Friday, May 15, 2009

Rapid-Fire Airplane Movie Reviews

Review: Gran Torino

The remarkable thing about this movie is that half of the main character's dialog is either "grrrr" or some manner of ethnic slur--and Mr. Eastwood's character sure knows a lot of those. The movie starts with Eastwood's character Walt absolutely despising anyone who isn't like him--and that extends to his white family, Southeast Asian neighbors, Mexican neighbors, and pretty much everyone else. So it's predictable in the sense that by the time everything is said and done, you know he's going to come around and be okay with at least some of the minorities.

Over the course of the movie, we see how he gets there, and how he actually manages to bring about some positive change in other people's lives, too. I suppose I can buy that seventy-plus years of bigotry vanishes over the course of just a few months, mostly because I can't buy that someone is that ridiculously bigoted in the first place. Sure, there's plenty of grizzled old dudes who don't care for the fact that their neighbors are Asian, but is there really anyone who would go so far as to throw away their gifts for no real reason?

Without giving away the ending, I'll go ahead and say that the best line in the movie comes at the end, when Walt forbids someone from painting "any of those stupid flames" on his car, or putting a "gay spoiler" on the back. It's a good movie overall--a classic tale of redemption that's nothing we haven't seen before, but well enough acted and presented that it doesn't so much matter.

Review: Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig's new interpretation of James Bond surprised and impressed a lot of people in the last movie, Casino Royale. Gone, or at least postponed, were the days of the ultra-suave, super-sophisticated Bond, and we got a rendition that was a lot more relateable in terms of emotion. That made Casino Royale a good movie.

The other thing that made Casino Royale good was that it made sense. The whole way through. You could follow the plot, you knew who the characters were, and there was an acceptable level of doubt about who was up to what. Quantum of Solace decided not to follow that approach. Confirmation of who certain characters are and what they're doing comes way too late in the movie to help it make sense. Worse, even after watching it, I'm still not sure what the Bond Girl's involvement in anything is. (Is she Russian? South American? Something else entirely?)

Chances are good you expect certain things from a Bond movie, like exotic locales, explosions, chase scenes, and banter between Bond and his superiors. We get all that, no doubt about it. The issue comes in whether we get anything beyond that... and Quantum of Solace doesn't so much deliver.

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

I was a little skeptical of this movie at first, mostly because Indian cinema and I don't so much get along, but it turns out this movie was a lot less Bollywood than I might have thought. No spontaneous bursting into song (or dance), no characters who find out they're inexplicably related at the very end of the movie (hey, this isn't Lost here), and no four-hour duration.

The coolest thing this movie does is to use an interesting temporal structure, explaining how this poor kid from the slums knows the answers to all these trivia questions. Turns out he's had some ridiculously bad things happen to him in his life, and those moments just happen to coincide with the questions he gets asked. Fate, or something like that.

It has its flaws--notably, the main character Jamal is utterly unlikable and devoid of personality for the first third or so of the movie. And, as Ken Jennings pointed out before the movie was even released, the "trivia game" backbone of the movie is weak: some of the early questions seem impossibly hard, while the last (20 million rupee) question is comparatively stunningly easy.

However, the movie has way more going for it than wrong with it. Slumdog Millionaire manages to use the "flashes through time" device without confusing us, because both of the timelines move linearly forward, and that's a credit to the movie in and of itself. But it does a lot more than that, featuring characters you find yourself caring about and a few powerful redemptive moments.

Review: Best in Show

I love the mockumentary style--see Spinal Tap, the Office, etc. And Best in Show is one of... well, the best. I'd already seen this movie, several years ago, and the good news is it's still as funny as ever.

Currently listening: "Cover Me", Mae, from The Everglow

No comments: