Friday, May 09, 2008

Movies opening this week

Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, dir. Larry and Andy Wachowski)
Despite the fact that the plot is pointlessly convoluted (and hinges on big corporations illegally inflating their stock prices - exciting!) and the alleged emotional moments are cheesy and false, I'd almost recommend seeing this movie just for its visual mastery. The Wachowskis didn't only shoot this primarily on green screens (like 300 and Sin City), but they also took complete advantage of the freedom of having almost no physical sets to construct scenes in an impressionistic, abstract way, with characters sometimes floating undefined in the physical space, scenes interposed with one another, cameras moving where they couldn't possibly go, and transitions using wipes that follow characters across the screen. It's really a monumental achievement in a visual sense, while at the same time being a complete sensory overload that gets repetitive and tiresome rather quickly (and runs on for over two hours). If the Wachowskis could better balance their visual inventiveness with an actually decent story and worthwhile characters (as in the original Matrix and their excellent first film, Bound), they could certainly make another film as revolutionary as what they've done before. Wide release

What Happens in Vegas (Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, dir. Tom Vaughan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
At least this isn't really being marketed as some definitive Vegas movie, the way 21 was. Really very little of it takes place in Vegas anyway, and otherwise it's just a generic rom-com not worth much attention. It could have been worse, sure, but it's in no way good, and more notable for the way it uses an ad slogan as a title than for anything about its actual content. Wide release

Young @ Heart (documentary, dir. Stephen Walker)
All of the positive reviews for this movie talk about how uplifting it is, but I just found it depressing. I mean, sure, it's great that these people have such a zest for life in their 70s, 80s and even 90s that they are out there singing rock songs (generally poorly, I might add) in a chorus and going on concert tours. But there is a constant sense - from the filmmaker, from the chorus director, and especially from the audience members shown - of indulgent condescension that just makes me despondent about the prospect of growing old. Okay, so maybe these people sing in a chorus, but that seems like all they do. So there it is: You sing some songs, people think it's cute, then you die (two of the chorus members die over the course of the film). It didn't make me feel good, although I admit that there are plenty of entertaining and affecting moments throughout the film. As a movie, it's way too long and seriously padded, and Walker inserts himself unnecessarily into the story, with so much superfluous narration that sometimes you wonder if someone accidentally turned on the DVD commentary. But I don't mean to condemn the film - it tells a perfectly nice story, flaws aside, and people less pessimistic than I am will probably find it very inspiring. Opened limited April 9; in Las Vegas this week

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