Monday, January 05, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 29 December 2008 to 4 January 2009

Frost / NixonThe SpiritAustraliaValkyrieRachel Getting MarriedWelcome to a new feature of this blog, which will hopefully make it more useful for me, in terms of keeping track of what I watch, and you, if you are for some reason or another interested in this information. (Hi Mom, people from work!) So, without further ado, let's take a look at... This Week In Tickets!

This Week in Tickets, 29/12/2008 - 04/01/2009

On video: War, Inc.

(Note: I considered "This Week In Tickets to the Cinema and Home Video" for the potentially cooler acronym - T.W.I.T.C.H. Video - but I figured that might upset these good people.)

Anyway, I stole the idea of saving ones' tickets in a calendar from another Brattle regular. The calendar itself is the teNeus 2009 Book Calendar of Bunny Suicides. I admit it's hard to be sure with numbers this low, but I'm almost certain the free advertising is worth more than anything you'd get from suing me.

General thoughts on this week's movies: Half of it is stuff that people looking to make a point one way or another might aruge is meant to resonate with current events. Certainly, that's obvious with War, Inc.; Cusack and company are making pretty much zero attempt to disguise the targets of their satire. It's certainly difficult not to think about the outgoing administration and their crimes when watching Frost/Nixon - they put the line about "when the president does it, it's not illegal" right in the trailer. Valkyrie is the biggest reach, but there might be something to it - Germans, ashamed of their leader, trying to restore pride in their country...


* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 December 2008 at Landmark Kendall Square #4 (First-run)

A pretty enjoyable couple of hours - Frank Langella is simply fantastic here. At first, it just seems like an impersonation, but that becomes less the case as the movie goes on, and Langella gets at the heart of why Nixon has always been such a fascinating character.

There are some rough spots; I never really like cuts to "interview footage" of the actors in character. Also, in one of those spots, a character claims that what happened did so because David Frost "knew television", but there's never really a sense that Frost eventually prevails because of his mastery of the medium.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 January 2009 at AMC Harvard Square #3 (First-run)

Australia, at times, almost seems like Baz Luhrmann's attempt to make two movies, a conventional western and its war-movie sequel, and even a bit less than three hours time the pair don't quite get a full chance to breathe. I like the western, which is good, classic stuff - a proper English woman (she would be from "back East" in an American western) inherits her estranged husband's ranch, and falls in love with the handsome but rough around the edges cowboy she enlists to drive the cattle to Darwin, the only way to save the ranch. It's classic, iconic stuff, and gives the filmmakers a chance to shoot a lot of beautiful footage of the outback.

That would be enough of a movie on its own, but threaded through it is the setup for the second half, where they try and recover the "half-caste" boy who is like a son to them against the backdrop of Australia's entry into WWII. As worthy a story as this is (and a fascinating subject; see also Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence), getting into it after we've had the finale of the first is awkward. The explanatory text in the beginning makes it seem like Luhrmann is trying to squeeze too much in, as it really won't come to the fore in earnest until later.

Both halves are actually pretty good, and I half-wonder if there will be a home video cut that maybe fleshes them out a bit more. This is the rare movie that I feel could be improved with an intermission.

War, Inc.

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 2 January 2009 in Jay's Living Room (Blu-ray)

Not really close to the thematic sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank that some are trying to paint it as, despite sharing John Cusack as a hitman and Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd in supporting roles. It's an angrier film, but also more cartoonish, and Cusack's co-writers this time around don't seem to be nearly as talented as D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink (who really seem to have disappeared since re-teaming with Cusack on High Fidelity, especially DeVincentis).

It's still kind of fun, especially if you like that kind of very broad comedy, but very uneven. It lurches between slapstick and stuff we're supposed to take seriously, not always finding an edge to its black comedy. It also feels a little cheap in places - a joke is used twice because, it seems, like the set was too expensive to build for just one use; the would-be Turaqistani hip-hoppers don't feel so much like middle easterners appropriating American pop culture so much as Americans weakly parodying it.

Rachel Getting Married

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 January 2009 at The Captiol #6 (second-run)

I readily admit, I was sort of staying away from this one because, well, it looked a lot like Margot at the Wedding, and though I was pretty sure Noah Baumbach was nowhere near it, the whole "look how messed-up suburban people are despite their nice houses!" genre annoys me no end. Fortunately, Rachel is fortunate to have a trio of impressive performances from Anne Hathaway (Kym, the sister in rehab), Rosemarie DeWitt (the Rachel of the title), and Bill Irwin (Paul, the father trying to please both), some of the best of the year that may not get recognized because they aren't exactly showy.

I admit, there were bits I might like to cut - director Jonathan Demme makes absolutely sure we see Kym's need to make herself the center of attention, to the point where I was groaning and really hoping there would be more to this. To counter that, though, I was impressed with how enjoyable the actual wedding itself was - it's the kind of ritual that I'm not the hugest fan of in real life, but Demme and writer Jenny Lumet create a very enjoyable ceremony. I also really like the way Demme often makes us look for Kym in shots, even though she's the lead character.

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