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Recent Movie Rental Roundup, Vol.1
Somehow I end up seeing a crapload of movies, and it's only fair that I tell you how they were. This capsule review format, assuming I can restrain myself, should allow me to convey the most pertinent information (is it worth watching, and if so, why?) with room for a little color. Here goes nothing.

dir. Sam Mendes
This movie was a big sandy reminder of how much more I like Peter Sarsgaard than Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake really bulked up for the role, and his neck is wider than most of his head, which it turns out is not very attractive anyway. I know some of you think JG is hot, and I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but he's a straw hottie: you're heating up your Hanes over a smirk and an eye-twinkle -- there's no there there. Watching two hours of gyllenglower should cure you of any residual crush.
     As for the movie itself, it's decent enough, though it it doesn't look as hot when you stand it next to its most obvious cinematic progenitors, Full Metal Jacket (Marine training) and Three Kings (Gulf War). It's a war movie without the actual war, and it's about what happens when people are trained to kill, dropped into a war zone, and not allowed to kill. Jamie Foxx is good, Sarsgaard great. Watch for the scorpion fight.

dir. Wong Kar Wai
Megapraised quasisequel to Wong's In the Mood for Love, which I didn't see. It's slow, beautiful, and heartbreaking, a five-year snapshot of one man's life, with the time marked by the women who mattered even as he tried his damnedest to keep them from doing so. Tony Leung, who I still think of as the other guy in The Killer, plays a hack writer of dirty science fiction in late-sixties Hong Kong, and living in a decaying hotel brings him into contact with a series of dazzlingly portrayed women. He's blandly charming, an improbable ladies man, but by the end of the movie, I wanted to fuck him, too. Although I think it was a bit overrated, it is a pretty serious meditation on the stupid human trick of falling in love with the worst possible candidate for such attention. The sixties scenes are shot with loving attention to every detail, and the intermittent scenes set on a high-speed transglobal train in the year 2046 are drool-worthy confections, the exterior stuff CG but the interiors classic sixties-style future vision, rounded corners and womb chairs. Best if you're in a patient mood.

The Brothers Grimm
dir. Terry Gilliam
I wondered how a TG movie got by me, so I rented it and had my answer. Poor TG got back on his horse after failing to make Don Quixote (see Lost in La Mancha for the tragic tale of the doomed production) and came up with this, which might have been a fine movie made by someone else, but had the bad luck of being the worst Terry Gilliam movie ever. Cast your eyes over his directing filmography, and you'll see that it's a pretty stellar list, and it's no shame being the worst of the bunch (yes, worse even than Munchausen), but still, it's a letdown. Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, and Jonathan Pryce are all great, but in service of something that looks and feels a little too much like Time Burton's Sleepy Hollow.

dir. Chan-wook Park
A brutal Korean revenge movie with an awesome setup: a man is imprisoned -- without knowing why -- for fifteen years, when he's freed just as capriciously, left to find his captors and give something back. The payoff doesn't quite live up to the setup (though that could be a cultural difference -- maybe it killed in Korea), but along the way there are some tasty setpieces. Stu told me to watch for the scene where our hero, armed only with a clawhammer, takes on a narrow hallway filled with 30-odd thugs -- and leaves them all moaning on the floor. The end takes too long, but all in all it's worth a rental, though when I put the DVD in, it defaulted to playing back with the audio track dubbed in English. Fiddle with your "Audio" and "Subtitle" buttons until you get Korean sound and English titles, as god intended.

dir. Robert Schwentke
A capable thriller that takes place on a jet bigger than that monstrous Airbus deal. Jodie Foster is great, as always, at making you care about her, even when the plot is full of nonsensical action movie holes. Sarsgaard is in this one, too, and he's great, again. Sarsgaard! The director does a great job of conveying the sense of being on a plane, and pulls some Hitchcockian camera stunts, if you dig that kinda thing (the extra features are pretty cool on this one). It's also unclear whether Jodie's character is completely nuts or not, which is hard to pull off. I had fun with this, despite the aforementioned plot holes, because they just come with the territory nowadays.

dir. Tony Scott
Quite unexpectedly, this one ended up being the pick of the litter. It's completely over the top, and the opening credits let you know that the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, feeling like a mix of Charlie's Angles, 70s exploitation flix, Saturday morning cartoons, and an Aerosmith video. I've always thought that Tony Scott was a crowd-pleasing hack compared to his serious older brother Ridley, but I'm starting to wonder. Ridley's cred is all based on two early works of unquestionable genius and vision: Alien and Bladerunner. But lately it's all been Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and, god help us, Hannibal. Tony made Top Gun at the start of his career, so he was at least more honest about his intentions. But then he made True Romance, which this movie kinda reminds me of, though it owes more to Tarantino's other big pre-Pulp Fiction script, Natural Born Killers. The thing is, I think that Domino might be better than both of those movies (TR and NBK). It's unabashedly entertaining, and admits early on that it's fucking with the truth for the sake of fun. The supporting cast is uniformly fantastic, with your Rourke and Liu and Walken all up in that shit. The pace is, like, perfect, and I mean it. Oh yeah, and the story is that Laurence Harvey, of The Manchurian Candidate, had a daughter who gave up a career in modeling and a life in Beverly Hills to become a bounty hunter. The script is by the same guy who wrote Donnie Darko, and it's sharp and smart as it should be. I don't want to say anything else, except that you should see this flick.
Jarhead    : . . . . : .7.3. . :  
2046    : . . . . : . .8.5. :  
The Brothers Grimm    : . . . .5:9. . . . :  
Oldboy    : . . . . : .7.0. . :  
Flightplan    : . . . . :6.8. . . :  
Domino    : . . . . : . .8.6. :  
5/13/2006 • link


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Leung felt improbable as a ladies' man? Dude. Did you see Chung King Express? He was considered the hottest guy in China for a long time.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to rent Domino.

5/14/2006 8:36 AM  

Blogger Gina said...

Sarsgaard...LOVE him! I'll watch anything he's in, just because he's in it. He's just the coolest, whatever he does.

I had my doubts about Domino--pretty little Keira Knightley as a bounty hunter? But since you hipped us to its tongue-in-cheek awareness of itself, it makes me want to see it. So thanks!

5/14/2006 5:37 PM  

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