Saturday, September 02, 2006

Movies opening this week

Crank (Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Jose Pablo Cantillo, dir. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
It's interesting to me that we're getting to the point with all these movies that are not screened for critics that eventually some of them will start to get good reviews anyway. In the past, the movies held from review have been so bad that the people who bother to review them at all are almost guaranteed to hate them. These movies usually have ratings under 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (Zoom, with Tim Allen, which came out a few weeks ago, has a zero percent rating). But starting with Snakes on a Plane, which is currently at 69 percent, and now with Crank, which at the moment has a 60 percent rating, studios are holding back so many movies that some of them are bound to actually turn out to be pretty good; they're overestimating how much critics might hate anything that's a B-level genre film or not highbrow and arty. Not that this movie has gotten universal praise, but more critics than not, it seems, did like it, and I agree that it was sort of perversely entertaining.

My friend who saw it with me loved it and said it was one of his top 10 movies of the year, and I swear that every 10 minutes he kept turning to me and saying, "Best movie ever!" I certainly would not go that far, but in its unbelievable, unapologetic over-the-topness, this movie is endearingly stupid, and the hyperkinetic visual style is put to far better use than, say, by Tony Scott in the annoying Man on Fire and Domino. The directors have said they wanted to make a live-action video game, and that's pretty much what this is, with nothing in the way of character development or emotional weight. But in that way it's better than something like The Transporter (also with Statham), which makes pretensions to being serious that only highlight how stupid it is. This movie knows how stupid it is, and runs with it. The energy eventually flags, and it probably would have been better as a 40-minute short film, and some of the casual sexism (especially an uncomfortably rape-like sex scene) made me a little uneasy, but overall this is far more enjoyable than anyone would expect. Wide release

The Illusionist (Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, dir. Neil Burger)
This has been getting good reviews, and it looked like something I would like, but even though the concept is interesting I felt like the execution fell sort of flat. Norton and Giamatti are excellent actors, but Burger saddles them with these really fake-sounding pseudo-Austrian accents, and I found it really distracting. I hate the use of accents in movies like this, like it achieves some sort of verisimilitude. They're already not speaking German, so why not just let them use their normal accents? It's not like people in turn-of-the-century Vienna were walking around speaking English to each other in Austrian accents, anyway. Beyond that, the drama was so staid and stilted that none of the stuff that should have been exciting ever came off that way. And, as Jeff Anderson pointed out in his Las Vegas Weekly review, it's hard to convince the audience that a character is a master illusionist if all his tricks are portrayed in the movie with CGI. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised at Jessica Biel's dramatic skills, though. Opened limited Aug. 18; in Las Vegas this week

The Quiet (Elisha Cuthbert, Camilla Belle, Martin Donovan, Edie Falco, dir. Jamie Babbit)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I think nearly everyone is missing the insane camp appeal of this movie, which has gotten dismal reviews and has done very poorly at the box office even in its limited release. Even the few positive reviewers seem to think it's some dark drama, but I was laughing the entire time, even (especially) at the incest scenes and when the characters talk about their inner desires. I could definitely see this movie developing a cult following; after seeing my review, a reader from New York sent me some YouTube parodies she and her friends did, and they've clearly got the right approach. Now if only someone would set up some midnight screenings. Opened limited Aug. 25; in Las Vegas this week

Trust the Man (Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal, dir. Bart Freundlich)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I suppose it's lucky for Bart Freundlich that he's married to Julianne Moore, because otherwise he'd never get all these well-known, talented actors to be in his lame rom-com, or even get the chance to make it at all. You'd think someone with Moore's talent might marry someone a little more original, or at least have the sense to steer him in the direction of a less embarrassing career choice. Opened limited Aug. 18; in Las Vegas this week


Reel Fanatic said...

My inner film snob said immediately "not another with Jason Statham driving around through the whole thing!", but it's nice to see that yet again I was wrong .. I'm gonna have to check that one out

Josh said...

Well, he does do a lot of driving, and there's a pretty cool car chase through an indoor mall, but there's more to it (at least visually) than that.

Anonymous said...

The Quiet ranks higher than high. It's a must see, as are the YouTube videos by zekeness! Yall'd be crazier than the characters in the movie if you don't rush to see it. It's so funny that it's the funniest beyond whatever you think is the funniest. Josh, your review is truly right on. Thank you for the confirmation of my sanity.
Yours, Ramona Kimona