Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

I’m Just a Simple Caveman; Catching Up Furiously and Desperately

Posted by CinemaPsycho on January 13, 2007

Greetings and salutations, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, I need to start by apologizing for not updating more often. I honestly meant to, but I’ve been seriously out of commission for the last several weeks. I got busy with some personal things for awhile, and then when I was finally ready to write something – bam! I got hit with the worst case of the flu I’ve ever had in my life. I won’t get into the gory details, but it was not pretty. Not pretty at all. You may have noticed that we’ve added a counter to the site, and it seems there are some people who visit occasionally after all! Who knew? So to those precious few, I honestly hope to do better in the future and I hope you’ll keep checking the site regularly for new content. We may not have the most readers, but I hope we have the best readers. That’s all a guy can ask for.

As usual, I’ll be posting my Top 10 of the year around the beginning of February. Since I live between the two coasts (like most of America), I often don’t get to see many of the big “Oscar bait” movies until January (and some of them not even then). I don’t consider it fair to those films and filmmakers to leave them all off my list just because I didn’t actually see them the year they were released. On the other hand, there’s only so long a person should wait to fill out such a list, so my cutoff date is Feb. 1. I realize this is right before the time the big Oscar campaigns begin (often resulting in expanded releases for many films), but…what can you do? Waiting until March seems a bit ridiculous to me. January is pretty much the studios’ “dump month” to put out the junk that would most likely bomb no matter what (Code Name: The Cleaner, anyone?), but once we’re into mid-February, the cinema year has officially begun. There are several films I want to see before my self-imposed deadline, and in all honesty, probably only two or three of them will actually show at a theater near me. But that’s the breaks. Studios, if you want your film to be considered, you gotta release it wide (or send me an official screener). I think I’m being pretty reasonable, so it’s up to you to get the job done.

(Specifically, I’m finally seeing Children of Men this weekend, as well as Arthur and the Invisibles with my nephew – c’mon, it’s Luc Besson! Other films I consider essential viewing include Pan’s Labyrinth, Curse of the Golden Flower, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Good German, Venus and Inland Empire. I also wouldn’t mind checking out Notes on a Scandal, Home of the Brave, Miss Potter, The Painted Veil, Breaking and Entering, Factory Girl and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I’ll be happy if I get to see two films from either list, so most of these will most likely not be on my Top 10.)

I never do a Worst of the Year list, because I rarely see 10 films in a theater that I really despise that much in any given year. Right now my personal pick would be a tossup between Black Christmas (see review) and Date Movie, the awful excuse for a comedy that I saw on cable recently. Not even Basic Instinct 2 can rival the worthlessness of these two complete pieces of shit! Date Movie is so bad that it wrestles other bad movies to the ground and takes their lunch money. Seriously, if anybody actually found that movie to be amusing…I don’t want to know you. You’re not my kind of people. I’m sorry, that’s how strongly I feel about this. This was made by the same guys who made the godawful Spy Hard 10 years ago, and somehow they’ve been let out of Bad Movie Jail to strike again. Someone needs to tell them that parody requires a comic point of view – otherwise, all you’re doing is copying scenes from other movies for no apparent reason. This was supposed to be a spoof of Hollywood’s execrable romantic comedies, which is certainly a ripe target for humor, but they managed to completely miss every single potentially funny idea in that premise. Instead they fill up the 82-minute running time with jokes about lame-ass reality shows like Pimp My Ride and blast loud, abrasive rap music throughout to appeal to the culturally ignorant nimrods. These guys make the Wayans Brothers look like Woody Allen. All I could think while sitting through this garbage (and not laughing) is, “has our popular culture become so devalued and degraded that people actually think this shit is FUNNY?” I know funny when I see it, and this ain’t it. Anyway, these rip-off artists have already finished another so-called parody movie that’s coming out at the end of the month: Epic Movie. It looks just as retarded, if not more so. Someone, please, stop them. Do it for the children.

So anyway, I’ve got a lot to catch up on here, so let’s just get to it, shall we?

Borat – OK, now this is fucking funny. Quite a lot has been said about this by now, so there’s no point in going into detail. But really, what separates this from a bunch of retards stapling their nuts together and drinking horse cum in Jackass 2? That’s easy, Borat has a point. It’s about something. The great thing about Borat, the character, is the way he keeps pushing people until he gets a reaction. Borat is the insensitive dick within us all, wrapped up in a buffoon’s clothing. He’s lovable and offensive at the exact same time, which is part of his brilliance. We may not like what he says, but we love him for saying it. I honestly think that Borat could go to just about any country and find the same level of ignorance and hatred that he did here. Everybody hates somebody, right? But the fact that he did find it here, in our supposedly enlightened society, is scary if not that surprising. The idea that these people were “used” in some way for having their racist, homophobic and misogynist rantings displayed in every multiplex in America just seems bizarre to me. Look, doofuses: you’re on camera. If you’re enough of a dumbass to get caught saying that shit in front of a camera, you deserve whatever embarrassment results from it. So deal, ‘cause it’s your own damn fault. For the rest of us, anyway, Borat is the laugh-out-loud outrageous comedy of the year (how’s that for a late pull quote?) and the most hysterical thing I’ve seen in a theater in years. I could have done without seeing that fat, hairy Jabba-looking guy naked though. ****

Babel – remind me never to get injured and stranded in Morocco! A fascinating piece of work from Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), this terrific movie sadly played to mostly empty theaters (at least where I live), and has bizarrely been tagged with the “politically correct” stamp (which I really don’t see in the film itself, and even if it is, so what?). PC or not PC, it’s a fantastic film that I think is actually underrated in most camps. Great performances all around, but it’s young Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi who walks away with the film (and hopefully, an Oscar nomination). Easily one of the year’s best in my book. ****

Casino Royale – wow, how did they talk the Broccolis into fucking with the Bond formula? I don’t know how they did it, but this is easily the darkest Bond flick since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the most underrated Bond film ever). It’s also one of the best, and while some dismiss this “prequel” as The Bond Identity or Bond Begins, it’s hard to argue with the results, which are old-school kick-ass. Daniel Craig is an edgy, brutal, live-wire Bond, a James Bond as re-interpreted by a late-‘60’s Steve McQueen. And Eva Green is every bit his match, gorgeous but brimming over with spiky smarts and ready-to-play attitude. One of the all-time best Bond girls, period. I actually liked Pierce Brosnan as Bond, but it’s hard not to agree that the films were becoming increasingly silly and overblown. No more. Casino Royale is stripped down, lean and mean, and all the better for it. Not just a really good Bond film, but a really good film. ***1/2

The Fountain – one of those films I can understand some people hating, and some people loving, and I’m stuck in the middle. The problem with Darren Aronofsky’s time-jumping phantasmagoria isn’t that it’s bizarre and incomprehensible; if anything, it isn’t bizarre and incomprehensible enough. I thought it was pretty clear what was going on, which made me think, “that’s it? That’s all there is to it?” 2001: A Space Odyssey it’s not. Some fantastic visuals, and worth seeing just for the experience of seeing it. But ultimately, it’s an empty vessel, a great big love letter to a dying woman that never makes us care about her or her grieving husband. Still, you gotta love the fact that WB essentially spent $35 million on an art film about death, don’t you? **1/2

Déjà Vu Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer made a thriller about time travel, romantic obsession, and home-grown terrorism? Cool! A crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the term, this flick was smarter and more fun than most critics gave it credit for. Sure the basic premise is ridiculous, but it’s a time-travel movie for fuck’s sake! Hell, Back to the Future and Terminator are ridiculous if you think about them too much. You buy the premise, you buy the movie. And it’s not that hard to buy this one, unless you’re one of those douchebags who sit through every movie sneering, “Yeahhhh, that would never happen!” Jim Caviezel’s a little too convincing as a right-wing religious nutjob (you get the feeling he thinks he’s the hero of the film). A decent, well-made thriller. ***

Happy Feet – George “Mad Max” Miller makes an animated movie about singing, dancing penguins? OK…can’t wait for Walter Hill to make Barnyard 2. Seriously though, this is easily a cut above the usual family-animated fare. Very entertaining for most of the ride, then it makes a surprisingly serious turn that some conservative wank described as “An Inconvenient Truth for kids”. Is that what it turns into? Well…yeah, pretty much. And it works. So suck it up, assholes! Nothing wrong with letting the kids learn something about the world they live in. They’re sure not going to get it from Fox News. The environmental message most likely goes over the heads of most kids, but if it stirs some thought in even one of them, I don’t see a problem with that. The neocons would probably complain that Bambi contains an anti-hunting message. So screw them, and enjoy the movie for what it is. ***1/2

Turistas – eh, I liked it. Not much to say. I guess it was too thematically similar to Hostel for most audiences, but the similarities are really only superficial. Pretty good horror flick. Check it out on DVD or cable. ***

Blood Diamond – another politically correct adventure/drama from Edward Zwick, a good director whose earnestness often gets in the way of entertainment value. This particular film can’t seem to decide whether it’s a rousing action-adventure buddy flick about the quest for a hidden diamond, or a serious drama about the plight of Africans being forced to work in labor camps. So it winds up working as neither. Performances are generally good, technically it’s fine. But I really don’t get the raves for this one. It’s part old Clark Gable movie circa 1953 (I’m thinking Mogambo) and part Hotel Rwanda, and the two flavors don’t really mix that well. Watchable enough, and it does draw attention to an important issue. But a great film? Don’t really see it. **1/2

Eragon – I’ve found that I can’t totally hate any movie with dragons in it. I actually kinda liked Dragonheart, and even found Dungeons & Dragons tolerable. I don’t know what it is, just one of those things I guess. And so it was that I was able to sit through this without screaming. No, it’s definitely not the next Lord of the Rings, and the plot is recycled straight from the Joseph Campbell playbook. But it’s not that bad, if this kind of thing is what you’re into. The lead actor, whose name I’ve already forgotten, is bland in that pretty-boy sort of way. But you have to enjoy watching Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich completely hamming it up, like Brando in Dr. Moreau ham. That’s worth the price of admission by itself! My 9-year-old nephew thought it was “Sweet!” so there’s at least one satisfied customer. **1/2

The Good Shepherd – wow, this was painful. I just plain hated this movie. Several critics actually have it on their Top 10 lists, and I think they’re smoking the pedigree rather than what’s on the screen. Robert De Niro’s first directorial effort in 13 years just shows that some great actors are better off staying in front of the camera. I don’t mind long movies if the story is interesting enough to sustain that running time, but 160 minutes of Matt Damon playing an asshole who fucks over everyone he loves in the name of his government was just too much for me. Who cares??? It’s glacially paced and, to quote another crazy person, “as boring as a dog’s ass”. There’s no sense of a story here, at least not a well-thought-out one. It’s just “this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened”. There’s certainly no suspense or intrigue in this supposed spy story. I wasn’t expecting car chases or explosions, but for God’s sake, give me a reason to care about these people! That’s all I ask for. Yes, there are a lot of great actors in it, and they’re all wasted on one-dimensional, uninteresting characters. It also contains the most unintentionally funny scene in a serious movie I’ve seen all year (if you’ve seen it, you know the one I’m talking about). There’s nothing wrong with a movie being somber and serious-minded, but there is something wrong with expecting us to feel sympathy for a completely unlikable character who deliberately takes actions that no one with a soul could possibly agree with. Maybe that’s the whole point, but De Niro expects us to care about this person rather than condemn him. I’m sorry, no, there’s nothing tragic about this person. He’s just an overprivileged monkey suit who pissed on everything that was potentially good in his life, all supposedly “for his country”. Bullshit. If you want to see Damon at his best, watch The Departed. If De Niro has learned anything about story, character and pacing from his pal Marty, you sure wouldn’t know it based on this. Honestly, I just couldn’t wait for this to be over. I can appreciate what he tried to do, but the film just doesn’t work. It’s a huge failure, a disaster on every level. I would have called it The Bored Identity, or The Good Shithead if I were being facetious. Blah. *1/2

Rocky Balboa – now here’s the pleasant surprise of the season! The best Rocky movie since the original, a terrific, rousing, immensely enjoyable film. People forget how downbeat the original Rocky was (mainly due to the increasingly ridiculous sequels), but here he’s gone back to that Rocky, a sweet, lovable, none-too-bright palooka who just wants to take his shot in spite of the odds and the negativity that surrounds him. That’s the Rocky we love, and the Sly we love, and it’s been too long since we’ve seen either. Not only is the film well-acted by Stallone, it’s also well-written by Stallone and well-directed by Stallone. A triple comeback! People love to take shots at the guy, but I’ve always kinda secretly rooted for him, especially when he was going through his unfortunate straight-to-video period. Enough of the action films (he’s getting too old for it anyway) – this is where he excels, when he puts his mind to it. He’s so damn likable here, it’s like seeing an actor we’ve only seen glimpses of in the last 30 years. No tough-guy macho posturing, just a guy being honest and laying it all on the line. Where this film’s Rocky is considered old, tired and washed-up, not capable of another victory in a new and different world, so has Stallone been thought of in the very same way. And Rocky’s achievement here equals Stallone’s achievement – he’s proved he can pull it off one more time, and still matter long after the world had written him off. Good for him, I say! It’s for these reasons – and the simple fact that it’s a damn good movie – that Rocky Balboa is the one true inspirational sports movie of the year. ***1/2

That’s it for now. I’ll be back soon (fingers crossed) with more reviews, and my Top 10 favorites of last year in early February. Thanks for reading!

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