Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 in far (Part 1)

I will be seeing Animal Kingdom sometime this weekend, along with Catfish. Looking at the sidebar of 2010 releases which I have viewed and graded, it might seem that I'm a little behind the 8-ball. And yet...I don't see it that way. Yes, I'm aware that there are still many films I need to see from the former part of they year. But looking at the films that popular sentiment seems to be telling me that I "missed," I feel no great need to rush out and see them. Nick Davis over at Nick's Flick Picks described it perfectly in a recent article where he described his grading system. He gives a letter grade, then a VOR (Values, Originality, and Risk) rating from 1-5. Brilliant. This is exactly why I'm not particularly compelled to rush out and see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Based on secondhand reports and my reaction to the trailers, I'm sure that it's a film I'm going to at the very least enjoy on the most basic level, no matter how underwhelmed I am. Why the hesitation? Well, what is a movie like Scott Pilgrim, How to Train Your Dragon or even Toy Story 3 really going to tell me about the current cinematic landscape that I don't already know? Michael Cera seems frozen in time with his shtick? Non-Pixar animated releases can still rake 'em in? Pixar's the cornerstone of animated cinema? These respective nuggets are not enough to make me rush out to see these films in theater, rather than waiting to catch them on DVD, even if I am sure to like the films. It may sound pompous or pretentious, but with my limited time, I need a little something more.

Date Night (dir. Shawn Levy)
Often funny, but memorably so. I'm flirting with the idea of being done with Steve Carrell and this film certainly didn't help matters much. Tina Fey is delightful, as always, and I was immediately led to think about how much I'd really love to see her in a better movie. Now that Sandra Bullock is no longer attached to The Abstinence Teacher...maybe Fey? It's been so long since I've seen this film and there are singular elements that stick out in my memory. I do specifically remember thinking Date Night was overlong, which is not exactly to the credit of a film with an 87 minute running time. I also remember being baffled both by Taraji P. Henson's suggestion of a character/performance/purpose and her Veronica Cartwright circa Alien haircut. Completely missable.
Grade at the time of viewing: B-
Now downgraded to a C+

The Greatest (dir. Shana Feste)
One of the most odious movie-watching experiences in recent memory, which is kind of shocking, given the film's tentative nature and modest goals. It features Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as bereaved parents and Carey Mulligan as the young woman their son knocked up the night he died. These three actors turn in uneven, yet not completely disastrous turns that clearly suffered from a nebulous direction and an even murkier script. The rest of the cast, particularly Johnny Simmons who plays the left-behind younger brother, is less capable. Zoe Kravitz is also featured and is limited, certainly, but the least of this film's problems. (I'll talk more about her when I'm talking about It's Kind of a Funny Story). Narrative storytelling has to allow for suspension of disbelief and most audiences accept that. But there are plot contrivances in this film so glaring, so nonsensical, so completely asinine that even the most casual, twice-a-year movie watcher (the kind who thought that Saw was clever and Crash was poignant) would scoff that neither a parse of the script nor a snip in post-production prohibited these flubs from worming their way into the final cut. It's simply grief-porn--cinematic suffering for its own sake without a shred of emotional motivation or honesty.
Grade: C-/D+

Mother and Child (dir. Rodrigo Garcia)
Flawed, but poignant piece of moviemaking. It is a broken ensemble piece that examines adoption and its effect on three different women. It's experiencing somewhat of a fade in my memory, but I remember being moved by its very believable character specificity that's not merely paint-by-numbers quirk. The three stars are all very much within their element here and doing excellent work, particularly Annette Bening and Kerry Washington (Naomi Watts suffers from an unknowable and inconsistent character whose real emotions Garcia seems reluctant to mine).

Iron Man 2 (dir. Jon Favreau)
I think I was in a bad mood the day I saw this movie. Favreau brought it to my school and even did a lecture afterwards. Perhaps it was my disposition, but after watching Iron Man 2, I slipped out of the auditorium quietly before Favreau arrived on stage. I have still yet to see Iron Man (should I?), so maybe I'm not the target audience for this film. I just felt myself underwhelmed, deflated, verging on annoyance at the film's smug, smarmy tone (and I do actually enjoy Robert Downey Jr. quite a bit). No, my impatience was not with Downey, but more with Favreau--his presence in his own film, which particularly self-indulgent in this case. I'm sure Favreau is a perfectly nice guy, but when I look at his directorial filmography (Elf, Zathura and the Iron Man films, to name a few) I can't abide nor can I justify sitting down for a couple of hours and listening to him speak.
Grade: C+

More reviews to come...

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