Over the past month or so, I’ve watched several movies that I wanted to review, but they didn’t really warrant an entire blog post. Most of these movies were let downs; overrated. I do have some positive remarks, though.

My thoughts on:
Lucky Number Slevin
Inside Man
Brick
Fearless
The Protector
The Matador
Thank You for Smoking

a sharp stick in the eye is better than…

Lucky Number Slevin

The best of the bad movies on this list. The movie is obvious. They give away the plot in the first five minutes. I didn’t think they would be so bloody obvious, but they were. That realization (at the end of the movie) was more shocking than the supposed “twist.” Oh, and Lucy Lui’s character is not a surprise either.

On the plus side, this movie does have many funny moments. The actors have a great time together onscreen. (Lucy Lui should’ve been blonde for her role.) I enjoyed everyone. I’m not saying some of the characters weren’t stereotypes or not fully fleshed out. I am saying the actors do their thing well enough that you won’t care.

The movie is entertaining. So maybe it’s better than being poked in the eye with something.

Inside Man

Oh god. I think the only reason anyone paid attention to this was because Spike Lee showed he was capable of making a standard Hollywood movie.

Denzel Washington plays Denzel. Jodie Foster has a fun and mysterious job. She’s the only one onscreen who smiles like she means it. Clive Owen wears a mask and sunglasses most of the time, pretty much obliterating the reasons anyone wants to watch him.

The movie is a supposedly “smart” bank heist movie. The heist takes place over 12 hours (or is it 18? I can’t remember and I’m not going to watch it again.) The movie feels like it takes about 72 hours before the credits roll.

Plot spoiler ahead! The only “twist” in this movie is that the term “inside man” is taken literally. The bank robbers get away with their robbery by building a fake wall in the bank and Clive Owen spends a week inside the crawl space, waiting for the heat to die down, before escaping out the front door of the bank.

That was cool. Having to watch the rest of the damn movie to get to that point (and then finish the damn movie) was not. (Now that you know the whole jist of the movie, you don’t have to see it.)

There are a number of plot holes in the movie, one of the main ones concerns a suitcase and a surprising amount of trust on the part of the police. I hope real cops would be more suspicious.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the movie, most concerning the real motivations behind the robbery, as well as how the robbers knew what to go after. In the end, though, I didn’t care. I just wanted the movie to be over. I was hoping that someone really did have a bomb and it would take out the entire bank. (That doesn’t happen.)

Oh yeah, Mr. Lee manages to hit the viewer over the head with his commentary on social problems. Only one of the scenes was relevant. The rest were just sort of jabbed into the movie, much like the entire movie was jabbing my brain.

Brick

I cannot remember the last time I put a book down without eventually finishing it. I cannot remember the last time I turned off a new movie without any desire to see the end.

You guessed it. Brick is one of those special movies.

My lover lasted about 15 minutes. I held out for 30. Then I decided I had better things to do with my life.

I didn’t like the film trailer for this movie because it just seemed stupid. I wanted to see the movie because I hoped to be proven wrong. Nope. The movie’s stupid.

It concerns an “outsider” high-school kid and his murdered ex-girlfriend (he doesn’t call the police but instead moves her body to hide it). He loves her so much (as a 17 year old), that he vows to track down her killer(s). As far as I can tell, that’s the movie.

Welcome to high school, sort of, not really. These modern-day teenagers spout forced dialogue that is a bad mix of over-hip and hard-boiled 30s film noir. It’s a mess without any clever lines.

And then there’s their “world.” This is a world in which the Jock is actually a weenie who complains about not playing in the games (in my high school that meant he wasn’t really a jock). The Rich Girl has a sophistication that is usually only found in $1000/hr escorts or 40 year old socialites. The Nerd knows everything yet is never seen interacting with another human being (aside from the main character).

I could go on, but why? This movie is so ludicrous that I couldn’t even begin to suspend my disbelief.

As far as I can tell, it’s a high-school social fantasy (with clever camerawork) probably thought up by the lonely kid who grew up to make this film. If you want to step into the head of a really lonely geek, then you’ll love this movie. If that isn’t your idea of quality entertainment, then I recommend passing on this treat.

movies worth watching

Huo Yuan Jia aka Fearless

Jet Li’s last martial arts film, this is a beaut. Of course, if you don’t like martial arts movies, then don’t watch this.

The movie is epic. It’s the internal journey of a man who discovers the true meaning of his art – the hard way. Li is a good actor and he gets a chance to show what he’s capable of.

The fight scenes are amazing (although one of the early ones strains credibility). But the point of the movie isn’t about the fights; a point that Li’s character eventually learns.

Although I don’t know all the facts behind the true story this film is based on, it’s an amazing tale even if half of it is accurate. It’s a beautiful way for Li to show his feelings for his art, as well as send a final, very positive message.

Tom yum goong aka The Protector

(If you don’t like martial arts movies, don’t watch this one either.) If you haven’t already seen Ong-bak, then rent it first. Tony Jaa is back again, and I can’t wait to see his next project.

This film has higher production values than Ong-bak, as well as more worthy combatants. Jaa seems to have put on a few pounds (but not in a bad way). The most interesting thing is that he created a whole new style of Muay Thai for this movie that’s based on elephant’s movements. (The plot of the movie is that he was raised to revere and protect holy elephants.)

Yes, the action is spectacular and wince-worthy. Working without wires and few props, he demolishes opponents and many inanimate objects. He even takes a few beatings, handed out by some of the biggest humans I’ve ever seen.

Comparisons to Bruce Lee are justified, especially in one long shot where he battles his way up a staircase to the top of a secret, illegal club.

I’m in love with Jaa. He’s the most amazing martial artist since Bruce Lee.

Of course, one doesn’t watch this movie for the story (unlike Fearless). The movie does make a point about the rape of native cultures (particularly the Thai). I wanted to cry when he found out what happened to the elephant he’d known since he was a child. But ultimately, the movie is a vehicle for Jaa. That’s not a bad thing because he carries it well.

The Matador

This is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that is a comedy for adults. Not because it’s nasty (it has its moments) but because you have to have a brain to get it. There is none of the stupidity that passes for humor in movies nowadays. Thank god somebody decided to make something truly funny.

The plot is actually surprising. The characters stay true to themselves the entire way through the movie. The performances from the three leads are solid. Pierce Brosnan is fearless and Greg Kinnear makes a great straight man. It’s enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s actually sad when it’s over.

Brosnan is a corporate hit man, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. He unravels in the funniest, most affecting way. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot.

The movie has the dark sense of humor that Lord of War has, but without the hopelessness and body count. There’s even a little grown-up slapstick thrown in. It’s just damn funny the entire way through. I had to stop eating or drinking while watching it.

I actually want to buy it.

Thank You for Smoking

I wasn’t sure about this one. I’d heard it was a good satire, but I’ve heard that line before. And cigarettes? How on earth could somebody make that tired subject fresh and funny?

That’s before I met Nick Naylor (Nailer, get it?). He’s one of the best, most memorable characters I’ve seen in a long time. According to one article, he’s one of the top 25 fictional characters in DC.

Aaron Eckhart plays Naylor. He becomes Naylor. You won’t forget this man once you’ve met him.

The movie is a deep satire, so deep that I don’t think everyone understands it. It’s not hard. Just sit back, watch and let yourself laugh. This is another movie that I had to stop eating and drinking in order to watch.

I don’t have Naylor’s moral flexibility yet I wish I had a guy like him in my camp. Failing that, the movie itself serves as a great lesson in how to craft arguments. I plan on buying it in order to learn from the best. Not to mention that it’s the funniest movie I think I’ve ever seen (funny in a realistic way, not in a comedic way).

If Satan were making movies, this is what they’d look like.

7 thoughts on “a fistful of movies

  1. If you have the IFC channel, they’re showing “The Emperor and The Assassin” (1999). Not a martial arts film, but a historical drama based on China. 2-1/2 hours, but really good. If you don’t get IFC, then see about renting it.

  2. Hmmm, I’ve been thinking about picking up both The Matador and Thank You For Not Smoking. Now I think I’m going to *have* to do it!! Thanks for the reviews!!

  3. I absolutely LOVE The Matador and watch it often. Very underrated movie, probably because few are willing to see “Bond” in THAT light… Also because it is a grown-up’s movie.

    Not a masterpiece, mind you, but the weaknesses are easily overlooked given the enjoyment derived from this gem.
    Love the photo and score, on top of the two leads’ chemistry and quirky acting. The latent homosexuality is a turn-off for me, but the film is such a joy that I give that a pass.

    Glad you also liked it, Amanda.

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