Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Bruges (Redux)

I wrote this post back in March, but since this came out to DVD recently, I'm rehashing it to encourage you to rent this movie...

Rather than try and explain the premise, I'll simply give you the trailer (it's about 2 1/2 minutes long):

So, there you go. Let me first preface my review by saying that I hate--hate!--Colin Ferrel. I don't know if I've ever liked any of the movies he's been in; or, at least, I haven't liked him in any of the movies he's in. He was fine in Minority Report and he was okay in The New World, but he's basically ruined any other movie he's ever been in. His main problem is that he sucks. At everything. Plus, he can't hold an accent. (Christian Bale is so good at his American accent that several of my friends had no idea wasn't American.) What helps Ferrell here is that he's allowed to keep his natural [Irish] brogue. Brendan Gleeson--perhaps more familiar to you as Professor "Mad Eye" Moody from Harry Potter--picks up any slack that Ferrell leaves. At the risk of sounding too professional-movie-reviewer-ish, Ralph Fiennes was "delightfully wicked" as their sinister boss; he should play more roles as the villain because he's tremendous at it.

The film was written by Martin McDonagh, who hasn't done much else. He's clearly seen all of Guy Ritchie's films; McDonaugh manages to pay tribute without encroaching. And thankfully, In Bruges--one of a recent crop of movies
(The Matador; You Kill Me) about assassins who unravel in a supposedly comic way--this movie has scenes that actually inspire laughter, and the action is good and appropriately suspenseful. The movie is rife with foul language, drug use, and poking fun at Americans (and Americans who turn out to be Canadians), and midgets, but it was funny so I didn't really care. There are a few scenes of gratuitous violence, but they weren't enough to make my stomach churn.

The Bank Job, also recently released to DVD, got good reviews (78% on Rotten Tomatoes), In Bruges is a much better movie. Granted, In Bruges is going for the dark comedy + action angle while Bank Job is merely action + a few laughs, but I didn't really care about any of the characters in Bank Job, the action wasn't very intense, and the story--although "based on true events"--was not riveting. In In Bruges (is there a better way to start that sentence?), on the other hand, I found myself caring about the characters--yes, even Colin Ferrell--while the action and story were both good. And to boot, the movie made me want to visit Bruges some day (it looks like a less-smelly version of Venice).

Final Grade: B/B+
Blurb: Although not as good as Snatch or Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, In Bruges contains laughs, action, beautiful scenery, an interesting narrative, good cinematography, some [surprisingly] good acting, and is a nice--yet not pitch-perfect--mix of action and [dark] comedy. Also, don't rent The Bank Jarb.

Friday, July 18, 2008

George Washington

Movies about adolescents suck most of the time, but writer-director David Gordon Green is one of the best in the business (up there with P.T. Anderson and Wes Anderson (no relation)). And this movie about kids is not for kids. (Sidenote: not to be confused with the hilarious Superdeluxe short also entitled George Washington that you might have seen on YouTube.)

DGG tells the story of a group of friends--one of which is named George Washington--in what I'm guessing is rural North Carolina. There's not much to do in the failing town, so the children play in abandoned houses and swimming pools. The film's first half introduces you to the kids, their town, and some of the adults in their lives (my boy Paul Schneider--in his first cinematic role--is rather comedic as the son of one of the town's factory owners). The second half of the film deals with the children dealing with a death among their ranks and the role they played in said death. Here's the trailer:

This movie probably isn't for everybody. I do not think, had I not been a fan of DGG already--All the Real Girls has been one of my favorite films since my brother-in-law introduced me to it back in 2005--that I would've liked this movie as much as I did (which is not as much as I thought I would). DGG has a distinct style of storytelling and cinematography that I find fascinating (and so does Roger Ebert).

Final Grade: B
Blurb: You should watch All the Real Girls and Undertow before you pick up George Washington, but it's a refreshing indie, especially if you've recently been burned by a bloated Hollywood movie.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top 25 Comedies of the Last 25 Years

When Brandon and I set out to make this list, we thought it would be easy; not so my friends. But here's our compiled list of the top 25 comedies of the last 25 years (I made a list, he made a list, we averaged the numbers and here's what we came up with):

1. Dumb & Dumber
2. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
3. Big Lebowski
4. This is Spiral Tap
5. Office Space
6. Zoolander
7. The Royal Tenenbaums
8. Jackass 2
9. Raising Arizona
10. High Fidelity
11. About a Boy
12. Best in Show
13. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
14. Napoleon Dynamite
15. Hot Fuzz
16. Snatch
17. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
18. Shaun of the Dead
19. Princess Bride
20. Rushmore
21. Groundhog Day
22. Happy Gilmore
23. Wayne's World 1 & 2
24. So I Married an Axe Murderer
25. Bottle Rocket/The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou/Darjeeling Limited

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
- Tommy Boy
- Talladegga Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
- The Science of Sleep
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Juno
- Punch-Drunk Love
- School of Rock/Orange County
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- About Schmidt
- Fletch
- A Christmas Story
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
- Wedding Crashers
- Knocked Up
- Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
- Starsky & Hutch

Most Overrated Comedies of All Time (just for kicks)
- Caddyshack
- The Blues Brothers
- Shrek 1, 2, & 3
- Meet the Fockers
- Anything with Eddie Murphy since 1988
- Anything with Robin Williams since 1998

Monday, July 7, 2008

Deep Water

I'm not a documentary fan, but I watch them from time to time. I was pretty sure I had seen Deep Water on Paste magazine's list of top 50 films of 2007, but when I looked for the reference, it wasn't there, so I have no idea where I came across this film.

Originally a BBC documentary (which aired on PBS recently), the film chronicles the 1968 attempt of 9 people to circumnavigate (or sirsumnavigate in G.O.B.-speak) the world solo and non-stop. Never having heard of the race, it was a fascinating bit of history, in the same era as the Apollo launchings/landings; it was a period of grand exploration and testing the toughness and ingenuity of humanity.

As the film begins, you are sure that most of the protagonists will die, especially the film's main character, Donald Crowhurst. And I don't want to give anything away here, but I'll share with you that this is not [that overrated piece of trash] The Perfect Storm. Plus, Deep Water is narrated by Tilda Swinton, always a bonus.

The trick with Deep Water is that the flimmakers procured footage--both video and audio--of several boatsmen, including Crowhurst. So you don't have to worry about lame reenactments or anything like that (it's really cool to see 16mm film in widescreen by the way). The film does a fantastic job helping you to empathize with Crowhurst, making the outcome even more impactful.

Final Grade: A-
Blurb: If you're in the mood for a documentary but you don't want to be depressed (which seems to be the theme of most pop-docs), Deep Water is excellent. Do not confuse this movie with Deep Blue... no LL Cool J here!