Friday, February 22, 2008

Charlie Bartlett

Suspension of all belief is an important mental prep job before entering the theater to see this. It's all a fantastical (yes I mean that) story about a likeable chronic sociopath of a teen who, after being tossed from yet another prep school - this time for fake ID making-enters public school when he returns home to live. He finds his way to popularity by conning his shrinks out of presciptions which he recycles as a pseudo-counselor while perched on a toilet in the boy's bathroom. He falls for the principal's daughter. He reforms the school bully. He calms an entire student body who looks to him for....oh screw it. Now- it is a good movie, an easy to watch movie, a weirdly upbeat movie with a real ending. Nevertheless, it requires a good deal of seeing past the holes. Any kid dealing psych drugs from an attache case in the bathroom of a high school would be put in juvenile detention in about 5 seconds. Okay- as just a movie- it's good. As a movie that is based in any reality at all- it would be pretty bad. So approach it that way. It'll be easier. Alex really liked it. He'd have given it 3.5. I just can't.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In Bruges

I really liked this movie. It wasn't what I thought it would be because I read nothing about it before I saw it. Colin Farrell plays an inept assassin under the tutelage of an experienced killer- but his first attempt to kill someone goes terribly wrong, and it haunts him. The story unfolds in beautiful Bruge- in Belgium. It is a fairy tale background for a gritty and grimly violent film that, nevertheless, is very funny in spots. And despite the lack of frank sexual acts, it is a very adult film that cannot be shared with kids of any age. I was going to give it a 4, but the fact that Colin Farrell is SO recognizable, as is Ralph Fiennes, is a major distraction. I liked not knowing the other actors. It was weird to see Fiennes play such an immature and depraved (and silly) character. I never lost sight of the fact that it was Ralph Fiennes. Or Farrell. I highly recommend this movie.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This is a film based on a book of the same name by the former editor of French ELLE, Jean-Dominique Bauby. Julian Schnable just had to get in there and make it a movie. A French movie just to be authentic. The acting is great. Mathieu Amalric is phenomenal since he can only act with one eye, due to the massive stroke that produced "locked in syndrome" where he couldn't move but his brain was intact. That a million reviewers have given this 4 stars has not affected me in the least. Alex snoozed for a few seconds, despite the fact that I was not a totally willing attendant and it was his idea to go. The film was actually praised for the fact that it is done from the viewpoint of Bauby- as is the book, of course. But it spends lengthy, real time, annoyingly, doing what my French teacher never got me to do- learn the proper pronunciation of the letters in the French alphabet. And on and on and on. And JUST when you are getting to like the resilience of Bauby, he rubs the last grains of salt in his arsenal of pain for the mother of his kids by telling his useless, non visiting girlfriend that he misses her while the mother of his kids holds the damn phone and interprets. She visits him every week and brings his kids. That was her chance to kill him. I don't know why she didn't. That was the final straw for me because after that, I didn't LIKE Bauby. So his survival became inconsequential to me. Had Schnabel spent more time on the life of Bauby so that I could identify with him and his frailties, it would have been a better movie. The people in this film who are heroic are his caretakers, his long suffering former girlfriend who has his 3 kids, and the patient woman who wrote down every letter of every word of his book. The movie was interesting, but though Schnabel probably felt he was giving us an idea of what it would be like to have locked in syndrome, and an idea of how tedious it must have been to write a book, I frankly no longer cared by the end.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

I was confused by this film. It has Tom Hanks in it, and Aaron Sorkin was a writer for it- so HOW did this become a film so pro-Afghani and really pro war? People who are so against supporting the people of Iraq in their recovery from Saddam Hussein- well, how can they be so sympathetic to the Afghani's of the 1980s and not the Kurds? Julia Roberts plays Joanne Johnson King Herring Davis, a Houston socialite whose second marriage to Robert Herring (oilman) got her an in to be the honorary consul to Morocco and Pakistan. Her cause became the freedom of the Afghani's from the Russian marauders who were maiming and killing the Afghanis at warp speed, while the Afghani's had no real means to defend themselves. Charlie Wilson is a dissolute softy who would be sued right and left for sexual harassment by his employees if he pulled all that stuff today. But his ability to get along in Congress serves him well when the time comes for him to get a billion dollars thrown into the cause. It is oddly uplifting to see Wilson succeed. And since everyone around him knows what he is (because he hides behind nothing), he winds up being a likeable guy. Observe Roberts' plastic surgery- that is one tight eye job. Hanks looks his usual affable self. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an unlikely CIA agent. And Amy Adams does a great job of being a competent assistant to Charlie- without being his bimbo. Which was probably hard to do. This movie hasn't gotten enough good press. There is plenty of nudity- so though there is a great message here, it isn't for youngsters.