Monday, March 12, 2012

Moving Pictures! I watched them so you don't have to.

Yo yo yo, everyone! This is your boy Perspicacious P aka the Vanilla Thrilla checking in again. I apologize for the long delay, but hustlin is a full-time job, I'm sure you all know about that. Stacking chips and paper can definitely cut into your blogging efficiency. There's a lot to write about, so I'm splitting it into two parts. First, the movies. Let's get our Roger Ebert on:

Act of Valor (Movie 9 of 50)

I thought this was movie was pretty ill, actually. I’ve read that it was originally conceived as a recruitment video for the Navy Seals, and it definitely has that feel. There’s one part where a guy is getting interrogated and the American tells the terrorist dude in the midst of everything, “You will be in a jail the rest of your life, and treated humanely, but you’ll never see the light of day”. It was an overtly self-aware move to prove just how humane these Seals can be. No breaching of the Geneva Convention here, fellas! But on the heels of what happened in Afghanistan, with that American soldier shooting up a bunch of Afghan villagers, we see that war sucks the humanity out of people and/or gives mentally unbalanced folks access to deadly weapons. In war, bad shit is always going to happen.

ANYWAYS I’m way off topic here. The action scenes are top-tier and you get a sense of how good these guys are at their jobs, as well as how much they have to sacrifice to do them. A lot is made of the conflict between being a soldier and having a family. If I was on the front lines, I don’t think I could conscionably have a family. I would hate to leave my loved ones twisting in the wind if I got killed or maimed. I guess all parties involved (well, the husband and wife, at least--the kids, not so much) know the deal going in, but everyone is still taking a huge chance.

The stars are said to be active-duty Navy Seals, and their sense of mission and their ruthless efficiency in carrying it out is transmitted on screen better than any other military movie I have ever seen. And they used live ammunition, w00t!

Although it is rah-rah America to some extent, it’s more an homage to a particular brotherhood (and sisterhood!) of soldiers than an apology or defense of American foreign policy. Say what you will, these guys give up a lot to do what they do and you have to have some respect for it, even if you don’t agree with how they are used.

OK I’m writing too much. Final thought: if you don’t mind a movie with stiff acting, great action and a bit of “America, Fuck Yeah!”, then you’ll like this.  

Safe House (Movie 10 of 50)

Bill Simmons said that Safe House is exactly what you would expect after seeing the trailer. What you see is exactly what you get. It was a solid movie with enough twists and turns to keep you interested throughout. It was well-acted by both Denzel and Ryan Reynolds, with Reynolds even throwing in a bit of Afrikaans in a couple of scenes. I know this is off topic, but am I the only one who thinks that Denzel plays more or less the same character in all his movies? Angry, sullen, incisive and confident. His character in Safe House was not far removed from his role in Training Day, which was not far from his character in Glory.

Now, I’m not hating here, it may be a narrow band of roles but he plays that band perfectly. I’m just saying he has no range, at least none that we’ve seen. He’s kind of like Kobe Bryant. Jason Whitlock wrote a great column this week about Kobe being a truly one-dimensional player. He doesn’t get assists or rebounds and hasn’t been a great defender in years. He doesn’t elevate the players around him in any way, unless being petulant and yelling at teammates when they fuck up counts as inspiration. But he is one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Denzel is like that. He has his thing and sticks with it. He makes it work and is even one of the all-time greats in that one regard, but he isn’t going to be doing comedy any time soon. Game respects game. As I once famously said, “Can’t knock the hustle.”

Morning Glory (Movie 11 of 50)

I live with a 60 year-old woman who told me to watch it because it was “Harrison Ford’s best role.” I thought this was high praise, especially since this is a movie I’ve never even heard of. Rachel McAdams, who I not-so-secretly would like to marry, stars as this neurotic workaholic TV producer in New York who gets fired from her job. Never fear however, she finds redemption through crusty old TV newscaster Harrison Ford. This was the type of movie where, if you know it is 90 minutes long, you keep looking at the clock to see how much of it you have left to watch. Rachel McAdams comes across as a grating, self-absorbed woman who cares way too much about her job for me to really care about her character. And I wish Hollywood would stop with the “super hot chick just can’t find a date” trope. Short, bald, hairy guys who are poor and have no friends can’t get dates. Hot chicks don’t have trouble finding men. The quality of men may be lacking at times, I’ll grant that, but the quantity is surely there. I’m positive my large and loyal hot female readership can attest to this. Anyway, this movie was solidly below average and I hope to never encounter it again. This is the type of movie they show on long bus rides in Spain, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Grosse Point Blank (Movie 12 of 50)

There are fewer holes in my movie-watching resume than this. Let me explain. From about 12 or so, I wanted to be John Cusack. I saw Better Off Dead on TV one day and thought he was the coolest, funniest motherfucker on the planet, plus he got with a hot French chick. I then saw Eight Men Out and thought he brought the heat as one of the Chicago Black Sox, right at the time I was becoming obsessed with baseball. The role that really locked it for me was Say Anything. I wanted to be Lloyd Dobler. Shit, I still want to be Lloyd Dobler. He was smart, sensitive, cool, fun and genuine. He was the vulnerable one in their relationship. But he was a kickboxer, so he still retained masculine street cred. I wanted to be all those things. From that point on, I was down with John Cusack. For some reason, however, I just never got around to seeing Grosse Point Blank. I remember when it came out and saying, “Oh man, I gots to see this!” But I was probably depressed at the time because I was stuck at UMass-Lowell, aka Dante’s 4th circle of hell. It became a 16-year black hole in the John Cusack canon for me.

So, there was a free screening of this movie at a local theater run by the university and off I went. They opened the show with trivia, where I won the Dawes CD by answering a question on how many movies John and Joan Cusack have starred in together. It’s eight, incidentally, but I actually didn’t know and just shouted a random number that happened to be right. BALLER! Then they showed the trailer for Pump Up the Volume(!!!), a movie they’ll be screening next month.

So was it worth waiting 16 years? Well, it was a fucking good movie man. The dialogue was funny in a detached, knowing, ironic way. Cusack is pretty much Lloyd Dobler if he grew up to be a hitman. The film also reminded me that I had a bit of a crush on Minnie Driver around this time, which is convenient since she is the main love interest and all. It also had an excellent soundtrack, which is not surprising because during trivia we found out that Joe Strummer was the one who compiled the songs. It was a nice touch in the high school when you see graffiti that read “The Future Is Unwritten.” The movie was about coming home and making amends for the wrongs you’ve done, and of course getting the girl in the process. Who wouldn’t want that? Well played, Mr. Cusack. Well played.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more about Denzel. I mean I have to give props because he is a fellow Fordham alumnus, and his past roles give him a lot of leeway, but he definitely has a type of role he has become very used to playing. He was pretty much the same in "Unstoppable". I feel sort of the same way about Harrison Ford, but his career trajectory has seemed to be bit more "Spotty" so to speak.

    "Act Of Valor" seemed interesting to me. I will probably wait to watch it on On Demand or something, but I feel like it would be interesting to see at the very least. But it seems sort of weird. I mean why use real Navy Seals for this 1) don't they have better things to do and 2) they can do a lot of things other people can and won't do, but I am willing to bet acting isn't one of them. Just like you wouldn't send Tom Cruise out on a Navy Seal mission-he'd have no idea what was going on and probably be really bad at it.

    Man, I'm not sure I've seen "Grosse Point Blank" since I saw it in the movie theater. I remember liking it now I want to watch it again.

    I hope they give away copies of the "Pump Up The Volume" soundtrack at that showing.