madness

I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing...

[title of blog]

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Let's watch some movies!
madness
firebluespinel
Or at least review them...

It's Sunday, June 27th, I'm at work open to close today and we are slow as molasses on January 27th, so today's old reviews are:

Revolver
3 stars

It must be said that Guy Ritchie's films require one thing of their viewers: that the viewers PAY ATTENTION. Ritchie is a master of dropping small, seemingly insignificant phrases, characters and events into his movies that end up influencing Butterfly-Effect-style something crucial to the whole film 72 minutes later. So when I rented Revolver, I was already prepared to keep my eyes and ears wide open. And thank goodness for that. Because it is not a comedy like Snatch or LockStock, Revolver requires even more viewer attention than those two Ritchie films did. Oh, it still has the standard Ritchie plot twists, colorful characters, explosive but slightly off-the-wall action, and of course Jason Statham as the leading man. But it also has a darker and deeper layer than anything Ritchie has directed up until now--think 60% Snatch, 40% Memento. the darkness of the human mind and questions of whether we are really in charge of ourselves loom large in Revolver, making many moments thought-provoking where in LockStock they would simply have been funny. Thus the need to be paying greater attention.

To be honest, it took me a while to get used to the fact that Revolver was not what I was used to seeing from Ritchie. The plot was more character-driven than action-driven. The questions it asked were neither obvious nor easily answered. The characters were not all one-dimensional. Most of the familiar faces were gone. Even Jason Staham's hair was different (and rather fugly, imho). But once I did get past all of that, the movie drew me in surprisingly quickly. Ritchie did a good job of incorporating a cerebral element into his usual stule. Statham was as watchable as ever (from the hairline down), Ray Liotta was bombastic and frenzied, and although Andre Benjamin's and Vincent Pastore's characters were both annoying and incomprehensible for most of the movie, once the climax explained what their actual significance was, I appreciated them a lot more. The frequent references to chess made an intriguing hook throughout the film. The mix of action and philosophy actually balanced fairly well. And the ending did provide one of the very satisfying moments of "alright, that was pretty awesome" that Ritchie films are typically known for.

That said, there were some moments where Revolver did seem to take itself too seriously, and while there was one "that was awesome" moment, there really was ONLY one, where LockStock had three or four, and Snatch had nearly a dozen. Even RockNRolla included at least two. So while Revolver was definitely solid Ritchie fare (and I did buy it), I doubt I will watch it as frequently as I do his other work.


Inside Man
4.5 stars

I occasionally ask questions such as "what's not to like?" about films that have a lot of cool or brilliant elements to them, but those kinds of questions often involve my sticking my tongue in my cheek just a bit, or else they serve as a substitute for my actually describing what made the movie so great in my mind. But for Inside Man, I can ask the question "what's not to like?" with absolute seriousness and without being or feeling lazy. This multi-layered action/suspense movie literally has nothing in I didn't like.

First there is the plot without any twists: Gripping, engaging and brilliant. Then we have the plot after all the twists become clear: Jaw-dropping. Next there is the cast: One of the best I've seen outside of Oscar-nominated dramas. The trifecta of Denzel, Clive and Jodie, supported masterfully by Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Plummer and a talented-unknowns group of heisters, just takes Inside Man to a whole new level. And finally there is the film itself, with tight, sharp cinematography and camera work, a great soundtrack, excellent editing, superior direction by Spike Lee. the beginning grabs viewers by the collar, the middle holds them on the edges of their seats, and the end leaves them grinning fiercely. Or at least, that's what it did for me when I watched it.


DOA: Dead or Alive
1 star

I actually didn't hate this movie at all. That may seem surprising considering how low I rated it, but when you think about it, it makes sense. There was lots of martial arts action, and there was the eye candy of Holly Valance, Jaime Pressly and Devon Aoki. There is absolutely no plot, acting, depth, value, or redeeming quality to this film, but the presence of the karate fights and the bevy of beauties at least made it a somewhat fun waste of 90 minutes.

Oh, and the title was confusing: I really thought DOA was going to stand for Dead On Arrival. *laughs*


Zack and Miri Make a Porno
3 stars

"Oh boy. Do I like this film because it's Kevin Smith or do I hate this film because I already know exactly what's going to happen just from reading the title?" I asked myself upon renting Zack and Miri etc. And really, my answer to that question ended up being an unqualified "Yes."

I am continually impressed with Kevin Smith's ability to take the sleazy, raunchy and disgusting and find ways to make it meaningful. To paraphrase Penn Jillette, he literally tells audiences he loves them with the crudest and nastiest language possible. And I, as a member of those audiences, can't really help loving him back for the sheer unadulterated REALness of that. Like Dogma's irreverent reverence, Zack and Miri etc. produces another oxymoron, that of unromantic romance. I could find next to nothing romantic in the entire film, and yet it never occurred to me to doubt or question the sincerity of the two main characters' developing love for each other. So in that respect, I did enjoy this movie a lot.

In other respects, however, I simply found myself shaking my head. If Smith has one weakness, it's that his constant pushing of the envelope can sometimes overload the cliches or come down too heavy on the side of shock for shock's sake. Smith himself probably has no objection to either of those possibilities, but I have one. Having already established just how predictable this movie was going to be, even bringing Smith's vision to it was not going to overcome that predictability. In fact, many of the movie's crude moments became predictable by association--if they weren't predictable-friends-fall-in-love-plot or predictable-making-a-porn-movie plot, they became predictable-Kevin-Smith-movie-gag. I really felt that I could have seen about 80% of the movie coming a mile away, and the remaining 20% made me feel that I SHOULD have seen it coming a mile away. Also, I personally just don't like films that highlight and poke fun at characters' lack of dignity, and this one did that more than it needed to.

That said, it was amusing to see Jason Mewes again, bringing in real porn stars Traci Lords and Katie Morgan was a nice professional touch, and the homage to RENT where Zack and Miri burn their unpaid bills in a trash can in their living room was priceless. So I wouldn't call Zack and Miri etc a total loss by any means...in fact I'd just say it was pretty much what I thought it would be.


Australia
3 stars

I really wanted to make the joke about Hugh Jackman being Australian and playing an Australian in a movie called Australia. But then he did it himself at the Oscars last year, so I had to come up with a whole now opening to this review.

How about this: Nicole Kidman isn't getting any better. And come to think of it, I'd be hard pressed to find a time when she was really that good to begin with. Far and Away? The Stepford Wives? Moulin Rouge? Eyes Wide Shut? The more I think about her and her work, the more overrated she becomes in my mind. Maybe it's a personal bias, since apparently a lot of other people really like her, but something about her just doesn't do it for me at all. So I have to say that enjoying this movie came as a bit of a surprise for me, given that Nicole plays the female lead.

I think a lot of my enjoyment came from the same reason I enjoy any movie set or filmed in Australia and/or New Zealand: the scenery is gorgeous beyond words, and the storylines almost cannot help but be epic, sweeping and full of excitement. Now, Australia is no LOTR series, far from it, but it did feature some intensely beautiful landscapes captured by expert filmmaking, and it had some great moments of both action and emotion. I should also say that Hugh Jackman will be badass no matter what role he plays, and that the little Aborigine boy stole more hearts than a brown-eyed puppy. So in this case, there were factors to make up for the presence of Nicole.


Watchmen
5 stars

I think most people who saw and loved this movie were already fans of the graphic novel. Not me. After seeing this movie twice in the theatres, I was (finally) informed by someone that it even HAD been based on a graphic novel, which I immediately went out and bought. And not that I dislike graphic novels, but I have to be honest...if I hadn't seen the movie first, I really don't think I'd have gotten into the novel at all. It was loudly colorful, action-packed, and edgy, but it was also emotionally detached and too jagged and kaleidoscopic to really hold my attention or interest. So I have to give Zack Snyder and the cast, crew and staff of the Watchmen film a TON of credit for making, from that semi-entertaining graphic novel, a film that absolutely grabbed me by the brain and the balls from the first minute and didn't let go for nearly three hours.

One of Watchmen's biggest strengths was the fact that it did almost NOTHING that I expected it, as a superhero film, to do. Not only were all but one of the "superhero" characters actually mundane people in masks (think more Batman than Superman or Spider-Man), but the film focused far more on their humanity than their superheroism. With the exception of Dr. Manhattan's nuclear infusion accident, there was no magical, alien or even technological background that made these people any naturally better or more capable than anyone else--even Veidt, despite his immense speed and brainpower, was still just a human. Moreover, the "good guys" were not all good: one was a complete asshole, a murderer and a rapist, one was a psychopath, one was a traitor to humanity, and one was so far beyond being human that he became almost totally amoral. Similarly, the "bad guys" were not all that bad--or more specifically, there really weren't any of them. The cons and lowlifes Rorschach put away or killed notwithstanding, the real villains of the whole movie were the passage of time and the fickle opinion of the public and the media. And the real story was not how the superheroes were super, but how they responded to the insidious and relentless tide of those incorporeal forces in both their human and superhuman lives.

And yet, given everything I just said about its breaking the superhero paradigm, so to speak, Watchmen was still incredibly exciting and action-packed. Its plot, though convoluted, never let up. The admittedly few fights were amazingly choreographed. The characters balanced each other excellently in both screen time and personality. The moral, sociopolitical and philosophical ramifications of EVERYTHING were absolutely mind-blowing. The soundtrack, quite simply, rocked (and was masterfully matched to everything happening onscreen). The characters were original and captivating. The acting ranged from pretty damn good (Malin Ackerman, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson) to spectacular beyond words (Jackie Earle Haley), and was enhanced even further by the fact that nearly every cast member is (or at least was) not a well-known or acclaimed actor in any way. And the moments of "that was so awesome!" outnumbered a better-than-average Guy Ritchie movie by quite a stretch. This movie, no matter how much of a niche audience it targeted, was and still is quite simply one of the best films of 2009, across the board and hands down.

So who watches the Watchmen? I do, and I'm proud of it.


That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading!

FBS

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Glad you liked Watchmen, especially without reading the book first! I actually read the graphic novel first, and I've got to agree with you. It's overhyped, and it didn't handle its ensemble cast with much grace--the gaudy coloring style just made it even harder to connect with the characters. I had the same issue with 300 and V for Vendetta by the same author. Snydar really took the best ideas from the novel, and there were tons of great ideas, and made the most of them.

Of course, my friends are Alan Moore fans and generally hated the movie. Alas.

I'm glad that you *understood* the movie without reading the graphic novel first. That's what I was most concerned about after watching the movie, because even though I'd read the novel, I was still a little lost by certain things that happened in the movie. (I can't remember specifics offhand, because it's been a while since I watched the movie.) I do remember that as we were leaving the theater, we had people behind us asking questions about things that we were able to answer because we'd read the book first.

I found the movie (and the book) disturbing, but that's because it's *supposed* to be. It's a story about lines-- where do you draw them and what would make you step over one? The acting and the storytelling were superb, and aside from one or two quibbles, I thought it was a great movie that did the source material proud.

(Obviously, I'm referring to Watchmen, there.)

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