Friday, January 2, 2009

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

A column created with the sole intention of saving you, the average moviegoer, money. On the docket this week are two movies available to rent and two currently playing in the theaters.

Transsiberian. This summer release flew well under the radar and Rickey, having finally caught up with it on Netflix, is pleased to report that it's terrific. A taut little Hitchcockian thriller involving two American travelers riding the famed Transiberian railroad? Oh yes please. The movie doesn't try to accomplish too much but excels at the basics: beautiful shots of a creaky old train winding through snowy Siberia, that cozy yet claustrophobic feeling that comes with traveling by rail, and the reliably scary Ben Kingsley playing a nefarious police detective. Rickey was even willing to cast aside his severe distaste for Woody Harrelson in order to see this. This movie is that good. Rent it at your earliest possible opportunity.

War, Inc. Rickey loves, loves, loves "Grosse Point Blank." Put John Cusack back in the black suit and tie, have him reprise the role of contract killer, give him a script brimming with witty nihilistic remarks and Rickey is on board. And all that would be absolutely fine, if only this unofficial sequel to "Grosse Point Blank" wasn't also a failed attempt to satirize the military industrial complex. Rickey has no idea who the hell greenlit this movie, but apparently they forgot the cardinal rule of comedy: satire only works when it's effortless, when you don't force it. A broad cartoonish spoof of the business of military contractors, the film is blunt, pedantic, and overwrought, but you've got to give them a bit of praise for the effort we suppose. And hey, this movie also happens to feature a sociopathic Beg Kingsley too! Does this guy play happy characters anymore? We're guessing that he grew weary of people bugging him in the airport saying "hey, it's Gandhi! Honey, come look, it's Gandhi! Quick, take a picture of me with Gandhi! No, of course he doesn't mind, he's Gandhi!" and then rebelled by devoting his entire career to playing evil psychopaths in very movie he starred in. Oh yes, and lest we forget, the always fetching Marissa Tomei is in this too. But why did this have to be the one movie she starred in this year where she didn't take her clothes off? Argh.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This one reminded Rickey a whole lot of "Forrest Gump," but not nearly as saccharine. You know the story: Brad Pitt ages in reverse in a movie that will cause both the make up department and women everywhere to swoon alike. What you don't know is that the dude can act and it's fun to see an old man tottering around with the mind of a child, and eventually coming of age. It's a perverse, yet fascinating conceit for a film. Then the romance with Kate Blanchett kicks in and the movie becomes increasingly tiresome. As a rule, two and a half hour movies obsessed with the subject of the passage of time don't go by quickly. The cinematography is gorgeous though, (as is a red headed Blanchett) and if you're looking for a bit of meaningless holiday fluff, this might be the right flick for you.

Frost/Nixon. In case you'd forgotten, it is Oscars season. This means you're getting bombarded with a ton of movies desperately screaming "for your consideration!" Generally theses movies fall into two categories: political docudramas and movies about the Holocaust (nothing snags the gold quite like the Holocaust). "Frost/Nixon" falls into the latter category. This movie which delves into the subject of the famed Nixon Frost interviews, features some terrific acting, particularly from Frank Langella playing Nixon, but the problem for Rickey is that any discussion on cinematic depiction of Richard Nixon must begin and end with Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of him in the Oliver Stone movie. Granted, Langella's portrayal of Nixon is very riveting stuff, but his character isn't given a lot of room to breathe in. He's very one dimensional. Moreover, it's tough to take his character seriously when the script includes a scene of him drunk dialing David Frost late one night to discuss cheeseburgers. A little too much tabloid style creative license on the part of screenwriter Peter Morgan, wethinks. Rickey likes his Nixon to be a sullen schemer, not a late night drunk dialer, thank you very much. Ron Howard enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that the director did include his brother Clint in the movie, and yes, he is as assuredly unattractive as ever.

[posted at Humor Blogs]

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Mike said...

Haven't seen these. But this post more than did its job. Why?

the always fetching Marissa Tomei is in this too. But why did this have to be the one movie she starred in this year where she didn't take her clothes off?

That led me to do a little google image searching to see what movies she did remove her clothes in. Thank you, Rickey. Thank you.

Marisa is aging like fine wine I see.

Haley said...

Hmmm...going to have to catch Transsiberian -- sounds excellent.

You know that Benjamin Button and Forrest Gump were written by the same dude, right? Here's a random piece of info for you -- he's one of the folks who got ripped off my Madoff. That's one gnarly chocolate in his box.

Too bad we missed you in Paramus!

Adam said...

Yes, Haley stole my thunder a bit while I was prepping my "Scrwe that hack, Eric Roth!" comment for this article. I almost like "Benjamin Button" until I realized Roth self-plagiarized his own "Gump" script for "Button," so I give it a huge thumbs-down.

I bought my boss "Transsiberian" for Christmas because she likes those kinds of movies, as do I, but I have yet to see it myself. Now, with your blessing, I shall renew my efforts.

Diesel said...

Transsiberian looks like a strong possibility for Netflix for me. Thanks for the recommendation!

Anonymous said...

Transsiberian was a very good movie, I agree. I was surprised, even with Harrelson. Ben Kingsley as usual is great, and Emily Mortimer surprises again, as she did in last year's Lars and the Real Girl, which I recommend...War Inc. looked like a funnier version of Lords of War and didn't appeal to me, although I did love Grosse Point Blank...The last two, it sounds like you said it all. Thanks for the reviews, Rickey.

Alex L said...

John Cusack... he's good and all, but you get the feeling like hes the second choice for all his roles.