The Wrestler - Really enjoyed this. Mickey Rourke was fantastic! Best performance of his career. My son (who is going through pro wrestling training at the moment) thought it was a bit too "Hollywood-ized" in parts, but I took that as a result of this being both a throwback to a very old style of picture (much like the original Rocky in that) and also kind of a more edgy, "postmodern" take. I have a better-than-most understanding of the wrestling biz, and it hit the major chords for me (the scene at the fan "meet and greet" hit so close to home, not just in terms of wrestling, but also for comic folks who have done shop signings, conventions, etc.). Just in terms of pure movie-making, though, fantastic stuff. The scene with Rourke's "Randy the Ram" working in the deli is one of the finest scenes in recent movie history. Just beautiful. It will be interesting to see where Rourke goes after this; I'm hoping, given his unusual look these days, that he doesn't ONLY get parts like this and his Sin City turn as Marv. He should've walked away with the Oscar (much more deserving than the hypocritical Sean Penn, who makes a "tolerance" movie like Milk while supporting people like Castro; doesn't he know how Cuba has treated homosexuals over the years? Does the word "gulag" mean anything to you? Cram it, Spicoli). I give this one five stars out of five. *****
Slumdog Millionaire - Y'know, I brought this one with me, and we both noticed how reluctant we were to actually sit down and watch it. Strange, isn't it? Sometimes you just can't bring yourself to watch a flick even if you're pretty darned positive it's good. Anyway, when we eventually got down to it, we dug it very much. Interesting storytelling technique, and sheds light on a culture with which a lot of people are not that familiar. Nice juxtaposition of humor, drama, and occasional moments of tension. They even gave us a wink and a nod at the end with a Bollywood number. Anyway, definitely a movie worth seeing, if you're one of the presumably few who haven't done so yet. Four and a half stars. **** 1/2
JCVD - Sweet sassy molassey! We had heard about this, but didn't really know what to expect. Truth be told, I'm still not exactly sure what we got, but damned if it wasn't one of the most fascinating movies I've watched in a long time. The premise is this: Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing himself, has fallen on hard times. He's fighting for custody of his kids, his movie career is faltering (he loses out on roles to Steven Seagal!), and life in general is just no (Van) damn good. Then, while in Brussels, he becomes one of the hostages of a group of bank robbers who are holed up inside a bank. Due to misunderstandings, though, the media, and therefore the public, end up thinking Van Damme is BEHIND the robbery, turning it all into a circus. That's the basic idea, but it doesn't even scratch the surface here. Perhaps the most compelling scene is when the camera suddenly pans up, showing us the boom mics and such, signalling that it's breaking the "fourth wall," and JCVD gives us a very moving soliloquy about his life and career. It's the (Van) damndest thing, let me tell ya. See this movie, folks. You'll be glad you did. A totally transfixed five stars from me. *****
Frozen River - I was iffy on this one when Lea picked it out at the video store. My reservations were mainly due to the video box description, which made it sound far too much like Thelma and Louise (or as I like to call it, "root canal without the charm"). However, that description aside, it was actually a nifty little movie about two women who become involved in smuggling illegals over the Canadian border into the U.S. by way of driving over a frozen river. They're both interesting characters, the plot is tense (the baby scene alone had me wincing), and the acting is just spot-on. Don't let some of the packaging as a "chick flick" scare you away from this one. It's a movie with a big brass set, if you smell what I'm cooking. Four stars from me. ****
Baghead - Lea picked this one out, and I think she did so as a concession to me. If I haven't mentioned it before, she's not that big on fantasy-based stuff, or action films, or (especially) horror, so we end up trying to find common ground (!) in our movie rentals (centering on comedies, oddities like JCVD, picking out-of-the-ordinary fantasy stuff like The Host or The Orphanage, etc.) She saw the box for Baghead, and given the horror movie premise, and the indy film atmosphere and mentions of Cannes, she probably thought it was something that I'd like and that she could tolerate. The basic premise is that two couples go out into the woods to make a low-budget movie. Eventually they decide to make it a horror film with a stalker named Baghead who simply wears a...well, a bag on his head. But Baghead (the film WE'RE watching) is not really a horror movie. It's a sort of relationship comedy/drama with Baghead as a device. I'm of mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I dig the fact that it was made for about the price of a Burger King combo meal by the Duplass brothers, who seem like cool guys (based on the behind the scenes DVD stuff), and who are supposedly getting to do bigger stuff based on their success. Good for you, guys! On the other hand, I expect the script for this kind of movie to be much sharper in its dialog, as that's basically what's going to carry the film. It didn't really stand out in that respect, unfortunately. Also, the ending made it seem like a very familiar urban legend or anecdote that I've heard numerous times before. Overall, I think I got my rental's worth, though. I'll say two and a half stars here. **1/2
Wendy and Lucy - Yeesh! Where do I start here? First, I should point out that my Twilight Guardian comic has received a lot of great response, but there have been occasional folks who've said "Nothing happens in it!" My favorite comment was from Tyler (a nice guy) over at Heavy Ink who said “Here I am walking around my neighborhood. Now I’m at home. Now I’m walking around again. Look a car. Now it’s over.” Ha! Now, hopefully those of you who read TG realize there was a lot more to it than that, but I understand that for a handful of folks it just didn't work. OK, no problem. It still won Pilot Season, thank goodness. What does all this have to do with Wendy and Lucy, you ask? Just this: everything those people thought about Twilight Guardian is what I think about Wendy and Lucy. NOTHING HAPPENS. The plot involves a young woman who packs up her car, takes her dog, and begins a drive from Indiana to Alaska. Along the way, her car breaks down, she gets picked up for shoplifting, the dog disappears..and...well, that's the entirety of the plot. OK, now I should be all right with that. Obviously one of the hallmarks of my own work is the attempt to find interest in what's ostensibly "mundane." The problem with Wendy and Lucy is that the filmmakers are unable to do that. There is nothing WITHIN the structure of the film to engage the viewer. The dialog is not dynamic, there's no "hook," there's no quirkiness to the secondary and tertiary characters, etc. We have no idea why Wendy is going to Alaska, why she's doing so in such an ill-prepared way, what her backstory is...nothing. And because of everything I've mentioned, we don't particularly care. Gang, given that what this movie attempts to do is not that far removed from what I do and what interests me, I desperately wanted to like it. And I DO give the filmmakers points for what they were trying to do. But I'd be lying if I said that I was better off, more entertained, more enlightened, WHATEVER after having viewed it. Your mileage may vary. I'll give it a star and a half, because I kind of liked the security guard character. *1/2
If it's out by my next trip, I'm hoping to watch the DVD of Watchmen with Lea. This should be interesting...