I gave Blockbuster $15 on Friday, July 17, for the privilege of watching as many movies as I want for a week, checking out two at a time. So I've been having a bit of a movie marathon this week. I've certainly gotten my money's worth:
Knowing (Nicholas Cage): Freakin' intense! Do not watch this alone or before you go to bed; this is the stuff that nightmares are made of. The story is compelling and intense, and punctuated by horrifically realistic and realistically horrific scenes of death and destruction: a jumbo jet crashes in the country, a subway at high speed derails and crashes through a subway station filled with people, and ultimately . . . well, I don't want to give away the ending, because it isn't what you expect to happen. It was a good story, but I won't be watching this again.
Zombie Strippers (Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson): Another in a long line of great, low-budget, campy zombie movies. If you liked Shaun of the Dead or Night of the Living Dorks or Evil Dead 2, you'll get a kick out of this one.
Religulous (Bill Maher): What Michael Moore does to conservativism, Bill Maher does to religion. If you don't like Bill Maher, you won't like this movie. I enjoyed it. I thought it interesting, though, that, out of all the purveyors of all the religions that Maher interviews, the Catholics come out seeming like the most down-to-earth and reasonable.
Burn After Reading (Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton): You've gotta love the Cohen Brothers. They're plots go together like Celtic Knots, and are even more interesting to look at. One of the things that I think sets them apart is that they aren't afraid to suddely kill off major characters, completely obliterating any idea you might have about the "happy ending" just before the credits role.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett):
After watching Burn After Reading, I realized how much I enjoy so much of Brad Pitt's work: Fight Club, Ocean's Eleven, The Mexican,
Twelve Monkeys, The Devil's Own, Thelma & Louse, even Mr. and Mrs. Smith. So I got this one with Brad and my favorite Cate, and was surprised to see Tilda Swinton pop up again. This is a wonderful movie for both the story and the acting. For my money, this movie should have gotten the hype and accolades given Titanic so many years ago.
Taken (Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen): I'm not sure Liam Neeson was the best casting choice for this movie. (A decade ago the role would have been filled by Harrison Ford.) I'm not sure who else I would have cast, though. Neeson certainly did a good job with the role as a retired "preventer" — a Bond-esque U.S. government agent who, according to the character, prevents bad things from happening — who has to save his 17-year-old daughter from the black market sex trade in Paris. It is a nice action-packed movie, and anything with Famke Janssen in it is worth watching. I give it OK.
The Savages (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney): I just love Laura Linney, so you'll never hear me say anything really bad about anything she's in. This was a touching, sad movie about love, hope, death, and family that follows these two siblings as they come together around their absentee father who is descending into old age and dementia. This is one of those movies that should be re-watched about every decade, because it will mean someething different to you as you change and grow older and more experienced. This time around, listening to Linney and Hoffman argue and laugh makes me miss my brother.
The Reader (Kate Winslet): This is a good, thought-provoking story. I don't understand why the movie was so long, though, or why they needed to jump around in time so much. It's just your average illiterate Nazi ethical conundrum winter-spring romance. And within the first half hour of the movie, you get to see every part of Kate Winslet's bare body, including the bottoms of her feet, her furry armpits, and the webbing between her thumb and forefinger. (Not that I'm complaining; I'm a big fan of naked women on film.) So, all in all, a good film, but it could have used a lot less brooding.
12 Rounds (John Cena — not to be confused with Michael Cera...huge difference): This could have been a great, exciting movie, along the lines of Speed, if only they could have gotten (a) Matt Damon to play the protagonist, instead of John Cena, who just looks like Matt Damon on steroids; and (b) Ed Norton to play the antagonist, instead of some unshaven guy who kind of looks like Ed Norton, but doesn't act as well — though he acted circles around John Cena. This is the kind of movie to watch on Fox on a Sunday afternoon, when the only other thing on TV is golf, infomercials, and political roundtables.
Role Models (Seann Michael Scott, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks): Maybe it's because I totally connect with his character, but I think Paul Rudd is just outstanding in this movie. With SM Scott in it, I was expecting something along the lines of American Pie, but instead I got something closer to Office Space, so I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. And this is one DVD that has some good deleted scenes that are worth watching, instead of a bunch of scenes that got cut just because they weren't very good. The movie poster might remind you of Adam Sandler's Big Daddy, but don't let it fool you; this is a much better movie.
Traitor (Don Cheadle): I think Don Cheadle is a great actor, but I don't think this was the best movie to show off his skills. It certainly had suspense, and tension, and excitement, but I think the moral of the story got in the way of the story. Don Cheadle plays a devout Muslim trying to stop Muslim terrorists from the inside. Throw in a devout Baptist FBI agent who doesn't know Samir (Cheadle) is undercover, and you've got a movie about how Christians and Muslims can work together for the greater good. Unfortunately, I was expecting a movie about espionage and terrorism. I also don't think that "Traitor" was the best title for this movie.
Network (Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall): This movie from the late '70s is a little weird, in the sense that you'll want to watch it again after it's over to see if you really saw what you think you saw. It's a story about a television network that will do anything to get ratings. On a larger scale, it's about the things that we'll do for love. This is the "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore" movie, and there's a lot of other great, though completely unrealistic, dialogue. This is one movie that everyone should see at least once.
So there you have it: Twelve movies totaling about 24 hours of Hollywood magic. Now I need to actually get some things done.