Friday, August 31, 2007

Movies of Late

We've been on a bit of a movie-renting tear lately, so I'll try to cover a lot of info quickly. Titles in CAPS for quick reading.

BABEL is our lead-off, and wasn't what I was lead by the previews to believe it would be at all. With all the"international incident" and terrorist messages in the trailers, I was bracing myself for a Tom Clancy-esque thriller. Instead what I saw left me bored and completely detached. Kind of like CRASH. Or TRAFFIC. Well, I actually liked TRAFFIC.

THE CONTRACT stars Morgan Freeman and John Cusack in roles better suited to Joe Pesci and John Cena, respectively. I really don't know how this sort of casting happens, but the story is dull and forgettable, and the characters have all the depth of a puddle in the desert. Casting agents, you snookered me.

THE NUMBER 23 with Jim Carrey was equally disappointing and dumb. It had potential, and it's not that Carrey couldn't deliver on the prescribed role. It's more that the script started with a good idea and did nothing worthwhile with it.

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN was a pleasant surprise. Laura and I felt a little differently; she wanted the tone in the first half of the movie to continue, whereas I preferred that things got serious and deliberate in the latter half. This was a much better role for Freeman than THE CONTRACT, and seeing Ben Kingsley was nice, too. I hate to say it, but this is arguably my favorite flick of both Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu. They're just so damn likeable here.

STEAMBOY is an anime that gets a little too caught up in trying to weave a moral and the story slows down too much early on, but the last half saves the day with high-powered actiony stuff and some of the best animation/visuals in the genre. I liked it by the end, but I probably won't watch it again.

I wish the same could be said of fellow Japanimation flick SPIRITED AWAY. I heard it was Miyazaki's best, but I still prefer PRINCESS MONONOKE, which I consider to be his best of the ones I've seen. Maybe it was the years of hype and expectations, or maybe that the movie is clearly more of a flick for the kiddos, but it just didn't grab me. Too bad. The imagination and animation are good, but I'll probably not see it again, at least not for a good long while.

LADDER 49 surprised me, too. Again, a case of somewhat misleading previews/trailers that branded it an action movie about firefighters when really there's a lot more humor, humility, and heart in it than I expected. Good flick.

PERCEPTION we picked up solely because we're both fans of Piper Perabo, notably seen in COYOTE UGLY. This is no longer a valid reason to rent something. This movie bored us to tears. It had its moments, but I just couldn't give a shit about all the whiny, two-faced characters and how meaningless their lives were, let alone how stupid it all ended up by credits time. Pass.

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland was good, wholesome popcorn fun. I wondered why it was in the comedy section, but despite being about an elaborate heist, it really is pretty lighthearted all in all. Not the most clever thief movie out there, but good fun, without being too heavy.

KNOCKED UP surprised me as well, much the way THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN did, and rightly so. Again, what the trailers make look like a stupid slacker comedy actually hits several important and memorable themes and moments about becoming parents, growing up along the way, and making sacrifices/compromises. Plus it's just damn funny, to boot.

REIGN OF FIRE. Ha. It was pretty dumb, as expected, but was worth seeing once I guess. If only to see Matthew McConaughey getting eaten by a dragon.

ULTRAVIOLET was really great....till anyone spoke. Nice (if not wholly impressive) action scenes, but possibly THE WORST dialogue I've ever heard in a movie. Watch it with the sound off for the visual imaginativity only. Or better yet, just watch EQUILIBRIUM instead. Fantastic flick on it's own, but even more so compared to this reeking pile.

SHE'S HAVING A BABY annoyed me with too much chick crap and crying. Sorry ladies, but KNOCKED UP was much more my speed.

BATMAN (1966), which many of you have probably seen, is suitably terrible just like the concurrent television offerings. Bat Shark Repellent. How the franchise survived this era is beyond me, but Christian Bale and the rest of the crew behind BATMAN BEGINS somehow managed to make the caped crusader cool again. The animated series didn't hurt, either.

That's it for now. We still have DOMINO and THE TERMINAL on our coffee table, so I might blab about those in the near future. I had a tetanus shot yesterday with my physical (btw, I'm fine) and my arm is still a lil sore, so I'm gonna give it a rest now.