Spring Movies: Part 1
I went to four movies the first week of spring and haven't been able to get to the theater since. That should change soon, so here's a few thoughts on what I've seen so far...
I've got to hand it to Reign Over Me's writer/director Mike Binder... he almost pulls off this small, relatively quiet, emotionally-charged mid-life buddy movie starring Adam Sandler and the excellent Don Cheadle: the former destroyed by the death of his wife and three daughters on 9/11; the latter his dental-college roommate who runs into him one day on the street and tries to heal him through friendship and therapy, acceptance and love. This could have been a disastrously poor film (imagine Robin Williams in the Sandler role), but for the most part Binder deploys the exact right touch, whether it's Cheadle's boredom with his perfect life (nicely underplayed... and, by the way, I found it totally refreshing to spend two hours with a character who's such a decent, honest, friendly man); or Sandler's terror at facing the past, or the dynamics of their burgeoning re-friendship. Sure, there are some misses here, but I laughed and cried in all the right places, and was engaged throughout.
I was a little skeptical going into Air Guitar Nation. Sure, I've dabbled in the form (Jimmy Page was my favorite muse), and I totally enjoyed Wordplay and Spellbound (also documentaries that immersed you into a subculture of people who can only be called geeks pursuing their very specific passion), but, yeah?... 90 minutes of air guitar contests? Well... Totally!!! This is a sweet, often very funny and always appealing portrait of a "season" in the lives of these air guitar heroes, from the first-ever regional semis in New York City (when Howard Stern mentioned it on the air, the stunned promoters had to deal with lines around the block) to the glittery national final in L.A. to the tense World Championships in Finland (in front of 5000 people!), focusing especially on the rivalry between the lanky, charismatic, tenacious Bjorn Turoque and the somewhat chunky, Hello-Kitty-breastplate-wearing, technically perfect C-Diddy. Rock on, dudes.
If Mark Wahlberg hadn't been so great in The Departed, I don't think I would have even considered Shooter. But he was, so I did, and I must say that this is definitely an entertaining movie... albeit in a dozens-of-heads-blowing-up kind of way. The story is ridiculous—an elite ranger sniper gets lured out of "retirement" to help protect the President, only to be set up as an assassin by a mysterious cabal of CIA types—and completely beside the point, which is to watch many, many really cool explosions. The action is well-choreographed, the pacing brisk, the acting fine, and there's even some humor thrown in to complete the deal. If you're in the mood for this sort of thing, you could do a whole lot worse.
Finally, Debbie and I were both disappointed by First Snow, starring Memento's Guy Pearce as a somewhat sleazy flooring salesman who, to kill some time while his car gets repaired, has his fortune told in a trailer by the always reliable J.K. Simmons. Unsurprisingly, the news is not good, and Pearce spends the rest of this pretty pointless movie trying to change his fate... or surrender to his destiny... or something. Piper Perado is also involved, though she's given absolutely nothing to do.