Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews

In Bruges (2008): Falsely advertised as a fast-paced crime comedy, this film is one-part Neo-noir, one part Greek tragedy. Sure, Colin Farrell's rookie hitman Ray is sarcastic and brash, creating some comedic moments. But more often than not, the film is contemplative, moody, and a character study in guilt. Ray and his more mature partner Ken are sent to Bruges to await their next assignment after their prior hit goes awry. Bruges turns out to be a sort of purgatory for the two of them, a medieval Belgium town that subtly brings out the guilt hidden deep within their souls. Ray attempts to distract himself from his guilt with booze, drugs, and girls, leading into mildly comic but mostly woebegone scenarios. The first 3/4 of the film are a slow character study of these hitmen, leading up to a suddenly fast-paced ultra-violent last quarter.

A minor sideplot involving a racist American dwarf actor feels quite out of place. Much like this tiny paragraph in this review. It takes up time, but doesn't contribute much.

Both Farrell and Brendon Gleeson as Ken give solid performances, as does Ralph Fiennes as their foul-mouthed boss Harry. The character study of each man is perfectly set in the Bruges environment--foggy, gray, with twists and turns down dark streets. There is a great scene in the middle of the film when Harry calls Ken, a nearly five-minute uncut shot, paying homage to Orson Welles' Touch of Evil as its own uncut opening scene plays on a TV in Ken's hotel room. I love stuff like that!

Overall, while I really wanted to enjoy the film, I found myself left wanting. It has its moments, especially in Ray and Ken's struggles with guilt and honor. But the overall film feels like it is lacking something significant; there aren't really any glimpses of hope or significant truths to be learned. It's just kind of there, presenting itself before you and hoping you simply accept it. (Note: The film has a lot of foul language and crude humor; be forewarned)

Get Smart (2008): As a kid, I used to watch the 1960s TV series created by comic genius Mel Brooks. It had me cracking up with the madcap scenarios and the random spy devices. The up-t0-date film version has both the silly situations and the elaborate spy tools, but it's seriously lacking in coherent story. Steve Carrell is Maxwell Smart, uber-detailed analyst for government agency CONTROL. His dream is to be a field agent, which comes true when CONTROL is compromised and all the field agents are somehow killed. He partners with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) in tracking down Siegfried, head of the evil organization KAOS.

While Carrell had me laughing throughout the movie with his straight-faced one-liners, much of the film just...well...doesn't make sense. There are plenty of scenes that seem created for a certain gag or joke that don't really fit anywhere in the story. For instance, the agents jump out of a plane with a KAOS henchman; they crash into a barn, then in the next scene have new clothes, spy gear, etc. It goes the route of the recent Indiana Jones disaster, compromising story quality for absurd CGI action sequences. You might say, "C'mon Joel, story quality for a summer comedy movie? That doesn't really matter, does it?" Sadly, many of these gags were given away in the previews, leaving only a few unexpected one-liners to keep the laughs coming. Even Alan Arkin isn't funny in his role as the chief of CONTROL. Overall, Steve Carrell conjures up a few laughs, but the rest of the film is only worth a lazy evening of mindless comedy.

Robocop (1987): I tested out Netflix's new "Watch Instantly" capabilities for Mac by watching Robocop. I'd never seen it before, though I vaguely remember seeing Robocop action figures in the toy aisles growing up. A blatant rip-off of The Terminator, the film is basically a B-quality sci-fi movie. And when I say "B-quality," the B stands for balding. Seriously. Check out these guys:

That's a lotta forehead.

Anyway, there's lots of really cheesy dialogue, lots of rampant violence, some totally random drug use and nudity, and a fairly predictable plot (cop becomes cyborg, kills bad guys, cyborg wins). If you haven't seen this yet, you're not missing anything (my apologies to Robocop enthusiasts everywhere).


  1. Hey what's wrong with bald guys??? :)

  2. Absolutely nothing! I happen to know--and like-- quite a few (my boss/awesome friend being one) :) It was just so distracting throughout the film when a new character would appear and, yep, he was losing the battle with hair loss. The bad guy was the dad from That 70s Show!

  3. Get Smart was so funny!! Come on Joel, it was awesome. Some of the jokes I'd seen a ton of times but it still was the funniest thing ever, like the whole phone thing, I could have watched that 1000 times and still laughed as hard.

  4. Definitely laughed at the phone thing--if you mean where he chucks it at the bad guy and it doesn't quite make it! :) But I think we'll just have to agree to disagree here--Steve Carrell is funny, but Get Smart just didn't do it for me.