Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fracture (2007)

* * *

Fracture is somewhat similar to Breach in one way, and similar to 9 out of 10 suspense films in every other way. This movie should be seen for one reason only; the on-screen interaction between Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. It should be skipped for many reasons, including a terribly unrealistic plot and impossible circumstances, bad acting outside the two stars, and generic direction. Hopkins plays a genius engineer who kills his wife and acts as his own lawyer in court. He is matched up against Gosling's character, William Beachum, who plays an up-and-coming prosecutor in the LA law system. Gosling, who is proving time and again that he is a seriously good actor that is here to stay, holds his own on screen with film legend Hopkins. Beachum is a good character both on script and on film, and many college-age and business men/women viewers will compare him to an over-achieving, charming golden boy they know in real life. Hopkins character Ted Crawford is, suprise, surprise, a genius psychopath. But, fortunately, Hopkins plays the character very well and creates yet another spin on this over-used persona. None of the supporting actors are worth mentioning as good or bad, they are all completely forgettable. There are a few twists and turns that aren't apparent at first and provide an actual mystery, however I was disappointed with the conclusion. Despite everything that won't be remembered from this movie, Hopkins and Gosling are great fun to watch, and its a shame that they didn't have more to work with.

Good For: fans of psycho-genius suspense films, people who like movies about the legal system, people with a crush on Gosling

Bad For: lawyers who can pick apart the conclusion at least an hour early

The Gallery
The Surfer: * *

Grindhouse (2007)

* * * * *

Grindhouse can be viewed in two ways; Planet Terror and Death Proof individually, or, as it should be, as a complete double feature with segments before and in between the movies. As a double feature Grindhouse runs right around three hours, but unlike grueling three-hour epics, it is split into two films with plenty to keep you entertained during and in between the films. True film fanatics can't ask for a better pairing of modern writers/directors than Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Regardless of your opinion of the two individually, they are two of the few directors in Hollywood with the balls to make groundbreaking movies each time out. And with Grindhouse, they have done it again. The viewer is entirely transported into the 1970s where double feature B-grade horror movies were showing at drive-ins every weekend. From the first frame, the sounds and pictures are 100% genuine retro-exploitation, and it is clear that meticulous attention was paid to every detail. The scripts are sure to provide countless lines that will be quoted for years to come, along with action scenes that will be talked about for days. To get the real taste of Grindhouse, you have to watch the not funny, but hilarious fake trailers that come before and in between the movies. Directed in part by Rodriguez, Tarantino, and Hostel director Eli Roth, each preview is so funny that you will be wishing one of the directors next work actually somehow turns out to be Machete, Don't, Werewolf Women of the S.S., or Thanksgiving. There is a distinction between being different just for the sake of difference, and bringing something new to the table. Grindhouse is genius in giving its viewers a no-holds barred, over-the-top, thrilling trip in the way-back machine. The films can be discussed at-length both as independent works and as a whole, but few people will watch Grindhouse without having a good time. It won't, and shouldn't, win an Oscar, but it will not be soon forgotten.

Good For: a summer night, a date, with friends, horror-movie fans, fans of the directors, adventurous people

Bad For: tight asses, people against film violence, people who like romantic comedies, squeamish people

Death Proof (2007)

* * * *

Death Proof, the second half of the Grindhouse double feature, is pure Tarantino. Extensive dialogue sets the mood and pushes the plot, and major plot turns are accentuated by action and violence. Death Proof isn't as fun as Planet Terror, but like all of Tarantino's works, it puts a brand-new, unprecedented twist on a thoroughly explored genre, and his new version is just as good if not better than the what has come before. The story revolves around Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell, who preys on groups of females with his death-proof car. The only other well-known actor (other than a Rose McGowan appearance) is Rosario Dawson, who plays Abernathy. She and three friends go to test-drive a Dodge Challenger and encounter Stuntman Mike's death-proof car on some back roads. The movie plays out in two parts; Stuntman Mike's meeting and chase after two different groups of girls. Each part comes with plenty of dialogue that humorously explores each character and plenty of action involving the cars. Just like the B-movie genre Death Proof was made to be a part of, the movie has its fair share of cheesy lines, unrealistic action, and fantastic gore. The acting is top-rate, the directing is always on point, and the soundtrack and visuals create a "what's going to happen next" atmosphere. As an entire film, Death Proof may not be as thrilling as Planet Terror, but it presents something different for part two of the double feature so that you aren't watching the same movie twice.

Good For: people who like action scenes, car junkies, Tarantino fans

Bad For: people who get bored with dialogue, people with weak stomachs

The Gallery
The Economist: * * *
The Film Maker: * * *

Planet Terror (2007)

* * * * *

A good film will take you out of reality and into a world you haven't seen or heard before. Simply put, Planet Terror is an hour and a half trip to a different time and place that most people under 35 haven't seen or been to. This is the perfect zombie-gore, B-movie, exploitation film. But its not just a remake. Everything about the film is 1970s except the setting and the characters. The plot involves infection with a strange virus and the uninfected running from and fighting the infected, nothing groundbreaking or never-before seen. Unlike anything that has been released in my lifetime, though, this movie is over-the-top everything. Every minute detail has been carefully put in place so that each shot, line, and sound, is authentic. There's laugh-out-loud lines and visuals, cheesy love scenes, unrealistic action sequences, jump-out-of-your-seat scary moments, and the best gore ever captured on film. Every character is perfectly bizarre, including comedian Freddy Rodriguez as El Wray, Josh Brolin as Dr. Block, Jeff Fahey as J.T. the barbeque man, appearances by Bruce Willis and Fergie, and Rose McGowan, as hot as ever as Cherry Darling. Planet Terror is more than just a pretty (or horrifying) visual piece; its a completely overwhelming sensory experience. Robert Rodriguez has created a masterpiece in both direction and writing that hits the bull's-eye over and over again.

Good For: people who like thrill rides, zombie-movie lovers, B-movie fans, someone looking for a good time

Bad For: people with weak stomachs

The Gallery
The Economist: * * *

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Prime (2005)

* * * *

To call Prime a romantic comedy is to banish it to movie wasteland where no normal humans will watch it, especially no males with functioning testicles. But Prime is essentially a romantic comedy; a story that tracks the ups and downs of a couple with bits of humor injected here and there. The difference between this and every other romantic comedy, though, is that this is what a romantic comedy should be. Great acting, a good script, and unique direction. Uma Thurman stars as Rafi, a 37 year-old career woman fresh out of divorce. Meryl Streep plays a psychologist who helps her to cope with the divorce and her surprising new relationship with 23 year old David, played by Bryan Greenberg. Thurman is as hot as she has ever been, and one can understand why a 23 year old would be in love with her character. Streep is fantastic as an eccentric, dominant, Jew who can help her patients handle stress but cannot deal with her own. Thurman and Streep are the only actors most people will recognize. Greenberg is okay as the male lead but seems to be a better fit for TV, which is what most of his career has been besides Prime. The film was written and directed by Ben Younger, whose only other major film was Boiler Room with Vin Diesel. The script is intelligent, funny, and has a modern feel that is very fresh. I'm anxious to see what is next for Younger. Although it wasn't a box office hit, Prime stands out among the trash heap of Romantic comedies. Sandra Bullock was originally slotted to play Thurman's character but left the film after the director refused to make major changes in the script. It makes me wonder if Bullock does this to every movie she stars in. Her last ten films have been garbage, and the film she leaves due to creative differences is a smart, unique entry in a terrible category of movies.

Good For: a date, women, people with a crush on Uma Thurman, people in relationships with odd age differences

Bad For: rednecks, people who like action movies