expect tons of witty and pithy sayings, and in that respect the film does not disappoint. What does disappoint is Helen Hunt, who almost seems to be sleepwalking through the film, her performance is so stiff and wooden. Plus, as entertaining as most of the dialogue is, this isn't a comedy of manners like Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, but a drama, and as a drama it failed to capture and hold my interest. In a way it cleaves too closely to its source material, which is too much a product of its times; it's difficult for modern minds to buy into the scandalized mindset of the characters. At least in play format, most of the scandalous behavior appears off-stage, so the dialogue is used to paint a picture for the audience; here, it's shown, and (for me at least) loses its effectiveness in the showing. Not a bad movie, but I say read the play instead.

Lone Star State of Mind: Darkish comedy about a young man (Joshua Jackson) whose promise to keep his fiancĂ©’s cousin (D.J. Qualls) out of trouble leads to numerous confrontations with drug dealers and other criminals. The Anti-Cap'n introduced me to this one, and I'm glad he did; it's a danged funny little flick that I'd never heard of before. It's basically The A.C.'s version of Firefly, i.e. the DVD that he tries to get everyone he knows to watch; I was greatly relieved that I could honestly tell him that I liked it a lot.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: Comedy about two stoners who get the munchies and set out on a quest for White Castle burgers, running into tons of adventures on the way. This one I watched after having two "What do you mean you haven't seen Harold and Kumar?" experiences within a week -- the first was from The Anti-Cap'n during a discussion about Neil Patrick Harris, and the other was from Zinger and Pooh after Zinger made a comment that all through Superman Returns he kept thinking "Kumar, how could you?" Anyway, as a mindless diversion, it's an okay flick, but not one that I ever need to see again; now, if Harold had actually beaten Kumar to a pulp at some point, I might reconsider . . .

Ultraviolet: SF flick about a future in which people have been infected with a virus that mimics vampirism, and the battle between the normal humans and the infected, the latter of which as exemplified by Mila Jovovich. As eye-candy with interesting cinematography and cool SF-style ideas, this works; as a compelling story, not so much. Still, it's pretty to look at, so if you're a SF fan, it's probably worth a rental.

Cache: French film about a family who begin to receive video tapes from a stalker and, well, that's pretty much all that happens. Oh, yeah, there's a lot of arguing, and a lot of paranoia, and a death or two, but by the time the film reaches its (unsatisfying) ending, I had lost any and all interest in it.

Find Me Guilty: Comedy based on the true story of the longest mafia trial ever, with a focus on Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) a mobster who, dissatisfied with his lawyer's performance in his previous case, decides to represent himself. I didn't expect much of this going in, but was very pleasantly surprised, both with the quality of the (very funny) script and with the performance of Diesel. It was my first time to see Vin not only do comedy, but also do something other than the usual gravelly-voiced performance. Have a lot more respect for him as an actor now, at least in comedic terms. Highly recommend this one.

Failure to Launch: Romantic comedy about a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) hired to trick a bachelor (Matthew McConaughey) into moving out of his parents' (Kathy Bates and (of all people) Terry Bradshaw) house by posing as a love interest, only to (shock!) fall in love for real. Enjoyable comedy that whose predictability of plot points is mitigated by enjoyable performances and totally random acts of comedy, both of which reach their zenith with Zooey Deschanel as Parker's angry, angry roomie; without Zooey, the film wouldn't have been a tenth as enjoyable for me. As it is, it's a fun little comedy, despite the fact that I had to see Terry Bradshaw's naked behind.

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School: When I first told Biz-Z this film's title, he just shook his head and asked "Where the heck do you find these things?" Indie comedy which expands upon a short film of the same name, while incorporating the short into the larger story: a widowed baker happens upon a car wreck and is press ganged by the victim (John Goodman) into going to a dance class to deliver a message to Goodman's one true love, a mission that winds up changing his own life as well. The short film is interwoven into the movie as a series of flashbacks by Goodman relating how he and his love first met as children; Goodman's younger self is played by a young Elden Henson, who also has a cameo in the present day as a fellow baker, since the short was made 15 years before the feature. But enough background: how was the movie itself? I think the best word to sum it up is "uneven"; the style of the flashbacks clash with the style of the modern day sequences, which is jarring. The flashbacks have a very A Christmas Story feel, while the present day is much more Strictly Ballroom. Personally, I preferred the present day sequences, which were a bit darker, and were also enhanced by a surprisingly strong cast, which included Marissa Tomei, Donnie Wahlburg, Ernie Hudson, Adam Arkin, David Paymer, Mary Steenburgen, and Sean Astin. All in all, a quirky film which made me laugh out loud a few times; not the best movie I saw last week, but it was definitely worth the rental.

The Matador: Off-beat comedy about a businessman (Greg Kinnear) who accidentally gets sucked into the life of an idiosyncratic hitman (Pierce Brosnan) while on a business trip in Mexico. This movie lives and dies on how entertained you are by Brosnan's character, which is completely different from anything I've seen him play before. Personally, I loved it; strange and dark, while still often being laugh out loud funny. Enjoyed the heck out of this one.

16 Blocks: Drama about a cop (Bruce Willis) whose last minute assignment to get a witness (Mos Def) to a grand jury hearing goes off the rails when it turns out that Mos is testifying against a crooked cop, and all of the crooked cop's crooked buddies are out to silence him permanently. First, let me give kudos to Willis for not being afraid to go for the tired, worn-down cop role. However, I must give negative kudos to Mos Def for deciding to speak like Mike Tyson through the whole film; his high-pitched, high-speed, highly-unintelligible dialect only exacerbated my pre-existing headache, and made it highly difficult for me to enjoy the film. Subsequently, I had a hard time staying interested in this one.

Superman Returns: I know, I know, I promised more thoughts on this for today, but it's late, and my mind is blank, so I'll just say that I tend to come into this sort of movie with a lot more baggage than most folks, so my feelings towards it will probably differ a lot from the average movie-goer. That being said, I will state that it's sad when almost every action scene in the film gets spoiled by the trailers; yes, the "non-injury to the eye motif" scene was cool (and a bit disturbing), but having seen it in the trailers for weeks beforehand made it lose a lot of its impact (pun not intended).

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest:
Sequel to the highly entertaining PotC: Curse of the Black Pearl finds Captain Jack Sparrow on the run from the mystical Davy Jones while Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann face the death penalty for their efforts to aid Jack in the past; the two problems intersect and lead to a series of action set pieces that ultimately serve to prepare the audience for the next film. I know a lot of people felt let down that not all of the plot threads were wrapped up here, but I thought that as far as cliffhangers go, this was much more Empire Strikes Back territory than anything else; at the end of the film, it seems like the bad guys have the upper hand, and the good guys are struggling with the loss of one of their own, but determined to win him back at any cost. How Empire is that? Let's just hope the next film (subtitled At World's End) just doesn't go the Jedi/Ewok route. Don't want to say much more, other than while this might not be quite as good as the first film, it's still one heck of a fun ride. I do recommend re-watching the first one before seeing this, however; there were quite a few little jokes that might have passed me by if The Anti-Cap'n and I hadn't rewatched Curse on Thursday.


Anonymous said...

Well, I liked seeing Terry Bradshaw's tush. I thought it was quite entertaining. Love Mom

Anonymous said...

We watched the Ballroom movie and really enjoyed it. We also watched the movie about the sled dogs and the Last Harry Potter movie. I must say we have been enjoying vacation tremendously. 3 movies down and 8 to go before next Monday. We can do it easily, but then you already knew that.