Monday, June 28, 2010

MICMACS: The Film Babble Blog Review

MICMACS (Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2009)



It's been way too long since French twisted fantasy-centric film maker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSEN, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE) has graced the screen with his uber colorful thrusting imagery.

His stunning style is instantly recognizable in the first few frames of MICMACS, his first film since A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (2004). In the swift motions of a great storyteller we see a soldier being killed in the desert by a landmine, his devastated wife institutionalized, and son (Noé Boon) sent off to Catholic School before growing up to be a video store clerk (Dany Boon) who can lip-synch every line of THE BIG SLEEP (the dubbed into French version BTW). One night a stray bullet from a drive-by shootout ends up embedded in his skull.

After Boon gets out of the hospital he finds that he has lost his job and apartment so he has to turns to street performance for the pittance of passerby's. Luckily he's a skilled Chaplin-esque showman so he's about to float through a few months until he meets Jean-Pierre Marielle as an ex con vendor. Marielle introduces Boon to his "family" - a rag tag ensemble of scrap heap dwellers who all make magic out of scrap metal. The trash troop includes Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon who claims to hold the world record as a human cannonball, Julie Ferrier as a contortionist (and love interest for Boon) who can make room in the fridge for, well, herself, Yolande Moreau as the slightly dizzy den mother, and Omar Sy as a crafty ethnographer as well as an accomplished mimic.

Boon has found a home and shortly after happens upon the opulent headquarters of the arms dealers responsible for the death of his father and the bullet in his head. His impossibly elaborate revenge schemes are enacted by his new cohorts in trickery. André Dussolier and Nicolas Marie as the offending snooty villains of the piece are besotted and baffled at every turn with a smorgasbord of well timed and often hilarious obstacles aimed at the butt of their weapons manufacturing empires.



MICMACS is a bit overdone and cutesy at times but has so many ideas and so much going on in nearly every shot that one can let that slide. So much so that I can also let slide the cringe-worthy anti-war bent to the climax. Its ginormous sense of wonder is overwhelming - it's easily the most visually pleasing live action film this year.

Jeunet's whimsical approach which was so exhilarating in AMELIE and his work with Marc Caro, is at once both modern and classical. The film is wrapped in the traditional packaging of many TCM staples (the opening elegant credits after the cold opening, the silent film steals, the playful piano plinking, etc.) yet the film utilizes CGI and gives us Jeunet embracing the age of YouTube. I'd highly recommend seeing MICMACS on the big screen if you can. You really need a large canvas for such a pulsating painting like this.

More later...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Movie Reviews: HARRY BROWN & SOLITARY MAN

Despite the amazing anomaly that is TOY STORY 3 the summer keeps on suckin'. But if you bypass the multiplex and head to the indie/art theater you may a few interesting diversions. 


Okay, at least one: 

HARRY BROWN (Dir. Daniel Barber, 2010)



Tiny white titles on the side of the screen tell us "Michael Caine is Harry Brown." The lettering is dwarfed by the darkness of the rest of the frame. The title character fares at bit better against the darkness - at least at first. We see Caine waking up in his South London flat to face the grim day. He has his head held high as he walks through his neighborhood on his way to the hospital to visit his dying wife (Liz Daniels). There is a particular noisy graffiti covered underground passageway he hesitantly passes.


After his visit Caine plays chess at a shady pub with a long-time friend (David Bradley) who is also afraid of the gang activity, but to a greater extreme. Bradley has armed himself with a old army bayonet and fully intends to use it against the harassing hoods. In the night Caine's wife dies; he is unable to be with her because of the additional distance he must travel by avoiding the tunnel. 


The next morning Caine is visited by police detectives (Emily Mortimer and Joseph Gilgun) who inform him that Bradley was murdered - the killing happens off-screen but we do see some of the offending incident leading up to it. Caine, of course, takes the law into his own hands to avenge his friend's death. He gets in a shoot-out in a drug den; he offs a few of the punked-up thugs, and hunts down the king-pin while the police close in. My wife called it "Gran Torino UK" and, yeah, there is quite a bit of that in play - a pushed to the edge war veteran, who after his wife dies, takes on the gangs that are threatening the well-being of his neighborhood. 


It's much darker and grittier than Eastwood's film - in fact the stark white faces of the actors and the washed out look made me think that it could've been just as effectively shot in black and white. While some sections like a way-too-long montage of police interrogation may be muddled, Caine alone gives the film a hearty gravitas. 


It's maybe a minor movie but Caine owns the screen in a major way. He's utterly believable in every moment - from his grieving over his wife to his calm intensity when facing down his enemies. HARRY BROWN has a predictable vigilante premise yet it's still satisfying - take away the cell phone camera footage and it's the same kind of claustrophobic thriller that could've been made in any era. 

SOLITARY MAN (Dirs. Brian Koppelman & David Levien, 2009)



Once again Michael Douglas plays a crassly ambitious businessman who alienates everybody around him. No wait; this isn't WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS - that's not in theaters until September. 


Here Douglas plays Ben Kalmon - a divorced defrauded former car dealership tycoon who cheats on his girlfriend (Mary Louise-Parker), borrows money from his daughter (Jenna Fischer from The Office), and spouts out existential advice about every topic to whoever will listen to him. Louise-Parker wants Douglas to accompany her daughter (Imogen Poots) to a college interview at his alma mater. Y


ou're right to think that is a bad idea - he's a womanizing sleaze and despite her youth, Poots is and cynical and promiscuous to match . Jesse Eisenberg (ADVENTURELAND, ZOMBIELAND) shows up as a campus guide who Douglas gives some unheeded romantic guidance to. 


Where this goes to from here was unpleasant enough to watch; I'd rather not have to describe. It's hard to decipher what we're supposed to take away from Douglas's character. At first he's a fast talking comic figure who we're supposed to laugh at in a "that old dirty codger" way but as the pitiful dimensions of his unlikability widen each scene adds up to little more than a series of collected cringes. 


It benefits sporadically from a good cast - Susan Sarandon as Douglas's ex wife appears to delight in her character's confidence, Fisher has some strong moments standing up to her untrustworthy father, and Poots savvily strides through her cutting scenes. Eisenberg just does his patented nervous kid shtick but it's not his fault - he's not given enough here to do anything else with. 


 Danny DeVito lightly steals the film as a deli owner who knew Douglas back in his college days. DeVito dispenses the only real wisdom (and some of its only humor) the film has to offer and it's nice to see him on-screen again with Douglas - they were co-stars in ROMANCING THE STONE, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, and, my favorite, THE WAR OF THE ROSES. Otherwise the film doesn't have enough of an emotional arc to it. It's well made with convincing dialogue but its tone is too reserved and its narrative lacks drive. 


Seeing Douglas interact with college students made me nostalgic for a his much better film that tackled some of the same themes - THE WONDER BOYS. There Douglas's Grady Tripp was a thoughtful yet jaded man truly at a crossroads, here his pathetic character is just a jerk in a large hole he dug himself and I found myself not caring if he ever gets out of it. 


More later...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hey I Finally Saw...TRUE GRIT!



It seemed like a good time to catch up with the 1969 John Wayne western classic for a few crucial reasons.

The recent death of Dennis Hopper who has a small, yet memorable role was one, but overwhelmingly it's because the Coen Brothers next project is a remake with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin set to be released later this year. Although the Coens reportedly are aiming for their film to be a more faithful adaptation of Charles Portis's 1968 novel than a strict remake, the original was a milestone movie that won an Oscar for Wayne's performance as Marshall Rooster Cogburn, therefore a must see.

In the late '60s the genre was undoubtedly winding down, but you wouldn't know it from the opening landscape shots of TRUE GRIT in which the wide-screen western still looks alive and kicking. Henry Hathaway had the formula down as he had directed dozens of cowboy pictures, and of course "the Duke" was a hardcore veteran, but this project had a different element to it in the form of a young tomboyish girl named Kim Darby. Darby plays the fiercely determined 14 year old Mattie Ross who recruits the ornery drunken Wayne to help her hunt down her father's murderer (Jeff Corey).

Accompanied by Glen Campbell as a Texas Ranger they ride out through dangerous Indian Territory. They encounter horse thieves, rattlesnakes, and an extremely shady Robert Duvall as Corey's partner in crime "Lucky" Ned Pepper. Wayne says of Duvall: "Short, feisty fella. He's got a messed-up lower lip. I shot him in it."



That's just one of many great line readings the Duke gives in the best performance of his that I've ever seen. Rooster Cogburn is an iconic role and very comic at the same time. In one scene he sees a rat in the corner of the cabin he resides in. Inebriated though still fairly articulate he declares:

"Mr. Rat, I have a writ here that says you are to stop eating Chen Lee's cornmeal forthwith. Now, It's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same! See? He doesn't pay any attention to me."

Then he swiftly shoots the rat. Later the trio came across a couple of outlaw buddies of the men they're pursuing - Jeremy Slate and Dennis Hopper. Hopper, as a character named Moon that wasn't in the book, took 5 days off from editing EASY RIDER to do the film and appears to have been added as a concession to the kids of the hippie era. Or maybe it's the unsettling "tweaking" manner he's acting in that makes me think that.



Darby is very much the heart of the movie bringing a feminist factor in to re-ignite a timeworn formula. Her poise and "never back down" spirit clashes then mashes with Wayne's rugged demeanor in many amusing blustery exchanges. Sadly as an actor Campbell is not up to par with Darby or "The Duke". He was perhaps the real concession to the times as he had just had a hit single - "Wichita Lineman."

It wasn't the last western that Wayne made - he even returned to the role of Cogburn in a sequel simply entitled ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) - but TRUE GRIT was perhaps the most notable of his films in his last decade. It's just a notch below the supreme quality of the movies he made with John Ford, yet it's still a towering achievement and an absolutely essential work. Rooster Cogburn deserves further recognition as one of the greatest characters in the history of motion pictures.

Can't wait to see what "The Dude" will do with it.

More later...

Friday, June 18, 2010

As Predicted Pixar Saves The Sucky Summer Day

TOY STORY 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich. 2010)



Like many film folks, in the days before a long awaited sequel in a beloved franchise appears I like to revisit the earlier movies - especially if I haven't seen them in a long time. It's to remind me of the flavor of said films, yet it can also feel like doing homework sometimes. Re-watching the first TOY STORY (1995) and its follow-up TOY STORY 2 (1999) though, wasn't like doing homework at all. 


The films hold up as immensely enjoyable endlessly inventive masterworks. The TOY STORY films established Pixar Studios as the leading creators of CGI-animated features that built a beautiful track record of critically acclaimed hits including some of the best films of the last decade - FINDING NEMO, UP, WALL-E, and RATATOUILLE to name a handful. It's easy to be cynical about sequels, but Pixar is a name to be trusted, and you won't go wrong trusting them here. 


The return of Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks), Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their fellow toy friends is happily up to the high standards of their canon and even more happily its one of the few cinematic saviors of this summer of suck. It's been over a decade since we've last seen the disparate troop of talking toys and we catch up with them as their now teenage owner Andy (voiced by John Morris) is packing for college. The toys fret over their fate - will they be stored in the attic, sold in a yard sale, or thrown away? 


To their surprise, Andy picks Woody to take with him to school and puts the others in a garbage bag. Luckily he's just taking them to the attic, but in a moving mix-up they are taken to the curb by Andy's mother (voiced by Laurie Metcalf). Woody tries to save them, but nearly gets thrown away himself. 


After freeing themselves from the garbage bag, the toy troop (including the returning voices of John Ratzenburger, Don Rickles, Joan Cusack, Estelle Harris, and Wallace Shawn) realize that their life with Andy is over and that they should collectively climb into a box set to be donated to Sunnyside Daycare. Woody wants them to return home, but his friends immediately take to the lushly lit facility and the warm friendly welcome by the leader of the left behind toys: a pink strawberry teddy bear named "Lotso" - short for Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (wonderfully voiced by Ned Beatty). 


 While Woody tries to get back home, the toys find that things aren't what they seem at Sunnyside. I'll hold off on further major story Spoilers!, but I'll just report that there's a romantic subplot sponsored by Mattel in which Barbie (Jodie Benson) meets Ken (Michael Keaton), Buzz Lightyear gets his settings stuck in a Spanish mode, and there's a young girl (Emily Hahn) who Woody is briefly in the custody of that owns a few other new toy characters (voices of Timothy Dalton, Beatrice Miller, Javier Fernandez Pena, and Bud Luckey). 


 A superlative sequel in which all of the elements of the wealth of close scrapes, captivating chases, and absorbing attention to the exorbitant detail of the TOY STORY world are attended to excellently. It's funny, exciting, and sometimes even scary, yet it will most likely be remembered for its strong emotional pull. 


The previous films were well rooted in sentimentality about the innocence and imagination of childhood balanced by the sad acknowledgment that these joys are fleeting, and play-time has to end someday. TOY STORY 3 doesn't shy away from these themes; it enriches them further making it the most thoughtful and touching film of the series. Pixar (and Disney) did it again. 


They made a wonderful movie that will take everyone from children to grown adults on a ride from doubling over with laughter to being reduced to tears. They also made so a 40 year old man can admit that, without shame, he can get worked up about a cast of animated plastic playthings accessing their worth. See? It felt good admitting that. Really good. 


More later...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

UPTOWN: The Film Babble Blog Review

The summer keeps sucking along, but there are a few indie gems out there worth seeking out. Like this one: UPTOWN (Dir. Brian Ackley, 2009) A young couple (Chris Riquinha and Meissa Hampton) sits in a New York restaurant nervously asking each other questions. They are obviously on their first date. 


As they shuffle through the usual "getting to know you" small talk, we learn that Riquinha is an aspiring film maker and thinks Hampton could be a good actress in a new project he's working on. He describes the premise: "It's about this guy who hasn't had a lot of luck with relationships. He's had some relationships and they never work out, he never seems to say the right things, do the right things, and he's just very awkward and that kind of thing. 


So you get a little bit of that first and then he meets this girl...and that would be you...it follows the 2 of them, you know their relationship, of course it doesn't work out 'cause that's what the movie is - it doesn't work out." Is that this movie? Sure looks like it. After dinner Hampton reveals that she is married. Riquinha is a little taken aback, but they continue their date - walking and talking though the noisy streets of the city. 


It's fairly certain that at the end of their evening our male lead is smitten. Can't quite put a finger on the female lead yet though. She calls him to meet again. She tells him that her husband read the emails between them and got upset. She says they're going to try and work on their marriage. They part. Then she calls Riquinha wanting to meet again.



Not much else happens in this extremely low budget film which was shot on digital video in 9 days. It ambles with these characters so realistically that it often feels like we're voyeurs secretly peeping in on real people. Riquinha and Hampton have an uneasy yet powerfully palpable chemistry together; both should have a great acting futures. 


In the hands of lesser talents such mundane yet tension fueled dialogue would come off stiff and un-involving, but they give it a touching authenticity. UPTOWN is grainy, shaky, and often the dialogue is obscured by street noise - many of the minuses that make up the "mumblecore" movement - but it has a quietly pleasing quality regardless. 


It's the rare film where people actually seem like they are thinking of what they are going to say next instead of just blurting out scripted text. It's a treatise on awkward restrained passion and a very thoughtful work that shows a lot of promise for a first time director. UPTOWN has been making the festival circuit so look out for it if it comes to your area. It also releases on DVD on July 11th. 


More later...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blu Ray Review: NOT THE MESSIAH (HE'S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY)

NOT THE MESSIAH (HE'S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY) (Dir. Aubrey Powell, 2010) 


Way before I was a hardcore movie fanatic I was a hardcore Monty Python fanatic - I'm talking when I was a kid in the early '80s here. 


I went to late shows of their movies, I had all their records and books, I saved up money to buy a VCR solely to record episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus - I had it bad. I still love 'em and go to see revival screenings of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL and LIFE OF BRIAN whenever they're in my area despite owning the DVDs, so, of course, whenever there's new product such as last year's excellent documentary mini-series "Monty Python: Almost The Truth - The Lawyer's Cut" I'm all over it. 


However there is a huge threat to all my nostalgic affection: Eric Idle. The former Python has spent the last decade, in the words of another former Python Terry Jones, "regurgitating Python." Idle has toured playing the songs in a show entitled "Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python", mounted a wildly successful Broadway production based on HOLY GRAIL - "Spamalot", and now has turned to LIFE OF BRIAN for the new musical oratorio NOT THE MESSIAH (HE'S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY)


Because I'm a long time fan I just had to see it the second it dropped on Blu ray. With the help of long-time collaborator/conductor John Du Prez, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and a bunch of trained operatic singers, Idle reduces the savage satire of the classic film into only slightly racy almost family friendly fodder. Appropriating Handel's "Messiah" in misguided attempts to flesh out character threads that were best left as comic asides, we get songs about the Roman Centurion that raped Brian's mother and Idle's beloved bit about an anachronistic wish for a sex change, is now recast as a lame unfunny ballad. NOT THE MESSIAH basically is "Spamalot 2" though there are a few differences. 


It's not an in costume performance - though a few performers are outfitted like their characters - it's a filmed live performance for a radio broadcast. There's also that giant orchestra and chorus involved too. But infinitely more important, because it was the 40th anniversary of the group (October of last year) Python members Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones were on hand to reprise their roles or just appear for the sake of good will (like Gilliam appears to). 


The only other surviving Python, John Cleese, was not present presumably because he was off rolling his eyes somewhere. It doesn't improve matters that the singers (William Ferguson and Shannon Mercer) recruited to play the pivotal parts of Brian and Judith, , wonderfully previously portrayed by the late great Python leading man Graham Chapman and Sue Jones-Davies (now Mayor of Aberystwyth, Wales), look and sound more like they should be in a Prince Charles and Lady Diana musical. I was also surprised that Brian's mother Mandy is played by a woman! One of the most hilarious factors of LIFE OF BRIAN was Terry Jones amped-up Pepperpot performance as the protagonist's disapproving ball-busting Mama. Here renowned soprano Rosalind Plowright takes the part, and more than a little of the narrative's point-of-view, and though she's a fine vocalist it's a slap in the face of the brilliant bite of BRIAN. Especially since Jones was there and could have done it. Missed opportunity city.



The music is immaculate in its presentation, but the new songs are repetitive, obvious, and supremely forgettable. The only highlights are the Python cameos - it's funny to see Palin in full Margaret Thatcher-ish drag introduce the show. Palin by contrast is definitely the only Python who has maintained his figure. 


It's also nice to see Palin in his old Pontius Pilate garb proving he can still pull off the lisp. Jones and Gilliam are just there for glorified cameos neither of which really registers and Idle's hammy line readings seriously grated on me, though the packed Royal Albert Hall audience ate it all up, cheering at every familiar phrase. 


The crowd did appear to love it, and maybe I would've too had I been there, but watching it at home, even on a spiffy new Blu ray, was a sad trying experience. Looks like Idle will be singing "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" (which was also in "Spamalot") and "The Lumberjack Song" (here acting as the encore) for the rest of his life. I once considered Idle the greediest Python, now I think of him as the Python who can't move on. 


In a few years from now when he unveils his inevitable THE MEANING OF LIFE musical I hope that I've moved on enough to skip it. I'd like to think by then that I would have had enough of these warmed over retreads, but then I am a glutton for punishment... 


More later...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Dir. Juan José Campanella, 2009)



Many were surprised when this Argentine film won Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at this year's Academy Awards, but now that it's making its way through American theaters that response appears to have been from ignorance.

Now that audiences can bathe in the absorbing aura of its well crafted narrative, pointed performances, and emotional resonance, that Oscar should make complete sense. Although outfitted with suspense thriller elements, THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES is more of a dark drama with a bit of a love story delicately placed within.

Opening with a hazy haunting recollection of a train station farewell, we are plunged into the quiet life of Benjamin Espósito (Ricardo Darín), a retired federal justice agent in Buenos Aires in 1999. Espósito is attempting to write a true crime novel about a case that has been a personal obsession for over 20 years.

The majority of the film flashbacks to 1974-75 where we find Espósito investigating the brutal rape and murder of a young woman. Working alongside Guillermo Francella as his boozing assistant, Espósito is smitten with the new department chief (Soledad Villamil) who is aware of his feelings, but is engaged.

In his search for clues the victum's distraught husband (Pablo Rago) shows Espósito scrapbooks of old photos. Believing it was a prior acquaintance because there was no forced entry, a suspicious face stands out in one of the photographs. Espósito tracks the suspect to the town of Chivilcoy, but he had just abandoned his flat.

Against the orders of his superiors Espósito and his assistant stake out the house of their suspect's mother and end up breaking in and stealing a stack of the suspect's letters. Bit by bit they get closer and when deciphering from the letters that their man is a Racing Club (Football) fan they identify him at a match. This leads to a chase on foot that's a bit FRENCH CONNECTION with a dash of RAISING ARIZONA in its heart pounding pace.

The film winds through threads of police corruption, cover-ups, and class warfare and never loses its footing. As the restrained obsessive Espósito, Darin delivers a layered characterization in both the young and old incarnations of the man. Likewise Villamil as a young driven career woman who convincingly ages into the wiser slightly jaded lady in the more recent scenes that bookend the film. 

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES is a thoroughly solid novelistic work which may lack in visual style, but makes up for that with its storytelling gusto. Its engulfing mood lingers long after leaving the theater for its conclusion is one of the most chilling yet incredibly satisfying endings since THE GHOST WRITER.

Looks like the makers of dark American dramas and thrillers could learn a lot from their Foreign competitors. With this, THE GHOST WRITER, and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO it sure looks to me that they're being schooled.

More later...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

GET HIM TO THE GREEK: The Film Babble Blog Review

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2010)





In FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL Russell Brand, as a tawdry British pop star named Aldous Snow, stood out in a strong ensemble of heavy comedy hitters enough so that his character has been granted a very rare entity - a spin-off vehicle of his own. Joining him is Jonah Hill in a different role than the possibly gay hotel employee he embodied in the previous film. 


Here Hill is an ambitious record company intern who wants to stage a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brand's band Infant Sorrow's best selling live album recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. 


Hill's boss, played to the hilt by Sean "Diddy" Combs, at first vetoes the idea, but comes around and declares that this is Hill's moment to shine. It's a tall order - Brand has recently fallen off the wagon after 7 years because his girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) has just left him and his last record, the oh-so-wrong "African Child", was a huge highly derided flop. 


Hill has 3 days to transport the famously decadent and destructive rocker from London to L.A. with a stop in New York for an appearance on the Today Show. Of course, the premise is that none of this goes smoothly and, ahem, wackiness ensues. 


To muddy the water, Hill leaves for the trip thinking he's broken up with his live-in-girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men) after a fight about her wanting them to move to Seattle. He arrives to an already wasted Brand who thinks the concert isn't for a couple of months. With a clock countdown alerting us to their stressful schedule we then go through a series of party set-pieces in which Brand predictably side-tracks Hill with sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll at every turn. 


Because this is a Judd Apatow production we can't just have an excess of crude in-your-face comedy, we have to get to the heart of these guys in the last reel. Emotional confessions have to be made and tears have to be cried, but since the volume of laughs leading to that has been well over the limit of, say, THE HANGOVER's, I'm not going to complain. 


Brand's timing and chemistry along with Hill's dependable awkward schtick is impeccable. He's "on" even, or especially, when his character is off in his own whacked out world; the king of his own little adolescent fantasy land he's built up around him, as Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith would put it.



Combs, or "Diddy" or whatever he goes by today, undoubtedly steals the movie every time he's on the screen. At first recalling Tom Cruise's turn as profane movie exec Len Grossman in TROPIC THUNDER, Combs goes further bringing a kind of gangsta gravitas to every word he speaks. His speechifying about the power of "mindfucking" to Hill is one of the funniest bits of the movie. 


As comedies go this year GET HIM TO THE GREEK is a much better than average romp with only a few scenes I could do without. I think most folks will know exactly what they're getting when they go in and will be fine with that. Under Apatow's tutelage director Stoller has assembled a sturdy comic farce with all the trimmings - tons of celebrity cameos, funny freak-outs, and rapid fire one-liners.


It may not single handedly save this summer from its overriding suckiness, but it's an extremely amusing 90 minute reprieve.


More later...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Suckiest Movie Summer Ever?


You may have noticed that this blog hasn't reviewed several of the major summer releases such as ROBIN HOOD, SHREK FOREVER AFTER, SEX AND THE CITY 2, and PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME


That's because I haven't been able to build up enough interest to see those movies. I don't like to judge films before I see them, but this summer's crop appears to be one of the most questionable array of films ever lined up for a supposed event season. The reviews for the films I mentioned above have been extremely mixed with SEX AND THE CITY 2 particularly taking a beating - one critic (Kyle Smith, New York Post) hilariously called it "Bitchtar" - so I haven't felt so far like I'm missing much. 


I don't consider myself a snob about mainstream multiplex movies. I enjoyed IRON MAN 2 and thought MACGRUBER had a fair share of laughs in it, but I can't seem to get excited about the others, nor upcoming films like MARMADUKE, SPLICE, JONAH HEX, KILLERS, or KNIGHT AND DAY. Likewise the remakes or re-boots or re-whatever's - THE A-TEAM, THE KARATE KID, and PREDATORS (Wow! With SPLICE that's 2 Adrien Brody wannabe blockbusters - that's rare). 


It's a tried and true tradition, of course, that the summer is filled with expensive mindless spectacle aimed at teenagers, and film buffs will have to wade through it to get to the fall which will be full of prestige Oscar bait. It just feels like this summer is much harder going than usual. The only thing that would make it worse is if there was another lackluster PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequel, but don't worry I'm sure that's what I'll be bitching about next summer. 


August is usually when some more interesting releases get dumped. In previous years great movies such as SUPERBAD, TROPIC THUNDER, and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS have made the end of the summer a better place than the beginning, and this year Edgar Wright's SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD looks like it could fit the bill. 


Until then there's the possibility that Pixar could pull us through with TOY STORY 3 and Universal's DESPICABLE ME also could be animation salvation. I'm sure that there are some other gems hiding in between the weekly bombast of dreck so I'm keeping my eyes open. 


I'm also open to suggestions so if you've got any - lay 'em on me. To answer this post's title question: It's too early to really tell and I'm pretty sure there have been suckier summers - 2002 comes to mind - but this one sure looks to be shaping up as a contender. 


C'mon something, anything - Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION maybe - surprise me! Post note: There are a few smaller films (read: independent and Foreign) that I'm looking forward to - Todd Solonz's LIFE DURING WARTIME and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MICMACS. Check back for reviews of those. 


More later...