Monday, August 21, 2006

Movie Mon. - Yes, I'm Still Alive

Scary Movie 4: The latest installment in the horror spoof series is a definite improvement over parts 2 and 3, which I largely chalk up to the fact that it has an actual plot; random jokes are nice and all, but I've found that spoofs which have a driving purpose entertain me more than those without. Anna Faris does her usually ditzy blonde act to great effect as usual, and Craig Bierko demonstrates a gift for comedy that his roles in Cinderella Man and The 13th Floor hadn't prepared me for. A few too many bowel movement jokes for my taste, but all in all, not a total waste of my time.

Manderlay: Second installment of Lars von Trier's "America - Land of Opportunities" trilogy takes up where Dogville left off, with Grace (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard rather than Nicole Kidman) and her gangster father (now played by Willem Dafoe) stumbling across a plantation where slavery has not yet been abolished. A darkly comic satire, Manderlay takes a look at oppression and its effect on the oppressed. Much like Dogville, this film shows humanity at its lowest, as all of the good intentions in the world slide away at the first hint of betrayal or danger. And, much like Dogville, the end credits filled with some of the most shameful moments in our country's history with Bowie's "Young Americans" playing in the background is sure to be devisive, although in this case I found the credits to be much more clearly tied into the film's overt theme than in the case of Dogville. An experimental and thought-provoking film that I enjoyed, but feel reluctant to recommend to most casual movie watchers.

Lost City: Drama revolving around three brothers (Andy Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, Enrique Murciano) in Cuba whose lives become inexorably intertwined with the fall of Batista and rise of Castro. Interesting, if a bit over-long, film which engaged me much more in the first half than in the second.

High School Musical: Surprisingly entertaining made-for-TV Disney movie which follows the usual star-crossed lovers trope to good effect while hammering away the message that "diversity is good." My favorite sequences were the song and dance numbers by the always cheesey (and borderline creepy) brother-sister act, but there's actually a lot to like in the predictable but fun little film that caters to the 'tween set without totally losing itself in mindlessness. Fun fact: Ms. Darbus, the theater teacher, is played by a Tony-nominated actress who starred as Cassie in the film version of A Chorus Line. Pretty high pedigree for someone who doesn't even sing in this one.

Sorry Haters: Bizarre film about an Arab cab driver who gets more than he bargained for when he agrees to let an obviously unstable fare (Robin Wright Penn) help him retrieve his deported brother. What starts out as a fairly straight-forward film takes several strange turns that often left me scratching my head and reciting the mantra "She's a loony!" over and over again. Here it is a week later, and I'm still not quite sure to make of the very last scene. I think the movie became much more interesting after it became obvous that Penn's character was unbalanced, but even so, I had a hard time staying interested in this one.

The Resurrected: Adaptation of Lovecraft's "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward" from the early 1990s starring John Terry (Jack's dad on Lost) as a private eye who stumbles onto a case steeped in mysticism and resurrected corpses. A bit cheesey, but watchable.

Inside Man: Who'd have thunk it: a Spike Lee movie I actually enjoyed with no reservations whatsoever! Probably has a lot to do with the fact that this one doesn't have the usual Lee agenda, but is instead a well-crafted thriller about a bank robbery and hostage situation which isn't quite what it seems. A great cast (Denzel, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, and a flawlessly American-accented Chiwetel Ejiofor) and an interesting twist on the robbery/hostage trope make this a highly recommended film.

Confederate States of America: Now this is more what I'd expect from Spike Lee (who was an executive producer): a satiric look at an alternate history where the Confederacy won the Civil War and kept slavery in effect through the present. Lots of detractors of the film rail against it for its premise, pointing out how unlikely many of the historical changes are, but I think that such criticism is missing the bigger point of the film, which aims to examine race relations in our country by viewing them through a slightly different perspective. The film is sure to offend some, especially when it segues into the overly rascist product placements . . . campaigns which become ever more shocking when you discover that every one is based on an actual, historical products. Really enjoyed this one as well.

: Noirish high school drama about a maverick student (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who sets out on a quest to rescue his ex-girlfriend (Emilie de Ravin), becoming embroiled in a high-school drug ring in the process. Loved this movie: stylish (and occasionally stylized), smart, funny, evocative of hardboiled noir (especially with its high level of fast-talking lingo) without beling slavishly devoted . . . great film. Now, Bubblegum Tate had a couple of problems with it, one of which I can agree with (the dialogue could have been enunciated a bit better, especially early on), and one which didn't faze me as much as it did him (Gordon-Levitt's character breaking from the hardboiled mold). Highly recommend this one, which is going on my "movies I must own" list.


cedric_the_destroyer said...

So, are you now Crisis of Infinite Mondays?

Bubblegum Tate said...

I always sound so negative when other people talk about my movie opinions.

I'll cop to it, I couldn't love Brick. But I liked it a LOT. I watched it twice and most of the commentary before sending it back to netflix, and considering how few movies impress me, that's a big victory.

The dialogue is a major obstacle, IMO. Especially because I know how well it was written, to have it fudged by delivery hurts. The breaking of Brendan's hardboiled exterior I think is a really big problem, but only because the genre is so near and dear. To the average moviegoer, it won't be odd at all, but a lover of Noir would ask the creator about that decision and expect a pretty decent answer. Still, these aren't dealbreakers. See Brick.

Cap'n Cluck said...

High School Musical:

First of all, I can't believe you watched this! I loved it, but then again I'm a Disney freak. As cheesy as their show are, there is something comforting about watching a make-you-feel-good movie/tv show.

Second, there is another hidden talent in the movie. One of the cheerleaders was a top 20 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Have a Cluckity Cluck Cluck Day!

Redneck Diva said...

Nary a week goes by that we haven't watched High School Musical at least twice! I have a preschooler, a boy and a 'tween and they all LOVE this movie! Even Mr. Diva enjoyed it.

And I'll admit it - I listen to the soundtrack even when the kids aren't in the van.