"It was actually surprisingly funny!"
"So much of it was in the delivery. You have great comedic timing."
"It was funny. No, it was really funny."
"I was LOLing back there."
"You brought the house down, man!"
"Don't tell anyone, but yours was my favorite."
I've never heard applause that loud before, especially not for me.
I've been so busy the last few months I haven't had time to watch a lot of movies, but I think I've got a good mix here!
Wait Until Dark: Audrey Hepburn, in an Oscar-nominated role, plays a blind woman terrorized by three men trying to find a doll full o' drugs they believe to be somewhere in her apartment. Alan Arkin is particularly creepy with an exaggerated but understated performance. The villains try to dupe her, playing various roles and preying on her blindness in tense scenes where we can see everything that's going on but we know that she can't. She may be blind, but she's not stupid, and it's pretty awesome to watch her get wise and attempt to turn the tables on her foes. It all leads up to a famous climax during which theaters turned down all the lights so that the theater was completely dark. I'm still recovering from it, it's so intense. B+/A-
The Tao of Steve: After loving Donal Logue in Terriers, I had to check him out in his breakout role in this indie romantic comedy, where plays Dex, an overweight kindergarten teacher who lives by the "Tao of Steve," a half-baked philosophy of how to pick up women. He's pretty successful, but, ho ho, here comes a smart, cool Felicity Huffman-esque woman who doesn't fall for his bullshit, and they have to banter and fall in love and all that. Logue is good, but he's better than the material (and he wasn't quite as awesome a decade ago as he is now, although he did wow the Sundance audiences). Some of the indie quirk is forced, but most of it feels natural. It does have the feel of a first-time film (which it is). Overall, it's sweet and entertaining. Also, Donal Logue's character actually Godwins doing stuff. B/B+
Law Abiding Citizen: Gerard Butler's wife and daughter are murdered, and Jamie Foxx makes a deal that allows one of the murderers to get off with a very light sentence, so Butler spends ten years fuming about THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL. And then he goes on an educational killing spree to teach Foxx not to make deals with murderers. It's interesting because Butler is set up as the protagonist, but he's more of an antihero, or possibly the villain. And you can't really root for him, Dexter-style, because he's killing innocent people (anyone involved in the trial, basically). While the tense conversations between Butler and Foxx are designed to make you think about the deficiencies in the justice system, I can't help but think I'm being fed a giant fucking straw man. That doesn't keep the movie from being an exciting thriller with twists and explosions, though, and Butler's performance does keep the character from being a completely unsympathetic psychopath. As with most films in this genre, though, there are many loose ends and implausibilities that you have to overlook. Still, though: twists and explosions. B/B+
The Expendables: In this extremely manly movie about manly men being manly, a team of mercenaries is hired to take down General David Zayas on his fictional Central American island for some reason, but then there's Evil Eric Roberts being evil. The whole hook of this movie is that there are a bunch of great action stars and wrestlers in one movie, and there is a lot of badassery on display in the last half hour, and after a while they just start blowing everything up for kicks and it's kind of awesome, but in between the brutally violent fight scenes—and there are some pretty sweet kills, I'll say—is a very boring movie that no one cares about. This could have been a very fun movie if it didn't take itself so goddamn seriously. The Stallone/Statham buddy mercenary show is the saving grace of the film, and if they'd kept that sort of tone throughout, it could have been fun times. Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger's cameo is terrible and mindbogglingly irrelevant. Bruce Willis is good, though. Hey, look, it's Charisma Carpenter! B
Tron: In this 1982 cult classic, computer programs are portrayed as people in light suits living in a dystopian system ruled by a Master Control Program. It makes no sense at all, but it looks cool. A very young Jeff Bridges gets sucked into the computer and helps the titular Tron take down MCP. The movie boldly spends almost ten minutes in the computer before introducing the human characters, never at any point really explaining what's going on, relying on the audience to figure out that they're watching computer programs hurl light discs at each other for bloodsport. Because. You know. The special effects are of course laughably primitive by our standards, but by 1982 standards, they're pretty impressive. The light cycle scenes are still badass thirty years later. Despite how silly things look and how little sense anything makes, it's a well-paced, entertaining film. B+
Once: A guy's playing his songs on the sidewalk, and a girl stops and talks to him. So begins this modern-day musical about two musicians making sweet, sweet...music together. The film was shot in 17 days with very little budget, the stars aren't actors, and the camera rarely does anything interesting. It's just there to film the action, and the action is the music. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, because they aren't actors, feel like real people, and it's impossible not to get caught up in their relationship. Unless you hate music or something. (No, really, if you hate music, this is not the movie for you. There is a lot of music and singing. If you love music, however, there's a reason this movie took home the Best Song Oscar.) It's a simple movie, like Before Sunrise with music. I was all set to sit on the fence with a B+/A-, but the end of the movie made me smile and tear up at the same time and I couldn't tell whether I was happy or sad or both, and what are you doing, movie, making me have EMOTIONS. A-
Roxanne: After a fun salon reading of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, I wanted to revisit Steve Martin's 1987 adaptation, which imagines Cyrano as a small-town fire chief (C.D.) of a bumbling fire department and Roxanne as a visiting astronomer. The general plot outline remains intact, with C.D. wooing Roxanne on behalf of Chris, the hot new firefighter in town. Just as in the play, C.D. is both a lover and a fighter (and now, an acrobat!), and Steve Martin plays him as the made-of-awesome-but-still-self-pitying character that he is. Daryl Hannah makes Roxanne more likable than she is in the play. Laughs abound in this sweet romance, which is full of charm. Charm, which is also a flavor of quark. Charm, not CHARMED, Steve Martin. THAT IS A SHOW ABOUT WITCHES THAT HAD YET TO BE INVENTED. B+
The Host: This Korean horror film about a giant mutant fish monster that comes out of the Han River wowed critics, and for good reason. It focuses on one family trying to survive, which makes a relatable unit. The main character's stupidity is a character trait; in fact, his dad has a whole monologue about the fact that he's stupid. The monster is interestingly designed and moves in lovely, graceful, freaky ways. The special effects are damn impressive given the movie was made for $11 million (then again, for all I know, most of the budget went to special effects). The monster appearances are surprising and terrifying: I was basically saying "Fuck!" or "Oh fuck!" or "What the fuck!" at regular intervals. And there's also a dose of political commentary, except it's from a Korean point of view, so it's kind of weird and uncomfortable watching it as an American, since it points the finger rather strongly at the fact that the U.S. is all up in everyone's business. Not to mention the opening scene, in which the U.S. is responsible for said monster, a scene based on an actual event. The movie starts out AWESOME, and although it wavers here and there, it generally ends up AWESOME. A-
Monsters: A photographer is ordered to get the big boss's daughter home from Central America. This proves to be a difficult task, since the northern section of Mexico is the Infected Zone, where space probes landed and gave rise to giant extraterrestials. Giant extraterrestrials, mind you, expertly rendered on the filmmaker's laptop. Low-budget horror movies with great special effects are becoming somewhat of a trend these days, and I'm all for it. But this isn't really a horror movie. It's much more focused on the relationship between the two main characters (a real-life couple), who give great performances as they discuss their wishes and fears and observe the world around them, a world changed by aliens that still manages to go on. It's a simple movie, like Before Sunrise with giant monsters. B+/A-
The Jerk: After running lights for a Steve Martin play, I wanted to check out his first big movie, which I always assumed was about, well, a jerk. But it's not. It's the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Navin R. Johnson, who was born a poor black child. The fact that he never realized he wasn't black speaks to how hilariously naive he is, so when he goes out into the world, he has many misadventures indeed. This is a very silly movie, and it took me a little while to understand the tone, but once it hit its groove, it had me laughing out loud. It's just so ridiculous, and everyone just goes along with it. B+
Fargo: I watched this when I was too young to really appreciate it. I'm still not quite sure why it's so acclaimed, but I think I'll crib from the Amazon.com review, which loves it for being a "fiendishly clever kidnap caper that's simultaneously a comedy of errors, a Midwestern satire, a taut suspense thriller, and a violent tale of criminal misfortune." Because that sums it up nicely. A car salesman hires two men to kidnap his wife so he can pocket some of the ransom his father-in-law will pay, but things, as they do, go wrong. And then they go more wrong. And more. Frances McDormand is hot on the trail! The real strength of the film is how grounded it is, focused on the ordinary people caught up in this strange turn of events. The funny thing is, Frances McDormand is hardly fazed. William H. Macy, however, is a ball of nerves! B+/A-
Battle Royale: Having just finished the Hunger Games books, I thought it appropriate to bump this infamous movie up to the top of my Netflix queue. Surely you've heard of it: forty-two ninth graders are taken to a deserted island and told that they must kill each other until only one is left. AND THEN THE MOVIE COUNTS DOWN THE BODIES AS THEY ALL DIE ONE BY ONE. Or sometimes, you know, five at a time. Some kill out of desperation, some band together in an attempt to survive, some are just psychopaths. Mitsuko was my favorite! You get little flashbacks throughout the movie that attempt to give the characters some modicum of depth before (or as) they die, but I really only cared about who they were and what they did during the game. Imagine all the angst, the unrequited love, the cliques, the jealousy, the betrayals of high school...and then add guns and blades. It's brutal and sadistic and pretty awesome. B+
Suspicion: I was able to stop by a friend's monthly Hitchcock marathon to catch this romantic "thriller" starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, in an Oscar-nominated role. Grant and Fontaine start out as strangers on a train, but after he insults her and calls her Monkey Face, she quickly falls in love with him, and they get married. But, oh ho, then she has SUSPICION. It takes half a damn hour to get to that point, though, and then once she starts to have SUSPICION, she has more and more SUSPICION, and with good cause, since Grant is a lying gambler...slash MURDERER??? Well, damn, it's about time she had SUSPICION for something sinister. It's not a very compelling film, despite good performances and the occasional well-placed shadows. It's telling that we spent the entire movie waiting for the famous glowing glass of milk. That damn glass of milk steals the movie. B
Desk Set: Katharine Hepburn works in the reference department of a television network, and Spencer Tracy installs those GIANT SPACE COMPUTERS that are taking away everyone's jobs in 1957. She also has the obligatory douchey beau. What makes this movie such a winning comedy, of course, is the interplay between Tracy's dryness and Hepburn's acerbic wit. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud zingers. And, hey, it even passes the Bechdel test, given the all-female reference department who banter among themselves. B+
Tonight, I will be in Dallas with my brother, where I will be playing ALL THE GAMES for two weeks.