Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brad's Week in Dork! (12/11-12/17)

Well, last week I didn't spend a moment in the movie theater and this week you couldn't keep me away. Went down to my local art house theater on Sunday for Lars Von Trier's Melancholia and had a most miserable experience.  A bird got loose during the screening, they kicked us all out, eventually brought us back in, but outside the theater they were having an RC radio control car race and it was impossible not to hear the announcements while the film played.  That might have contributed to why I detested the film as much as I did.

On Tuesday, Matt & I trudged out to the Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum for the IMAX screening of The Dark Knight Rises prologue.  That was a ridiculous experience that I would not have missed.  We got their an hour early and there were already 100 people in line waiting to get inside.  And then we waited, waited, waited for our 8 minutes...a wonderfully dorky outing.

And then Matt and I concluded our week on two nights of Double Features.  Friday = Sherlock 2 & Mission Impossible 4.  Saturday = A Dangerous Method & A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

2011 is winding down.  Gotta get in as many of this year's movies we can so we can put together an appropriate Best Of list.  I just love this time of the year, marathoning Holiday films.


Melancholia:  As the In Living Color Men on Film duo might have said..."Hated It!" Lars von Trier shows off his visual flair once again, but this story of impending apocalyptic destruction set against the irritatingly mentally ill Kirsten Dunst's wedding managed to aggravate rather than thrill, evoke, or whatever the creator's intention. I hated Kirsten Dunst in this film. She gives a strong performance, but its a character that is unbearably mopey or whiney simply because she's nuts--how in the world did she get to this Wedding Day in the first place? What does or did Alexander Skarsgard see in this woman? She appears to have been genetically doomed from the beginning with two whackjob parents in John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling, two actors I adore but seem wasted here.  As time trudged on I wished for a quicker Earthly devastation to free us from this pointless "life is evil" nonsense.

Zodiac:  Excellent police procedural surrounding the decades long investigation into the Zodiac murders that plagued San Fransisco. David Fincher's clinical direction reaches its apex with this gem, and the three leads (Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal) are in top form as the obsessed citizens haunted by the slayings. The film is a wondrous technical exercise with some of the best CGI blending I've seen, but the real star of the picture is the mystery...or the investigative process. It's impossible to not get wrapped up in the question and I dare you to not start Googleing the case after the credits roll.

Sherlock Holmes:  Fantastic! Guy Ritchie manages to coat Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant detective with his unmistakable chop-shop style and still contain the essence of Holmes' devious debunker. It's not the revisionist blasphemy some feared (for that check out Basil Rathbone's Nazi Fighting Holmes). And I love how this seems to complete Robert Downey Jr's rapscallion trilogy that started with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man; films I'd love to watch back to back to back. Jude Law finally kicks butt in film again as Dr. John Watson, the put-upon but loyal sidekick who's very much the military asskicker he should be rather than the bumbling buffoon the black & whites plastered on him. Mark Strong is a bit obvious as the villainous Lord Blackwood, but at least we have the true villainy of puppet master Professor Moriarty waiting in the shadows.

Batman Begins:  Finally, a Batman movie about The Batman. It's not about kooky 60s cool or Tim Burton's gothiness or Jack Nicholson's stratospheric acting abilities or...gulp..."Batnipples. It's about The Man in the Cowl.  And I love how the theme of fear is carried throughout the film. The Boy Who Falls, Ras Al Ghul, the Scarecrow. Bruce Wayne's psyche is fully probed. And all the actors are at the top of their game. I never would have thought Michael Cain would be my ultimate Alfred, but he is. And Gary Oldman is my Gordon. And Morgan Freeman is my Fox. This is my Batman movie. Hell, this is my comic book movie.

The Dark Knight:  I loved Batman Begins so much I could have been perfectly happy without a sequel, but for the most part this film delivers the goods. Heath Ledger's Joker is fantastic. I'd go with him anyday over whacko Jacko. I dig the exploration of the Gotham Mob and Eric Roberts is bloody devilishly pompous here. But my favorite character in the whole film is Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent. I love how he becomes the white knight in Bruce's mind, Gotham's hope for survival. And the fall, tragic. But this is where the film loses me for a bit. The Dent story wraps up too damn quickly, it should have carried over into the third film. And Bats is really secondary to Joker and Dent. Kinda like what happened to Brucey Boy in the last batch of Batfilms. And that's a bummer cuz the Bat focus is what made the first Nolan picture so amazing. Still, I like the dark place where the film concludes and I think there are some great possibilities for a third film.

The Dark Knight Rises Prologue:  The blink and you'll miss it 8 minute prologue is a fun enough introduction of new Bat villain badass Bane, played hulkingly by one-time Picard clone Tom Hardy. It's true, Warner Brothers will probably have to play around with the sound mix regarding his gaseous voice, but overall I liked the effect. As others on the Interwebs have described, the high flying action sequence felt very Roger Moore James Bond but not in a bad way. Christopher Nolan sure knows how to show off that IMAX camera of his.  And the sizzle reel snippits at the end give promise of some serious backbreaking trouble for Bats and July 2012 can't get here soon enough.

Beginners:  Ewan McGregor evolves into a mature relationship with Melanie Laurent after bearing witness to his father's coming out as a gay man. The basic idea of "It's Never To Late To Become Yourself" is punctuated with a surprisingly effective jumpy narrative, bouncing back and forth in time. Christopher Plummer is completely engaging and definitely deserves all the praise being bombarded his way, but it's Ewan McGregor who draws and eventually traps the viewer into the heart of the film. Melanie Laurent is sweet and complicated and of course, it was nice to see her play a character not so steeped in rage as she was in Inglourious Basterds.

Crazy Stupid Love:  Here's a shock: a straight up romantic comedy that's actually worth a damn! When was the last time you saw one of those? Hmmmmm....can't think. Julianne Moore asks Steve Carrell for a divorce sending him out the car door and into a mad, self-loathing decent of booze and bar drivel until Ryan Gosling's Cyrano routine transforms his style and substance. Carell and Gosling are a wonderful comic duo and even though I should hate Gosling for his ridiculously chiseled abs after this year of top performances I'm seriously considering buying The Notebook. God help me.

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows:  As Jude Law's Dr. Watson gets closer to wedded bliss, Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes slips further off the deep end (the coca leaves help) while also finally battling wits with his arch-nemesis, Jared Harris' Professor Moriarty. A Game of Shadows is a rollicking follow up to the Guy Ritchie original ratcheting up the action set-pieces and introducing Stephen Fry's not-at-all shy Mycroft Holmes as well as Noomi Rapace's knife wielding gypsy. but if you were not a fan of that film than you most certainly won't enjoy the new one. I, however, enjoy the madness thoroughly and could easily see myself coming back every couple of years for further Holmes/Watson adventures. The rumor of a trip to America definitely gets me to smile.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol:  Tom Cruise and his IMF team are once again disavowed (have they ever been vowed? MI:II? yeash, keep it dis') when they're accused of magnificently blowing up the Kremlin. As with all MI films, Ghost Protocol's director Brad Bird gives the film a look and feel completely separate from the rest in the franchise and some of his explosive setups (the prison riot, the Dubai sandstorm) are the best of the series. Jeremy Renner manages not to infuriate me for a change, but his character is far too meek/weak to be a replacement for Tom's constant runner. So glad to see Simon Pegg take a larger role, more of him please.

A Dangerous Method:  David Cronenberg's latest might fail to incite that visceral, primordial excitement the way his last two efforts (A History of Violence & Eastern Promises) achieved, but the performances from the three leads will carry you even when the plot does not. Michael Fassbender continues to reign over 2011 as the repressed and morrally disturbed Carl Jung, Keira Knightley delivers an aggressively twisted and chin jutting assault, and Viggo Mortensen is impossible not to love as the grumpy, cigar-is-never-just-a-cigar Freud. For all the crazy madhouse sexual mania occurring in the film you would have expected a film a little less dry from Cronenberg, but I'll take what I can get.


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