Monday, August 20, 2007

Sean's Summer Round-Up Pt. 2 of 3

Ok. So the first Summer Movie Round-up caused a bit of friction among the ranks of the RFC. A lengthy discussion over a few beers proved enlightening, I think, to define our stances about some of the summer fodder. Hopefully Padraic will work out his Blogger issues and we’ll get that straightened out for the lost surfer or occasional reader. Short story – Paddy said something to the tune of, "A Super Hero/Pirate/Ocean’s Movie Will Never Be One of the Great Movies Therefore It’s not Worth My Time." My reply, "I Can Understand That Train of Thought But That Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Be Good Movies Worth Seeing/Reviewing." I think that’s about where the discussion on that whole ting should pick up – because to try and translate what followed that night would be pretty futile.

So where’d we leave off? Oh yeah…


Lordy… Ok, yes, I was in fact looking forward to this beast of a movie. I figured it would be something similar to Jurassic Park or T2, but alas it was a hollow, noisy shell of a movie. Yes, it was in fact less than meets the eye.

Now what, Paddy may ask, makes Pirates 2 or 3 worth my attention and separates it from crap like Transformers? Well, for all of Transformers “hey look at that transformer transform and fuck shit up – man, that shit is cool” there’s no real imagination to it; or, for that matter, humanity to it. One good example is the scenes where we watch Bootstrap in the last two Pirates separate and reattach himself to the Davy Jones ship. These are beautifully directed, entirely moving as much as they are wowing, and the amount of creativity with the art department is impressive and the emotional baggage that they carry is not only a testament to the acting but also to the story. It’s not at all unlike watching the moments of Han Solo getting frozen and unfrozen in carbonite. There’s moments of this gee-wiz, gosh-wow moments throughout the Pirates movies – and yes they’re most often a part of the set design and how they manage to transport you, but it would not be sold if not for the acting chops of people like Depp, Stellan Skarsgard, and Bill Nighy giving great performances.

While Transformers has some welcome diversions for the likes of a bat shit crazy John Turturro and one or two relatively suspenseful robot confrontations, it has no humanity at all. I really don’t know what to make of Shia LeBouf. While he’s capable enough of supporting a move like this and it’s by no means of his talents (and he does have some) that this movie blows, I’m dearly afraid of what he’s capable of doing to the next Indiana Jones and most likely the Y The Last Man movie, which I know he’ll probably be officially attached to before this gets posted and it’s something that you, Padraic know I’m officially attached to as a reader.

I honestly don’t think I can pay to watch another Michael Bay movie. Sure, I know you Paddy have probably never done such a thing, but I don’t mind saying that the guy has given me a couple good, stoney Friday night movies in Con Air and Bad Boys 2. This one tips the scales permanently for me though. The Island was such a steamer that I should have drawn the line there, alas I’ve learned my lesson with the transforming robot movie. Let’s move on.


The perfect antidote to Transformers. A movie that has so much imagination, so much heart, humor, and loving eye for detail that only a soulless bastard like Paddy could find fault with it. Just kidding there buddy. Ha! Funny, right?…

Anyway, there’s no doubt that this movie will go down with Bambi, Snow White, Fantasia, whatever else your childhood cherishes, as one of the great animated family movies. I’m at a loss as to any negativity at all to give this movie. It’s pretty much perfect from start to finish. It may fall into a couple of familiar storytelling conventions during its final act but the climactic dinner service for Peter O’Toole’s food critic makes for one of the most moving moments in film so far this year.

There’s so many phenomenal moments of animation in the film that it’s pointless to even begin. But there’s amazing storytelling moments as well – the entire sequence with Remy and Linguini by the river is simply a perfect scene of character development and still manages to awe in watching Remy’s little heart beat through his fur after he runs away. The fact that they manage to allow the viewer to know exactly what’s going through this little rat’s brain in all the scenes when he isn’t saying a word is amazing on the part of the animators as well as the vocal talent of Mr. Patton Oswalt in creating such a memorable and thoroughly real character.

It's a damn shame that pandering, dated upon arrival crap like Shrek 3 will have pulled in more of an audience this year than a movie like Ratatouille that I know in my heart of hearts is more entertaining as well as packing a unique message that kids and adults can both learn a thing or two from. Unlike the Shrek movies, Brad Bird makes movies that are timeless. There's no macarena jokes or one-hit-wonder pop songs in his movies, the focus is placed on telling a good story and creating meaningful characters. It seems so obvious but these kinds of movies are rare indeed and I think history will show that his movies were the modern classic family movies of our time.

Bourne Ultimatum

Another movie with a powerful message. Which is: Pity the fool that fucks with Jason Bourne. Also, like Ratatouille it gets right what most of the other movies in its genre over the past couple of decades have failed miserably at.

Until another movie kicks my ass so thoroughly (and the Bourne movies do come close) that I have to bring an inflatable donut with me to the movies for 5 years afterwards, Die Hard 0.1 will continue to serve as the high water mark for modern action/suspense movie. What that movie and the Bourne movies do -- and this is a simple thing that gets a while lotta mileage -- is make our hero real. During much of the 80's, for some reason (let's blame Reagan), we liked our heroes larger than life and virtually indestructible. It was the era of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. To make a decent foe (and subsequent decent movie) for Arnold we had to bring in an invisible body-building alien with wrist rockets from another planet. These were "heroes" that had no problem mowing down dozens of people with automatic weapons, hack and slashing anyone that got in the way of whatever the next plot point was. I think Harrison Ford was the only relatable action hero our generation had back then (I suppose their was the Eddie Murphy anomaly back in '84 -- but it should be noted that he only got the part in Beverly Hills Cop after Sly turned it down). But towards the end of the decade some people starting getting it right. We got a slim Alec Baldwin, who eventually turned into Ford, as a paper pushing CIA man thrown into international intrigue. Our campy, bloated Roger Moore became a leaner, more mysterious Timothy Dalton. But the masterstroke was a then lean, already thinning hairlined, shoeless Bruce Willis being tapped to take down a band of bad guys and save the day by whatever means necessary. This was a guy that you just saw on TV last night trading one-liners with Cybil Sheppard. He's not an "action star". And that's what makes that movie what it is today. And that's what makes Matt Damon perfect in these movies. Cast an actor first and turn him into an action star -- it makes the movie oh so much better every time. Nothing beats that first oh-shit moment in Bourne Identity when that guy from Good Will Hunting takes down the armed guards at that embassy in a blinding swirl of fists and feet. That kind of eye opener is priceless. Cast Jason Statham in that role and your just looking at your watching counting the minutes before he inevitably throws someones head through a door

More important than the casting itself is the context that they bring. These people don't willingly pop caps into bad guys' heads, and go on with their day. They don't look at group of guys, smile and cut them down with a machine gun and then flick a Marlboro butt on their bloody corpses. In short, they don't want to have to kill anyone. When Willis witnessed Takagi get his brains transplanted to the floor he freaked the fuck out. You could see going through his head was, "Oh shit, oh shit... I am going to have to use my gun. I probably will have to kill someone before the night's over. How the hell am I going to deal with this." Making a government trained killer the the guy who doesn't want to kill anyone, well that's an even cooler spin. While people complain that Jason Bourne is too "emo" (sigh). I say to them, give me an action hero with a good moral compass who's played by a good actor, surround him with other good actors, put in a plot that actually activates brain waves, don't skimp on him kicking some ass, and you my friend have the formula for a good movie. Add to that the brilliant camera work of director Paul Greengrass and his DP Oliver Wood, well you create actual moments of movie magic. Their use of these claustrophobic locations -- placing the camera in these tiny cars, bathrooms, crowded train stations and even going so far as to pass the camera off a roof and through a small apartment window to end one of the best chase sequences put to film; the way that camera movement, framing, and the movement within the frame are used so perfectly to create energy, well, kudos to you Greengrass to making the Bourne series easily one of the best trilogies in film history.


So since I mentioned this Wicker Man edit in the comments I figured I'd post it -- I know it's been out there a long long time but it still makes me laugh, and yes, still makes me eager to finally getting around to watch it.


Padraic said...

Well, that's 0-3 on those movies, so nothing really to say...except...NOW you have realized Micahel Bay is terrible! I think the only one of his movies I saw was Con Air, and that was terrible, just terrible. Actor fanboys like yourself may enjoy watching great actors pick up a paycheck and ham it up, but I'll pass.

And I just saw the first Bourne movie the other day on TV. Not bad, I think on the big screen it could have been pretty good entertainment. And you're dead-on about picking an actor first instead of an 'action hero.' But, where exactly would someone like Cage fit in? He was a good actor, but those days are long gone, in part because he became an action star. I don't think there is any danger of Damon going this way, but I would be happy to see him in more roles like The Good Shepherd, and leave the explosions to someone else.

Sean said...

Actor fanboy, eh? Meaning what exactly? Would that make you a director fanboy? I don't think the term fanboy can precede a profession. You can be a Lucas fanboy or a Bruce Campbell fanboy, but an actor fanboy? If I say fanboy one more time will it completely destroy the word so that it may never rear its ugly head again? Fanboy... ugh. It is true that there are some actors I'll ignore bad reviews to see a certain movie. But I do have boundaries. While Christopher Walken may be enjoyable to watch in whatever scene he may be in, in whatever movie he may be in, I'm not going to sit down and watch The Country Bear Jamboree or whatever that dreck was called. While Con Air does have your Buscemi, Malcovich and Cusak in it -- it is first and foremost a Bay movie, and we all know now the power he has to quash any seemingly enjoyable movie of all soul and any spark of humanity, inspiration or charm that might be trying to eke out from an actor or script.

Another reason the Bourne films stand out in my mind is that they break the sequel/trilogy rules. Now while there are a few movies out there where the sequel does manage to outshine the original (I'd say Godfather 2 does, Aliens maybe -- if you were to take the first three James Bond movies and isolated them from what preceded you might have something) they inevitably end up dropping the ball if they go to number 3. The Bourne movies have managed to get better with each installment, which is unheard of.

I don't think you need worry about Damon, he's a guy who goes out of his way to work with interesting people. The two projects that has going -- one with Aronofsky and another with Greengrass both sound good. We'll see which one gets the go ahead before the pending strike.

Cage on the other hand, well, I can only hope crazy just takes over at some point. That'll at least make him a bit more interesting in a Crispin Glover kind of way than the merely borderline crazy that surrounds him now. I must admit to wanting, needing myself to watch The Wicker Man sometime soon. While I'm usually interested in Neil LaBute's movies, this one passed me by without much more than a shrug until I found out recently that it is in fact complete off yer nut craziness captured in the form of a seemingly incoherent, convoluted thriller.

Another movie I wanted to mention along the lines of Bourne's achievements was Casino Royale. Here was a case where all the fanboys (whoops) got their panties in a twist over hair color and whatnot and completely missed the point. There was actual excitement about Bond again. There was some sense of not knowing what to expect. Surely they could have dropped the ball -- I mean, Haggis' name was attached to the thing -- but it completely succeeded in surpassing my expectations and giving you those "oh, shit didn't see that coming" moments that a bond movie hasn't had in ages. Bond had gone full circle again (just like Batman) and veered into pure camp spectacle. nothing was unexpected when going to see a Bond movie -- a fucking car chase through a castle made of ice? Yeah, whatever, that's ol' James Bond for ya -- whatta nut. Daniel Craig isn't the only reason Casino Royale was a joy; I'm not eager to admit that Haggis might have had something to do with this too. Let's just say I'm a boy who is a fan again.

SpecialFellow said...

My eyes! My eyes! Agggggggg! Not the bees! Not the bees!!!

It was a good movie. So good I bought by own bear suit.