Monday, July 7, 2008

Rickey's Film Corral: Rounding up Movies You Were too Damned Lazy to See

Mongol. Being suckers for subtitled foreign films and Mongolian barbeque, Rickey and Ms. Henderson decided to check this movie out, which is the first installment in a trilogy of films depicting the life and times of Genghis Khan. Given the fact that the last cinematic portrayal of Genghis Kahn we’ve seen involved him running amok with an aluminum bat in a sporting goods store in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” this flick was a welcome sight for Rickey. And refreshingly, this movie is not at all dependent on massive battle scenes fabricated by WETA, but rather is an intimate look into the early life and times of Genghis Kahn. Think of it as “Genghis Begins” or “Genghis: The High School Years.” The cinematography is flat out astounding consisting of sweeping panoramas of the Mongolian steppes—truly breathtaking stuff. It’s nice to see a director pull funny tricks like holding the camera still and not jumping all over the place chronologically (you know, things we don’t see much these days in modern movies). The movie is a study in all around good old fashioned story driven filmmaking. Highly recommended.

Encounters at the End of the World. This latest documentary by Werner Herzog sets out to capture the bizarre cast of characters from the human world and the natural world dwelling at the bottom of the planet in Antarctica. We like the idea of a film in which spooky jellyfish share the screen with self proclaimed philosopher construction workers. For those of you unfamiliar with Herzog, he’s completely insane, but in a delightfully fun way. We have no idea why, but he begins the movie by pontificating why monkeys don’t ride goats. Then he shows the audience a drawing of a monkey riding a goat. And that’s how the movie commences. And we’ll be damned if Rickey doesn’t want that picture of the monkey riding a goat hanging in his living room. Upon arriving in Antarctica at the beginning of the film, Herzog almost seems disappointed to discover humans living there. When interviewing the eccentric human denizens living in Antarctica as they talk in great length about the unusual set of circumstances that led them to become untethered and slide off the map into snowy oblivion, Herzog becomes exasperated and ends up paraphrasing for the people being interviewed on camera: “long story short, this guy used to be an investment banker, but had a complete break with reality and now harvests seal milk for dubious scientific purposes.” The real highlight of the flick is the stunning underwater photography, some awesome volcanic steam vents, and one mentally deranged penguin. Our verdict: it’s no “Happy Feet,” and that’s a very good thing. Definitely worth seeing, but if it’s not at your local theater, it can wait until it pops up on the Discovery Channel.

Wall-E. It isn’t nearly as phenomenal as the critics are claiming it to be, but that quirky little robot is cute goshdarnit. The underlying message that our consumer culture will one day completely poison the planet and force the human race to live lazy and morbidly obese lives in outer space being catered to by nefarious robots isn’t exactly subtle, but kudos to Pixar for having the balls to put it in a G-rated movie. The problem with this is that being a Disney film, its tough to overlook that fact that the movie’s target audience is being asked to spend money on Wall-E themed games, toys, and stuffed animals. Furthermore, despite the film’s didactic tone, the average moviegoer will plop down $30 on soda, popcorn, and candy, gain two pounds in the process and leave their trash on the sticky movie theater floor for the theater usher earning $5.45 an hour to clean up. And just in case you forgot which parent company owns Pixar, Wall-E just happens to make the same nose that Rickey’s Powerbook does whenever it powers on. Cute. Sorry folks, but you can’t have it both ways: lambasting Walmart in a movie which also fetishizes Apple products seems a tad hypocritical to Rickey. What redeems the movie are the scenes when there’s no dialog spoken (the first third of the movie) and it focuses on a Charlie Chaplin styled love story between the two robots. There’s a certain sad and subtle beauty at work in those early scenes. The wee ones will get a kick out of it and so will you. Just don’t go in expecting anything on the same level as “Ratatouille.”

Wanted. Ye gods, this was one atrocious movie. Take one part “Fight Club,” one part “Matrix,” and one part bleak Russian nihilism, stick ‘em in a blender and hit puree until the sickly sweet incomprehensible mess erupts from the top. Hats off to Russian director Timur Bekmambetov for exposing the severe mental havoc that the Vladimir Putin regime has wrought on that country’s artistic community. After suffering through this disjointed mess of guns, gore, and gams, we’re not entirely sure what a 1,000 year old league of assassins has to do with weaving (yes, weaving) and neither will you if you manage to stay seated for the full two hour run time. The film is a sartorial nightmare in the truest sense of the phrase. Rickey’s verdict: approach this crapfest as you would Angelina Jolie: with extreme caution.

Hancock. This one falls into the same genre of films as “Ghostbusters” or “Men in Black.” It’s a sci-fi action/comedy with a terrific premise, but unlike those two movies, its ideas aren’t ever properly developed. You know the premise: the movie asks us to wonder “what if Superman let himself go?” with Will Smith playing a complete schmuck of a superhero. Imagine Dennis Rodman or Barry Bonds with superpowers and you’re on the right track. It’s a great idea for a film, and Rickey would’ve liked to see more scenes of Hancock behaving like a misanthrope and his transformation into a better person happens a little too quickly for our tastes. Jumping from crass comedy, to action, to romance, the movie feels somewhat schizophrenic, but Rickey still has to applaud the filmmakers for creating a superhero movie that’s different from the norm. The acting is strong (Jason Bateman’s comedic stylings alone are worth the price of admission) and those looking for a fun summer action movie that breaks the mold a bit will get a kick out of this.

Yeah, always on the lookout for a new audience, we're bringing it back. If it so pleases you, click hither, and rate Rickey's post. Go ahead, we'll wait. No pressure.

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Smitty said...

I can't thank you enough for this feature.

With the huge herd that Mrs. Smitty and I call a family, our date nights are few and far between. Thus, I hate it when we go see a movie that's a total flop...we squandered a precious 2 hours without kids.

At any rate, I am thrilled Mongol was so looks like the kinda film I really wanted to see. wall-E looks like good family fun and I'm glad it is. And Hancock is my kind of superhero.

And if I want to see Jolie walk around scantily clad for 2 hours, I can see plenty of that on the covers of supermarket tabloids or Mr. Not that I have a membership there, which I don't. I'm just saying..

Deb said...

Hancock should have been Rickey, and THEN it might have had a chance, lol.

And as a relatively new Rickey Reader, I love this feature, may I say. :)

Rickey Henderson said...

Smitty: the kids will get a kick out of Wall-E. It's good stuff. As far as Rickey's anti-commumerist rant goes, Rickey's just conditioned to be wary of anything created by a company that bulldozed thousands of acres of Florida wetland to build an amusement park.

Deb: Have no fear, Rickey's currently shopping around a big screen adaptation of his life.

Daniel said...

Thanks for the ratings. I rarely go to a theatre primarily because too many patrons do too much noisy stuff like discussing the move and cell phones ringing, yada yada, blah blah blah.

So I am a great fan of the Netflix thing and it is good to have recommendations for what to add to my queue or avoid.


You watch WETA?

The Hypocritical One said...

Methinks you should have a punch pass to the theater--you're well on your way to a free movie upon purchasing 12. (new releases, movies in color, and Tom Hanks flicks not included)

Nice report.

Dan in Texas said...

Great Post, Rickey. Also, I knew Jason Bateman wasn't done!

Rickey Henderson said...

Daniel: WETA is the vfx company that does the battle scenes for the Lord of the Rings movies (pardon Rickey's obscure reference).

the hypocritical one: purchasing? what is this? The chances of Rickey paying money to see Hancock or Wanted were very very slim. Surf The Channel is Rickey's good friend. (don't say Rickey never did anything for you).

damon said...

Sup Ricky?!
Damn it's been a while!
I was planning to take the mini-me's to see the Wall-e flick, so thanks for the updates.

How much did you spend this weekend on popcorn?

Daniel said...

>>>WETA is the vfx company

Ah, thanks. Living in DC, WETA is one of our local PBS stations that sponsors many programs sold throughout the PBS networks.

Oops... wrong frame of reference on the acronyms.

Nonetheless, thanks for the post on all these movies.

Alex L said...

Mongol and Hancock have gotten my attention, I'm quite looking forward to seeing them. But I'll wait till they are on dvd.

leigh said...

welcome back, rickey! glad to see you're giving h-b another chance.

p.s. did you know when you rate a blog that you didn't like it, your vote shows up with your little icon? yup. just a little heads up. not that rickey cares.

Sully Sullivan said...

I haven't seen any of these and if we can be honest, I only read your last two reviews.

Wanted: Yeah what you said is pretty much what I expected of it. At least that lead actor said, in an interview, that sex with Angelina Jolie were "sweaty and gross". I like that guy.

Hancock: This seemed promising since it has Bateman, who is always pretty solid, and also a sort of interesting plot. I didn't expect spectacular things from it, but I'll probably rent it (download it) when it hits DVD.

Diesel said...

Well done, Rickey.

Mark said...

I definitely have to see the Herzog movie, as there was recently a goat-monkey controversy on a colleague's campus:

The Nemesing One said...

Love the blog. Thanks for the movie reviews. It's because I don't want to tarnish the image of Genghis Kahn with a football helmet on, riding a skateboard and brandishing an aluminum bat through a sporting goods store, that I won't see Mongol. :)