Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Film reviews: cleaning house part 1

I'm so backed up with potential reviews of films I've seen, it's not even funny. The only way I can spit anything out at this point is to write in a manner similar to my revival lists. So let's try that. Here we go:

300- Here's a film that satisfies one half of me. The emotional side that's getting a nice amount of blood-letting, and over the top fun. They don't make sword and sandal flicks anymore, not without an air of pretension like in Gladiator anyway. Don't hold your breath for historical accuracy either. Especially with the 8 foot, androgynous, drag queen, also known as Xerxes. Just expect a different looking world. More enjoyable then the previous Frank Miller adaptation, Sin City. Loved the look of that film, and it was decent, but I didn't become one of the fanatics who overpraised it. This is campy fun, helped by the best CGI environment seen in a long time, and some good to very good bloody battle sequences. It's hard not to leave this film without quoting a few lines. On opening night, it was hard not to transpose the lines. WE SHALL DRINK . . . IN HELL. WE SHALL PLAY THE JUKEBOX, IN HELL! THIS . . . IS . . . SPAR_TAAAAHHHH!

We get a new A-list type action film lead in Gerard Butler. You believe in him, his ability to disembowel 12 men in a minute, and you buy Butler's ability to make the worst-written line credible. Much like Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, Butler succeeds in making chicken salad out of chicken shit with his dialogue. In weaker years, Lena Headey's performance would get deserved dark horse consideration for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. We'll see.

If one wishes to look into subtext with this, knock yourself out. If you want to say, view this as Gay decadent society, trying to impose their will against a bunch of macho, gay bashers who are trying to hold the principles of gods and self-discipline by any means necessary, go ahead. If you want to place a certain current president into the role of Xerxes, as he leads his vast superior numbers, in a losing war against a small army having home field advantage, go ahead. If you want to have said president represent Leonidas, as he sticks to his principles and deals with an Arab force intent on wiping out his people's way of life, go for it. You see this film, you realize all of that it is a little much. Just have bloody fun. I'd go to see it again on the IMAX screen, even though as of this writing there might be only one or two more days to catch this before Spider Man 3 comes in. As it was, seeing it from the third row, having the picture almost permanently imprinted on my left eyeball seems as good as it will get.

BREACH- This film satisfied the intellectual side more. Not only is it not the bloody spectacle that is 300, watching this film was almost like watching Leonard Nimoy play Spock through all 3 seasons of the original Star Trek. Emotions stifled to the point that if you prefer Star Wars action all the time, you will be bored. But when some emotion comes out, you really take notice.

It says that it's based on a true story, but consider this as a Cliff Notes version of the capturing of Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI agent convicted of selling secrets to Russia, both when it was the Soviet Union and after. Perhaps a little too much story is placed on the young undercover agent ordered to gain Hanssen's trust, but it's not a fatal flaw by any means. It moves fairly quickly and is never boring. But it feels familiar and while I would recommend paying to see it, I guess I can see why it's not a big hit. It feels like other non-Bond, Non-Clancy spy films and you can look at it and say, "do I really need to go pay 10 dollars for this? NAH! Wait for the DVD."

It's interesting to see Ryan Phillippe continue to stay under the radar and give good performances. Crash, Flags of our Fathers, and now this. He's in the young pup learning/ rookie who must take down the master role, and under these 2 dimensional confines, he handles himself well. Especially when compared Laura Linney, who's adequate but can't rise above the limits of playing Phillippe's handler, or Dennis Haysbert, who can only come in and out, doing the authority voice thing that could be a trap later on.

But Chris Cooper is working on a different level, playing Hanssen. Bitter about his level in life, a god fearing man who records and distribute sex tapes of him and his wife. A talented man whose arrogance and paranoia have bent him all out of whack. A man who, in getting his revenge and in an unspoken manner, seems to equate stealing office supplies, objects in other people's offices, and state secrets as one in the same. He could take the time to explain his motives directly, but what's the point, I did it, deal with it. Cooper makes each conflicting move believable, and except for the last scene (you'll know what I mean when you see it), raises the level of the film above the typical.

Note: Hopefully when this comes on DVD, they'll have digitally removed the boom mikes that crop up on screen from time to time. They can't change the fact that The FBI is using Windows XP Office here, even though the film takes place in Jan-Feb 2001, and this particular form of Windows would not exist for several more years, but anyway . . .

RENO 911:MIAMI- The Comedy Central show is good in spurts, and this film is much the same. Imagine a platoon-like group of officers of varying sizes, genders, and ethnicities with one thing in common, they all learned police work from Inspector Clouseau. Not a bad performance from any of the main actors, and Paul Rudd is hilarious as a Jewish Tony Montana. Seems to follow a partial script, with Cops-like camera work done to the point that you might think they're doing a Borat-type film from beginning to end (I think that's where most of the deleted scenes on the DVD will be).This would be a fun rental, but worth the price of a 10 dollar admission? I don't think so. Apparently, most of America agreed, but this looks like a mega-hit and a comedy classic when compared to . . .

I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE- A romantic comedy that's not funny. Not one laugh out of me. Not. One. Laugh. A few smiles here and there, but that's it. One reason I went was because I liked the trailer, though all the moments I laughed at then, I couldn't repeat now. The other reason I went, was because the friend I was with REALLY wanted to see a movie after work, and it was either this or The Reaping. A few weeks later, he asked if I wanted to see the Hillary Swank film, and I said hell no. You had your chance back then, but now, no way.

Once again Chris Rock remakes a superior film into a comedy of his own creation that barely resembles the original. Unlike the Heaven Can Wait/Here Comes Mr. Jordan remake Here on Earth, which has some scattered laughs throughout, this remake of Chole In The Afternoon tries and fails badly. Minus the nudity in order to get a PG-13 rating(that attempt failed), and with adult sensibilities that don't work on Chris Rock. The only laughs from the sparse crowd at Fresh Meadows came from those under 25, and they were all dick jokes. Minus Kerry Washington, there is little reason to stay interested. No sympathy for Rock, who is tempted to cheat, nor for the shrill wife with no sex drive, nor the other woman with a bod for sin, and the emotional depth of a 15 year old on a good day. If Sean Penn had the capacity to laugh, he would laugh at this schmuck and not the film. And when I say laugh at the schmuck, I mean Chris Rock the amatuer actor and director, not his character. We could laugh at Rock's film career going bye-bye, no matter what Madagascar 2 does. Avoid this film if you know what's good for you. Don't make my mistake. I didn't pay to see this and I'm still annoyed at the thought of it.

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