Tuesday, June 12, 2007

5 Movies, 5 Days

It's been a movie kinda weekend for me... you know, where somehow the planets align, the stars twinkle just right, the time falls where it may, and you get the chance to watch several movies you've been wanting to see, all in a few days...

Friday Night -- "Ocean's Thirteen"
Loved "Ocean's Eleven". Thought it was clever, at the time it was original, and its funny. And its one of the few movies that I can totally recommend the commentary on the DVD (Pretty boy or not, Brad Pitt is a really funny guy)

"Ocean's Twelve" was different. I walked out disappointed. Didn't watch it again until it came on HBO a year later, then I gave it another shot... and liked it. Then I saw it again a few days later... and really liked it. It grew on me quickly, and though I don't consider it on par with the first, I can watch it and not be disappointed now.
So, "Oceans Thirteen" is out, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Reviews were really good, so I hoped it would live up... and it did. The gang is back, out to avenge the injuries suffered by Reuben at the hands of Willy Banks (a smarmy good Al Pacino). I won't go into detail about the plans, but know that Linus (a great Matt Damon) gets a main part this time, Turk & Virgil lead a workers strike in Mexico, Basher channels his inner Apollo Creed mixed with Evel Kneviel, someone cries over Oprah, you feel great sympathy for That Guy Hall of Famer David Paymer, and both Bruiser and Toulour make appearances, as does Terry Benedict. What happened to Tess? You find that out too. And only because I had a huge crush on her in 1989, I'm taking Ellen Barkin over a combined Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts (For, like, two months, "Sea of Love" was my favorite movie of all time in 1989).

Like Twelve, Thirteen is like one big inside joke, but unlike Twelve, Thirteen lets you in on the joke so you can laugh too. And like Eleven, you may not laugh all the way through Thirteen, but you'll find your self amused the whole time.

Saturday -- "Knocked Up"
If you didn't liked "The 40 Year Old Virgin", then you won't like this. Directed by the same guy, Judd Apatow, it has a lot of the same people, including Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, and Seth Rogan is promoted to leading man. Steve Carell even makes a cameo.

Hotness Katherine Heigl is an up and coming E! news reporter who, while hanging out with her sister, gets a little too drunk. She has a foolish one night stand with Ben, a guy that it would take a very drunk hot chick to be with, and kicks him out the next day. Eight weeks later, she discovers she's going to have a baby. Ben's baby.

So the movie progresses as Alison and Ben try to make a relationship work, at first just for the baby, and then after finding out they really do like each other, for each other. This movie is rude, crude, lots of F-bombs, a couple of boobage scenes (though only one is real, the others are the guys watching boobage on tv, which is part of Ben's job. You'll find out why when you see it) and is actually lots of fun. Several things I liked about this movie...

  • Paul Rudd. This guy is really funny. He's been in "Clueless" (which Steph Leann loves), "Wet Hot American Summer" (a highly underrated comedy), "Anchorman" and much more, and each time, he's fantastic.
  • Katherine Heigl. I'm so glad she's more than Izzie from "Grey's Anatomy", and "Nicole" from "My Father the Hero"
  • Abortion was never really considered. It is mentioned as an option, but without explaining how she came to the decision, Alison decides to keep the baby, as if its the only thing she could do. I respect that.
  • Ben's buddies. Several no-names, including Jonah Hill, who was in "40 Year Old Virgin" and "Accepted", make up Ben's entourage, and its classic. If the Deuce Guys weren't Christ-followers, and were into weed and bongs, this might be them. I'd be Ben, of course, with the hot chick.
  • Ryan Seacrest. Hearing the "American Idol" host curse is just about the funniest thing in the movie.
  • Leslie Mann. Also in "Virgin", where has she been? Why am I just now discovering her?
  • It's good that Steve the Pirate is still working
  • Maggie Seaver! We missed you!
  • The pop culture references. From Meg Ryan's boobage to Matthew Fox ("You know whats interesting about Matthew Fox? Nothing!") to a hilarious Steely Dan dis to various other movies and celebrities that are randomly dropped in, it sounds like the Deuce guys sitting around. Without the weed and bongs.
I recommend it only if you wanted to see it--its worth the laughs. But know what you are getting into.

Sidebar: Speaking of Paul Rudd, if you ever have the chance to rent or watch Neil LaBute's "Bash: Latter-Day Plays", do so. It premiered on Showtime in 2001, shot as it was being performed onstage. Three separate pieces, one each with Calista Flockhart (who knew she could do more than Ally McBeal?) and Ron Eldard, both engaging in violence in different ways. The jewel, however, is the middle one with Calista and Paul Rudd portraying a couple attending a wedding. The night drags on, with the girls hanging at the hotel, and the boys going out for a night on the town... and end up precipitating a vicious hate crime. Paul's story telling, and the evil in his character, is chilling. If ever I was to direct theater outside of church, I'd do this in a heartbeat. You can pick up a copy of the script online.

Monday -- "The 40 Year Old Virgin"
I might have been one of nine people in the world who had not seen this movie, and I laughed all the way through it. If you don't like American Pie humor, this is not for you. I say American Pie, but the humor is not as directed at teenagers, as it is directed at the side of us that laughs at things we know we shouldn't laugh at.

Steve Carell, in his star making turn, plays Andy. Andy works at SmartTech, collects valuable toys and though 40, has never had sex. When his buddies Dave (Paul Rudd), Cal (Seth Rogan) and Jay (Romany Malco) discover this, they make it their mission to... well, make him not a virgin. One attempt includes a funny turn by Leslie Mann, but it, like others, fail miserably. Enter Trish (Catherine Keener, who we'll get to in a minute), who works across the street at the eBay store

Though very crude, with lots of F-bombs and lots of crude terms for various things, this is, at its heart, a sweet movie. And oh, its funny... I laughed for ten minutes when Dave used the phrase "Man-o-lantern". First, the fact he's a virgin is met with very little ridicule, which is great considering this world wants you to have as much sex as possible. Secondly, though morons they may be, his friends turn out to be pretty loyal in the end. And third, Catherine Keener.

I really liked this film, even better than "Knocked Up"... Seth Rogan was funnier here, and Katherine Heigl is no Catherine Keener, who delivers a Sydney Ellen Wade performance.

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What can I say? I really like Cat's part in this movie. She sparkled.

Sidebar: "Sydney Ellen Wade Performance". Its time we had a term for this. Every so often, when watching a movie, there is a leading lady who just shines. I mean, maybe not just acting wise, like Charlize Theron in Monster, but perhaps a performance that just... glows. As in, she lights up every scene she's in. Charlize, who was devastatingly good in "Monster" does not, at any time, glow.

This might be subjective, but the epitome of this was Annette Bening in "The American President". Her character, Sydney Ellen Wade, made me love this movie. Annette never looked as good before, or since, that movie. She just... glowed. Lit up the screen with every step, every word. No, its not subjective... I'm right.

Now, I was tempted to call this rare phenomenon an "Audrey Hepburn Performance", but that was too broad a term--Audrey was in a class all by herself, so I use Sydney Ellen Wade to describe such a performance. Other Sydney Ellen Wade performances? Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" and Brittany Snow in "John Tucker Must Die" (I didn't say the movie had to be good... but she owns that flick). Oh yeah, and now Catherine Keener in "the 40 Year Old Virgin".

Tuesday -- "Breach"
If you don't know the story, in early 2001, Robert Hanssen, a top dog in the upper crust of the FBI, was arrested and charged with treason. He had been selling US government and military secrets to the Soviets and Russians for the better part of 16 years. On the outside, he looked like a great family man and patriot, but the truth was he was a total jerkweed in every way. Wikipedia has his story here.

"Breach" is the film version of that story, starring Chris Cooper as Hanssen, and Ryan Phillippe as Eric O'Neill, a young FBI agent wannabe assigned to be Hanssen's aide, and to be undercover for the FBI to swipe Hanssen's palm pilot, copy documents and so on.

Based on a true story, and with the real O'Neill serving as film advisor, this is pretty close to how it went down, if I understand it correctly. This is not a film to watch when you are sleepy, but it is a great movie. It builds slowly, with the first 45 minutes showing you what a great guy Hanssen is, almost wanting you to play the part of all the people that knew him before the truth was known. After that, however, you begin to see how... well, evil Hanssen is. His actions and spying ended up putting dozens of US undercover agents in danger, including three who were executed in Russia as a direct result.

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This picture of the real Robert Hanssen always creeped me out. Either he looks like too nice of a guy to do these things, or he looks like a child molester.

One thing the film does is portray Hanssen as a brilliant mind who spied not for the money, but for the game, because he felt unappreciated and underused by his own country. Gary Cole (whom I feel bad for, because no matter what he does, he'll always be Lumbergh), President Palmer and an always fantastic Laura Linney (one of my top ten favorite actors... though I can't decide if she's pretty in a Jennifer Herndon sort of way, or just pretty...) are supporting roles, while Chris Cooper is awesome, and Ryan Phillippe makes me believe in his character, something I'm not sure he's ever done. Well, except for maybe in "Antitrust".

Sidebar: If you get the dvd, make sure to watch the "Dateline" segment in the special features. It originally aired in 2001, right after Hanssen had been arrested, and Chris Hanson is the host. He's got huge hair, and the segment is grainy (what, NBC didn't preserve its film six years ago?), but you still expect Robert Hanssen to be sitting at the counter eating cookies, with Chris Hansen appearing, asking him to sit down. "Um... I didn't know they were Russians, sir"... "I know you knew they were Russians--I've got the documents right here. What are you doing??"

Tuesday -- "Ghost Rider"
By the time "Breach" was over, my mind was wiped out. Tense, taut political thriller, I needed something light and campy. Enter "Ghost Rider".

Based on the Marvel comic, "Ghost Rider" tells the story of Johnny Blaze, who sells his soul to the devil to save his father. Well, the devil's son is loose and trying to take over, and so the devil will let Johnny Blaze out his contract if he'll take on the son and... does it matter?

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The skull guy was Nic Cage's original costar in Face/Off, but he dropped out and was replace by Travolta weeks before shooting. Somewhere, at least one of three Lattas is laughing.

Lots of cartoony violence, a skull on fire riding a chopper on fire, Nic Cage at his "I've got my Oscar, I don't care anymore" best (see: "Capt. Crap's Mandolin", "Lord of War", "The Wicker/Weather/Family Man"), and... Sam Elliott. You cannot go wrong with any movie that has Sam Elliott in it, especially if he's narrating. When they make the movie of my life, I want Sam doing the intro.

It's hard for me to root for an ingenue that I don't find attractive (which is why I avoid Angelina Jolie movies... well, that and most of them suck), so it was hard to root for Nic Cage and Eva Mendes to get together... beyond that, however, I found "Ghost Rider" to be fun, breezy, not too serious and likable. And that's important.

And hey... I'm off Wednesday and Thursday... who knows what I'll get watched by then...

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