Saturday, September 09, 2006

Movie Catch-Up

I’m seeing way too many movies. As of writing this, it’s Friday the 8th and I’m on a plane bound for Boston. I wanted to get caught up so I could write a full review for Hollywoodland, which I will see tomorrow night, and expect to at least have a lot to say about. I wanted to write longer pieces for a couple of these, especially The Illusionist and Crank, but alas. Of these, I highly recommend those, plus Little Miss Sunshine (which is the best thing out right now) and Beerfest, all depending on what you’re in the mood for.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – We’ve been pretty lucky with comedies this summer. They’ve been mostly hilarious, and also very, very diverse. And that’s probably the best news about Little Miss Sunshine; it’s an indie-film concept that looked like it would be sporadically funny but take itself way, way too seriously, but ended up consistently hilarious. Steve Carrell and Greg Kinnear are pretty great, but it’s Alan Arkin’s grandfather and Paul Dano’s teenager taking a vow of silence that steal the show.

SNAKES ON A PLANE – What can I say? It’s an awful movie with low production value, no concept of character development, a ridiculous premise, and horrible dialogue. But God damn if it isn’t the best theatrical experience I’ve ever had. If you weren’t there, you’ll never know, but those who were will hold onto it dearly.

WORLD TRADE CENTER – A difficult movie to discuss, but I found that it simply got overly sentimental. The first half-hour or so is fantastic as the rescue workers head to the scene, but the rest of the film spends its time cutting between their wives waiting for any word of hope and the rescue workers trapped in the wreckage, which slows the pace tremendously from the exhilarating start.

THE ILLUSIONIST – I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be unfortunate that so many people will let this pass them by. Don’t. It’s a truly compelling mystery film with some outstanding performances from Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton, and (yes, it’s true) Jessica Biel.

TRUST THE MAN – It’s not really anything special; an above-average romantic comedy that largely works because it went out of its way to create four characters you care equally about. What makes it work especially well are the performances, especially David Duchoveny ("The X-Files") and Billy Crudup (Russell Hammond from Almost Famous), who is a consistently engaging screen actor. Also, it’s pretty damn funny.

BEERFEST – Wow. When I first heard about this, I thought it’d be the dumbest movie of the year. And to call it smart might be going too far, but it is very, very funny. Highly recommended.

FACTOTUM – Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. It’s a tiny movie starring Matt Dillon (Crash), based on a book by Charles Bukowski. Its plot (or the closest thing to a plot it has) is best summed up by its tagline – “A man who never had a job he liked, and never kept a job he had.” Throw in a lot of booze and cigarettes, and you have the basics. The good news is it’s pretty damn fantastic if you’re into the slice-of-life, working-man story.

CRANK – Holy crap. Wasn’t expecting that one. This is probably the first great film to come from the video game generation – you can smell the hours of Grand Theft Auto the filmmakers had to have played to even think of half the shit that goes down in this, but unlike so many films that draw similar inspiration, this is pretty freaking fantastic. It’s shot with a style unlike anything I’ve really seen before (Tony Scott’s recent work with Domino, another underrated flick, is probably the closest comparison), and never lets up. The movie starts right off with a drug injected into Jason Statham’s body that will kill him unless he keeps his adrenaline up. Then he rampages all over Los Angeles to find and kill the guy who injected him. The movie only gets more and more absurd as it goes on (including the most ridiculous, but most hilarious, sex scene I’ve ever seen in any film ever). Jason Statham’s fantastic in a crazy performance that won’t get the attention it deserves, if only for the sheer physical commitment to the role.

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