Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ehhhhhh: The Not Quites of 2007

Ah yes, we've come to the Not Quites. While I didn’t outright dislike this batch of films I found them all lacking in some way or another, ensuring that I’ll never say, purchase them on DVD but I wouldn’t object to watching a favorite scene on youtube or catching a moment or two between commercials when I'm watching something else.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Not Quites along with a brief explanation of what I liked and disliked about them

Yay: Gorgeous visuals, impressive abs, fun to yell “This! IS! SPARTA!” (but only in moderation)
Nay: No real character and thus nothing to invest in, simultaneously takes itself too seriously talking about “glory” and “honor” while at the same time being ridiculous and ignoring the larger allegorical elements of the story.

28 Weeks Later
Yay: Some inspired ideas not previously used in zombie films, characters faced with complex moral decisions
Nay: Again no character (although like 300 also has an actor from the Wire playing a government schmuck), dumb decision making, the aforementioned good ideas are poorly executed, ridiculous “lead zombie”

Across the Universe
Yay: Loads of ambition, Bono (I can’t believe it either) and for some reason James Urbaniak shows up as a sleazy manager
Nay: Repetitive motif of a single character walking through a sporting practice, takes itself too seriously, flimsy performances, elementary childish symbolism (carrying the statue of liberty while singing “She’s so Heavy” oh man was I laughing), broad 60-70’s iconography, lots of characters saying what they’re feeling, you can’t do that-it makes me feel angry.

American Gangster
Yay: Nice epic scope, doesn’t just glamorize its criminals, loads of character actors (Look Roger Bart as a racist DA!) and a very fine performance from Russel Crowe and Josh Brolin.
Nay: Denzel is pretty much coasting doing his usual thing. In trying to cover a lot of ground it doesn’t really feel like it’s about anything.

Yay: An amazing first hour that is taut, tense and exciting. Beautiful performances and excellent direction and score.
Nay: Then comes the second hour and the film meanders along not really going anywhere until an inexplicable third act denouement that probably worked a lot better in print then it did in film.

Bee Movie
Yay: Excellent vocal performances, Seinfeld gave a tremendous amount of thought about the lives of bees, pretty consistently funny.
Nay: A lot of mixed messages; is it a pro-environmentalist message, a cry for individuality or advocating sticking with the community? Supplies enough bee puns to last me for the rest of my life.

Dan in Real Life
Yay: A powerful, layered performance from Steve Carell (his performance of “Let My Love Open the Door” is DEVASTATING), nice to see so many likable actors (Norbert Leo Butz, Emily Blunt, John Mahoney, Diane Weist AND Juliette Binoche) having enough of an effect on Dane Cook to make him tolerable…
Nay: Unfortunately this entire cast of characters are living in some perfect looking, happy-go-lucky, Nancy Meyers pristine world where family get-aways run like the greatest summer camp ever.

Death at a Funeral
Yay: Hilarious and daring performances from Alan Tudyk and Peter Dinklage and solidly directed comic bits from Frank Oz (nice to see him getting his groove back).
Nay: The rest of the characters and most of the plot are entirely forgettable.

Yay: A charismatic lead performance from LaBEOUF! Occasionally tense.
Nay: While I admire the courage to adapt Hitchcock it pales in comparison to Rear Window only one of the greatest films of all time.

Yay: A fun little mystery that would make a great episode of Law and Order…
Nay: Unfortunately it’s a two hour plus movie.

Yay: Breakout performances for Nikki Blonsky, Elijah Kelley and Taylor Parks. Sterling supporting turns from James Marsden, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chris Walken and Allison Janney. It was great to see the public embrace a musical and most of the numbers have an infectious energy.
Nay: A movie about tolerance does not have the courage or conviction to show two men kissing at the end of a romantic number. The non-musical sequence are fairly dull and the movie moves more on the strength of the performers then how they’re shot. John Travolta’s make-up, accent and performance, ugh.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Yay: The kids keep getting better. Nice to see so many classy actors in one place even if they only get a few minutes of screen time a piece. Makes Harry more sympathetic then he seemed in the book.
Nay: The ending battle looks like a bunch of people quickly swirling CGI at each other, your mileage on this may vary. With the exception of fleshing out Harry a bit more this all seems like a very rote adaptation that is just going through the motions until we’re done with movie seven.

Hot Rod
Yay: Occasional bits of inspired comic brilliance, very fun performances from Will Arnett and Chris Parnell. Isla Fisher looks so cute and is part of my holy trilogy of modern red-heads.
Nay: Weak story, a lot feels like filler between the more inspired bits, Ian McShane is capable of being a very funny actor, but not this “type” of funny.

Music and Lyrics
Yay: Hugh Grant is a master of this genre, unquestionably. The songs by Fountain of Wayne front-man Adam Schlessinger are excellent. Doesn’t take itself too seriously. Appropriately light and fun.
Nay: I get nothing from Drew Barrymore. Britney Spears analogues are getting soooo tired.

Yay: On a technical level it’s excellent. Wonderful message.
Nay: Makes it point and then doesn’t really introduce any new ideas. Lacks some of the tension and energy found in Panahi’s earlier films.

Reno 911 Miami
Yay: Nice to see these characters embrace R-rated material so fluidly. Very fun cameos from Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Patton Oswalt and one particular action star I wouldn’t DREAM of spoiling.
Nay: The success of the individual bits is too inconsistent.

Yay: Periodically nails the balancing act of the tone of the novel. The leads chemistry is pretty solid. The third act is greatly improved and genuinely exciting.
Nay: Over-designed and dumbs down a lot of the more mature material found in the book, characters go from being three-dimensional to one-dimensional and things are telegraphed way too early.

Surf’s Up
Yay: They work the conceit of a documentary fairly well…
Nay:… but the story it captures is frustratingly predictable. The characters and voice work isn’t particularly memorable which is a shame as I like a lot of the actors on display here.

Year of the Dog
Yay: Very fine performances coupled with very deep characters. An intriguing, small and original character piece.
Nay: The movie goes back and forth about whether it is mocking its characters or rooting for them, it vacillates so much that the viewer isn’t real left with anything or anyone to grasp on to.


Football Chick said...


1 - Read Atonement. You can borrow my copy.

2 - John Travolta was adorable and charming in Hairspray.

El Gigante said...

1. I can't wait to borrow it.

2. John Travolta was revolting and disarming.