Sunday, July 5, 2009

Movie Rundown - June 28 to July 5

Not much to say about movies this week. My movie project procedes as usual, and my most anticipated movie of the summer turned out to be kind of a bust. That said, there are several notable things in movie land this week.

First off, the arthouse theater in town is showing The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly at the end of the month. As one of my favorite films, and I think the best shot film I've ever seen, I'm very very excited to be able to experience it on the big screen. Going to be an experience.

Second, from the creators of Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police (both amazing, amazing movies) comes this trailer this week. Watch it, and enjoy it's awesomeness! Movie reviews will follow below, and we'll see you next week with another one of these!

Gran Torino (****)
Clint Eastwood's latest movie about a Korean war veteran set in his ways. The movie opens on his wife dying, on the family that is spoiled and estranged from him and his old fashioned ways. His life is one out of time, the kind of man that doesn't exist anymore, a man who can fix things and keep a strong face and knows his shit. Which is when a Hmong family moves in next door and he's thrust into a living world that actively tries to bring him out of his shell.

The interesting thing about this movie is that it plays off of the traditional antihero action guy role that Eastwood has been playing his whole life. By referencing it but placing it in the background of this angry old man, it lends a certain amount of sadness and an undercurrent of dark humor to it. Clint Eastwood has been the baddest of badasses, but watching him groan to reach down and pick something up is both heartbreaking and endearing.

The movie itself deals with what it means to be American in the 21st century, and an older generation learning to accept a new generation and new realities while still understanding how they're relevant and what they can contribute to the world even long past their prime. I couldn't help but watch the movie and think of my own father, who is of a similar age and acts in very similar ways sometimes. And in creating something that would probably speak to his own generation and say something to people my age, Eastwood has made a movie that feels realistic but also a great postmodern twist on Eastwood's ancient action persona.

Mallrats (***)
The second in my Kevin Smith project, and a disappointing entry. Mallrats, especially coming hot off the heels of Clerks, feels kind of hollow. Sure, the film has a budget, and it's in color, and it is determined to give you a good time. But in doing so, the heart seemed to be missing from it.

The characters seem far more cartoonish than they were in Clerks, and the comedy is a lot of running around and doing things without any of the subtext and deeper meaning that Clerks had. Clerks was about finding direction in a life that was going nowhere. Mallrats is just about some guys trying to win the hearts of some women.

Funny, but ... disappointingly lacking.

My Name is Bruce (****)
Bruce Campbell. Either you know what I'm talking about or you don't when it comes to the man best known as simply The Bruce. If you don't know, this isn't for you. But if you do, let me spin you a tale.

Bruce Campbell is a B-movie star of such films as Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, and Man with the Screaming Brain. He's got a slimy agent, a bunch of nerdy fans he hates, and an ex-wife who hates his guts. But suddenly, a fan shows up and kidnaps him, taking him to a backwater town. The reason? A real demon has been unleashed, and the town decided that the best way to fight a demon would be to hire a guy who made movies about fighting demons.

Makes sense, right? Problem is, Bruce thinks its just an appearance gig.

This movie is a no-budget horror production. As it should be. It's hilarious, awesome, and full of Bruce. Bruce. Seriously. If you like Bruce, see this. The man is in almost every scene and is nothing but magnificent.

Bruce. Accept no substitutes.

LolliLove (**)
A mockumentary written, directed by, and starring The Office's Jenna Fischer. It charts the fictionalized attempts of her and her then-husband, James Gunn, to get a homeless charity off the ground. It's a ultra-no-budget affair, a bunch of people messing around with commercial cameras on the weekend sort of thing.

It's not bad, but it's ... amateur. The whole thing is short and kind of lame, but Jenna Fischer is her typical endearing self. All in all, though, I'd say that you'd be fine just not bothering with this. It exists, but you're not missing much.

Public Enemies (***)
Where to begin with this one? I don't want to seem harsh, but this isn't a great movie. It's an okay movie, with some solid performances but some serious flaws. Among them? It's WAY too long, WAY too slowly paced, and the cinematography that Michael Mann uses to great effect to explore modern urban areas is wasted here, becoming a jumbled mess that feels brutish and ugly.

In making a film about John Dillinger, Mann has spent most of the film so in love with the idea of making a biopic that he forgot to make a satisfying story. One might argue that with prior warning, that would be fine, and in the hands of another filmmaker I would agree. The problem is, Michael Mann doesn't make biopics. He makes crime dramas. Out of his element, the film doesn't have a lot going for it when it comes to plot or direction, and it shows.

That said, the actors do amazing jobs. Johnny Depp turns in what is probably his best performance in years, reigning in his usual Depp-ness in order to portray a much more reserved, much more down-to-earth man in Dillinger. The film banks on his name, and he carries it well.

Sadly, Christian Bale wasn't so lucky. He's become something of a go-to guy these days, but with his terrible southern accent and his blank demeanor, he's basically wasted here. It's a shame, too, because the film seems primed for a meeting of the minds much in the way of Heat. Sadly, that never comes to pass.

It's an okay movie, and worth seeing (especially for Depp fans, or Michael Mann fans) but ... be forewarned. It's a frustratingly disappointing film on multiple levels.