Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What I Watched Wednesday - Getting to Know You

Employee of the Month: Mediocre comedy about a slacker (Dane Cook) who decides to become a productive worker in order to become employee of the month and win the heart of the new cashier (Jessica Simpson). Some laughs here and there (many of them centered around Andy Dick's legally blind character), but all in all, pretty predictable and lackluster.

25th Hour: Drama about a convicted drug dealer's last day of freedom before heading off to jail. Surprisingly, I liked this one. Why surprising? Because it was a Spike Lee movie, that's why. In fact, this now makes a whopping three Spike Lee movies that didn't evoke feelings of violence and revulsion; who'd have thunk it? Yeah, it's a tad over-long, and some of the scenes with his friends could have been left on the cutting room floor with no ill effect on the plot, but all in all, a good flick.

Hollywoodland: Film about an investigation into the mysterious suicide of George Reeves, TV's first Superman. Ben Affleck does a good job as Reeves, and the cutting between the investigation into Reeves' death and his actual life is fairly effective. A solid, if not spectacular, film.

Science of Sleep: Surreal romance from the mind of Michel Gondry, the man responsible for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and countless bizarre Bjork videos. The film follows a young aspiring artist with a rich dream life who can't keep it from bleeding into his waking life. While I enjoyed parts of the film -- especially the dream sequences with their distinctive visual style -- the editing and pace were a bit choppy, making it difficult to get into at times.

Running With Scissors: Off-beat film about a young man whose high-strung mother decides to ship him off to live with her eccentric psychiatrist and his equally eccentric family. Well-written and well-acted film filled with quirky characters; the humor is tempered a bit by the obvious damage inherent in the characters' lives, especially if you know that it's all based on a true story. Not for everyone, but I liked it.

The Gathering: Interesting horror film about an amnesiac (Christina Ricci) who begins to have frightful premonitions about the people around her, premonitions which seem to be linked to a recently excavated church filled with strange carvings. I don't want to say too much, for fear of giving something away, but I will say that the basic conceit of the film was fairly original, which is a rarity these days. Another solid film.

The Motel: So-so indie about a young Chinese boy experimenting with teenage rebellion, which is fostered by a self-destructive Korean American staying at the boy's family's motel. Some funny and touching moments, but overall the protagonist wasn't all that likable, which made the movie difficult for me to enjoy.

This Film is Not Yet Rated: Interesting documentary about the MPAA and the hypocrisy of their ratings system. The movie examines the history of the MPAA, as well as devoting time to hiring a private investigator to discover who the members of the ratings board were; we're also privy to the process through which this film gets rated with an NC-17. A must-see for movie buffs.

Sherrybaby: Mildly depressing indie about a recently released junkie ex-con (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who struggles to get her life together so that she can reclaim her daughter from her brother and his wife. Well-acted film, but watching Gyllenhaal's character constantly self-destruct was a bit wearying for me.

Smokin' Aces: Action flick about a wide range of federal agents, bounty hunters, and assassins who all converge on a single target at once, resulting in much carnage and mayhem. This one was sabotaged for me by my own expectations; from the ads I had expected it to be non-stop action; such was not the case. Don't get me wrong -- there was action aplenty, but it was not what one would call non-stop. Now, the non-action moments weren't a drag on the film by any stretch of the imagination, but since I was in the mood for a constant thrill ride, and didn't get it, I was a bit less enthused about the film than my fellow HyperForce 3000 members who saw it with me. A good movie, and one which I will probably enjoy more on a subsequent viewing; if nothing else, the scene with Jason Bateman has provided HyperForce 3000 with the "bones it, lock it, put the chain on" handshake.

Unconditional Love: Little known off-beat comedy about a recently separated housewife (Kathy Bates) whose love for a Tom Jones-esque singer (Jonathan Pryce) leads her and the singer's "valet" (Rupert Everett) on an adventure after the singer's death at the hands of The Crossbow Killer. I stumbled across this one while looking up Meredith Eaton (Bethany on Boston Legal) on IMDB. Thought it sounded kind of interesting, put it in my queue, and thought no more about it until it showed up at the house; I then let it sit on the coffee table for well over a week, not really in the mood for it. Finally, one day I decided to watch part of it during my lunch-break; PigPen came in about 20 minutes into it, and sort of rolled his eyes when I told him the title, but sat down to eat his lunch in front of the TV anyway. Then, when it was time for me to head back to the office, he practically snapped my head off when I pressed stop: "You can catch up later!" Long story short, we finished the movie as soon as we got home that night, took a brief break to recover our breath from having laughed so hard that we erupted into coughing fits, then watched certain scenes over and over again, and then two nights later forced Li'l Dill, Shack-Fu, and The Anti-Cap'n to watch it, and then added several pieces of dialogue from the film into the HyperForce 3003 lexicon. In other words, we liked it. So, if you hear me break into "Getting to Know You" after witnessing some reckless driving, or witness a chorus of HyperForce members chanting "normal*" anytime someone uses the word, or hear PigPen declare "Oh, bugger off," you know you can blame this movie, which I will undoubtedly be purchasing sometime soon so I can force it upon everyone I know. Consider yourself warned.