Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: March 2010

Greenberg

Noah Baumbach is a director known for crafting delicate films. Of the three of his movies I’ve seen, all have this air of reality that parodies actual reality. Like Wes Anderson’s films, Baumbach creates rich characters and focuses more on their journey than the audiences journey. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing. It depends solely on your movie preferences.

Ben Stiller does a brilliant job as Roger Greenberg, a man whose only mission is to do nothing. Stiller, like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, finds a way to minimize his usual goofy demeanor and fully embody a quiet character. The plot of Greenberg is simple, but almost irrelevant. The film’s focus is Greenberg’s time while he’s house sitting for his brother. The characters and their impact is what matters. And in this case, the supporting cast finds the ability to adhere to Baumbach’s dry and quiet wit.

I wouldn’t consider this a comedy, more of a drama. I don’t think dramedy fits either. It’s a film that forces you to look at yourself as you look at the screen. Though the characters are learning about each other, we are learning about ourselves. Truly a great movie for those who prefer some substance in their films, and enjoy those confrontational self-analyzing questions that the protagonist always asks. 4 out of 5 stars.

Chloe

Wow. I would have never thought Amanda Seyfried would tackle such an erotic role! I’ve never seen her look better.

Chloe is a simple but effective film. In the vein of Fatal Attraction or Enduring Love, this is a film that falls into that “don’t mess with infidelity” sub-genre. Julianne Moore does a great job of weighting the movie, whereas Liam Neeson feels underutilized. The film follows Moore as a suspicious wife who hires an escort to test her husband’s infidelity. What unfolds, is a cat-and-mouse erotic thriller that something like director Atom Egoyan does well.

Some of you may have heard that this movie has lesbian sex and nudity. I won’t lie, it does. This movie is definitely erotic and sexy. But the strength of the movie is Moore and Seyfried and the third act of the movie. Without them, this would have fallen flat. The ending ties up in a way that feels smarter than me. I feel a second viewing might help me understand the subtleties to Seyfried’s Chloe.  Of course, being based on a foreign film, things get left on the cutting room floor. The banter between Moore and her character’s son feels underdeveloped, as does her realization towards the end. A jaw dropping conclusion, something the art house crowd will find more rewarding than the mainstream movie fans. 3 out of 5 stars.

Hot Tub Time Machine

With a title like this, a plot summary is almost redundant. John Cusack leads a smart cast in the most original comedy I’ve seen since The Hangover. Each actor embodies his character well and aids in keeping this wacky script from ever slowing down. The synopsis is basically 4 men get into a hot tub and accidentally travel back to 1986. Each character is forced to redo history in a way befitting each character archetype.

There is so much laugh out loud stuff in this movie that to mention any of it is to ruin it. This is the kind of humor it’s best not to see coming. I can say that with supporting roles from Crispin Glover and Chevy Chase, the ride does anything but idle. Rarely do I find myself laughing audibly during a movie. This, Hot Rod, and The Hangover are definite examples of when you could hear me laughing hysterically. Unfortunately, I don’t think this movie is going to get the respect and B.O. it deserves. I can only hope that people see this movie and realize that it works. Anyone with any idea of 80’s pop culture will enjoy this simply for the nudges to 80’s films. From a Better Off Dead reference, to the 80’s soundtrack, to the Red Dawn conspiracy, it reeks of all that is 80’s downfall and success.

Despite its thin script, it keeps the laughs coming. And by incorporating the butterfly effect and a few pieces of modern culture, we feel like we went back with them. Cusack once again scores, while Craig Robinson, Rob Corrdry, and Clark Duke all hold their own. If you like the trailer, it’s even better. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski is a god when it comes to making slow building thrillers. Rosemary’s Baby is one of the few horror movies to ever get Oscar’s attention. Unfortunately, most people today know Polanski for the indiscretions of years ago. I’ve always been one who focuses on the craft and not the artist. Downey Jr, Gibson, Cruise, Michael Jackson; all names of actors who people wrote off, but I stand by. Polanski falls into that group. Even the most troubled person can make brilliance and no one is beyond redemption. But enough on that…

The Ghost Writer is almost many things, but what it is definitely a well crafted thriller. Part espionage, part political, part murder mystery, all good. Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer brought in to polish up and finish the political memoirs of a recently retired prime minister played by Pierce Brosnan. The film early on leads us to believe that the film will be a battle of wills between Brosnan and McGregor, but this is not the case. It’s McGregor’s cross to bear as our focal point in the movie.

In today’s world of Michael Bay movies and Avatar, the hopes of seeing a well crafted thriller geared towards adult minds is becoming exceedingly rare. Edge of Darkness was another such film, though I don’t think either will find much ground when the B.O. receipts come in for Writer. It’s a slowly but deliberate build that may turn off some viewers looking for a quick and slick flick. It’s climax and realization is shot and told in a way that almost appears cheap but ends up avoiding it (fortunately). If you like intelligent and classic examples of a good thriller, this is a movie for you. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Dear Paul Greengrass,

 I admire your work. You deserved your nomination for Best Director with United 93. I’ve never cried so much from a movie in my life. It truly made you feel like you were there. One of the best movies of the past decade if you ask me. You also made one of the only 2 or 3 films that are better than the original (The others being T2, Godfather II, and Aliens). You are a brilliant director

That being said, I must say that I will never watch one of your movies in theaters again. The realism that you bring with your steadicam, Tony Scott flashbang style nauseates me. Not in a pretentious sense that shows my elitism, but in a physical sense. Your films have an inability to focus on anything for more than a second or two. It gives me motion sickness and a headache, which ruins the whole experience for me. United 93 had me in cold sweats, migraine, nausea, and quiet sobs. I can’t handle it. I tried to watch The Bourne Supremacy, and I got so sick I couldn’t even enjoy your work.

Where did all this come from? Well, I tried to watch your newest film Green Zone yesterday and I ended up having to leave halfway through because my motion sickness pills couldn’t help me focus on anything on-screen. I can handle a camera pivoting on may or even two axises, but your cameras seem to float on some sort of gimbal lock my stomach can’t tolerate. I tried to focus on one thing and stick with it. I tried staring just off-screen. I closed my eyes for 10 seconds at a time, all in hopes that my brain could handle the haphazard steadiness of the camera. I even tried to stare at nothing and just see what I could pick up. Nothing worked.

I really wanted to write a review on your movie. I wanted to compare it to recent Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. I was starting to enjoy the movie, but I’m sorry. Nausea doesn’t allow me to enjoy much of anything. My dad was kind enough to fill me in on how it ends and it sounds really conceived. Ebert liked it, so I probably will too since he and I agree more often than not. Rest assured when it comes out on DVD and Blu-ray, I will certainly watch it then. I have no problems when I watch your movies on a TV. I think I would like The Bourne Supremacy more if I had waited for the DVD. I loved The Bourne Ultimatum. So hopefully, I can see Green Zone in the comfort of my room without physical discomfort. Don’t change the way you make movies, because it works and it feels so realistic. But you ain’t getting my business until I can take it home to watch it.

–Adam

Antichrist

**Though this film is no longer in theaters, I wanted to review this film for anyone else who is interested hearing about the movie. I hope to do this with more films that I give 5 stars to that are either not in theaters, or off the beaten path**

Lars von Trier is one of those few directors who truly push not just the general audience, but the definitions of filmmaking at its core. An Avant Garde director in the same vein as the brilliant David Lynch, or in some cases, Gus Van Sant. I’ve only seen one other film of von Trier, and though original in its execution, it left me annoyed. Antichrist did the exact opposite for me. It will go down as one of the most disturbing, graphic, and brilliant movies I’ve ever seen. Not since I saw Wendy and Lucy or The Hurt Locker this past year, has a movie shown such audacity.

The film begins with a prologue. In it we see two events unfolding simultaneously. One is a married couple who have sex in the shower, and later, their bed. The other event is of their young son Nick. Who while they are having sex, climbs out of his crib and falls out the window of their apartment. There isn’t any sound going, just the soundtrack in the background, adding to the suspense. This prologue sets the stage for the movie itself.

The remainder of the film involves Charlotte Gainsbourg attempting to grieve the loss of her only son. By her side is her headstrong, psychologist husband, played by Willem Dafoe. Rather than allowing someone else to help her, Dafoe’s character instead decides to help her recover on his own. They end up in a cabin in the woods, using the isolation to their advantage, despite Gainsbourg’s character’s fear of the woods. Rather than having monsters or spooky William Castle tricks, von Triers instead has the woods be a villain. Yet unlike most horror movies (this would probably be considered horror), neither the score or the action let us know what is coming. We see it unfold as if a curtain is being pulled back. And so we are watching as Gainsbourg recovers from her loss over time; at times with her husband’s help and at others in spite of him. A brilliant story touching on loss and disorientation that traumatic events cause us.

The movie is riddled with scenes and suggestions that would make any American ratings board drop dead. There is genital mutilation, prolonged nudity, language, and graphic depictions of dead animals. Despite its obvious shock values, the film is truly masterful. The dialogue and lack of Hollywood uber-special effects let the movie instead focus on the two characters, each more enriching as thought-provoking as the movie unfolds. It isn’t a quick-moving film, but it is one that has a destination unknowable even as it occurs. This unpredictable manner of filmmaking makes the experience that much more enriching. Today’s movies are too often cookie cutter and predictable in the first act.

This film is a mix of 2 parts Lynch, 1 part John Waters, and 1 part WTF?! I have no idea when this film will ever be released in the United States due to its graphic nature. Those who wish to see the film (its theatrical release was quick and rather quiet) can do so by using Netflix’s instant viewing capabilities. Me? I’m buying a copy as soon as they put it on the shelf. 5 out of 5 stars

Cop Out

Kevin Smith films are known for their dialogue and distinct brand of humor. In Cop Out, the first Kevin Smith film he directs but doesn’t write, a lot of that is missing. Whether it was for some commercial success or just a paycheck to allow him to do his own thing next time, the movie shows it.

The film hangs on the chemistry of Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. While both have their moments, and the script plays to their strengths, the film feels lacking. It was nice to see Adam Brody is still around, with his small role as a dweebish cop. The plot consists of Willis and Morgan trying to find a baseball card that so rare that it could pay for Willis’ daugther’s dream wedding. And of course, nothing goes as planned.

There are a lot of winks and nudges to other films that I found almost redeeming. Kevin Pollack, playing Brody’s partner, worked with Willis on The Whole Ten Yards. Willis worked with Smith in Live Free or Die Hard. And of course all the movie references and quotes Tracy Morgan does.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the writers of 30 Rock, so much of Morgan is him trying to make the mediocre dialogue funny. Willis, brilliant in comedies as the straight man, does well in balancing out all the zanyness around him with a calm facade. As a whole, this isn’t anywhere close to the great buddy-cop movies. But in pieces, it isn’t that bad. I’m gonna re-watch Lethal Weapon and Die Hard instead next time though…2 out of 5 stars