Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Movie Reviews and More

American Gangster: I really don’t know what happened here. It had the talent (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe both 30 pounds over weight, Ridley Scott directing), it had the story (local thug makes good, peaks, falls, cashes out), it had nudity, violence, drugs. The only thing it didn’t have is any sort of continuity. It was all over the freakin’ place! I’ll over look that this is just a bland rehash of Scarface and focus on the fact this movie (even at over two and a half hours) felt like a much longer movie that had been edited down to fit a specific running time.

The only moments of energy were when Denzel’s character was first establishing himself and when Crowe and he were in the same room working towards convictions of other people. The last part (the only time Washington and Crowe were on screen together) felt rushed and I wish the majority of the movie was spent there, examining the chemistry and camaraderie the two must have shared while spending all that time together. Instead we zip through it in 10 minutes and everything is hastily wrapped up in a tidy package.

If only life were so neat.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull: If you’ve seen this, then you already know this series should never have been revived. Harrison Ford looks downright ancient, but does his typical good job. Some of the action sequences are cool and completely unbelievable (catching up to speeding cars by swinging on vines? Killer ants? Falling down three different waterfalls and not getting a scratch?), but I can live with all of those. This is Indiana Jones, after all. What I can’t live with is the entire plot that involves aliens, Russians, mind control (no, I’m not kidding), and an ending that is too preposterous to describe. Gone is the final, iconic image of Indiana Jones riding into the sunset.

Actually, ‘South Park’ expresses my opinion of this movie better than I ever could.

Ghost Town: Ricky Gervais (the creator of ‘The Office’), Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear star in this often hilarious story of a ‘fucking prick’ who is suddenly seeing dead people. The catch being that dead people can be downright annoying. Kinnear nails the dead, self important, constantly scheming, rich guy perfectly. Never takes itself too seriously and makes an effort not to be predictable. Not great, but I enjoyed myself and there are sections where I was laughing my ass off. See, in particular, the impromptu meeting between Gervais and his doctor where he tries to find out if anything ‘unusual’ happened during his procedure.

Step Brothers: There have been a few times when I’ve nearly lost faith in Will Farrell. That stupid movie with Emma Thomson where he’s a character in a book is one. The other being ‘Semi Pro’ which was barely a movie at all. Then this movie comes along and restores my faith. No, it’s not a work of art and there are some parts that fall flat, but a majority of this movie is raunchy and hilarious. Maybe it’s the chemistry between Farrell and Reilly (they were the best part of ‘Ricky Bobby’, too) and their ability to play off each other. Whatever the case, you’ll never look at a drum set the same way again. Requires more than one viewing.

Untraceable: In the interest of full disclosure, I did not even finish watching this movie. I tried to give it a chance, but the sheer stupidity of all the main characters and the implausibility of the entire concept was too much. I’ll tell you where it lost me.

- I could swallow that this killer somehow sets up a web site that lets you watch him kill people.

- I could take that he impossibly makes the web site IP address change every 2-3 minutes (making it ‘Untraceable’. Get it?).

- I could over look that his victims are so elaborately set up to die (one guy actually dies by heat lamps) that the killer would need an advanced engineering degree.

- I gave the movie a pass that the ‘super smart’ Feds watched ‘helplessly’ as the above victim gets roasted alive (the more people that went to the site, the hotter the lamps got. Don’t ask!) even though they could have just asked the electric company to find a house sucking up a tremendous amount of electricity or have an infrared helicopter in the air looking for heat signatures (it had already been established the killer was in the general city area at this point in the movie).

- I could even over look that this killer was so sophisticated he has voice altering software he uses to trick one of the agents into a huge vat of water that fills with larger and larger amounts of acid the more people log on to the site. I could even forgive the stupidity of that same agent giving morse code using his eyes (left eye was dashes, right was dots).

What put me over the edge with this movie was when we finally see the killer’s lair he has done all this with exactly three laptops. No super servers running constant IP switching software. No high end routers with elaborate firewalls designed to confuse any government tracking programs. Three laptops. And I’m pretty sure one was dedicated to watching porn.

That’s when I realized the filmmakers didn’t care. So why should I?

The Golden Compass: For the record, I never read the books this movie (and presumably more on the way) is based on. Things are left up in the air, so we can assume there will be more. Picture this as a kid’s version of ‘Lord of the Rings’ with every human having an animal ‘demon’ by their side at all times. These aren’t evil demons we’re used to, just an animal representative of the human. I don’t know, I just watch. Anyway, there is some strange doings with kids being kidnapped and Nicole Kidman is somehow involved and James Bond shows up occasionally wearing a beard. I also know my boys loved this movie and have watched it at least 5 times over the last 3 weeks. For adults it may seem meandering and confusing, but kids seem enthralled with it. I should point out that they are both very excited about the release of ‘Mall Cop’, so take their opinions for what they're worth.

Horton Hears A Who: This, on the other hand, didn’t hold much interest for the boys. It was well made – animation is amazing, voice work top notch, some very funny moments – but for whatever reason it never gels. There are some religious zealot over tones to it and a strong message of ‘faith’ (you can believe in something you can’t see), but the boys watched it once and never mentioned it again. If you know kids, that means the movie missed it’s mark. Especially one made FOR kids.

Other notes:

- Congratulations to Jim Rice who (finally!!) was elected into the Hall of Fame after years and years of just missing the cut. Why this took so long is beyond me as he was THE most feared hitter in either league for a solid 5-8 year period in the late 70s and early 80s. He was the first baseball player that made me stop what I was doing and watch his at bats. Just ask any Yankee fan in those days, who cringed in terror whenever Rice came to bat. There were a few times he would go into Yankee Stadium for a three game series and launch 4 or 5 home runs over the weekend and leave with barely a wave.

By the way, Rice was also a Red Sox left fielder who didn’t really get along with the media, didn’t always appreciate the passion of the Boston fans and was questionable on the defensive side. Basically he was Manny before Manny was out of diapers.

- While I can’t let myself get too excited and it will probably never happen, there are rumors circulating about the Red Sox making overtures to the Brewers about trading for Prince Fielder. If this happens, just picture me jumping up and down in my living room while screaming at the top of my lungs. Big Papi and Big Papi, Jr on the same team.

Please….let it be true…..

Today’s distraction: Boston Globe’s tribute to Jim Rice. I actually forgot he hit a home run in his final at bat. Just like Ted Williams and, yes, that’s where the similarity ends.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed American Gangster, so I don't know what happened there for you. As for Step Brothers, I have watched it probably 8 or 9 times since I bought it, and it has gotten better every single time. Wait until you find a buddy who likes it and you spend 4 hours quoting it one day, that will seal the deal.

Hammen said...

I also liked American Gangster, but I'm pretty gay for Denzel, so that's mostly the reason why.

I had not yet heard anything about Prince Fielder. You've got me excited, I'm going to investigate.

BeachBum said...

Not sure what happened with American Gangster, either. Just seemed like some scenes were cut short or were never followed up on. Like him shooting the guy in the head right in front of everyone. Was there an investigation? Or the scene where is mother stops him from going out and killing Brolin's character. It' there, then gone and no follow up.

I'll bet anything there is a director's cut coming out that will be about 4 hours long and much better. Everything seemed abrupt and hurried.

The Prince Fielder idea was thrown out in the Sunday Globe in it's enormous baseball section which was then picked up by Buster Olney in his blog.

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