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Sunday, October 29, 2006

At Beechball's request ...

…I give you these five movie reviews. So pop the popcorn, crack open a can of soda, sit back, and try to stay awake.

The Out-of-Towners - Starring Goldie Hawn, Steve Martin and John Cleese. This is a film written by Neil Simon, one of my favorite playwrights. It had already been done once before in 1970, starring Jack Lemmon, a version which I also own. This new version was well done, I thought, and the casting was great. Steve Martin did a great job as one of Neil Simon’s characters and before the movie I was doubtful he could pull it off. Not that Steve Martin’s usual performances aren’t entertaining and hilarious, but they’re often a little too off-the-wall for portraying a Neil Simon straight man. Not straight in the sexual orientation sense, but straight in the theatrical sense wherein he’s the butt of many jokes; the calm in the center of the comedy storm; the comic foil that brings out the funny stuff in the other actors. He did it really well and I’d love to see him do more Neil Simon work. Goldie Hawn was great for this comedy, as she has great comedic timing and instinct. Cleese was, as ever, brilliant. Even got to see a little of his trademark high-kicking, albeit not in the form of his silly walk. I think Simon’s plays are better, as the silver screen takes something away from the emoting that happens on stage, robbing you a bit of the experience, but still it’s a good film.

American Psycho - Starring Christian Bale as the psycho. Insofar as it’s the disturbing tale of a serial killer (or is it all in his head?), this was a very good movie. Based on a best-selling book by Brett Easton Ellis that I haven’t read, I have to imagine it at least comes fairly close to the book. Bale is excellent in this role as he puts on a really chilling performance. You feel hatred and contempt emanating from him in waves and it all seems genuine. I am reminded of a rather pitiful performance by Brad Pitt in Kalifornia, which just screamed to me like he was saying with his acting: “Look at me! I’m a creepy serial killer! Boo!” Pitt is good in everything else I’ve seen him in, but I just found his portrayal in that movie to be really fakey and more annoying and comical than scary and real. In fact Juliette Lewis scared me more than Pitt’s character did. Anyways, one theme of American Pyscho concerns the yuppie culture of the 80s with all of its greed and ambition. This is the best part and it allows for some humor. Everyone is confused with everyone else at times because they’re all the same Perrier-drinking, money-grabbing, narcissistic perverts that seemed to pervade corporate culture in that decade. The 80s soundtrack – and Bale’s love of Huey Lewis and Phil Collins for instance – serves to dull the gritty edge of this movie with a little humor.

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers - This is a sad movie because Sellers was such an enigma to everyone in his life, including himself. He was lost to the point of hurting his wives and children emotionally and this makes his life story, in spite of all his excellent work, a poignant one. Still, two of my favorite actors were in it, namely Geoffrey Rush and John Lithgow. I’d see anything they were in, no matter how disinterested in the film I might be, because I know they’ll always give their best and turn in great performances. They did not disappoint here so I’d recommend this movie if you like them or want to know more about Sellers’ life, but be prepared to feel a bit depressed after. Interestingly, one of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was one where they sent up “The Castle of Dr. Fu Manchu”, one of a franchise of “Fu Manchu” films. Sellers wasn’t in the MST-3K film but he was in another “Fu Manchu” movie that was also a real stinker and his last film. Remember Sellers instead for the penultimate “Being There”.

The Andromeda Strain - Came out in 1971 I think, based upon Michael Crichton’s 1969 novel of the same name. Apparently there were fears at the time, before the manned expedition to the moon, that we might inadvertently bring back some sort of cosmic bacterial organism that could infect and kill us all. Crichton, ever the clever entrepreneur, decided to capitalize upon this with this fear-mongering novel. I may be coming down a bit hard on his motives here, which is pure speculation by the way, and I do think he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever read. But I remember Airframe all too well and dammit I’m sorry, but he’s putting the fear of God into everyone who ever flew on a plane with that one! Rightfully so, perhaps, but I just don’t need to know some of this stuff. Anyways, “Andromeda Strain” was a good adaptation of the novel and today it serves as a curious interest in how it captures what, in the early '70s, passes for special effects and cutting edge sci-fi. Some films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” succeed in still wowing me to this day with their special effects, although mainly the outer space shots and not so much the interior shots of the spaceship. HAL 9000 does look a bit like my dishwasher. But I digress, and “Andromeda Strain” is a good flick for those fans of Crichton’s novels.

Insomnia - Starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. Spoilers follow! This turned out to be the best movie of the lot I rented. Turns the usual cop suspense thriller on its head with an interesting twist. At first you're drawn to Pacino's character, the presumed protagonist as he's the lead detective in a difficult case wherein a young girl is brutally slain. Yet early on you learn he's got a twisted sense of ethics, one that leads him to commit murder himself. So, in addition to pulling for the killer of the girl to be caught, you're now caught up in this awkward web of feelings for the main character. You are disturbed by his actions yet he's the only one who can get close to the other killer in the film. It's set against a backdrop of a small town in Alaska at a time of year when the sun never truly sets, so the constant daylight acts like another character in the film. Specifically it is like a pervading sense of guilt and truth that can never be escaped, and it was highly effective. I'm always intrigued by movies that can not only make the usual cop dramas interesting with great performances, but find new permutations (at least, new to me) that heighten the suspense.

Well I enjoyed all of those movies, so the 5-for-3 deal turned out to be a good one. And thanks to Lyndsay for asking what I thought of all of these movies! So tell me Lyndsay, what did you think of Insomnia?


Blogger Beechball * said...

Thanks so much for the rundown, you're an excellent writer! Insomnia was a movie I saw years ago now at the theater when it first came out. I will be honest with you, I don't remember a whole lot about it. I know I enjoyed the movie, but at the same time I hated it. I hated it because I HATE when they portray Robin Williams as a bad. Even though I know he's more than just a comic and he is just broadening his acting abilities - it creeps the shit outta me seeing him in roles like this one, and 1 Hour Photo. I will have to watch the movie again and get back to you on an up to date review, but I am very glad you liked it. I must recommend to you (If you haven't already seen it of course) Shawshank Redemption, American History X, Office Space and Memento (VERY cool movie). Thanks again, and good job! :)

7:46 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Hey Lyndsay, glad you liked the review! I know what you mean about Robin Williams' roles as these creepy sociopaths, it does taint what we know and love best about him - his comedy. I've seen all those other films you recommended, all great ones, and I especially love "Office Space"! The guy who directed "Insomnia" also directed "Memento" by the way, and that film was great too, kept me guessing the whole time.

12:50 PM  

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