Monday, February 28, 2011

Kick-Ass (2010)

Aaron Johnson plays a high school comic book geek who becomes a superhero vigilante, with Nicholas Cage and his daughter Chloe Moretz as his mentors. He's soon in over his head after running afoul with a violent mobster (Mark Strong) and his teenage son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). This was so juvenile I couldn't believe my eyes. Violent in a really unpleasant way (ten-year-old Moretz, among other things, guts a hooker), and about as stupid as can be, with a running time at least thirty minutes too long. Despite a scene where Nicholas Cage is burned alive, this was hard to sit through.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World vs. my gag reflex. The next "Michael Cera Movie" has already become a red flag for movie goers (this tanked at the box office) and he's gone a long way to squander any goodwill he had coming off of Arrested Development. Honestly, besides "Superbad", and whatever that piece of shit with Jack Black was called, what has he done that hasn't followed the "emo geek with a heart of gold" formula? And now that youth and innocence are fading from his face, he's going from "unconventionally cute" to "quite ugly". This has so many stereotypes: the bitchy gay, the overbearing Asian girlfriend, the unattainable cool girl (with, gasp, pink hair!). Then there's the soundtrack wallpapered with forgettable indie garbage. Throw in some comic book superhero bullshit, and you've got movie gold! At least Universal seemed to think so, they sunk something like 90 million dollars into this turkey and it didn't even make half of that. They even made a fucking video game! What is this? Honestly, who did they think would enjoy this? There are one and a half jokes in this, but a chuckle or two doesn't make you forget that you're watching an annoying mess. This is a bunch of studio executives in their forties taking a stab at an indie comedy aimed at the youth market. No one knows what's cool more than an executive in their forties, right?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Easy A (2010)

Teen comedy from director Will Gluck and writer Bert Royal loosely based on The Scarlet Letter. Thankfully, every couple of years a movie comes around for wise youngsters who realize there are lies all around them, and that high school can be one of the most miserable places on earth. While not as great as Heathers or Mean Girls, Easy A has that same mixture of humor and emotional violence, with enough sweet to offset the sour. For years the smart and appealing Emma Stone has been knocking around in supporting parts, usually cast as "the girl" and making the most of it. Here she is finally given her vehicle and she's great, though at twenty-two is a little long in the tooth to be playing seventeen (there are a lot of high school students in this film sporting crow's feet and male-pattern baldness). It starts off rather hard-sell but gets funnier and funnier. There are a lot of zingers in the script, all delivered with skill. The cast (which includes Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, and Lisa Kudrow) all seem to be having a great time. A nice surprise.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan seems intent on befuddling me. Memento vexed me beyond belief. Besides terribly confusing, I thought it was showy and gimmicky. The Prestige was a whole lotta nothing and his first installment of Batman was just plain lousy (I do not understand his, or any other director's, casting of Christian Bale; unappealing on so many levels). However, there is The Dark Knight, which I love, and now this, which surprised me. Leo really phones it in (again) and his head is looking more and more like an orange cookie jar. Nolan was more successful casting the other roles. Ellen Page is an odd choice for a leading lady in something like this, and a welcome change from the usual stable of go-to bimbos. Cillian Murphy is spot-on, and Tom Hardy nearly steals the picture. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt seems wrong, until the end, where he glides through air in his quick-fitting suit, as graceful and sinewy as a ballerina. I didn't care that at times I wasn't sure what was going on. I just sat back and let it dazzle me. Nolan's most involuntary and wondrous film yet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restrepo (2010)

Documentary from Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger that chronicles a year with an army platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. I was amazed how great looking most of these guys were (I thought to myself, "Why, instead of risking their lives don't some of these fellas move to New York and pursue modeling?") The filmmakers really capture the camaraderie; these guys seem very emotionally attached to each other. At times you feel like you're there, with long stretches of monotony suddenly disrupted by tense encounters and even horror. When one of their men is shot and killed right in front of them, the reactions of shock and grief are unforgettable. It makes any great "acting" you've seen seem like utter bullshit.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Godfather, parts one and two (72-74) and Goodfellas (1990)

There are always glaring omissions on someone's movie list. I hadn't seen The Sound Of Music until the ripe old age of 33, and have yet to see Grapes Of Wrath or make it all the way through Gone With The Wind. The list of major movies that Andrew had not seen had three biggies, so with the help of Netflix, I remedied this. This could've gone badly; films with large reputations can disappoint. I myself hadn't seen these films in twenty years, so I hoped for my sake and Andrew's that they were as good as I remembered. They were. Three dazzling examples of a director coming into focus and doing their best work. Screw it, I'm not really going to review these , I don't feel like adding to all the things that have already been said. Watching these over the course of two nights did make me fucking hungry for Italian food. Having been raised Italian I paid special attention to the spreads: sausage and peppers, bubbling pots of marinara, and delicate cannoli dusted with powdered sugar (and splattered with blood). I could almost smell the garlic. And of course, cartons of Chinese takeout made an appearance or two (Jews and Italians, in particular, adore Chinese food). In the end the Godfather movies were even greater than I remembered, and Goodfellas has lost just a smidge of it's luster. But all three are deserving of their masterpiece status. Coppola depicts the family as an evil corporation, whereas Scorsese depicts them as cartoonish thugs in pursuit of happiness. Both are true, of course. Ain't that America?