At long last, it's that time of the year again. Typically, the last two months of the year contain more quality movies than the rest of the year combined. This year seems to be dutifully following the pattern. I've seen four films in the last week and, in one way or another, I enjoyed them all. That's not to say that they were all great movies, but I found something to like in each of them.
Jackass: The Movie
I haven't laughed that much in a movie theater in a long long time and I've definitely never cringed as much. These guys are easily the most balls-out group of friends around. Most of the stunts and pranks they pull off are things only idiots would try. But these guys really aren't idiots. They're actually quite adept at coming up with schemes to push people's buttons, shock others (and often themselves), as well as challenge the notion that something simply cannot be done. Although I'm defending these lunatics by claiming they're not idiots, I'll call a spade a spade: They are out of their friggin' minds. I was talking about the movie with a fellow film buff and he said it felt like he was watching it in his basement with a group of rowdy friends. The audience audibly reacts in every conceivable way -- howling, screeching, yelling, shrieking, doubling-over, gagging -- and can't help turning to the person sitting next to them and asking "Did you see that?" The film buff said it's the only movie he's ever gone to see where his cell phone rang and he answered it, confident that carrying on a conversation wouldn't bother anyone.
I like this movie. I use the present tense because the more I sit with it, the more I like it. It's original in that Paul Thomas Anderson way where the supernatural is present in every day life. It features a unexpectedly layered performance by Adam Sandler as Barry Egan. The movie has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson, a couple of actors who are always at the top of their game. The amazing scene with Barry's overbearing and overwhelming sisters all together under one roof is all the character development you need to know why the guy is the way he is. The film, like all of PTA's work, is beautifully shot with incredible music and has that unique element of spontaniety that leaves you with no real clue as to what's going to happen next.
Not a great movie, but a pretty damn good one. Eminem is great in the movie because of two things: he has an abundance of charisma and he was directed extremely well. I flipped over Curtis Hanson's last two movies, LA Confidential and Wonder Boys. What's on the screen reads as a good performance because Hanson did an outstanding job of asking Eminem to do what he was capable of doing and nothing more. The controversial rapper was able to draw on the considerable star quality he already had rather than struggle with the transition to a new medium by having to craft a part like some sort of method actor. And he came out of it smelling like a rose instead of wilting like a half-talented pop star with only handful of acting classes under his belt. I don't even like his music, but "Lose Yourself", the big hit single off the soundtrack, is catchy as hell and accurately frames the movie. The storyline is basic and there are some weak spots, namely a couple of the friends characters and most of Kim Basinger's dialogue, but like Eminem himself, the movie is constantly engaging and forces you to keep watching.
The Rules of Attraction
Brutal, merciless, dazzling. A must see for anybody who loves stylish filmmaking and doesn't require a main character to identify with and root for. Scenes rewind themselves, montages are shown in fast forward, and the entire movie turns out to be a sort of wicked flashback. One character is in love with another character who is in love with somebody else who is in love with yet another. The movie has sex, drugs, and 80s tunes to spare and is by far the most visceral of the three Bret Easton Ellis adaptations. It's a shame this movie was given a wide release and is now considered a bomb because it was never meant for the masses. Lion's Gate should have marketed "The Rules of Attraction" as an art-house film and released it that way so it could generate some buzz instead of being considered a flop. Because now the onus is on the DVD and video release to attract the audience that should have seen this movie in the theater.
Four movies in a week and I liked them all. But, none of them were as good as last night's episode of "The Sopranos".
There are still a multitude of must-see movies in current release and coming soon. Here's my updated list:
Igby Goes Down
Far From Heaven
Bowling For Columbine
Catch Me If You Can
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Gangs of New York
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
The Antwone Fischer Story
The 25th Hour