Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A couple of good ones.

It's been a pretty poor movie summer, yeah? I've gone to the movies less this year than any on record. Of course, I'm busy, which is a factor, but I also find myself just not excited by what's out. I have seen a couple, recently.

A Solitary Man

Walking into this film was interesting. CByrd and I were the youngest people in the theatre by at least a decade. The other option was The A-Team, which was really "too actiony" for CByrd to get excited about, and frankly I was too on the fence about to push for. This was an option that was supposed to be a good movie.

...And it certainly is. It's just odd to go into a theatre when you feel that out of place with the audience. However, I found lots to love about this film.

When Crazy Heart came out last year, there was a lot of comparisons to The Wrestler. I never bought that, other than in the broad strokes of being films that really hung on astonishing lead performances. However, Crazy Heart never feels like a direct commentary on Jeff Bridges life, the way The Wrestler does about Mickey Rourke. To put it another way, as much as I like what Bridges does in Crazy Heart, I could imagine the film made with several other actors. Could you imagine anyone other than Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler?

A Solitary Man is Michael Douglas' The Wrestler.

We all know about his off-screen problems, his sex addiction, his self-destructive behavior. Of course, he's also known for playing the exact sort of character that Ben Kalman is in this film. A wheeler-dealer, a man of compromised moral values. It's something that Douglas can just tap into about himself, his weakness. With A Solitary Man, Douglas brings that all to a head.

Kalman is a reflection of many men you probably know,or have seen. Men have an astonishing ability to make knowingly stupid choices for immediate gratification. That ability seems to only magnify when the specter of mortality looms large. Kalman is having a massive mid-life crisis (well, probably more like end-life), but what's great about Douglas is that he plays it truthfully. The threat of impending death is only an excuse, a way to justify choices that range from mildly scummy to blindly shallow, and on to acts apocalyptic in their selfishness.

There's an honesty in that Douglas, much like Rourke, knows his own failures are in the public record, yet he still plays every moment with unflinching honestly. Lesser actors would've shied away, tried to massage the script until Ben came off looking better, or just flat turned it down. Douglas walks in, and just does it. It's brave, honest, and I loved it.

The whole cast is great, honestly. With characters that ranges from, I'd say, even more shallow than Kalman himself, long-suffering family trying to explain how much he hurts them, and even a near-saintly performance from Danny DeVito. (He's fantastic)

Also like The Wrestler, and not like Crazy Heart, A Solitary Man doesn't let Ban Kalman off the hook for the choices he's made and the man he's become. There's a sense of redemption, but with a single glance, Douglas lets us know that, perhaps, it's only delaying the inevitable.

Wonderful, interesting movie. So, so worth seeing.

Toy Story 3

Just go buy a ticket, OK?

Sequels are hard, especially third chapters. thing is, I'm now more convinced than ever that Pixar simply can do no wrong. If you loved the first two, you'll be completely satisfied by how this film wraps it all up. Rest assured, it does wrap up. The story of Andy's beloved toys is over. There's talk that we'll see a short with these characters before next year's Pixar offering...

Please don't.

You've set everything off on exactly the right note here. You've tackled all the existential questions that other "children's" or "family" films never even think about touching upon, many "adult" films just botch completely, and done it with oodles of style and wit. Leave it be. I know the Disney suits would love a seemingly unending franchise cash cow like those crap Shrek movies, but don't give in.

Yes, yes...I was in tears by the final frame. The Pixar team found the PERFECT happy/sad ending that feels triumphant, yet also feels real. At earlier moments I cried because of sadness, but the ending let us, and the toys free. Change happens, time passes, old friends fall behind. (The "Bo Peep" moment is pretty astonishing for an animated film.) However, endings let us pass on to something new, and love is a constant.

It's just terrific. I reccommend it heartily...

But Toy Story 2 is still the best one.

The 3D is really nice, lots of depth and interesting uses of it. However, I don't think Toy Story 3 absolutely depends on seeing it in 3D. It's not Avatar. That said, the new Pixar short that precedes the movie, Night and Day? This awesome little short DEMANDS you see it in 3D, it's just that good, and that clever, in the use of the technology. Fantastic.

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