Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2 Weeks in Review(s)

It's been almost two weeks since my last post.  (That sort of sounds like the opening words of an AA meeting, doesn't it?)  I've been focusing more on my other blog lately, but I've also been slacking off pretty severely in my movie-watching endeavors.  Anyway, here's a brief rundown of most of the films I've watched over the past couple weeks.  I'll try my best to stay more up to date going forward.

- - -

Watched this movie a couple nights before the Oscars.  It's less-than-great, to put it kindly.  Bits and pieces were compelling and thought-provoking, but at 142 minutes, the strong bits are too few and too far between to make the movie as a whole enjoyable.

Chop Shop
If you know my very well (or read my Wackness blog), I'm a big fan of New York City.  But given my financial shortcomings, I've only been able to spend a cumulative 15 days in the city.  So anytime I find a movie which shows me a side of the place I've never seen before, I eat it up.  Chop Shop is one of those movies.

The movie is about Alejandro, a 12-year old street kid, apparently orphaned, who works (and lives) in a Queens auto shop.  He struggles to make some sort of life for himself, and the results are decidedly mixed.  But it's a gritty slice of life story, and it feels real without being exploitative.  Check it out.

Baby Mama
I saw this movie in New York, FYI.  I'd been looking forward to it for a while, so when it hit theatres I had to check it out.  I was disappointed.  I watched it again last week because my sister and brother-in-law got it from NetFlix.  They fell asleep while we watched.

The movie wants to be funny, but its jokes only work every sixth try or so.  And there's nothing sadder than watching people trying to get laughs and failing.  I'm sure it would have been much funnier and more watchable if Tina Fey had written it instead of just acting in it.

It's not a terrible movie, by any means, it just feels forced.  To its credit, I think I found more good jokes in it the second time around.  But not enough to change my prevailing opinion.

There are a number of good documentaries about the Iraq War, but I have yet to see a good narrative film dealing with it.  Stop-Loss is no exception.  I remember deciding not to see it while it was in theatres.  But I eventually learned that not only is the very capable Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the film, it was also directed by Kimberly Peirce (of Boys Don't Cry fame).  I had to at least give it the benefit of the doubt, right?

Wrong, apparently.  Almost everyone involved with this movie seemed to be phoning it in.  Stop-Loss possesses none of the art or grit which Peirce lent to Boys Don't Cry.  And Gordon-Levitt's performance is remarkably one-dimensional.  In fact, only Victor Rasuk's turn as Pvt. Rico Rodriguez is worthy of note.  (And it is worthy.  He is injured by an RPG during the film's opening sequence and is paid a visit later in the film; blind, multiple amputations...very impressive acting.)

But on the whole, Stop-Loss is a pretty disappointing exploration of the great injustice of the titular institution.  Stop-loss is serious business.  If you're going to make a movie about it, the least you can do is make it a decent, believable one.

In sum: Changeling, Baby Mama, and Stop-Loss all have their redeeming qualities, but all are definitely skippable.  Chop Shop, on the other hand, deserves a look by everyone.

- - -

[I hope you'll forgive any poor grammar and ugly wording.  It's way past my bedtime and I really wanted to get this post up tonight.]