Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reviews of Recent Films: Fair Game, 127 Hours, I Love You Phillip Morris

Check out my article on the Top 10 Websites of 2010:

Fair Game-Directed by Doug Liman, Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn:
The movie recounts the events that appeared in the news between 2003 and 2006 in which Karl Rove's aide L. Scooter Libby outed a CIA agent to discredit her husband who was an ambassador to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.

The film reminds me of the issue of how much you can truly hype up an event film when it is based on a story that played out on several years over the news. It's not just like Titanic or 127 Hours where some of the drama plays out as you know what happens at the end of the film. The moviegoing audience has been saturated with the story: Every turn in the narrative has been played out and analyzed out over several years in the news.

Perhaps it's because of that or because of something else, I didn't see anything extaordinarily creative in how the story was told. It was pretty much standard for political thriller and/or suspense story. A movie ike "In the Loop" or even "Lions for Lambs" are both more memorable because they are original looks at Washington Politics.

Aside from being very traditionalist genre fair, the movie delivered. It showed the emotional heart of the story, sharp dialogue and had ample suspense. If Sean Penn hadn't already won two Oscars this decade, I could easily see him getting nominated for this performance.

The age-attractiveness gap here was unforgiving. Naomi Watts is so gorgeous and Sean Penn is so not that I can't see the two together.

127 Hours- Written by Simon Beaufoy, Directed by Danny Boyle, Starring James Franco, with a small role by Amber Tambelyn

127 Hours is Danny Boyle's follow-up to his masterpiece Slumdog Millionaire. With Beaufoy, Boyle, Franco, the beautiful scenery of Utah, and the ambitious premise, this was a film I entered the film with a lot of anticipation.

I found that the film delivering in interesting ways but I also found that the film dissapointed on a couple fronts.

On the plus side, James Franco's performance was a raw undiscoved place. The idea of telling the story entirely from the point-of-view of the stranded hiker was an interesting way to tell the film and increased the intensity of the film. Personally, I thought the film was already intense enough and I would have liked to have had some glimpse of the rescue effort but I admire that they stuck to their own methodology. The film is a little like "Spirit of St. Louis" in that it makes a somewhat solitary experience more spacious through flashbacks and, in some cases, hallucinations. Tom Hanks had a volleyball in "Cast Away," James Stewart had a fly in the cockpit, and James Franco's Aron Ralston has a video camera to speak into.

The movie manages the feat of holding our attention, but it's a little short and I didn't like how the standard romance-as-plot-solution figured so heavily into the plot. The movie didn't explain well enough that a vision of a child late in the process convinced him to keep going. I didn't necessarily want the film to center around how his life was completed by a child three years later. It was fairly distant from the action at hand.

Overall, a very good movie.

I Love You Phillip Morris-Written and directed by the guys from Bad Santa, starring Jim Carrey, Ewan MaGregor and Leslie Mann

Like "Bad Santa" 2003, the filmmakers aren't afraid to go to crude places in their humor but whether they can effectively mine satire from that crudeness is something your mileage may vary on. For me, the crudeness was a little excessive.

As a sign of the rapidly changing times we live in, "I love You Phillip Morris" treats homosexuality and scenes of gay sex almost as an afterthought. Not that I personally mind the homosexuality as much as I find the general crudeness a little dissonant with the love story, but it's interesting to note that it just five years ago that we were relatively shocked with homosexuality on screen with Brokeback Mountain.

Nonetheless, "I Love You Phillip Morris" presents itself as a straight love story and a pretty effctive one at that. That's one of the only strong things about the film. Jim Carrey and Ewan MaGregor give great performances as lovers who meet in prison and the other strong element of the story, Steven Russell's (played by Carrey)relationship with his ex-wife, is due to the strong performance of Leslie Mann.

The tone is somewhat inconsistntant and jarring. The other element of the plot, that Steven Russell is a conman, gets a little repetitive and overly cyclical. None of the turns in the story are developments that we, as an audience, become overly invested in, since they occur so fast.

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