Jan 25, 2009

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

The Wrestler - Holy balls this movie was fucking fantastic!  It gets moved to the top of the list for this post!  It was soooo good.  The general idea, if you haven't heard (although based on my sold out 2:30 on a friday showing, I'd guess some people have heard of it), is a washed up old 80s wrestler is trying to make his comeback.  The wrestler (Randy the Ram) is played by a washed up old actor trying to make a comeback - Mickey Rourke.  It also features a washed up old stripper played by Marisa Tomei.  Maybe this seems redundant, but it is so good.  The layers and repetition of the theme throughout the movie are fantastic.  Rourke does an amazing amazing job, I almost cried watching him.  Everyone does a good job, including Tomei whom I've never really liked, and Evan Rachel Wood whom I have a hard time thinking of without puking in my mouth a little about that music video she made w/ Marilyn Manson.  But wow it's so good, the way they easy us into his life, and into wrestling manages to be shocking without being offputting because they ramped it up slowly.  I have absolutely no attachment to wrestling, I can name maybe 5 wrestlers from my childhood, and I only know them from the video games.  It was never my kind of thing, I just didn't have enough testosterone, I guess, so the subject matter shouldn't matter to me.  But I was completely enraptured by this guy's story.  My only real complaint about this movie is the camera.  It is filmed hand-held, I guess?  Because the quality is awful, for the first 10 minutes I was staring at the grainy speckles everywhere instead of what was going on, it looked bad, but I guess I got used to it.  At first I was also very unhappy with the handheld shakiness.  Shakiness doesn't bother me physically, it just seemed completely unnecessary.  But they do this thing where we, through the camera, are constantly following Rourke around a step behind him.  It really gives a fantastic feeling of being in his life, following him as he trudges from one place to another, with every grunt and groan and wheeze.  So I have to even give up on complaining about the camera.  I may still be euphoric about it, but it may be the best movie of 2008 (which is when it came out, even though poor old Tucson just got it).

JCVD - Huh, that was... interesting.  I saw this the same day as The Wrestler, which is funny given the theme.  This is Jean Claude Van Damme making a movie about himself, as himself, getting wrapped up in a bank robbery.  The concept is pretty great, and its much more introspective than anything he's done, obviously, so it does capture your attention.  But it's kind of all over the place.  There are some really good moments, and some really weird ones, and some really bad ones.  It's filmed almost sepia, almost old timey, which is fine, just a weird choice, maybe to make it seem like almost reality.  The intersection with real life is confusing and kind of unnecessary.  One step further from reality and it wouldn't have been a problem, but introducing things about his wife and child makes it uncomfortable.  His address to the audience in the middle of the movie is completely out of nowhere.  On it's face, separate from the movie, it's a fantastic bit of acting (probably wasn't acting) and is completely worth watching.  On the other hand, it is shoehorned into this elseworldy movie that literally stops for 10 minutes so he can look into the camera and tell us how he (and we) have fucked up his life.  It's captivating, but it is out of place.  I do like how the movie brings him down, he wants to be that action hero, but he's not, it's very humbling, and you can't help but respect that.  It thinks it has a fancy narrative structure - it doesn't.  It just plays with the order of events a little to fill in the gaps.  But it's fundamentally no different than a TV show showing you a dramatic event, and then coming back from the theme song with "24 hours earlier."  There's no twisting or art to the timeline, just gap filling, which isn't bad or anything, it's just not important.  It's a very weird movie, I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I think it has to be seen because it is so unique, I don't know of anything like it.  But that doesn't mean its amazing, I'm not even positive it's good.

Slumdog Millionaire - Now that's how you do effin' narrative structure!!  I had heard about how the movie was presented beforehand, but I was still completely blown away by it.  The idea, if you don't know, is a young guy on the Indian Who Wants To Be A Millionaire gets to the end because he has all these life experiences that just happen to have taught him the answers to the questions.  The story is really good.  This is partially because we, americans, are generally unfamiliar with the growing up and living in Mumbai.  The presentation of those images and that environment is dramatic, it's sad and amazing.  I had heard the criticism that if not for that, this movie is not as good, I disagree.  That is certainly part of it, but if this movie was about a kid growing up in Brooklyn (something like that awesome movie Chop Shop), it would still be fantastic.  Implementing this story are several pretty good actors.  There are no individual performances that come anywhere near the oscar stuff that is out right now, but as a whole they do an excellent job, particularly the younger ones who embody an innocence and hope in the one, and a power through darkness in the other.  The filming to serves the imagery and the story extremely well.  They are fond (maybe too fond) of crooked frames, but it's pretty cool.  Early on when the three find shelter in a shipping container and the focus is on Salim and Jamal and Lakita are blury sillhouettes in the background is beautiful.  In the end the story is a romance.  It's easy to be jaded about such things, romances are easily corny, especially if they rely on coincidence or fate or anything like that.  Certainly I would generally pish posh a movie with those themes.  But instead, for whatever reason, I was inspired and uplifted by the story, without any sense of cynicism.  I really really loved it.  PS the soundtrack is fantastic.  PPS the end credits are god damn fantastic.

Defiance - Good movie.  The movie looks very grimy and dirty and depressed.  Even in this amazing scenary, it's all grey and drab, which is good.  All the actors do a good job, no one falls down, Daniel Craig is very good.  It is a pretty amazing story, being true and all, the real life pictures they show at the end have a power to them now that youv'e seen their story, it's pretty cool.  I feel like it didn't blow me away, and I'm not sure why, because I can't identify anything that was really wrong with it, just kind of slow.  But it was still very good.

Five Graves to Cairo - Pretty cool movie, an old one.  It's WWII, the idea is a british soldier gets stuck in some town in africa just before the germans take over and thereafter poses as a waiter in the hotel under german occupation and takes up spying.  It's pretty cool, the main guy is very good.  Rommel (the german general in charge) is a little silly, he's kind of a joke.  The degree to which he gives away information, it's like a ridiculous bond or comic book villain who tells his plans.  The Italian general, too, is pretty stupid.  I guess he's comic relief, maybe it was funny at the time, but now it falls flat, not to mention pussifying italians.  But besides the two generals, it's pretty good, and not silly.  It's not one of those old movies that blow me away with the celverness of writing, it's fine though.  It was a good time.

Traitor - This was pretty descent.  It's just an espionage thriller thing.  It's pretty average, all around.  Don Cheatle does a good job, cuz he rather knows how to act, but it doesn't amount to all that much.  The story plays out exactly like you'd think, everyone does their thing, and you go home.  Nothing much to say, really.

Four Rooms - Ugh.  I guess the concept for the movie is okay.  This bellboy works in a crazy hotel on new years eve.  The movie is 4 acts (separately written and made w/ separate actors, sides the bellboy), each a different room of craziness.  Then, believe it or not, crazy things happen.  Ugh.  It thought it was quirky and clever and culty, but you can't try to be those things, it has to be by accident, otherwise it just looks dumb.  It wasn't devoid of humor, but I honestly barely smiled throughout it.  I have no idea how it even got on my netflix, boring!

Revolver - Um, I think I saw this before?  Parts of it seem so familiar, it must have been forever ago, though, cuz it barely seems familiar.  It's defintely my type of movie: I love Jason Statham, I love british gangster movies.  You can do almost anything with those ingredients and I'll love it.  This one is pretty good, not a classic, but good.  Jason Statham's narration is moderately horrible, but he's good otherwise.  I don't mind being in his head, but Ray Liota's head is one of the last places I ever want to be, let alone if I have to listen to him narrate it.  The style, dialogue, and general plot of the movie are as expected. There is a completely inexplicible use of animation.  And the animation is decent and half-cool, but shows up part way through for no apparent reason, and then disappears.  Oh, ok, I just remembered the twist to this movie, yeah I've defintely seen it, I don't know why it took me so long to remember.  It gets all psychological at the end, it's supposed to be about the ego and stuff.  I don't think it suceeds in this context, and even if it did I probably wouldn't put the effort into analyzing it.  But still, it's a good movie, I hate that if it's not in my blog I can't remember it, but I do like it.

The Good Shepherd - God dammit!  I've seen this one too!  Grah!  See, there was a whole period of time, at least a year, from a couple years ago where I didn't write to my blog, and apparently I saw every movie ever in that time.  I didn't have the energy to watch this one again.  It's too damn long, and really what I remember about it is a resounding "meh".  I don't remember the details, I couldn't tell you the plot, but meh felt familiar, so I'm going with that.  Probably a decent movie, probably decently acted, probably very interesting historically.  But for almost 3 hours, I'm sticking with meh.

El Cantante - Okay, it was extremely unlikely I wasn't going to be happy with this movie.  Even if it was 2 hours of drivel, it was drivel to a salsa sound track, so I was sold.  The movie is about Hector Lavoe, one of the foundations of salsa in the US.  Marc Anthony plays Lavoe, he does fine, it's really just singing (he's good at that) and acting high, which was fine.  Jennifer Lopez plays his wife, she has to do more work, she's the narrator (as told through an interview she did shortly before she died), she's got more range to cover.  She's not bad, she's not good, she's fine.  The plot is remarkably boring.  It is every single other musician movie you've ever seen.  There's a dude, he's talented, he meets a chick, he meets a producer, he gets famous, he crashes and burns, end of story.  End of every story.  It was only a tiny bit interesting because I like the music a lot (the first time that's ever been true of one of these musician movies).  Notably lacking, by the way, was dancing.  Neither of the leads bothered to learn to dance.  Anthony doesn't even try, and Lopez just shimmies and thinks its dancing.  There was some dancing in the background for half a second or two, but that's it, which was very disappointing.  But the music is great, I really like Marc Anthony's voice, so it was still a good use of time for me.

X-Files - I Want To Believe: Meeeeeh.  There's really nothing interesting about the X-files anymore, 's why I don't like Fringe.  This is basically just a long episode of the X-files.  Nothing all that important happens.  I guess the motivation for Mulder is an overarching thing from the series, and the fact that their bangin' made the.... three remaining fanboys squeal.  Besides that, what's here?  An okay story, a slight mystery, a classic "is it or isn't it?" open-ended phenomenon.  Boring.

In The Valley of Elah - Actually this was good!  There's no lack of iraq movies these days, and most are saying something that's already been said.  Covering PTSD is a certainly worthy subject.  Tommy Lee Jones is doing his standard character these days, but he's very good.  Everyone is good, really, even the real life soldiers playing soldiers.  The mystery isn't much of one, but it's almost not even the point.  It's pretty sad, very... mellow?  but not in a relaxed way, just some word that I can't think of.  It's quiet, and slow, but serious, and demands attention, but not intense.  Serioslowquienonintese?  Yeah I dunno.

Comedian - Huh, this was different.  I've never been into Jerry Sienfeld, his act was decent, the what's the deal stuff was funny.  But I'm firmly in the 10% of people who never liked the show, not even a little bit.  This movie isn't about him being funny, though, it's this behind the scenes, inside baseball, quiet look at stand-up comedians.  It's really very good, lots of little opinions that are worthwhile, the story of the new up and coming comic is interesting, especially cuz I've never heard of him, and he's obnoxious.  It's not a funny movie, it's just interesting, defintely worthwhile.

The Duchess - Wait, why the hell did I rent this?  Why the hell was it anywhere near my queue?!  I thought at first it might be to ogle Kiera Knightly, but then I remembered that I don't really like her - she's too skinny and her lips look like plumped sausages.  I thought maybe i just picked things from the bluray list, but there's plenty of bluray on my list.  Maybe it's just old intincts of getting every movie I can and sorting out what I want to watch later, I dunno.  I thought about all this while I inexplicably watche the movie anyway.  As for that, what can I say?  It's one of those movies, it was silly and melodramatic and had crescendoing music and all that.  So... that makes it a good one of one of those movies?  I guess?

October Sky - I often start thinking of what I'm going to be writing in these dumblittle reviews as I'm watching the movie.  As i started watching this one, I was thinking I'd say "I've been meaning to watch this for the longest time, I'm glad I finally got around to it"  About halfway through, I realized I had to change that to "dammit, I've seen this one already too"  So apparently I did it again, at least it seemed awful familiar.  It's still a good movie.  It's a nice story, and everyone does a fine job.  Nothing amazing, of course, but a good ole family movie.  Wish I hadn't wasted this weekend's netflix on a period piece and a repeat, but there ya go.

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