Monday, April 27, 2009

Let's see if I even remember anything I've watched

Dear Blog,

Haven't written in a while. Hope you are well. How is the missus? I need a distraction. Time for reviews.

Death Race: I imagine video stores (what are they?) have entire shelves dedicated to the "Jason Statham drives around and kicks ass" genre by now, and this one's another entrant into that oeuvre. And it's okay, I guess, more like a by-the-numbers story about the wrongfully imprisoned Statham getting roped into a dystopian future prison racing circuit. Nothing defies expectations, but you get what's on the tin: Jason Statham, in a car, kicking ass.

The Hoax: I'm not usually one for Richard Gere movies, except maybe The Jackal, but this one was pretty good. Gere plays a dude who fakes his way through writing Howard Hughes' biography, and it becomes an overly complicated mess that takes his life and sanity on a downward spiral. Alfred Molina plays his man Friday pretty effortlessly, and there are some other famous  people in it. Gere's desperately improvising his way out of screw-up after screw-up was pretty fun to watch, however.

Kindergarten Cop: One part of my Schwarzenegger/Reitman double feature, this is another Arnie entry in a long string of solid, awesome movies. Badass cop Schwarzenegger ends up becoming a substitute kindergarten teacher to root out and rescue a mobster's ex-wife and kid, and, you know, it becomes one of those comedies that is also a drama. They don't make those kinds of things anymore-- it seems like they almost went out with the 80s, and this is one of the last and best of them. 

King Ralph: A surprisingly solid movie that's got a lot of heart and a couple laughs, and shows how great an entertainer John Goodman is while also reminding us of how Peter O'Toole can take any old script and raise it up. Loaded with British actors you're bound to recognize-- even Camille Coduri, who would play Rose's mum on Doctor Who years later-- it's another genre-mixing picture worth watching, of a Vegas slob who accidentally becomes king of England and ends up becoming a better person, etc-- it's the journey that matters, and it was a fun one.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: I somehow managed to avoid this movie for years, but I'm thankful to see it now. It's excellent-- Shane Black at maybe his loosest and best. What may be a standard action/comedy flick in other hands becomes something almost transcendent when you add in actors Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, both of whom had a sort-of comeback with this film. Funny, exciting, and quite awesome, I enjoyed it as it riffed on old pulp novels and stuff. Also: Corbin Bersen.

Memento: I also can't believe I'd never seen this. I knew the general structure of it, but watching it for the first time is a revelation-- the viewer's brain constantly working, ticking away, trying to unravel the plot and story and inevitable twist as the scenes unveil themselves backwards, our opinions of the characters shifting as we go further into the past, following the path of what Guy Pearce forgot. It's more than a mystery thriller with a fun structure-- it's a filmic experiment, and further proof that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors working right now.

Radio Days: Another Woody Allen movie (with a young Seth Green playing a young stand-in for Allen himself!), this picture, as the title implies, takes us back to the age of radio, and tells various interspersed and intertwining tales about New York life back when the radio tied all of society and culture together. Great stuff.

The Shadow: Meanwhile, this is even worse than I remembered it being. Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller (of Kindergarten Cop fame!), and more stuck with a dire script playing characters we aren't given any reason to care about, while the Shadow's pulp roots are mostly ignored for a more overblown, supernatural focus. Who knows how crappy this movie is? Not the Shadow, apparently.

A Shot in the Dark: The supposed best of the Clouseau movies, this follows Peter Sellers' bumbling detective through a series of mishaps whilst he attempts to solve a murder that everyone else believes is already solved. Of course, he just happens to be right, as the lunacy explodes around him. Nudist colonies, crazed kung fu manservants, and senior officers with slipping grips on reality collide.

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot: Sylvester Stallone thought this movie was a big pile of crap, but frankly, it's better than most of his resume. Sure, it's trite and silly, but it's short and the story gets stronger as it goes. Estelle Getty is a badass, by the way.

Twins: The other half of the Ahnold twofer, we have this, also from Ivan Reitman, and also in the vein of comedies that are more than  just comedies. It starts off broad and gets slightly more nuanced as it goes, as Danny DeVito plays a sleazy bastard that gets a little nicer as he introduces lost twin Schwarzenegger to the world. Also, Kelly Preston was a major fox.

Videodrome: So apparently they're remaking this Cronenberg/Woods collaboration for the modern era, probably as a generic sci-fi thriller. The original, however, is something more, something that could only exist during the emergence of home video, offspring of crappy VHS and Betamax and pirate television. The graininess of the magnetic tape world helps the atmosphere of this film-- you couldn't do it on DVD. James Woods gets sucked further and further into a conspiracy that gets more and more unhinged from reality as we know it, and discovers the new flesh-- the electric womb of the boob tube. Trippy but interesting.

P.S. Reviews of My Name Is Bruce, Hellboy 2, and Punisher War Zone are on Comics Should Be Good. They were all better than I expected!

Monday, April 06, 2009

It turns out Blogger doesn't like infinite titles

A four word review of Synecdoche, New York, auteur writer Charlie Kaufman's difficult-to-pronounce directorial debut and quite possibly magnum opus, an utterly bizarre story of a lonely genius played by Philip Seymour Hoffman who mounts a play about his life that takes place in a life-sized replica of New York, which creates worlds within worlds, infinitely looping inwards, and seems to be about life, death, love, the endless enormity yet meaningless minisculity of existence, which, coincidentally, the movie in which this is all taking place is also about, that is a film I was totally not in the right emotional state to watch, though maybe I was, and which has the librarian from Ghostbusters in it, which is awesome:

I didn't get it.