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Mid-May Movie reMarks

Friday, May 23, 2008
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M is for GET YOUR HAND OUT OF MY ASS, HENSON.y month has been marked with more movies worth mentioning than most. In many moments, I’m of a mind to meander as I mouth off on motion pictures. But might I make the move to minimize my meditation, and motion to maintain a modest amount of mulling for these media as I masticate? Maybe…


War, Inc.

It could’ve been called Grosse Point Blackwater. There’s so much this one has in common with 1997’s funny and great Grosse Point Blank — John Cusack co-writes and stars as a conflicted assassin; Joan Cusack is his tense and wacky secretary; Dan Aykroyd is very generously allowed to be captured acting on film. The tone and visual style, the snarky one-liners offset by quick, energetic, brutal bits of action, it’s all here again.

There’s a heavier and certainly more pressing theme — that of privatizing military — making War, Inc. more of a satire then a straight comedy, but it’s hardly enough of a difference to warrant not making this a sequel. Hell, the plot even addresses a wife Cusack’s character once had — that could’ve been Minnie Driver!

So fine, we’ll call it a spiritual sequel, and it’s worthy of that title. Not a great film, not the great private military satire that so obviously is waiting to be made, but it makes some clever points, it’s usually not too obvious in its choice of targets (exception: Dan Aykroyd does a pretty good Cheney). The humour works often but not always; it’s not as good as Grosse Point Blank, but that’s no crime.


Iron Man

I believe this one has already been properly addressed, thank you.


Dexter: Season One

Here we’ve got a Showtime series that I’d heard a lot of enthusiasm about, and these days I find enthusiasm about a TV show to be more bankable than enthusiasm about movies. In terms of what’s being produced, television may actually be the better medium right now. Film’s no slouch, but film doesn’t have The Wire or The Sheild or Lost.

Dexter, at least in its first season, is not up there with those shows; the excitement floating around it wasn’t quite justified. It’s solid, definitely solid enough for me to rent the second season. It has going for it two main things: a great premise and a great lead.

The premise: Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter specialist for the Miami police. He’s a genius, he knows everything there is to know about forensics, which helps him to cover up the crime scenes he creates in his weekend hobby as a serial killer.

The lead: Michael C. Hall works this cold, emotionless psycho with great fake social skills like a pro. Dexter is a unique, complicated character with all manner of layers, and Hall does every one of them right.

Too bad pretty none of the supporting characters work so well. Some of them are okay, like Dexter’s sister, an over-enthused, thin-tough-exterior flake, who works well as a counterpoint to Dexter’s in control chill, or Dexter’s girlfriend, whom he selected to be so because she’s already so damaged. But the others run the gamut from uninteresting to fuck-I-hate-that-one-guy.

The overall arc of season one is good but not quite as great or surprising as I’ve grown accustomed to with the DVD’d television. Like the show itself, the arc’s concept is fantastic, it just doesn’t deliver on that premise well enough. Conversely, all the ‘B’ plots plain suck.

The potential exists for Dexter to be great, but it’s not gotten there yet. Fingers crossed.


Abominable

We’ve all known for a long time there was a great Rear Window-meets-Bigfoot movie just waiting to be made, but alas, this ain’t it. It’s not without it’s low budget amusements, though. A mountain climber, emotionally crippled by a tragic accident that took his wife, heads to a isolated cabin up north, where he can hopefully heal. Also, he was literally crippled by the accident. Fella’s in one of them rolling chairs.

When the naked boobiegirls at the cabin next door start getting dispatched by a guy in a yeti suit, what’s he to do? Roll with it, that’s what he’s to do.

I don’t really need to go into details, because Abominable is exactly what you’d expect from a semi-low budget movie about bigfoot terrorizing a cripple and some college girls. It even has Jeffrey Combs in it. But it’s the kind of movie that’s fun to watch, provided you’re not watching it alone and you’ve got some Thai food to distract you.


Redbelt

“Mamet” should be an adjective. I love the way this guy writes; his language has a rhythm all its own, a stutter in a Mamet sentence is as important as the subject. He gives us little phrases that make absolutely no sense but completely work.

And he directs tightly, too. Spartan is one of my favorites of the last bunch of years, so Redbelt‘s impending release had me good and ready. And it’s a solid movie. The dilaogue is good and Mamet, the plot is a bit needlessly Mamet, with a bit of twisting-winding that wasn’t necessary for the story being told, but it’s small enough to be forgivable. Redbelt contains Tim Allen in an entirely non-comedic role, and it worked. All the actors did; some skill and the words of Mamet are all it takes to make a guy look good.

I don’t know if I could really recommend this to non-Mamet people, except for two scenes: one with Emily Mortimer being convinced she should take Jiu-Jitsu, and the finale where Chiwetel Ejiofor takes down a metric ton of dudes in the best scene of sheer will (with some help from violence) triumphing since the Oldboy hammer. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention: the plot involved martial arts (but it’s not really a kung-fu movie).

Curiously, the overall theme of Redbelt — the skilled underdog exposing the corrupt system — is also the theme to another movie released that day, and which I saw right after Redbelt. That movie was…


Speed Racer

I came into this bloglet with the intention of keeping brief, but it’s going to be hard. I could go on and on about how absolutely amazing this movie (which I’ve now seen twice in IMAX) manages to be, or I could go on and on about how absolutely baffled I am by the poor reception it’s gotten. Not the box office — that can be chalked up to poor marketing or the movie just not being what the people want right now.

But Speed Racer is floating a 34% at Rottentomatoes, a 6.6 at IMDB. Both audiences I saw it with, as small as they were, seemed to enjoy it, and the few humans I know who saw it appreciated it. I guess I can fall back on the old Blade Runner “people will grow to appreciate it.” Yes, mark my words, in 2040 Speed Racer will be deemed a classic, just as the Iraq war will be considered a great strategic success.

But why do I go so against the grain here? I think I need to defend myself first, as I’m picking up the definite sound of rolling eyes. You could say I’m a Wachowski fanboy. They made Bound, they made The Matrix. The write Doc Frankenstein. They wrote the V or Vendetta film, as well as … Assassins.

So some may think I’m blinded by fan gush in this case, but man, I’m so not. Speed Racer is fantastic. People don’t like the third Matrix, which I totally understand — there’s some real shit in there (and enough greatness to make me like it). And some people don’t like the second, which I understand even if I think they’re really, really wrong. But the dislike of Speed Racer makes no sense to me. It joins Ocean’s Twelve in my list of what-is-wrong-with-other-people movies.

The look is obviously amazing. The brightest colour palette this side of the Polka Dot Door is used to paint some genuinely new images on the screen — I’d say the Wachowskis accomplish more visually here than most of The Matrix trilogy’s best. The impossible style of car racing shown is intense, the cars flipping-jumping-spinning and smacking each other out of the way. And the climax is fucking awesome.

On top of it all, there’s a genuinely sweet corruption/integrity/family story at the center of its Spriograph explosion. And they even do pretty well with the comic shenanigans of Speed’s mischievous little brother and his equally mischievous pet monkey, Chim-Chim. Humanity, never the Wachowskis’ strong suit, is actually achieved a bit here (I’m not talking an emotional grand slam here, just a really nice step up).

I’m not gushing over this movie because of my love for the Wachowski Brothers. It’s because they make movies like this that I love them in the first place.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Mournful. laebmada

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Friday, May 23, 2008 11:08 pm

    Hmm, maybe I’ll give Speed Racer a go. I’m thinking now it’ll more be worth my money than Indy.

    And — the 2nd Matrix is the best of the three, as Ocean’s Twelve is for its trilogy.

  2. Saturday, May 24, 2008 12:53 am

    Oh my, yes, Speed Racer is so very much more worth the money than Indy. But then, so many things are, I’m sad to say. $10 worth of hand cream, for example.

    Though perhaps you should see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so you can read G’s spoilertastic post and offer your own comment.

    Honestly though, Speed Racer’s the best thing I’ve seen so far this year, easily. I might get in a third viewing before it’s out of theatres (because if there’s any movie that’s best seen big, it’s Speed Racer).

  3. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, May 24, 2008 10:46 pm

    Saw Speed Racer last night, and I think your fanboy-ness is slightly impacting your take on it.

    It’s good. It’s a pretty, decent film. Not great, but good. Not a waste of money, but not something I’m gonna buy on DVD and love forever and ever.

    (I think they got a bit too obsessed with the kid and monkey, though).

    But you’re right — the mostly negative reviews from the critics are uncalled for — I keep reading critics saying ‘the story was tossed aside in favour of the action,’ and that most certainly is not the case. It’s like they decided to write that before they even saw the movie.

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