Monday, October 09, 2006

Movie Mon. - The Great State of Vermont Will Not Apologize for Its Cheese!

Thank You For Smoking: Smart comedy about an incredibly smooth-talking lobbyist for Big Tobacco (Aaron Eckhart) who lives his life by the credo "If you argue correctly, you're never wrong." Funny, well-written, well-acted, and a tad dark at times . . . just the way I likes 'em. Great appearances by Rob Lowe as a high-powered Hollywood agent and William H. Macy as an anti-smoking Senator from the great state of Vermont. Most striking, though is the appearance of Creepiest Kid On Earth Cameron Bright in a *gasp* non-creepy role. Bright does a good job of portraying a highly intelligent kid without falling into the "Dang, that's one freaky little kid!" chasm that most of his previous roles have pushed him into. This really isn't a film about smoking; it's a film about double-standards, and the importance of choice, and the power of persuasion, and the possible perils of flexible morals. Great movie, highly recommended

The Woods: Well-done horror movie about a troubled young girl (Agnes Bruckner) who discovers that the forest bordering her new boarding school (run by the always excellent Patricia Clarkson) is filled with supernatural secrets. One of the better horror movies I've seen recently; engaging characters and dialogue help offset the fact that the special effects are occasionally sub-par. Some really poor CGI here and there, but with such a good cast and entertaining story I was more than willing to forgive the film its budgetary constraints. Plus, it's got Bruce Campbell, king of the B-movies; can't go wrong with Bruce.

Calvaire (The Ordeal): Very odd French horror film about a struggling musician whose van breaks down in the middle of nowhere, leaving him at the mercy of a demented innkeeper. Have mixed feelings about this one. Some inventive takes on the horror genre here and there, as well as some very obvious homages (Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner scene being the one that really jumped out at me), but there was just something about this that didn't click with me.

The Burial Society: Average thriller about Sheldon Kasner, a mob accountant on the run who tries to fake his own death with the help of the Chevrah Kadisha, a Jewish society which performs the rituals necessary to prepare bodies for burial. Has some entertaining moments (particularly the scene where Sheldon fakes his death), but on the whole the movie left me cold. Not bad, but not great.

Edmond: Psychological thriller about a nebbishy man (William H. Macy) who leaves his wife and goes on a self-destructive journey which leads to a night filled with sex, violence, and death. It was only five minutes into this film before the dialogue annoyed me into remembering that this was a David Mamet film; it was about 10 or 15 minutes in when I began to wonder when Mamet decided to branch out into soft-core porn. Man, did I hate this movie. Yeah, there were a couple of mildly entertaining sequences, but over all, the lack of likeable characters mixed with the overly artificial Mamet dialogue (which was much more reminiscent of the much-hated-by-me Oleanna than, say, Glengarry Glenn Ross) made me almost stop watching. Instead, I turned on the sub-titles and let it play at double-speed so I could enjoy all the annoyance in half the time. Sure, some might say that doing so robs the film of its nuanced performances and directorially mandated pacing; I just say that it let me reassure myself that I wouldn't have missed anything if I'd ejected the freaking disk at the half hour mark. Unless you worship at the altar of Mamet, I say avoid this one.

Satan's Playground: Low-budget horror film about a family whose car breaks down in the Jersey woods, leaving them at the mercy of a family of psycho killers and the infamous Jersey Devil. Not terribly good, but definitely the good sort of terrible; the whole mess was worth it just for the mallet-to-the-head sequence, not only because it was wonderfully over-the-top cheesy but also because it fits in with one of my Film & TV Truisms: "Someone getting hit in the head: always funny."

X3: The Last Stand: PigPen rented this yesterday and I made myself watch it to see if it was one of those movies that would strike me better now that I have some distance. Well, sorry to say, the things that annoyed me the first time annoyed me just as much this time around, if not more (I'm looking at you, Halle Berry's strident and obstinate Storm!). Still, I'm glad he rented it, if for no other reason than I got to watch Kitty Pryde through a whole new set of eyes now that I realized she was played by the creepy kid from Hard Candy.