Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Review Quickies, Part III

This latest batch of quickies tries to offer a bit of variety - as much as possible without actually straining my still-healing eye. The line-up is: The Man With One Red Shoe, The Godfather 3, Frantic, The Edge, I Am Legend, One Fine Day, Ratatouille, and Transformers. Enjoy.

I think this is Art Deco. No wait, her hair is Art Nouveau!

The Man with One Red Shoe
A fun (but stupid) vehicle for a pre-guaranteed-success Tom Hanks. Two US Intelligence Execs are out to burn each other; the smarter one decides to pretend a random violinist (Hanks) is his top agent, just to distract the dumber one. Soon the dumber one's team is destroying his life, and he may die soon. Also, his best friend's wife is trying to sleep with him!

When I watch a movie like this, I really miss the energy of Hanks' early comedies. If you don't find it funny or charming, you'll probably hate it. If you do enjoy this film, you'll have to thank the impressive cast - Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Edward Hermann, Jim Belushi, Carrie Fisher, and Daryll Hannah - all do good work.

Some of the jokes may not work for you, but (probably) enough will… I feel foolish because I still haven't seen the French film this was based on.

When the end comes, it will come with hammy, poor acting, my son...

Godfather 3
A modest train-wreck of a movie. The famous Corleone family inches toward the late 90's, and Al Pacino CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE, AND YOU NOTICE BECAUSE NOW HE YELLS INSTEAD OF ACTING. Funny, Michael was usually so quiet.

Several characters don't feel right in this long picture - even when they're fine actors like Andy Garcia. Coppola's daughter never should have appeared in this (the audience openly jeered in unison at one point). At least it looks pretty... I can't tell if the director used too much or too little from the prior "G" films.

Still, there's an incredible adherence to "themes" - no, I'm sorry - THEMES in "G3." You get the feeling that someone can run out of ideas and just call it motif, though. The guy who loudly brays like a donkey (it gives me a chill) is the most annoying character in this film (and possibly film history?). This experience was such an amazing disappointment, I don't even know if I can judge it fairly.

Coming off so dull? Now that's acting.

The frustratingly-mainstream career of Harrison Ford had two big left turns in it - "Mosquito Coast" and "Frantic." Roman Polanski directs this low-key thriller that asks two horrible questions: what do you do when you've barely arrived in Paris and someone kidnaps your reasonably-fine wife? And what do you do when your only lead is an even-more-fine French thief who projects a sort of Cat-Woman vibe?

"Quiet" and "intense" are words often used to describe "Frantic," and they're accurate. This flick does feel muddy at times, however. The slightly-dull doctor gets dragged around Parisian slums, and the effect is that this pic comes off as a foreign-thriller version of "After Hours." It's a little hard to wrap your head around, but you'll see what I mean.

Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge!

The Edge
Billionaire Anthony Hopkins leaves trophy wife Elle Macpherson alone for a week, and already my suspension of disbelief is gone. But writer David Mamet insisted on this thriller plot, so Hopkins flies into the wilderness with a greasy-but-smooth Alec Baldwin and a tense Harold Perrineau. They encounter Tiny Plane Syndrome (crash + slight survival chance), a cruel bear, and the severe emotional/moral deficiencies of one of them.

The Edge" is impressive because of all of the things that play well, almost as if to spite all of the things that don't play well. Then again, a bear might track you for miles and bite your backside first. Go figure.

Some long dialogues, concepts, and developments can be cool, thoughtful, and naturalistic; other instances (in each case) are corny or phony or simple (as in "dumb"). But Mamet rarely flat-out fails, while the scenery is beautiful, the cinematography is great, and I give the bear (not the film) 7/10.

Yeah, you go kill that vampire! A good story ain't nothing! Yeah!

I Am Legend
Will Smith is the last man left in NYC because even the vampires realized he was too cool to kill (actually 100% true). Great effects and visual style cannot repair this situation - a slightly-dumb picture with a glossy, vague plot that starts too late.

Many elements - the intro, a barren Manhattan, the way the past is explained - are done terribly well. Still, it's a big-budget, action version of a cool, smart, and meaningful sci-fi story. In those situations, when a studio is banking on Will Smith's profit margins, the result is that the filmmakers often "live in the country but don't speak the language."

Attempts at messages or depth are shallow failures. One impassioned speech about Bob Marley's music is actually fairly dumb and clearly wrong. In the end, the story doesn't really matter because it happens a little too fast, and has lots of holes, and something doesn't strike me as engaging enough. Did they want this movie to be good? I doubt it was their #1 priority...

"I Am Legend," you can sorta kiss my ass.  Smith is a legend, but not for work in hollow movies like "IAL." When you watch a movie like this, you're left wondering "what if they made this really good?" Don't wonder, read the story by the beyond-brilliant Richard Matheson. Or watch"28 Days Later"...

I dunno what's wrong now, romantic comedy was ok in the '90's...

One Fine Day
Jack Taylor is a playboy reporter who is nifty, but isn't as shallow as he seems. Melanie Parker is a hyper-competent architect who is fairly uptight. They're both ambitious and over-worked single parents, and they start fighting the moment they meet. Their work lives are reeling because they couldn't get their children to a field trip on time, and their fortunes become like a trial from the Gods.

Now, many romantic comedies try so hard or so stupidly that they implode - others don't try at all. "One Fine Day" probably perfectly rides the line between breezy foolishness and actually developing their leads.

It helps that the chemistry feels right. Or maybe it succeeds because it doesn't underestimate the audience much. I don't know why, but Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney make this picture work; they each sell their characters' flaws and strong suits nicely. Clooney is great with kids (of course).

Yes, a rat is the best chef in France... Way nicer than Gordon Ramsay.

A funny, great-for-children animated comedy from Pixar, whose mighty work is actually plot-driven. Somehow, it's about a French mouse that dreams of cooking elegant meals for humans - and somehow, you just go with it.

It's a little harder to watch a mouse play "puppeteer" with a kind-but-meek young cook - pulling strands of his hair to get him to stir, fold, flip, and pour. That's creepy and excessive, but you get used to it. The filmmakers excel at good, clever, multi-layered stories that work for adults and kiddies alike.

While "Ratatouille" brought some joy, I didn't like it as much as any other Pixar effort. Some elements could be tighter - it's far from perfect. While what bothered me may not bother you, I promise that you will laugh and smile regularly. Also, the images are flawless. Many scenes actually look like good photographs, not computer-generated images.

I get extra points because I finally spelled it right on the first try! (though I double-checked)

Admittedly, she does look good. I just don't see why that matters.

Bang! Boom! Crash! Huh? Sentient alien robots land on Earth and somehow run into high school kids and blah blah blah stuff blows up. I can turn my brain off for some summer blockbusters, but this asks far too much. It asks for a complete disconnect. It also requires you to actually get off on the kinda-sad, kinda-annoying, but always excessive, efforts by Bay and/or Jerry Bruckheimer to create quirky characters.

You'd have to really enjoy this, since the excess is trumped up to volume 15. This is supposed to be a kids' movie, but John Torturro's performance seems inspired by meth and the need to be downright creepy. For some reason, this "artistic venture" is about boring-ass youngsters, not the nifty and intelligent living machines. This is all the more senseless, since the mechanical aliens have an actual story, and should be genuinely interesting...

I guess adding a story instead of a boy-wows-hot-girl "plot" is too avant-garde for "tentpole" releases or franchise films. To me, there's no point in a fx-heavy robotic "Fight Club" film when the intricate CGI doesn't allow you to tell what's happening or who is hitting whom. Making this even worse: Michael Bay's truly pornographic eye to visuals develops a full-blown ADD problem, never staying in one place long enough.

I saw this in the theater because my friend was having a rough time, and I suffered bravely. I couldn't escape the thought that this is like a rat experiment, but one in which the buttons press themselves... For some reason, converting this from a cartoon into a live-action picture created new problems - I can't believe that all these robots turn into cars that weigh so little; they'd destroy the asphalt with their impossible weight, right? No way one of these becomes a handgun or ipod.

I recommend this movie for people that with low standards or, who like leering at Megan Fox's body.

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