Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hit It & Quit It. My week at the Movies

One of the nice things about being a teacher is the occasional mid-semester break. I took full advantage this week by going to the movies…a lot. Here are some quick capsule reviews of the flicks I took in.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Now to be fair, I took my son to this one, but his response was telling. Though he liked the movie, when pressed for his favorite scene, he couldn’t come up with one. I haven’t seen a lot of movies in the theater this year, but I’m going to venture to say you will not see a movie much worse than this one. I was skeptical going in but figured a talking dog movie would have to have some laughs. I was pretty wrong. This movie was amazingly off-kilter--so oddly paced, such mixed messages, some really uncomfortable cult of consumerism mojo. Not even so bad that it was good.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I was hooked by the opening strains of Chris Bell’s Speed of Sound. I’m a big fan for movies that take place in the course of one night which this one does. Perhaps this year’s answer to Juno, but thankfully without the snark and the overly written showiness. The film’s energy lags every now and again, but Michael Cera’s charm carries it through. Though the scenes and scenarios are somewhat farfetched in a classic movie way, the interaction and communication between characters strikes a refreshing, honest chord.

Tropic Thunder. Tropic Thunder may be the most unhinged Studio comedy in ages. The film documents a movie production going off the rails and the movie follows suit. It’s all over the map and bizarre in a great way. Robert Downey Jr. gives a tour de force performance as an academy award-winning actor who gets a skin pigmentation operation in order to play a black man. Brilliant. Ben Stiller also delivers as an actor facing the downside of his career. My man Steve Coogan continues to flatline making me question whether or not he’s a one trick pony. The movie is unhinged and as a result inconsistent at times. Not a big fan of super famous Hollywood actors lampooning the biz. Let’s leave that to borderline outsiders like Robert Altman. Tom Cruise as a ball-busting studio exec is funny, but queasy all at the same time. Still. I laughed a lot.

Happy Go Lucky. Mike Leigh has been consistently turning out great films for almost twenty years. His latest installment Happy Go Lucky a is a good one, but not top shelf in my estimation. It has some fantastic moments including some unforgettable driving lessons and flamenco lessons. But the film struck me as a little flat. Sally Hawkins plays Poppy, the eternal optimist school teacher who refuses to see that perhaps, her life is in a bit of a rut. Can she break through? Does she need to? Will there be an epiphany? A lesson learned? Do such things need to happen in a movie? All this was broached, but perhaps a little to subtly for me. My wife Alison liked it a lot though.

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