That whole Blockbuster thing is a mixed blessing: I certainly am catching up on the movies I missed recently, but most of them are quirky disappointments. Here’s what I’ve watch on DVD or in the theater during the last week.
- Girl With a Pearl Earring – Not bad, not great. This movie looked superb; they really did a great job of recreating a seventeenth-century Dutch city and Jan Vermeer’s studio home. The sets and costumes looked great, too bad the characters filling them were complete ciphers. The two main characters spoke barely a dozen lines between the two of them, and Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth were laconic for most of the movie. It left me befuddled about motivation and meaning to their actions. Perhaps I bear some blame for my confusion because I was doing paperwork while the movie was playing, but the movie contained long silent scenes without a line of dialogue, only Johansson’s googly-eyed gaze wandering through a room and Firth’s taciturn, brooding stare from a doorway. I guess that meant they were kindred spirits; they certainly shared a bond of reticence. Girl With a Pearl Earring is a quite movie, full of simple pleasures and beautiful subtlety. Kind of like Vermeer’s paintings.
- When Will I Be Loved? – Hmmm, I’d call this a ‘smarty-pants’ kind of movie. It tried very, very hard to dazzle with an urban, rapier wit, but it left me ambivalent. The first scene opened with Neve Campbell masturbating in a shower, and that set the tone of subtlety for this film. I don’t know what to think about director James Toback. This movie left me a little less than impressed, though I did enjoy his Two Girls and a Guy from a few years ago. The dialogue was witty, fast and intelligent, but I was a little worn out by the endless talking. The final act was quite enjoyable, right up to the very end, moving in a great circle. I will give the DVD credit for having a “sexplanations” special feature, which dissected each sex scene with commentary from Toback and star Neve Campbell. Cut right to the chase, huh?
- What the <bleep> Do We Know? – I’ll admit, I stopped watching this piece of nonsense after 20 minutes. There was a gigantic scratch in the DVD, which stopped the movie cold, but by that point I could tell it was a waste of my time. I could sense the train wreck coming in this movie, as it brought together New Age karma bullshit with quantum mechanics, splicing together interviews of reputable physicists with New Age crackpot reincarnation gurus and some inane filler material featuring Marlee Matlin. What the <bleep> was I thinking when I rented this?
- Sideways – Call me Johnny-Come-Lately, but I finally got a chance to watch this enjoyable paean to wine and friendship. Believe me, it’s not my fault; this is exactly the sort of movie that never plays at the multiplex on Guam. So I grabbed it from Blockbuster the first time I saw it was available. It took me a couple days to watch, probably because I wanted to devote my full attention to the movie. I finally settled down on Monday night and watched it. It’s a very good movie with a wonderful, funny script, beautiful cinematography, and good performances. I don’t know if ‘actorly’ is a word, but Sideways was an actorly movie. Each character portrayed with humanity and soul, with both the good and the bad traits. They are all treated warmly and with respect, and Virginia Madsen, whoa Nelly. Best movie of this bunch, that’s for sure.
- Code 46 – There’s something not quite right with this movie, maybe the plot, maybe the characters. Perhaps it is the movie’s worn out vision of the future, a tiresome dystopia melange of Brave New World and 1984. Seriously, been there, done that – dozens of times. Why is every movie set in the near future stuck in Blade Runner mode? Isn’t there a compelling vision of our future that doesn’t involve massive polyglot cities, desolate ex-urban areas, soulless global corporations, vague Kafka-esque world governments and a brave band of zealots combating the faceless forces of evil? Crap, Woody Allen pilloried this nonsense back in 1973 with Sleeper. I think I might have mentioned that the future will look nothing like this in a few other posts on this blog… And did I hear right? Wasn’t Tim Robbins having sex with his mother’s clone? Shouldn’t they call that a Code 69?
- Sin City – I wandered into the movies last night and watch Richard Rodriguez’ latest blood and style fest. Wow, it was an eye-popper, straight from the malevolent subconscious of Rodriguez. Ridiculously violent, exorbitantly violent, Sin City was an ecstatic frenzy of righteous murder and mayhem by a series of lone-wolf antiheroes and their sex fantasy female companions. I never saw the original comics -excuse me, graphic novels – but this movie looked like nothing else I’ve seen in a long time. I dreamt of murder last night, and leather-clad whores wielding whips and machine guns. Who’s to say that is a bad thing?