Here is another in a series of posts I have been doing where I briefly discuss the latest movie rentals I have seen from my Netflix queue. Did the title already say that? I will shut up then now. Previously, there were several films I mentioned in this prior post, so I will pick up where that one left off. Do you see the natural progression here? The dvd rental, or blu-rays in some cases, in the post are in chronological order of video rentals or simply, the films I have seen – so here is the most recent batch of films for your perusal. Yes, there are likely spoilers all over these write-ups, so be warned if you haven’t seen the films. As usual I will give you my Netflix star rating, based on their somewhat flawed IMO, five-star system.
I was looking forward to this quirky indie starring Ben Stiller as a 40-ish single man returning to California coming off of a stint in rehab/mental institution. While that aspect of it is not explored, the film finds Ben’s Greenberg struggling to connect with those around him, including former close friend and ex-bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans) and a potential love interest in Greta Gerwig’s Florence. Greenberg floats unevenly through various situations from bizarre sexual mishaps to drug induced partying to quiet restaurant moments that turn ugly. Director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) lets the action unfold naturally, but the pacing is almost too slow with the events too disconnected at times to be engrossing. Greenberg is a movie worth watching for indie fans, but a pass for people who think they are getting the Meet the Parents type of Stiller. His performance is far more nuanced and reserved here. 3 out of 5
The Godzilla-esque Cloverfield made waves at the box office, opening big and getting some of the stars steady work in films after its release. The movie is set in New York and while it can be a bit lazy with its entirely hand-held camera (yes, I said the ENTIRE movie is hand-held(!)). It kept my interest, which is more than I thought it might. I thought some of director Matt Reeves visuals were pretty imprressive (the characters crossing between two high-rise building touching hundreds of feet above ground was particularly cool). The acting is fair; tolerable given that nobody has ever been in a situation quite like the fantastical one presented. This is not a repeat viewer, but I thought it was serviceable. Another 3 out of 5.
Bruce Willis’ career has to be on a steady decline. Surrogates‘ sci-fi, futuristic premise where we live in a world where our clones interact and humans never leave the house is an interesting one. But the CGI is pretty lame, the story lacks substance and in the end, it was a forgettable experience. This felt like a B-level movie with a (former(?)) A-list star in it. The ending is semi-predictable and there is not enough there to warrant much else. I am surprised that the teaming of Willis and Ving Rhames (two Pulp Fiction stars) have fallen off as bad as to end up in this. Disappointing. 2 out of 5.
Did I just say I was disappointed in Bruce? Oh my. Kevin Smith’s wholly generic Cop Out with Willis and Tracy Morgan playing partners who end up on the outside of their jobs trying to solve a case that involves murder, drugs, a baseball card, a potentially cheating wife, corrupt cops and a bunch more. This film attempts to have laughs, yet instead repeats generic one-liners like Morgan’s “I love you like a fat kid loves cake.” Are you f*cking serious?!? This film is an outright travesty. The “stars” are completely mismatched. The acting is horrible and Bruce looks entirely disinterested.
I suspect that Smith (Zack & Miri Make A Porno) will pass it off that it was supposed to be this way. I call that BS. You wasted your time, the stars time, the audiences time and the studio’s money. Smith is bordering on a thin-line that should find him on the outside of Hollywood for good if his next film doesn’t succeed. Its too bad, because I like the man, but he really shows little talent for directing (a basic point and shoot-style), a marginal talent for writing (but at least he is a unique voice to be sure), and I’m just entirely disappointed in the man that once made the respected Clerks. That was so long ago. 1 out of 5 stars.
This was a somewhat surprising revelation. I found the film to be totally acceptable and am in many ways sorry that it did so poorly at the box office. I understand why, but I feel sorry for the film, as it is quality through and through. Director Paul Greengrass leads Matt Damon’s Roy Miller into Iraq on a (likely fantastical) story of a man and country of troops searching for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). While Miller and his Marine brethren continually invade and investigate supposed locales for WMD, he begins to question the intel which leads to government conspiracies and cover-ups which will potentially be largely eye-opening for any American (and even Iraqis). This is a sad tale but tautly and smartly told with little wasted effort. It is not a Jason Bourne clone which it seemingly was marketed to be. It is a thrilling film about politics and war, that should have more Americans (and viewers in general), questioning the validity of the way their government conducts their democracy. 4 out of 5 stars.
Oliver Stone’s biopic of George W. Bush was a perfect film to follow seeing Green Zone, though unintended. I felt Stone presented a fair and compelling look into Bush and his presidency, with the looming presence of George Sr. a constant driving force for his son. I didn’t expect to be as interested in this as I was. There were strong acting performances in several roles, most notably Thandie Newton’s Condi Rice imitation and of course, Josh Brolin’s brilliant W. Highly surprised he didn’t get more props for his acting here. Scott Glenn’s incredibly moronic Rumsfeld, Richard Dreyfuss’ Dick Cheney and the always strong Jeffrey Wright (does he ever misstep?) as Colin Powell also rated well. This was an interesting film, well shot, and a nice look (potentially) into areas of his personality and presidency that the laymen would never know. Good stuff. 3 out of 5 stars.
Remains of the Day
After seeing Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, I decided to look up the author and discovered that his most revered novel Remains of the Day was made into a movie which garnered 8 Oscar nominations in 1994 (for the ’93 film). Hence, I watched the film, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson as servants to a rich man with Nazi ties. While Hopkins’ Stevens is loyal to a fault, his inner struggle was difficult for me to fully see on film. I wanted it to be harder for him to maintain his staunch demeanor than it was seemingly revealed. Still, I can’t deny it was fine acting.
If he is belittled, he takes it every time, just going about his work and never encroaching with his opinion. Whether losing his father or living his life without a chance at love, Stevens stayed strong. Still, this was an interesting depiction of a man who seemed to have misplaced his loyalty and hurt the possibility for a greater life as a result. That is something that many of us can relate to. This was an interesting film, but it never really took off for me and I didn’t see a payoff I was expecting. 3 out of 5 stars (though I’d give it 2.5 if I could – it deserves the rounding up).