Spring Movies: Part 4
Only one more week until Memorial Day weekend, Scoboco's official start to the summer movie season. Until then, some more from spring...
By far the coolest movie I've seen this year is 28 Weeks Later. The art direction, the cinematography, the camera angles, the relentless pacing, the brilliant choreography of the "action" sequences, the effective use of (what I think is) high-definition video... it's all highly stylized, and it all looks fantastic. Plus, the movie is totally tense, totally terrifying... it's an actual physical relief when the end credits roll (and, btw, excellent ending). The problem? The story is unbelievably dumb. Not the premise, which I love: all of England has been emptied (or has it...?) by the "rage virus"—spread by the sharing of body fluids, within seconds it turns regular folk into frenzied zombies who spit blood all over you and beat you and eat you and crush your eyeballs with their thumbs—and the first exiles have returned to repopulate this Sceptered Isle, starting with a cordoned-off London neighborhood, all under the watch of (not-enough) jumpy American marines. Too bad about that inane B-movie script, which sinks this to a B+ at best.
The story behind Waitress is too sad to contemplate for long (writer/director/star Adrienne Shelly was murdered last November), so let's not. This smart, funny, vivacious movie looks great, feels great, is great. The story, about a small-town pie-baking genius stuck with a horrible husband, is filled with excellent performances, especially from Keri Russell as the eponymous server, Cheryl Hines (completely hilarious) and Shelly as her co-workers, Andy Griffith (of all people) as the diner's owner, Nathan Fillion as the new doctor in town who falls for Russell, Jeremy Sisto as the infantile, super-controlling husband... aw, heck, the whole cast is first rate, all deftly directed to deliver their offbeat lines with honesty, energy and terrific timing. And the whole thing will make you want to eat some pie.
Although a little heavy-handed, Jindabyne was off-kilter enough to keep me guessing throughout, a feeling enhanced by the pallor of menace that suffuses the film. Set in a dusty Australian backwater, the narrative (padded out from a Raymond Carver short story, which I realized I had read about a third of the way in), tells of four working-class guys who, on their annual fishing trip to the middle of nowhere, find the body of a murdered young woman floating in the river. Their reaction (or lack thereof) to the discovery changes all of their lives, as first their spouses, then the entire town, take stock of their actions. Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, as husband and wife, both handle their complex roles exceptionally well, and though the pacing isn't helped by a couple of unnecessary subplots, this is an intelligent, engaging film.
Maybe our expectations were too high, but Debbie and I both walked out of Away From Her disappointed that the movie didn't live up to its considerable potential. The story is moving just in its description: a husband and wife, married 44 years (though not without some problems), she gets Alzheimer's and breaks his heart by forgetting him and falling for another man. Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsett and Olympia Dukakis are all excellent here, but in the end the script doesn't really give them enough to do, and there are too many false notes rung by supporting characters and, I felt, too much ambiguous hedging on some key emotional points.
Another week, another screening: this time Tom and I went to see Killshot, a Weinstein Film release based on an Elmore Leonard novel, starring the always-welcome Diane Lane, Thomas Jane in full rugged-man mode, a scene-stealing Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a manic, dimwitted thief, and Mickey Rourke as a surprisingly credible Native American hit man. But though things started out in fine, rapid-fire fashion, the second act desperately needed a second twist that never came, turning the whole thing into what Roger Ebert called an "idiot plot" (there'd no plot if everyone—or, at least, Mickey Rourke—wasn't an idiot). Tom spied Harvey Weinstein on our way out. He couldn't have been too pleased.
Finally, Hot Fuzz. I don't know why I keep talking myself into seeing these one-joke movies (The Host... Grindhouse... this), but I've got to stop. Sure, the last half-hour or so has some clever, even amusing allusions to every buddy cop movie ever made, but oh my God at 124 minutes I just couldn't wait for this sucker to end.