Over the past few weeks, me Julie n' me've been on a bit of a movie-going frenzy. I've always been a movie buff, er, geek, but as any working parent knows, getting out to see a flick can be a challenge. But because of a combination of determination, scheduling and luck, we've found ourselves in the theater a fair amount lately. Here are some of the movies we've seen, along with my thoughts about them. And please, if you've seen anything good lately, be it in the theater or at home, let me know!
The Squid and the Whale. Extremely well-written movie with stellar performances by all four of the main actors (particularly Jeff Daniels, who, need I remind you, was the Dumber of Dumb and Dumber). William Baldwin also does a ton with a relatively small role, and I swear to God I laughed out loud every time he was on screen. Here's the thing about this movie: It's incredibly funny, but the humor is there just to magnify the amount of pain that everyone in the film is experiencing. Most of the time you're laughing, you're laughing out of pity or horror. Ultimately, it's a movie about how badly we can fuck up our kids. Stylisticly, it has Wes Anderson written all over it (of Rushmore and Royal Tennenbaums fame), so it was no surprise when I found out he was one of the producers.
Brokeback Mountain. The hype, man, it's been killing me. The good hype, the bad hype. I had pretty much decided not to see the movie, only because there was no way it would ever live up to the hype for me, whether that meant being as good as I'd heard, or being as bad as I'd heard. But it was me Julie's turn to choose, and she chose it. Not to spite me -- I really had wanted to see it at one time -- just to push me there. And I'm glad she did. I was kind of right; it didn't completely live up to the hype. Regardless of what the story was about, there were flaws in the story and how it was told. It dragged at times. But overall, this is a really, really good film. Beautifully shot, great performances... And it definitely elicits an emotional response, which for me is one of the most important criteria for any movie, next to making me care about someone in it. Which this also does. You care about the characters in the move, and they all have different reasons to be cared about. HOMOPHOBE ALERT: If you have one view and one view only of love and sex, and that view is it's only and ever between a man and a woman, dude, don't even bother seeing this. Of course, I can't imagine why you would, but this movie will just disgust you, nothing more. It ain't for you. For all other heteros out there, no matter how open minded you think you are, this movie still might make you a little uncomfortable. Because here's the thing: these two guys really love each other. The performances and the directing are that good, that you really believe in this true love between these two. The story itself has been told countless times before; two people love each other, and even though life and the world causes them to be apart, that love is always there. We've just never seen it between two guys. And instead of being flamers, they're cowboys. This movie will stick with you. Especially the beautiful and haunting score by Gustavo Santaolalla.
Underworld: Evolution. Believe it or not, me Julie didn't go see this one with me. Friday night my home was infested with Girl Scouts, so I walked up to the massive-screened Continental Theater (we have three theaters within walking distance of our house, which is way cool junior) and caught this sequal to the mindlessly enjoyable vampire flick Underworld. And this was... mindlessly enjoyable! Hell, I love bad vampire flicks. This one is damn near good. And Kate Beckinsdale? Hot.
Syriana. A smart, tight political thriller in much the same style as writer/director Stephen Gaghan's Traffic. A number of seemingly unrelated stories that gradually come together. Lots of impressive performances -- a great ensemble of notables, character actors and unknowns. Sometimes a bit hard to follow, even for my superior intellect, but it definitely did a good job of keeping me wondering what was going to happen next.
The Constant Gardner. This movie didn't get as much play as I think it deserved. Like Syriana, a political thriller of the "You have no idea the shit your government is up to" variety, it's a well-done keep-you-guessing film. But it's also a love story, and that's what makes it really worth seeing. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are both outstanding, as is Pete Postlethwaite in an out-of-character role. One of the most impressive aspects of the film is to make you have the same suspicions and doubts as the leading characters, particularly suspicions about Rachel Weisz's character. The Constant Gardner is also aimed directly at big drug companies, raising some serious questions as to the balance between helping people and making profit.
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