Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Mon. - I Now Feel the Urge to Watch All of Guest's Good Films . . .

Guide to Recognizing Your Saints: Gritty drama about a writer (Robert Downey Jr.) returning to his old stomping grounds, which conjures up memories of his troubled youth and the reasons he left. Good performances from Shia LeBeouf as the younger version of Downey and Channing Tatum as his temperamental best friend, but overall, I didn't care much for the film. No glaring problems, jsut a mismatch between the tone of the film and my tastes. I'm starting to discover that while I like things dark, I don't necessarily like them gritty.

Infamous: The lesser known version of the story of Truman Capote's quest to write In Cold Blood. While this version was totally overshadowed by the critically acclaimed Capote, I think it has much to recommend it. Yes, the tone of the film is much lighter than that of Capote, but that's one of the things I enjoyed about it. I also much preferred Toby Jones' gadfly Truman to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's more dispassionate turn. I do agree with the critics who felt the talking head segments interrupted the flow of the film at times, but then again, the talking head segments also provided some great lines and background on Truman's life. The other big complaint from people is that this one wasn't as subtle as Capote; again, there may be some truth to that, but for me, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. While Capote might be a better film in technical terms, Infamous wound up being a more enjoyable one for me.

All the King's Men: Drama about a reporter (Jude Law) who gets drawn into the service of a good ol boy politician (Sean Penn), who turns out to be not so good. Having never read the novel nor seen the 1949 version, I can't speak to how well the 2006 version adheres to either one; I can say that the performances were very well done throughout, and that I was totally sucked in to the story. A bit long, but I think it's worth the time.

For Your Consideration: The latest effort from Christopher Guest focuses on the cast of an indie flick who find themselves catapulted into the spotlight after a random comment on a movie web site sparks Oscar buzz. Usually, I love Guest's films; Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind are three of my favorite comedies. Unfortunately, For Your Consideration falls far short of the standard set by the previous films. Which is not to say that the film didn't have its moments; there are quite a few laugh out loud scenes, most of them involving Parker Posey or Catherine O'Hara. But this time around, the characters didn't gel for me the way they usually do in Guest's films; while it may seem strange to suggest that his brake from the "mockumentary" style* had an affect on my enjoyment of the film, I do think that that may have contributed to it. I have such high expectations of Guest's work that I probably am much harsher on this film than I would have been if it was directed by someone else; maybe I'll enjoy it more if I watch it again later.

Amazing Grace: Interesting film about William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffud), the 18th century politician who spearheaded the abolition movement in Great Britain. I didn't know a thing about this one going in (went to see it as part of a Dinner & a Movie Night with the Singles), so I was surprised when we found out that the movie wound up selling out; I was even more surprised by the quality of the actors involved (inculding Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, and Albert Finney) in this film I wouldn't have heard of if not for my church group. A bit preachy at times (in the "up on a soapbox" sense, not the "repent you sinners" sense), but there is enough of a sense of humor in the script to keep it from being bogged down by its occasional bouts of pretension. All in all, I'm not sorry I paid full price to see it on the big screen, which is saying something since we're dealing with a period drama bereft of FX and action scenes.

*I know Guest hates this label with a passion, but his insistence that his films be referred to as "documentaries" is a bit too much for me.