Thursday, September 16, 2010

mooooovies (#8) (playing catch-up)

The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski, 2010)
Anyone hoping for an Auteurist reflection on Polanski's legal flare-ups (are those people out there? I'm prolly just strawmanning) probably won't find much here, but it's definitely a solid thriller that falls apart in the last act (fucking Google) but is still totally worth it. MacGregor is fine, but Brosnan is great whenever he shows up as either a patsy or a master conspirator who's losing it or both. Olivia Williams is great too and Tom Wilkinson comes in at the end to grab a scene with his teeth and take it the hell away from Ewan. Finally, the score is ill.

Leaving Las Vegas (dir. Mike Figgis, 1995)
A few Sundays ago I went to a bar at 11am to watch Liverpool play, then took a cab to a different bar to watch the Bears play, then went home and roommate Sarah wanted to watch this one, which she had on Netflix. I hadn't seen it since the first time I saw it, at which point I was probably way too young to see it. The fact that Nic Cage won an Oscar for this amazes me, cynical Oscar obsessive that I am, because he's really not holding back any of his ridiculousness. The exchange about whether Ben is drinking as a way of killing himself or killing himself as a way of drinking is awesome in how the movie acknowledges the line's cleverness and dismisses it at the same time.

The 19th Wife (dir. Rob Holcomb, 2010)
Of course we were gonna watch a Lifetime Mormon Murder Mystery, though we probably could also have predicted that it might get boring after a while. It did. I'd rather be watching Big Love for my LDSploitation kick (though we are watching TLC's Sister Wives tonight).

Piranha 3D (dir. Alexandre Aja, 2010)
Aja is a talented dude (even Mirrors had like 2 good things in it) and it's nice to see he can do horror-laughs as well as tragic murder/rape/burning alive scenes. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be, and Jerry O'Connell is surprisingly hilarious as Joe Francis. The only disappointment is (SPOILERS, but not ones that should make much difference ) that the main character doesn't end up leaving Jessica Szohr (not any more fun here than she is on Gossip Girl) for Kelly Brook. Elizabeth Shue is suitably heroic.

Greenberg (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2010)
I don't think the advertising for this accurately portrays how much of an asshole Ben Stiller's character is. So, for a while, I avoided the movie, thinking, though I don't know why I was being so pessimistic, that they gap between what the movie would expect me to feel for the character and my actual opinion would be huge. It turns out, Stiller's Roger Greenberg is a monster of a character prone to ill-timed freak-outs and being completely inappropriate, and he's not all that charismatic or charming, but Stiller plays him well enough to allow some empathy. and Rhys Ifans and especially Greta Gerwig are king-sized in this. Looks pretty too.

Catfish (dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2010)
Whether it's faked or not (and if I had to bet money I would bet that at least some of it isn't exactly on the up and up), I'm kind of split on Catfish. On one hand, it does have an interesting subject (the one the fillmmakers "stumble upon", not the protagonist, who is not at all interesting) that raises some good questions about what we do with reality in the virtual space. On the other in hand, the more I think about the movie the more I think that the filmmakers could do better with it. The visual style that constantly reminds you that the movie is about the internet could go, for one. But the worst part for me is the narrators and how, once they find a subject that is obviously more interesting than their original subject (co-director Ariel Schulman's little brother Nev), they can't pull back a little and take themselves further out of it. I would still probably recommend this, but it would probably be better as a short subject that cuts a lot of the stuff with Nev out of it.

Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
Kick-Ass has an oddly similar problem to Catfish, in that if it dumped it's main character for a movie about the endlessly more entertaining Hit-Girl and Big Daddy (the latter played by Nicolas Cage, so obviously he's awesome), it would probably at least stand a chance. As it is, I really disliked most of this. I've never read the graphic novel this is based on and I haven't read Wanted either, so maybe it's just a coincidence, but I think after these two movies it's safe to say that if you're adapting a Mark Millar book for the screen, you should probably just find a way to cut out the voice-over narration.

The Town (dir. Ben Affleck, 2010) (SPOILER below)
I had pretty high expectations for this after Affleck's excellent Gone Baby Gone, and I'm happy to say that I liked it a lot. The acting is the best part, especially from Jeremy Renner as a little pitbull of a man and Affleck as a local-boy-makes-good-makes-bad-tries-to-just-even-out. Blake Lively is a pleasant surprise too, more or less playing a younger version of Amy Ryan's Gone Baby Gone character as filtered through J-Woww. There's a good car chase, the heists are well-staged, and while Affleck is playing with a lot of types here, the characters work. Just like in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, the concept of neighborhood is a major theme here, and I really dug the kind of optimistic fantasy of the ending, which has it both ways as Affleck's character is forced/able to leave the neighborhood but is still able to contribute to the neighborhood by donating money to build a new hockey rink. Considering the harsh moral decision at the end of Gone Baby Gone, it caught me off guard in a good way. If Ben wants to keep adapting crime novels or Boston novels or whatever, let 'em do it.

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