Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Be Kind Rewind, In Bruges

Man, it's good to be back. The early months of the year have proven pretty useless for new films (Cloverfield excepted, of course), but now we're starting to get into the real film set for 2008. I've seen both of these this week, so read on to see how I felt about them.

Be Kind Rewind
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover

First off, I was sad to hear that Danny Glover still has that slur in his speech he seemed to pick up filming Shooter last year. I was hoping that was just a part of his character, but it appears that slur is here to stay. It wasn't nearly as distracting in this film, but it still makes me wonder whether old D-Glove had a stroke or something recently to cause such a speech impediment.

Moving right along, Be Kind Rewind has been a project I've been following pretty closely since they announced it last year; I was really excited to hear about the concept. In case you haven't heard, the film follows Jack Black and Mos Def as they try to recreate films using only props they have on hand after Black's character erases all the tapes in their video store. Sounds promising, right?

As one would imagine, the best parts of the movie are the remade films (Robocop, Ghostbusters, Men in Black, etc). Unfortunately, we have to suffer through a painful twenty minutes or so until we get to that point. The humor was nowhere to be found, and the realism was called into question with unnecessary special effects that didn't fit into the style of movie at all. But because it's a Michel Gondry movie, you have to expect that kind of thing. This guy is pretty insane when it comes to filmmaking: his track record includes the extremely strange Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the equally weird Science of Sleep, both of which are up there in the Top 25 Most Bizarre Films I've Ever Seen. Be Kind Rewind is a lot more "mainstream," but flashes here and there still let you know you're watching a Gondry movie. I guess that's what makes him stand out above hacks like Brett Ratner.

The middle of the movie is the best part, with the humor at a high and the story at a low, which translated into more enjoyment for the audience (aka, me). The film also suffered from a mediocre ending you could see coming from a mile away. Acting-wise, it was ok, and the plot (which had so much potential!) was decent at best. Sure, it had "heart" and it was "charming," but that doesn't save the movie from being anything higher than average.

I'd definitely wait until it comes to TBS in a few months and don't waste your $9 dollars on this in the theater. Oh, and during the credits, they told us you could see all their "remade" films at the movie's official website, here. I wish I would have known that before I saw this in the theater, so I'm passing the word along to you.

In Bruges
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

I've never seen anything quite like In Bruges before, and I thought it was fantastic. It was REALLY crude, violent, sad, and funny. I laughed all the way through it, and liked it a lot. It was a stout hour and forty minutes, so the story didn't drag out or get cut short: it was the perfect length. I warn you though - if you're easily offended by language or violence, this is not for you. (The violence wasn't as bad as some other films I've seen, but that doesn't really mean much to you, does it?) I love the tagline: "Shoot First, Sightsee Later." I guess a lot of people haven't heard of this movie, so check out the (R-Rated for language!) trailer here if you're interested.

The story follows two hitmen as they hide out after a job in Bruges, Belgium, waiting for instructions from their boss. One (Gleeson) is really into the scenery and the medieval relics of the town, and the other (Farrell) is miserable and just wants to go home. The two actors are really entertaining to watch, and they play off each other perfectly. It almost made me forget that Colin Farrell hasn't done anything worth watching since 2004. He was great in this role, easily slipping between emotional and funny when the situation called for it. Brendan Gleeson (John C. McCloy of Biocyte Pharmaceuticals in Mission: Impossible 2) was phenomenal to watch, as well, but for different reasons: he's a classical trained stage actor, and he really shines in long takes where he can show off his acting skills without relying on the magic of editing to craft his performance for him. There was one scene in particular (he was on the phone nearly the whole take) that stood out in my mind as excellent work from him. Hopefully this boosts him from bit player to the big time so we can see his talents displayed further in more films in the future.

The character who played Chloe, Colin Farrell's love interest, also popped onto my radar when I was watching this because she had a way about her that seemed oddly familiar. Later I found out I've never actually seen her in anything, which furthers my belief that she's just a great actress because she used nothing but her acting talents to trick me into thinking I'd seen her before. (This is difficult to explain, but the basic thing you should get from this section is that she was really good in this movie.) Her name is Clemence Poesy, and apparently she played Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so some of you may recognize her from that role.

Ralph Fiennes, whose work I'm not that familiar with, also bears a striking resemblance to local Gainesville celebrity Matthew T. Brummitt. Take a look at the picture below for a better comparison. Anyway, Fiennes was pretty convincing in his role as the hit men's boss who rolls in town to finish the job. In related matters, this man's name is incredibly deceiving. It is actually pronounced "Rafe Fine," which boggles my mind and ensures the fact that he's not American.

The director, Martin McDonagh, also wrote the script, and he proved he was more than capable of both duties. This is his first feature film, but he directed a short called Six Shooter that actually won an Oscar in 2006 for Best Live Action Short Film. (Coincidentally, that film starred Brendan Gleeson as well.) I think we've yet to see the best McDonagh has to offer, but In Bruges was certainly a worthy first attempt. I think this is one of those movies that you have to have a certain sense of humor to enjoy, but if you're anything like me then I almost guarantee you'll laugh and appreciate this film for what it is. Until next time...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones Trailer Review

I know this might seem like a stretch. But as my previous post indicated, there really hasn't been that much to talk about theatrically lately, so why not discuss what everyone is surely going to be talking about in the coming days? Happy Valentine's Day to one and all, and welcome to my "review" of the first trailer for this summer's Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

First off, if you haven't seen the trailer yet (it debuted this morning!), check it out here, then come back and read up.

My first impression: it looks decent. This haphazard response may come as a shock to most of you, since it's widely known that the first and third Indiana Jones films are two of my favorite movies ever made. But honestly, I can't help but be a little wary about this. There are things I love, sure - but there are also things that make me cringe a little bit.

One of the first things I noticed was a nice little touch they added before we even see any footage. The Paramount logo fades into a new LucasFilm logo that looks like a map, and the mountains in both match up perfectly. This hearkens back to the first scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Paramount mountain fades into an actual mountain, then the camera pans down, and we see a silhouetted Indy. So right off the bat they had me thinking of the older movies. Cool.

I'm pretty sure that the Indy trailer features the same font that was used in Transformers last summer. (Check that trailer here to see what I'm talking about.) For me, it subconsciously associated this movie with a Michael Bay movie, and the shot in the beginning of the flag and the cars driving off into the distance reeks of a Michael Bay film as well. [Side note: I'm not a Michael Bay hater, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not quite what I expected from Spielberg.] But the flashbacks in this trailer were fine, and perfectly serve their purpose, which is to set up the first real glimpse of Indiana Jones that we've had in almost 20 years.

The silhouetted shot of Indy putting his hat on may be my favorite shot of the whole trailer. Coupled with the iconic score from John Williams, it almost gave me chills. Hopefully this is how we're actually introduced to him in the real film.

Then, Indy's new sidekick Mac, played by Ray Winstone, says "This ain't gonna be easy," and Indy retorts with "Not as easy as it used to be." I don't think they could have chosen their words better here, because this dialogue works on multiple levels. There's the obvious filmic context of their situation, surrounded by soldiers and not sure what to do. But more importantly, these are the first spoken lines of the movie, and a fantastic acknowledgment of the legendary status of this series. "This ain't gonna be easy" - making a movie like this in this day and age, getting Harrison Ford to return, bringing in new characters, pleasing the audience - this could mean any and all of these things. "Not as easy as it used to be," says Ford, a spry 66-year-old, referring to any of the challenges they were faced with while attempting to bring this film to the screen. It HAS been in the works for 19 years, after all.

We return to the warehouse last seen at the end of Raiders, where the Lost Ark has presumably been "lost" again, and a chase scene reminiscent of Live Free or Die Hard occurs. If Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is as great as LFoDH was, then I'll be very pleased.

A slew of montage scenes follow, including Indy blowing up a car with a rocket launcher, our first look at Shia as the greaser boy Mutt, menacing tribal people, and confirmation that Area 51 is somehow involved in the storyline (if you look closely, it appears that a pair of glasses are magnetized to a crate that has "ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO" stamped to the side of it). There's also a car chase scene that looks like something straight out of Mission Impossible II with the cars on the edge of a cliff.

Then comes a sweet couple of shots with the crew running down a circular rock stairway while the rocks are slowly retreating into the walls, which I think looks like the coolest action scene in the whole thing so far. And it ends with Shia saying, "You're a teacher?" and Indy humorously responding, "Part time." Hah - excellent.

What I like so much about this trailer is that it does a great job of not really giving anything away, but at the same time showing us enough to let us know the film could be spectacular. The things the have me a little on edge about it are the possible involvement with aliens at Area 51, and Cate Blanchett's involvement with the project. She doesn't fit the style of the movie depicted in the trailer, but hey - maybe she'll be good. Who knows? I also like how they kept the dialogue to an absolute minimum and really downplayed Shia LaBeouf in it, because I think those two things are going to be two of my favorite aspects when I actually see the movie on May 22nd.

Hope you guys enjoyed the trailer, and get psyched for this movie! I'm sure Spielberg, Lucas, Harrison Ford, and everyone else involved wouldn't have made this after so long if the movie wasn't going to be fantastic. Until next time...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Haven't Forgotten You, Review Site

I swear I haven't abandoned this site, but the early months of the year are always notorious as "dumping grounds" for questionable movies, and I honestly haven't seen anything lately worth writing about. That goes for old movies as well as new ones. Anyway, hopefully something will be good enough to warrant writing about, but until then check out the links to get your fix.

Until next time (hopefully soon)...