I found myself Friday night with nothing on the tube and thinking back to the movies that you loaned to me. Thursday night I had watched Being John Malkovich and had a couple truly LOL moments especially when Malkovich himself is trying to shut down this ‘amusement ride’ that has become his existence. It was very good, and another profanity laced tirade that Malkovich himself can deliver so well. In the end, it was a strange movie but it had some funny times. Given this I decided that let’s make this a Kaufman week by seeing the much awarded Synecdoche NY .
What can you really say about this movie? I recall Ebert saying that this would be a movie that people remember and talk about for years long after they had forgotten Benjamin Button. This was strange. There were some interesting life lessons about getting older and being and living in your own life, but this whole reality within a reality within a reality with this play and people acting as the people outside the play all got a little weird. There are some good actors here, and Catherine Keener seems to be in all of his movies (not sure why) but in the end I just muttered to myself (“WTF was that all about…?”) It hurt my head watching this, and I would not be talking about this for a long time afterwards. In fact I turned on Kingdom of Heaven with some good arrow through the throat scenes and swords skewering people that I forgot it almost instantly. Although the only real refresh is for the purposes of writing to you, right now….
In the past few days I did see a couple of films. Starting with the Ryan Reynolds flick Definitely Maybe, which I had seen parts of previously but in seeing more of it (missed the first 10 mins) I caught a great deal more and enjoyed it more as a result. It’s a bit quirky in a How I Met Your Mother kind of way, as a Father tries to explain his love life before the birth of his precocious daughter. In it there are principally three women for this political campaigner, and all of which come and go in and out of his life. There’s an early sweetheart, a friend and then a writer. The most interesting of these is Isla Fisher, who is a very interesting character here. A close second is the Rachel Weisz character, who is a writer that has a moral and personal dilemma as her world crosses with the political world that our protagonist works in. In the end, it is all very satisfying and the journey is fun getting there. I was impressed with Fisher the most, and always like seeing Weisz on screen.
The next movie was RockNRolla, the Guy Ritchie gangster movie from London . I have to say that the plot here is almost impossible to follow. Suffice it to say that everyone is trying to scam everyone else here. It spins around on itself in so many ways that your head hurts after a while. Then you just watch the images, and from that standpoint it was interesting. I can’t say that I recommend it, as I guess I am really more of a plot guy and when my head hurts at a movie, then I get frustrated. Perhaps that explains my frustration with movies like Magnolia….hmmmm….but I digress. Suffice it to say that if you like a UK gangster yarn, then you might like this. The very good Jordanian cop from Body of Lies with Leo Dicaprio is here and is solid once again. I like that guy (Mark Strong) and he seems very versatile.
So on the movie front, I watched a little of Run Lola Run (in German with subtitles) the other night and it was alright. I did watch one of Ebert’s old favorites Dark City with William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly and others. It was an interesting sci-fi movie and contained a lot of similarities in my mind with The Matrix. World created by aliens to study and better understand humans, with a hero who has taken on an ability that mirrors the aliens (who are superior). There is the whole idea of implanting memories and personalities which is explored, with the creepy Kiefer Sutherland in the role as doctor. I enjoyed it but was happy that I did not fork over money for it.
I have been seeing bits and pieces of other movies as well, like Dirty Dancing and wondering what the heck ever happened to Jennifer Grey’s career?!! She gets a nose job then no one wants her to work again. Ferris Bueller, Red Dawn, Dirty Dancing, she was a box office darling for a time. Swayze couldn’t seem to find a shirt that would fit him in that movie. The sister in that movie cracks me up.
Last night it was Pride and Glory with Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, and the red-headed guy who played Jim Carey’s best friend in Truman (Noah Emmerich). I am a big Norton fan but have been utterly underwhelmed by his choice of movies in the last little while. He is better than the material he has been working with, and this is no exception. I found this predictable, although there were minor twists like Carrottop NOT taking the money so that he could pay for his Wife’s expensive cancer-treatment drugs. There was little in the way of development in the Norton-girl relationship and others areas were begun but not finished. This movie was okay, but when another movie like Serpico about police corruption is on earlier in the weekend, it makes this one seem weak.
I had not even realized until elder son was talking about seeing Halloween 2 with his friends, that THIS Halloween was based upon a 2007 remake of the original Halloween done by Carpenter (and starring Jamie Lee Curtis) for which I KNOW that there was a sequel. Then last night I caught the first hour or so of this Rob Zombie re-make of Halloween where they are explaining more about Michael Myers (how does Austin Powers think about this?) and why he became what he did. How typical to blame it on a stripper mother. Isn’t it MORE scary if this psycho comes from the kid-next-door from a middle class family with no apparent dysfunction? Why the gratuitous use of nudity, when it’s not really necessary? Do I really need to see the full frontal nudity of this clearly acknowledged 17yo cheerleader who is full of herself? Why this mass of long hair in front of Myers’ face all the time, and why the fascination with masks? Now Scout Taylor-Compton is cute and worthy of seeing a sequel, but I went to bed early not finishing it and did not feel less because of it.
So last night was Benjamin Button time, and I have to say that I was disappointed in this. I am more disappointed in the actions of the main character and the fact that you lose any sympathy that you have for him. He is already in a challenged relationship with his lady-friend, and yet he decides to walk away from the relationship at a very early stage. He does not get to enjoy watching his daughter grow up. Instead he writes her postcards about wishing to be there to kiss her better or see her first day of school. At the age of 30-something, he could be a very good father to her, and yet HE decides on behalf of everyone to just leave. How sad. I am also puzzled by the daughter saying that she knew nothing about her Mom’s dance past (as she opens up some pictures of her). Well Mom owns and operates a dance studio, you think that she would have her marquee posters up from the ballet in Russia and NY and other places. That would help with business. Overall, a remarkable make-up performance, but an unsatisfying movie that loses it’s Forrest Gump appeal with the choices that our main character makes. Funny too how the young couple when they finally get together live in squalor with no furniture. Why? He owns a very successful button business, and the home of his father. Clearly he would have money to do more than live with nothing. You can set sail around the islands and enjoy that life, surely you can afford a proper bed! Needless to say, I had a number of issues with the film.
Frost/Nixon: I watched this last night. I liked it. Although in some ways, the entire movie turns on whether or not Richard Nixon actually made that phonecall to Frost in his hotel room. If, in fact, he did, then that was a colossal blunder. Like gloating in the 7th inning when winning 11-0 it does nothing but motivate the other guy (who is already down) to put you away. This is what happened to Frost who was not over-matched but simply did not direct his mind to the no holds barred duel that he was only watching until then. He had to focus on the 10% of the time that Nixon did stuff that he knew was wrong and did them anyway. I was surprised that the Nixon team did not subtract from that last taping episode the 25 minutes that Frost spent asking about burning the tapes.
Nixon was a sharp guy, no doubt, but he was also highly suspicious and had an inferiority complex. Losing his governor’s race earlier in his career scarred him for life. Anyway, I enjoyed this as I had studied Watergate back in University with John Dean (book Blind Ambition) and All the President’s Men. It’s an interesting lesson in mistakes and trying to cover them up. Both the principal actors did a fine job here, and notably the guy who played Nixon (Frank Langella). That was good. I loved the mental games he played with him just before going on air “So…did you fornicate last night?…” LMAO!!
I did manage to watch Rachel Getting Married last night and I enjoyed it. It’s amazing how you get deeper into someone’s life, and how little comments made earlier in the movie (like the first scene) are much more hurtful than you initially thought. This story unravels at a good pace, and you can see the underlying issues come forward. Funny that I didn’t have the sense that you did that this was a wedding that I wouldn’t want to attend. Actually the food and the music seemed marvelous. There was a curious mix of ethnic genres here (Indian, African, blues, island), and there were some cliché areas that could have gone wrong but they (to their credit did not) – like the racial issue. The Father is an interesting figure here, as I also thought was Debra Winger as the Mother and the pivotal scene where daughter goes to confront Mother. Sadly we don’t get much of a resolution on that front, except my take which was that Mom was just looking to put that all behind her and move on. I started not liking the me-only Hathaway character but she became more sympathetic as you explored her a little more. She feels, and feels deeply. Her reaction to those feelings are self-destructive, and it was very emotional for me to think about what she went through in that car. I thought that the rest of the cast played this out well.
I watched Slumdog Millionaire last night and I enjoyed it. There are a lot of depressing images here from the slums in India , and I cannot imagine going there and seeing it first hand. At the same time it opens your eyes as to why you have a money pouch when you travel. It’s a feel-good story with a plot that is interesting But it was good to watch and created some real tension. I was most impressed by the child actors in this film as they are all very good. They made this film what it is. Sure, on some level I wonder how a young girl living in that kind of poverty and situation turns out to look the way that she does (and she is a striking woman). I liked the way that they explained Dev Patel’s knowledge of seemingly independent questions with things that have happened in his life. The relationship with the brother is an interesting one and the redemption that occurs at the end. Was this the BEST movie of the year? I don’t know. But so far it is a pretty good one.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: I have not seen the original. I liked the premise and the story and it was more engaging than I thought that it would be. Reeves plays a very wooden character well that is not really sure about being human, but this is a typical Reeves performance. This movie also plays on an interesting idea that John Cleese of all people, expands upon very well. Without giving too much away, you have a sense about how any alien being would see the human race if it had to deal with our leaders and our military. Time and time again, in ET, Starman and others you see our true colours only shown by who we are and how we react than by our over-protective government. I liked this movie and was glad that I watched it. I thought that it was touching when the boy took the alien to the meeting place nearby and made a request that only he could make. It’s a nice moment.
Hulk: So in re-making this movie you have a solid cast, with Norton, William Hurt and the underutilized Tim Roth. I do really wish that Tim Roth did more work, since he plays such a good villain. But then you try and make the Hulk the hero and a more tragic hero, without ultimately making it ‘tragic’. I think that the problem is that the viewer has no real feelings or sympathy for the green monster and that makes it fall flat. You also go through the first movie with the beginnings of the Hulk in the opening credits which now you presume that the viewer already gets and accepts. Banner now is being mercilessly tracked down, and he’s trying to prevent himself (or his blood) from being turned into a weapon. And yet in the end he accepts the need for utilizing his alter ego as a weapon. Norton was very involved in this project but I am not sure why. The fight scenes are still like watching King Kong on a computer game. The final clip of this was just pure cheese, and I am presuming that we are talking about the Hulk and Iron Man getting together here (God I hope not). I would like to see Norton stick to meatier material here, and utilize his real acting talents. They are wasted on this material. Liv Tyler, what the heck has happened to you? – or is it just me that thinks her overbite has gone into surreal mode.
Oddly enough I have seen Jennifer Connelly is two recent viewings with Pollack and The Day the Earth Stood Still and she would have been better in reprising the Hulk role than Tyler.
So last night I watched on MPix movies on demand Pollock, which I had been meaning to see for a long time. I was interested in Ed Harris but importantly to see what it had to say about the creative process. Quite frankly I am not a fan of modern art, but I do enjoy the creative process and trying to better understand it. Pollock was a wanna-be great artist in my mind from the US working in the shadows of Picasso. Picasso seemed to be just one step ahead of him, even as they were contemporaries. What I had not remembered until later on in the movie was the performance here of Marcia Gay Harden, who was outstanding. She wins the Oscar as I am now seeing, and deservedly so. There is a scene where Pollock is demanding a child from her, after she had essentially demanded a wedding ring from him and she denies him. She has a great speech where she talks emotionally about the fact that they have little money, but he is a great artist but that he “needs, needs, needs” all the time. And the look on his face shows that he understands that she is correct. It is a powerful scene for a woman who is his greatest supporter, but who is more like his manager than his spouse and lover. He gets into this drip painting essentially and it’s messier and less precise than pointillism (like Georges Seurat and Claude Monet) which I enjoy very much. Anyway, it’s an interesting piece with some good performances. Funny these artist types though that are so self destructive. Here it’s alcoholism.