20 April 2004

Some quality on a Tuesday afternoon...

Caught a couple flicks during my hiatus between jobs. I'll get to them in a moment, but first, I forgot about

Hidalgo: 3.5 Stars. It was nice of Disney to bring back a seemingly forgotten genre: the classic epic adventure. A rundown former long distance horseracer (Viggo Mortenson) and his horse, Hidalgo, sign up for one last shot at glory, a 3000-mile race across the Arabian desert. It's a pretty straight, no-chaser plot with the typical obstacles and such, but it's in the execution that this film shines. There's no attempt to create a post-modern anti-hero. There are no sunny, politically correct moments. There's no woman who is as badass as Aragorn himself. This is just an adventure tale, plain and uncomplicated, and a good one at that. A man and his horse, with the world against him, defy the odds and reign (rein?) victorious. Not to spoil the end, but it wasn't exactly a surprise. Go and see it. Take the kids.

And back to today:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: 3.75 Stars. Easily the best film of the year so far, writer Charlie Kaufman ponders a technology which allows us to simply erase, from our minds, all trace of loved ones who have left or died. Jim Carrey and the ever-succulent Kate Winslet (the #1 hottie in film, for my money) play Joel and Clementine. They meet. They fall in love. They fight. They break up. Kate erases Joel. Joel erases Kate. Life goes on. If only it were so simple. You get that much from the trailer; the movie itself is a sight to behold. Everyone in this film is just awesome: Carrey, Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and David Cross all deserve kudos for their work, and they all leave us wondering why more movies can't be as novel and thought-provoking as this one.

The Punisher: 3 Stars. I'll admit it, when I heard they cast Thomas Jane as Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, I was wondering what the people at Lion's Gate were smoking. Sure, he'd been in a few good violent flicks, like Thursday, but he would have to ratchet up the bad-assedness several levels to be believable as the uber-vigilante Castle. And, to my surprise, he managed to do just that. The film was loosely based on one of my favorite graphic novels of recent years, Punisher, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. I highly recommend it if you like ultra-violent revenge fantasies. Anyway, the villianous Ma Gnucchi has been replaced, unfortunately, by car salesman cum money launderer, Howard Saint, played by John Travolta. Saint's son is killed during a sting by FBI Agent Castle. Saint wants revenge, so he kills Castle's whole family, conveniently during a family reunion so pretty much everyone gets offed. Castle, left for dead, comes back and opens up a giant drum of whoopass. Kudos to John Pinette, the funniest fatman in the business, and to whomever thought of the third-to-last death scene.

Back in Business

Seems like I only watch movies in bunches these days...but on with the show:

Kill Bill: Vol. 2: 3 Stars. First, to put it in perspective, let's review my review of KBV1:

Kill Bill, Vol. 1: ?.? Stars. Wow. From the opening quote (which got the biggest laughs of the entire film), I knew this wasn't going to be like any film I'd seen before, and it wasn't. Mostly a hyperviolent kung-fu flick, director Quentin Tarantino weaves his own version of the genre. I'm not going to give this film a rating until I've seen all of it, but it was certainly a promising opening. It was nice to see kung fu legend Sonny Chiba given a decently dramatic role (in which he performs admirably). Frankly, everyone else was great too. I've got nothing whatsoever negative to say about this flick, except that I wish I'd seen both parts.

Now with Volume 2 on the screen, I can definitively say that I enjoyed Volume 1 more. I can also say that I'd like to see the whole thing in one sitting to truly judge the entire film. That said, KBV2 was the touchy-feely half of this movie. It delved into the reasons behind the original massacre of The Bride's (Uma Thurman) friends and family as well as the interpersonal relations within the assassination squad (although reading that, it sounds awful silly). I guess at the heart of it, I wanted to see more fighting and less talking. The best part of the film was the battle between Uma and Elle (Daryl Hannah), and the movie never reached that crescendo of excitement before or after. Special kudos to both Hannah and David Carradine, who both manage to dominate the screen whenever they're in the scene. To the overall film, I give 3.5 Stars.

The Ladykillers: 2.5 Stars. I left this movie humming some serious gospel music, and that's pretty much all I took away from the film. It's basically a black comedy masquerading as a caper film, but the comedy wasn't that funny, and the caper wasn't that exciting. The movie also seems to want to wrap it up really quickly once the caper is done. Tom Hanks's mannerisms were more annoying than funny, and they had me wishing more for his stoic character in Road to Perdition than anything else. There's one really big laugh in this movie (you'll know it when you see it), and not much else.

Duplex: 2 Stars. Caught this on a plane. Can't believe they got such talent to do such dreck. Bleah.

Something's Gotta Give: 3.5 stars. Caught this on the same plane, and the folks at American should be ashamed to be showing such a fine film in a double feature with Duplex. Even Keanu Reeves is good in this movie. Let me repeat that. EVEN KEANU REEVES IS GOOD IN THIS MOVIE. Everyone's good. Amanda Peet is good. Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson are so at the top of their game that I want to give them both Oscars for managing to pull it off. I'd also like to see them paired up again. The story isn't anything that earthshaking...confirmed bachelor meets successful divorcee, first they hate each other, then they fall in love, etc. But it's done just so darned well. I only wish they'd shown the nude scene on the plane.