Friday, June 05, 2009

Quick DVD Reviews

Slumdog Millionaire
This one didn’t quite live up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong – I found it to be immensely enjoyable, and really appreciated the opportunity to peek behind the curtain at the ‘real India’ (I’ve been there – but on a fairly sanitary vacation). As a whole – it just didn’t resonate with me – perhaps it’s because it all came together a bit too neatly at the end. Aside from Boyle’s rather energetic direction – I found it to be a typical by the number Hollywood movie that just happened to take place in India. Very good, but not Best Picture material, in my humble opinion. Grade: B+

About halfway through this movie, my wife turned to me and said ‘I completely forgot that was Sean Penn’. I guess that’s the whole point of good acting. I’ve yet to see The Wrestler, so I’m not really sure who will win my personal Penn vs. Rourke showdown, but I will say that Penn was amazing. It’s a role that both loud and quiet. These dramatized biographies can sometimes get a bit stale – as we simply follow the bouncing ball. This one gets stuck in a bit of a rut, as Gus Van Sandt focuses a bit too much on the various mid-70s elections and not on the ‘boiling just below the surface’ Dan Brown, as played by Josh Brolin. I would have loved to see a bit more of his home life, as an exploration the weight he carried around on his shoulders. Still, it’s a very solid biopic with strong writing and strong performances from top to bottom. Grade: A-

Role Models
Sometimes you just need a dumb movie, and this one is dumb done well. Paul Rudd has become a wonderful straight man – a role that is missing from so many of today’s films. Two very strong performances from the younger actors, LARPing and a nice dose of Kiss all add up for some fun. I’m not a big LOL kind of guy, but there were a few spit take moments for me in this one. Rudd’s deliver on the Quidditch line is enough to warrant praise from me. Grade: B+

Rachel Getting Married
I’m not so sure how I felt about this one. Anne Hathaway was indeed very good, and I was very happy to see Debra Winger again (boy, can she do cold & cruel). What didn’t sit well with me was the setting and all of the supporting players at the wedding. The overt artsy-fartsiness really undercut the raw emotions that I was feeling as I learned about the family tragedy. As a Neil Young fan, I was mildly offended by the truly bizarre use of ‘Unknown Legend’. It was that kind of thing that reminded me that I was watching a movie – and only a so-so one at than. Grade: B

Journey Into Fear
I caught this minor entry from the Mercury Theatre gang on TCM last month. Joseph Cotton wrote the script and stars as an American roped into some cloak and dagger adventure in wartime Turkey. Orson Welles is a looming presence as the head of the Turkish secret service, but manages to stay nicely understated. I just never got caught up in the drama and there was a true lack of suspense. If you’re looking for another Third Man, you’d best keep looking. I haven’t read the novel upon which it was based, but I was left with the feeling that this is a severely truncated adaptation. The running time is very short, and I’ve got to think that some important stuff was left on the cutting room floor. The voice over leads me to believe that someone besides me decided at the last minute that the film’s narrative was weak. Grade: C+

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