Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (2010)
It must've occurred to someone very early on that making a spin-off movie based on Aldus Snow would be difficult. He was one of the biggest laugh-getters in Forgetting Sarah Marshall precisely because he wasn't humanized too much, but was there for comic relief. Putting him front and center in his own flick means you have to either humanize him or give us some sad sack to be the straight man to Russell Brand's comic hijinks. Here, the movie splits the difference in a way that doesn't always work. We have Jonah Hill as a record company exec who has to get Aldus Snow--now off the wagon and living on heroin--to a big concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. The thing is, I like Jonah Hill, but I didn't care about anything his character did or went through or his difficult relationship with his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss, funny and stunning). The movie does a good job of humanizing Aldus--and your mileage will vary based on how much you like Russell Brand, whom I like a great deal; I could watch a four hour Aldus Snow movie, to be honest--but it doesn't give him much to play off of in Hill's character. To my surprise, P. Diddy steals the movie as Hill's boss. Hopefully, we won't have to see his movie next. Humanizing his character would steal all of the humor. *** stars. Fun, but it could have been more.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE (2010)
Surprisingly great WB animation that takes an unreadable story arc from Superman/Batman and makes it into an emotional, exciting, visceral film. Very well-directed (by Lauren Montgomery, who directed the triumphant Wonder Woman), with great action sequences. In this one, Superman and Batman (voiced, to my fanboy glee, by Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy) try to acclimate Supergirl to her home on Earth, let Wonder Woman train her to be an Amazon, and travel to Apokolips where they must fight Darkseid's minions in order to rescue her. Tremendous movie for one of these, with added delights such as Krypto's appearance and Ed Asner reprising the voice of Granny Goodness. The last 15 minutes are astounding. **** stars. Why can DC do this in animation but not in live action?

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)
A lot has been made about how unsympathetic Mark Zuckerberg comes across in the story of the creation of Facebook, but that's the whole point. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a high-functioning sociopath who creates a successful business model by trying to outdo everyone else instead of chasing revenue. He's a fairly pathetic creature, socially awkward and alienating, who remains deliberately unlikable and, for the most part, inscrutable. This isn't about how Zuckerberg made friends; it's about how a young man with almost no friends crafted a social network that removed him even further from having to have any. The real main character in the movie, I think, is Eduardo Saverin, the original CFO of Facebook who is wary of taking risks and who is ultimately too soft a guy for business. Of course Zuckerberg betrays him (that's not giving anything away, it's established pretty early), and of course it has to do with old rivalries that Eduardo wasn't even aware existed. Andrew Garfield is very sympathetic, even somewhat pathetic as Eduardo. I haven't liked Garfield much, and even though I still have zero desire to see him play Spider-Man, he's excellent here. Justin Timberlake, in an Oscar-worthy performance, plays forgotten Napster founder Sean Parker as the epitome of a hustler; something of a sleazy opportunist who makes everyone think he's as cool as it gets. Excellent flick, the best I've seen so far this year, and a breath of fresh air after David Fincher's last picture. **** stars.

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003)
Terrible. I love the first two movies--especially the first--but this is just unnecessary. Herbert West is practically a supporting character, and the acting is terrible even for a movie like this. No stars.

THE ONION FIELD (1979)
Interesting, at times intense film based on a Joseph Wambaugh's true crime novel about the murder of a police officer in 1963. John Savage plays a felony crimes officer whose life falls apart after his new partner (Ted Danson, very good) is murdered. James Woods (unhinged) and Franklyn Seales (in a great performance) are the thieves who kill the cop, and most of the movie details the trial that drags on and on, while Savage's life becomes a nightmare as he begins to feel--in part, thanks to the questioning of his superiors--that he could have acted more aggressively during the incident. The one problem the movie really has is that it tries to do too much inside of 122 minutes. Because there's so much that follows, the second half of the movie can be at times sketchy because it can be a collection of scenes instead of a continuous thread. It's still very interesting, but the first half, which establishes the characters and puts us front and center of a very tense build-up to a murder, is a live wire that the second half never lives up to. Still, it's one hell of a movie. ***1/2 stars.

3 comments:

Kal said...

It's funny that you mention 'The Onion Field'. That one has been sitting in my download file for awhile. It was one of the first 'serious' films I ever saw when it first played in theatres. It made me a James Woods fan ever since.

Those DC animated movies have been so great. I could watch a new one every month. The only think I didn't like about S/B/Apocalypse is that they only teased at Mr Miracle instead of having him be a larger supporting player. I know why they kept him out but anytime you see that costume you just want him to perform some elaborate escape.

SamuraiFrog said...

I had a little fanboy squee when I saw the costume. I'd love to see them do an animated New Gods movie...

Semaj said...

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE: I can't wait to check this one out. I loved Under the Red Hood.

My only gripe is that they should make a shared universe for these movies instead of stand alone stories.