Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Film Week

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


THE AMERICAN (2010)
Excellent and engrossing European style thriller with George Clooney as some kind of gun operative hiding out in Italy. It's a quiet movie about a man longing for connection, but in a position that makes connection dangerous, for himself and others. I like the meaty contemplative quality of this film; it feels very much like it could have been made in 1962. The emotional restraint here adds a depth to everything that happens. **** stars.

CYRUS (2010)
Interesting attempt to take a comedy set-up with comic actors (John C. Reilly as a divorced loser who falls in love with Marisa Tomei and winds up in a battle of wills with her possessive son, Jonah Hill) and take it seriously and play it realistically. I don't think it's a total success, but it's really nice to see someone trying to make something with some realism. John C. Reilly is excellent in this movie. *** stars.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (2010)
Cute movie, but not as hilarious as the people who were claiming that this movie would do damage to a much-adapted literary classic that fewer and fewer people bother to read (which is a shame, because it really is brilliant). If you don't like Jack Black, I imagine this is pure hell. But it's kind of genuine, aimed purposely at kids, and like I said, cute. Good cast of British comedy actors in here, plus Jason Segel. **1/2 stars.

DUE DATE (2010)
It has its moments, but I am incredibly sick of Robert Downey Jr. playing this character. Not tired of Zack Galifianakis yet, though. It's okay once, but I don't feel like I'll ever need to see it again. **1/2 stars.

UNKNOWN (2011)
Almost-decent Bourne Identity rip-off with Liam Neeson and a lot of pretty German scenery. I always adore Diane Kruger, and I always despise January Jones. ** stars.

THE CAPTAINS (2011)
Surprisingly interesting piece made by William Shatner, in which he sits down with the other actors who have played Starfleet captains--Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula--and in doing so seems to resolve a lot of his mixed feelings about being part of the Star Trek legacy. Shatner's subject here really isn't the captaincy so much as it's himself and the way other actors have approached their roles and why they took them. It has some fascinatingly genuine moments as he gets the others to reveal themselves at times; it's a really nice, intimate, personal movie, and I'm glad Shatner could explore this and that everyone participated. Beautiful music by Avery Brooks, who I really wanted to spend a lot more time with. ***1/2 stars.

THE MUPPETS (2011)
Wonderful. Better than I expected. I like how the film acknowledges how the Muppets have receded from the fore of entertainment; it's a nostalgia trip, but not just a nostalgia trip. It's also a concerted--and I would say successful--effort to restore the Muppets to their place in the world of comedy. What we have in guys like Jason Segel is talented people who grew up on the Muppets and who consider them, rightfully, an important comedy influence, not just family entertainment. But there's no boundary-stretching here, which is also nice; this is wholesome in a good way, something that just wants to be a damn good time in a cynical, hardened entertainment environment. It was a good antidote to the materialism-fueled violence of Black Friday, to be sure. This film was really made by Muppet fans, but not just for Muppet fans; it's like saying hello all over again to old friends, and so many references thrown in for people who have totally immersed themselves in the world of the Muppets. And the cameos! Not just the actor cameos, but the Muppet cameos! Wayne and Wanda? Nigel? Marvin Suggs? Characters I never expected to see in a Muppet production again. What a satisfying experience; the best time I've had at the movies in years, I think. **** stars.

3 comments:

Devilham said...

so happy you got to see the Muppets, I know how much you like them, and when you said you weren't going to be able to catch it, well, I was concerned. Hurray for your Mom for taking you!

Matt said...

You enjoy a refreshing amount of variety in your films. I agree that The American and The Muppets were wonderful, Due Date was entertaining-ish but not a watch-again classic, and I'm intrigued to check out Cyrus. Thanks.

John Seven said...

I'll just say this about Gulliver's Travels ... I happily grew up watching the 60s Saturday morning version and watched repeats of it again and again and again ... I have never, ever read the book. Which is to say ... to NOT read the book in deference to whatever simplified pop culture version exists in your childhood is the American Way.