' Cinema Romantico: Getting Up to Speed

Monday, March 03, 2008

Getting Up to Speed

We're two months into the year that is 2008 and I have seen only two films at the cineplex which were actually released in 2008 (one of which will be addressed soon on Cinematic Arena). I've seen more than two films in the theater, of course, but they all came out last year. I mean, if it's a weekend where 2008 releases are the only option at the theater, well, I'd rather rent something from 2007. Last year was just so good for movies I'm still not ready to leave it behind.

I usually only write about DVD viewings if the experience was a truly amazing one but I felt like playing a little catch-up. So here are a few thoughts regarding the 2007 movies I've rented over the last couple of months.

We Own The Night. My friend Brad the Wretched Genius had indicated in response to my proclamation of last year's Most Erotic Cinematic Moment that his was "Eva Mendes on the couch" in this film. And, lo and behold, damn near the first image of the film is Eva Mendes on the couch. And let me tell you, it's awfully erotic (though personally I'd still rather watch Sienna Miller smoking and drinking scotch, thank you). Aside from Ms. Mendes on the sofa, however, and a taut action sequence on a rainy road, this movie is fairly standard stuff. You know, one brother (Mark Wahlberg) is a cop and the other brother (Joaquin Phoenix) is on the wrong side of the law and, oh, why bother? You can figure out where it goes from there with your eyes closed.

Stephanie Daley. Okay, I totally watched this movie at the wrong time. See, it's about a woman who goes by the name for which the movie was titled (Amber Tamblyn) who bears a child on a class ski trip which she didn't know she was carrying. Or did she? Was the baby alive at birth or did she kill it? This is where a psychologist played by just-won-an-Oscar Tilda Swinton comes in as she must deduce whether young Stephanie Daley is telling lies or truth. The problem is I watched this movie - and I'm not making this up - on the heels of a weekend in which I watched back-to-back-to-back, "Waitress", "Knocked Up", and "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days". By the time I got to "Stephanie Daley", well, I just wasn't ready to go through another pregnancy movie. My own stupidity? Of course. So maybe I'll give it another rental somewhere down the line.

Superbad. There was a lot in this movie that was sheer, blinding genius. For instance, Michael Cera has at the bare minimum 54 moments in this movie that represented precisely who and what I was back in high school. McLovin (i.e. Fogell) telling the girl the time without her having asked. The cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) giving McLovin the "poignant" speech near the end. The problem? Jonah Hill as Seth was so obnoxious and annoying and in-your-face that - to me, anyway - he very nearly ruined the whole enterprise. I kept thinking, why would anyone be friends with this guy?

Bug. I missed this one in the theater and to be honest that can most likely be attributed to the fact I saw Ashley Judd's name in the cast and realized it was a thriller and being released at a time not in the fall or winter and decided it wasn't worth my while. But I stumbled across the esteemed Roger Ebert's review after its release on DVD and decided to give it a shot. Judd is a bartender at a lesbian bar (really) who drinks too much and has a rather hideous ex-husband and hooks up with a weirdo drifter who thinks he has found "bugs" in her apartment and from there it descends into madness, more madness, and more madness. It won't change your life and I don't think I'd ever feel the need to watch it again but it's certainly creepy and will make you watch it, if you know what I mean, and not daydream while it's on the TV and all the performances - even Harry Connick Jr. - are pretty good. If you really want a worthwhile Ashley Judd film, though, rent "Come Early Morning."

Rocket Science. Again, I turned to my friend Brad as I rented this one on the strength of his recommendation and came away quite impressed. A stuttering young guy is approached by a fast-talking (quite literally) female classmate to join the high school debate team and he does, though it does not go where you'd expect. Yes, it enters what one might term "Juno" Territory (by the way, I liked "Juno" better but then I don't mind highly, highly stylistic dialogue) with plenty of quirky supporting characters and a funky soundtrack and, oh yes, a cello gets thrown through a window but it still maintains a sense of reality and also has an ending that - pardon me for repeating myself but I must - isn't exactly what you expect.

The film catches the awkwardness of that age perfectly and there are many scenes - such as the couple times he escapes to a janitor's closet for refuge - that are funny AND poignant. But allow me to mention the moment in which a young friend of our main character explains, "I requested binoculars for my twelfth birthday." It's not just the way he says it or the situation that causes him to say it so much as it is the fact he uses the word "requested". I'm probably only speaking for myself but, damn it, that was funny.

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