Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Movie Reviews: 21, Departed, Tombstone

I’ve got three movie reviews for you – one now in theaters and two rentals. It’s unfortunate that I saw these back to back because two are stellar and one is what we in the writing industry refer to as “ho-hum”.

21
If predictability is your favorite movie quality then this is the movie for you. If edge of your seat, nail biting suspense is too intense for you, then this movie is really right up your alley. You will find yourself feeling like Nostradamus himself as each line of dialog leads you to know with absolute certainty how the plot will inevitably progress.

My next problem is with casting. Someone must explain to me the appeal Kate Bosworth is supposed to have. She is so very vanilla, in a way that is almost insulting to vanilla (it is insulting to say Haagen Das French Vanilla, but not to say, generic/store brand, freezer burned vanilla). She is plain, her acting is blah, and concocting a scene in which guys stop playing basketball to all turn and drool and comment on her fantastic beauty is complete bull. I call shenanigans. This is a girl that could walk through life completely unnoticed. How she got into film in the first place is beyond me. And really, she already destroyed Lois Lane, so don’t get me started on the lameness that is Kate Bosworth.

And finally, Mr. Kevin Spacey. Sigh. I count Usual Suspects among my top five favorite movies of all time. This is a movie I can watch over and over. I love it. Kevin Spacey is a man who can command a role, the screen, the movie – he has it within him. This role? He was phoning it in. I dare any of you to say otherwise. I dare him to say otherwise. The best defense I could hear from him is that the role was underdeveloped (yeah, blame the writers, they certainly have a lot to apologize for in this movie anyway). But seriously, he knows how to bring it, and this was just – well, not just predictable, but thin. There are maybe 2 really good scenes with him – one where he is working with the kids to teach them to count and they can’t keep the count, and one at the end where he actually playing. [SPOILER: Spacey gets into disguise to play in the casinos again – and it was like the disguise liberated Spacey to act.]

So, if you want to see this, wait to rent it.

The Departed
I initially shied away from this movie because of the casting and the hype. I am a mystery/thriller buff and I thought this was overpromising and could only under deliver. I was dead wrong.

The acting was fantastic. Mark Wahlberg, an actor I normally cannot stand, was perhaps my favorite performance in the movie. Not just because he was written so absurdly, but because he pulled it off convincingly. I found myself thinking that he was the 2nd most likable character in the movie (the first was Martin Sheen, just as a nice guy foil to Wahlberg). His scenes were enjoyable and well formed – his character was so intense and absurd that more than a few minutes of screen time at a time wouldn’t have worked – and it was written and edited perfectly.

Let me tell you why I didn’t want to see this movie: DiCaprio and Nicholson. First off, I liked DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can, and I liked him in the Aviator. But there is something about his face, some smugness or something that whenever I see him in a preview I think “oh hell no”. But when I see him act I forget all of that because the man has serious acting chops. He can hold his own in any scene with any actor or actress. I still think Catch Me was the perfect role for him – but if I was in casting I never would have signed him up, I would have said “DiCaprio? That smug asshat? Not in my movie!” and I would have been the dumbass. Same thing here. His role is completely unlikable (there are hardly any likable characters in this movie) but he plays it so convincingly, that from time to time I literally forgot it was DiCaprio, and that is the thing I respect most about his acting – as big a star as he is I can see him as his characters and not as DiCaprio.

Nicholson – not so much. Jack is just Jack. Seriously, when was the last time Jack played someone other than crazy Jack? I cannot remember a movie he has made in my lifetime that he wasn’t just Jack playing Jack. And seriously, it seems like people just say to him “Now in this scene, just you know, act kind of crazy, and be an ass, and we’ll film you – ACTION!” Reading the trivia on IMDB.com (if it is to be believed) our boy Jack got to do a lot of improv in the movie. Basically he was given his character arc and told to be crazy Jack – and to get crazier as the movie progressed. I’m not saying anyone plays crazy Jack better than Jack, but I’ve lost all interest in seeing crazy Jack. Sure, the role was perfect for him, and sure you probably couldn’t have had anyone else play batshit crazy as well, but I would pay good money to see that man play a scene with subtlety.

Matt Damon is one of my favs – he is easy on the eyes, I think he is underrated as an actor as well. His body of work has some really nice diversity, and I regularly forget that he is the punk from Good Will Hunting. His role selection is about the extreme opposite of Nicholson – think Damon’s role in The Good Sheppard – talk about total control and subtlety. And then there’s Bourne. He ping pongs back and forth and all over the place. He may be highly recognizable, but like DiCaprio, I give him major props for always becoming his characters.

I really can’t say a bad thing about this movie. The writing was fantastic. The acting was incredible (yes, Jack annoys me, but he was the right guy for the role) – people were able to maintain those crazy Boston accents the whole way through – and only Matt Damon had a home field advantage there to my knowledge. The editing and cinematography were both spot on. You can’t watch this movie and not be riveted.

Rent it. Watch it. Love it.

Tombstone

This is my throwback review. This puppy popped up on cable the other night and I sat down and watched the whole damn thing. When it was over I said, “I really like this movie” and the hubby said, “I know you do, because whenever it is on you watch it – all the way through.” He’s right. I always do.

Here’s what’s awesome about this movie:
The acting. The acting is really spot on. Again, there are some medium to big names in this flick (certainly they were big when it was made) and they are still deep enough in character that you can forget that they are famous actors. They are believable. Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, Dana Delany, Thomas Haden Church, Jason Priestly, and even Charlton Heston are in this one. Really though, the ones to watch are Russell and Kilmer, and damn are they good in this.

Russell has great chemistry with Delany, and he really plays a convincing loyal brother and friend and tough lawman. And the man can wear the period outfits. You believe him when he is calm, enraged, when he is in mourning, when he is happy and in love. He plays it all the way through. And he is likable. He does some horrible stuff in this movie (spurs should not interact with faces, is all I am saying) and yet you root for him the whole way through. I am convinced it is because Russell plays him so well.

But really, to me the movie is stolen by Kilmer. Wow. His Doc Holiday is something to behold. Kilmer really is a fantastic character actor – which is a compliment in my book. His ability to master this character, to breathe complete life into him, made him more the legendary character (to me). Throughout the movie I always find myself thinking how lucky Earp is to have Holiday for his friend. Amazingly, if you listen to Holiday, he will say that he is the one who needs the friendship. But watching Holiday win at cards (clearly cheating by his ability to win so much) and walk away from so many problem scenarios, you see his intelligence and resourcefulness. If not for his illness, you can imagine him living a long, very dangerous life. His insight into the human character, in summing up their nemesis Ringo makes me pause to wonder if he is describing himself. But whatever the scene, whenever Kilmer is there, you feel his presence, and the movie is better for it.

It’s a good movie. Well written, excellent costumes and action sequences. The interactions between the characters is always believable. It’s absolutely worth renting.

So there you have it folks. Two movies full of fantastic performances and dialog. The other, well, if you like predictability and generic vanilla ice cream, then you go see 21.

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