Thursday, May 03, 2007


BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005 ****1/2) Sure, there's the uncomfortable scene of butt sex to get through, but in the end, this film lives up to the hype. It's a really nice story of the choices people make in their lives which lead them in a certain direction versus the direction they wish they had taken. I thought it would be a movie about gay cowboys but it's not - it's really a movie about bi shepherds. Each fella marries and lives the socially accepted life but they return for trysts on Brokeback Mountain whenever the whim strikes. This film could have easily been laughable but incredibly strong writing, acting, and directing pulls it together into a classic. Ledger creates an enduring character and the scene in which he visits Jake's parents is a lesson in quality filmmaking.

CHILDREN OF MEN (2006 ****1/2) Nifty little dystopian vision of the near future in which everyone is barren but nobody really knows why, so they bide their final days on earth persecuting one another for various reasons. The story arc is predictable but it still manages to feel new. Clive Owens could easily play a strong-jawed hero but here he is sort of a lackey pressed into action when a baby-bearing breeder is ushered to his care. The scene in which both the state militia and the armed uprising halt aggression as the baby is taken to safety is really classy. The car chase and childbirth scenes are incredible and I was pleased the producers included a making-of vignette of both scenes on the DVD.

WALK THE LINE (2005 ****) I hoped to like this film and I wound up thinking it was really great. The only downside is that in any biopic, the story is limited to the events of a person's life which sometimes doesn't make for the strongest thematic circle of action. So far as a straightforward accounting of a fella's life, this one was nicely done. The dad was a good character and all the seminal life events were depicted. I was really impressed with the singing performed by the two leads and I thought Phoenix looked enough like Cash to buy him in the role. What really knocked me out was the decades long courtship between Johnny and June - that's one of the best love stories I've ever seen, since it was so unlike any movie romance we've seen before. Reese deservedly won an Oscar for her role, which in my opinion is one of the greatest female characters in film history.

ROXANNE(1987 ****1/2) I loved this film upon its release and I wanted to watch it with my daughter, though maybe she's a smidge too young for some of the humor. All the parts I remember are still there but some of the other stuff doesn't work so well. Some of the classic scenes, like the bar insult scene, haven't aged all that well and seem a bit more forced than I remember, but overall the smart script and funny gags win in the end, ensuring this film will still retain value as one of the great comedies of the '80s.

SPLASH (1984 ****) This is just a delightful film which suffers only in that it is not aging gracefully. It's the first Touchstone release, it's the first Tom Hanks film worth a damn, it's proof that Opie can direct, and it's the reason all your kids' friends are named Madison. It's a worthy comedy classic and fun to revisit every decade.

CASINO ROYALE (2006 ****) This is the best Bond film in decades but that shouldn't be confused with being one of the best films in decades. There is no special brand of genius on display here despite all the accolades heaped on it. Kudos to Daniel Craig for knocking it out of the park in his first at bat - he really set himself up to fail but came through like Gibbie vs Eck. It is tremendously satisfying to see the Bond franchise get a sorely needed reboot and I look forward to more good outings from Craig and Company.

BORAT (2006 ****) My friends have been begging me to see this as if their talking about it at parties would ruin it for me. I warmed up by renting an episode of THE ALI G SHOW in which Cohen portrays two other characters besides Borat. I found Ali G by far the most entertaining of the three, but Borat was first to get a feature. I was familiar with some of the schtick from the HBO show, so a few scenes in the film felt like retreads. I was impressed how the entire story had a throughline resembling a plot - I thought that was a nice way to thread the disparate scenes. I was in shock when Borat put a bag on Pamela Anderson at the end - I felt really bad for her and couldn't find the humor in assault. I've got to admit there are plenty of laughs here, but overall, the humor is just a little too crass for my taste.

MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007 ***) This film wasn't horrible but I happened to see many better films recently so it ranks fairly low on the list. It was kind of fun and thank god it did not center around some gang of farmyard, jungle, backalley, or Antarctic animals. The middle of the story was just flat out weird and didn't really work very well. I was really pretty bored with the whole affair until the third act pulled everything together and made what came before seem bearable. I saw this in glorious 3D, a far better rendering of the technology than the old red/blue glasses of yore.

IGBY GOES DOWN (2002 ***1/2) This film came recommended from brother Steve. It began promisingly but never won me over. A bunch of stuff happens but none of it seems to lead anywhere which made me think it was some sort of semi-autobiographical portrait of an artist who managed to convince someone in Hollywood to produce his story. Ryan Phillippe is the biggest blank slate working in film today - he has no screen presence and I continue to be bored by his portrayals.

SYRIANA (2005 ****) This is a film I might enjoy some day, but it put me to sleep two nights in a row and that's all I have to work off presently. When the closing credits woke me, I rewound to watch the final scene, and completely missing the message, I rewound even further to seek context, but it was no help. It's a smart film, and I loved the Matt Damon rant about squandering the greatest natural resource the world has ever known, and I will never forget Clooney getting his fingernails ripped out, but what good is a smart film if it puts the viewer to sleep?


E said...

"In the end." Good one.

Tom said...

Don't feel too bad for Anderson. I read later that she was in on the whole gag, meaning that unlike the TV show that is entirely a surprise to the notables, this movie is much less authentic. I too appreciate ALI G much more. I'd rather hear him make James Lipton sing a rap song than watch Borat take advantage of regular's people's natural kindness. I thought in comparison to the TV show the movie is really overrated.

It's funny you say that about Syrianna, because that's exactly what happened to me. I still haven't seen the last 45 minutes and I rarely fall asleep during movies. Trish could explain the ending in a way that I could understand.

IGBY didn't do anything for me.

Reese was darling, but I told Trish that Reese really softened the hillbilly in June Carter. Listen to some of their real duets and you'll hear a lot more Ozark than Witherspoon delivered.

I saw Children of Men back in January. It was a very conservative idea that nihilism would surface if mankind faced no future. Of course, in Hollywood you have to have a Muslim immigrant as victim subplot to mitigate the stronger message that comes through just the same.

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