Monday, February 9, 2009

DJG / The Weekend Watcher

The Secret Life of Bees * * *
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood / 2008

Read. The. Book. Skip. The. Movie. Those are some words of wisdom from your ol’ pal Uncle DJG. The cast seems spot-on, but for some reason they ushered no life absorbed or care, at least to me, hiding behind stale performances and going through the motions. I’m now wondering what kind of spin young directing talent David Gordon-Green would have put on this tale of coming of girl power age and race relations. He was originally lined up to tackle it, but opted for a chance to get out of his typical small town Southern tales and into the streets of “Pineapple Express”. I know that “The Secret Life of Bees” means well and I think that a lot of people have and will find something great in it. But, it can be hard to watch a film adaptation of a book you like and maybe I just wasn’t ready for it? And Dakota Fanning, I don’t aim to attack you critically, and I know that you mean well too, but please go into hiding for a little bit. Go be a real girl for a while. Go chase your own birds and bees.

In Bruges * * * * ½
Directed by: Martin McDonagh / 2008

When I watched “In Bruges” for the first time last year, I pegged it as one of the better crafted stories I’d seen in a while. The second time is even better and still freshens up the behind-the-scenes hit man genre that seems to be firing blanks of late. “In Bruges” is a treat and one of the finer movies to come out of the post-“Pulp Fiction” era. And wow, this era (is it an era?) has been going for nearly 15 years now! It’s clever, witty, thrilling, poignant and surprisingly redemptive. And did I mention that Colin Farrell really busts some likable acting chops? My heart has it picked to win an Oscar in a couple weeks for Original Screenplay, even though my brain says that “Wall-E” will get it. The award doesn’t matter, but I’m just glad it’s being recognized so that more people might be invited to see “In Bruges”, and several times over. Not bad for writer-director Martin McDonagh who has only made two full-length movies. I just want more! And I want to someday be in Bruges!

Push * * ½
Directed by: Paul McGuigan / 2009

Some movies have better trailers…some movies need to come with a handbook. “Push” served both. The opening credits had me very hooked at the idea of the Nazi’s experimenting with paranormal activities during World War II. This is a possible truth that I still wish to research further. Along with this exciting info, little Dakota Fanning also voiced over a handbook’s worth of information in a matter of two minutes on what I was going to have to try to decipher for the next hour and fifty minutes. Film makers, please don’t do this. First thing, this movie is way too long for the type of movie it is, second it takes its self way too serious. Advertisers call it “The first great action movie of 2009!”. Well guys, give me an action movie and cut out all the B.S…and isn’t this the ONLY action movie so far in the infant stages of 2009? 2007’s “Shoot ‘Em Up” raised the bar for what friends and I love to refer to as “Stupid-Awesome”. Last year’s “Wanted” also raised the standards high. Maybe I was just shooting my wants too high? “Push” is an OK concept, had me intrigued from the get-go, but quickly lost me too from the get-go. OK, I’m not the brightest bulb in the projector, but I’d like to think I can follow most action films. Nope. I had NO IDEA what was going on after the opening credits and I didn’t even care. Can I blame it on what I call “The Michael Bay Effect”? You know, where 99.9% of all filmmakers think it’s awesome to pump their cinematographer full of Speed, Pixie Stix, Mountain Dew, NERDS and with a chaser case of Red Bull? How the heck do people follow this stuff? I can barely follow a well-crafted heist movie and a full-length computer animation. Though, at times I guess I was tickled with “Push” (screeching twin Chinese brothers!). I was just not tickled enough to give a darn about characters who looked straight out of the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalog and with mope-about faces to match. When characters (I mean, actors?) don’t seem to really feel for anything, it certainly doesn’t make me want to feel for anything, not even if surrounded by some stupid-awesome. I guess it’s safe to say that what I did see was a minor mash-up of “X-Men” meets “The Matrix” set in Hong Kong (and the scenery was the best thing in the movie), but save your money and go get that from watching the trailer.

Groundhog Day * * * *
Directed by: Harold Ramis / 1993

This year I’m trying to see all the movies that I feel everybody else has seen but me by now, leading up to my date with “Citizen Kane”. Last week I finally say “Life is Beautiful” and last night I finally saw “Groundhog Day”. I’m 30 years old and a Bill Murray fan. How in the heck have I not seen “Groundhog Day”? OK, I don’t spend much time with cable television. Anyway, I don’t really need to say much other than “I loved GROUNDHOG DAY!” as everybody already knows what I’m talking about with this still fresh and fun comedic fantasy. What’s next on the list? I’m thinking of rounding out my classic Bill Murray comedic genius list. How about some “Caddy Shack” or “Stripes”?!

The Ice Storm * * * * ½
Directed by: Ang Lee / 1997

Always worth repeat watches every couple of years, master director Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” still rains fresh and well-execution twelve years later. Where movies of similar interest like “American Beauty” fall trite now, “The Ice Storm” is still superbly submerged in suburban unrest and confusion, and with a parallel backdrop of the 1970s. See it.


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