Featured Posts

May 12, 2010

The State of the Cabins (5/12/10)

I feel like I'm getting behind in movie watching, even though I'm surely not missing all that much at the theaters, and caught two first-time viewings at home in the last week. Still, I'm kind of welcoming the end of the TV season, as I'm currently watching more shows regularly than I have in some time (LOST, Survivor, Justified, V, Community, and FlashForward). Mrs. Fletch and I will be finding ourselves with about five free viewing hours in a few weeks. I look forward to it.

Movies watched for the first time (non-theatrically) since last week:
* The Gift - I'd heard that Sam Raimi's The Gift was a pretty decent watch now for years, but had just never had the opportunity. For those that aren't aware of it, Cate Blanchett stars as a Louisiana psychic (not a fortune teller) who gets embroiled in a murder mystery. The words "mood" and/or "atmosphere" were probably used to describe it a bit. If you wanted some movie/TV math, you might call it Medium times A Time to Kill divided by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Or something like that.

It co-stars everyone - ok, maybe that's an overstatement; Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, J.K. Simmons, Gary Cole, Giovanni Ribisi, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, and half the cast of the Spider-Man flicks (this film immediately preceded the first in that series for Raimi). Hell, even Billy Bob Thornton is credited as a co-writer.

It's a good flick, with some excellent performances and a gripping enough story to keep you going beyond the jump-scares, and that roster of actors is like a wet dream for me (and that's before Holmes' topless scene). Keanu Reeves is legitimately great (if flat) as a racist, Southern sunuvabitch. Hilary Swank's hair deserved an Academy Award.

Unfortunately, there's one giant, gaping problem with The Gift. It's a murder-mystery, yet an observant five-year old could solve this whodunit at about the 30-minute mark. Let's just say there's an overwhelmingly obvious clue given (if the plot didn't point this way anyway, which it does), and I didn't feel any smarter for having called it; I was just angry at the filmmakers for being so lazy and obvious.

* Taken - Not nearly as much to say about the Liam Neeson actioner from last year. As I mentioned on Twitter, I was actually a bit disappointed that it wasn't worse. Though my friend Nick has a stiffy for Luc Besson, I've more or less come to think of him as a hack over the last 10 years or so; a man with good ideas and shitty execution (I know, he didn't direct this one).

Anyway, it's pretty solid - Jason Bourne all grown up with his memory back and now a missing daughter. I can't imagine that the pitch was any more complicated than that. The action was a bit less gory than advertised, yet pretty solid, especially considering Neeson's age (the use of stunt doubles was either minimal or hidden very well). At least it wasn't a shaky cam fest.

There is some unintentional comedy to be found here, though, and it all comes from Neeson, who I've come to learn is an awful actor when he's not intense. The early scenes that feature him just being a normal person and smiling and laughing are painfully bad. John Malkovich suffers from the same malady, though he just comes off as creepy when acting normal; Neeson comes off more pathetic. I imagine he has the worst sense of humor on the planet, for some reason.

Music I'm currently obsessed with:
I can't say that there's been one song or album that's gripped me particularly over the last week. What I have been obsessing over with, though, is waiting for new albums from several of my favorite artists. DeVotchka, Interpol, Arcade Fire, The Go Team, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers - I'm waiting for new stuff from all of you, and it's been at least a couple years for each of you since your last album. Get on it. Oh, and Royksopp's Senior album, which I thought was coming out any day now. Waiting impatiently to overlisten to that one, too.

Book I'm currently reading:
Finally finished Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Makes you think a bit, but I wouldn't call it a tremendous read. I think I'll be skipping out on Gladwell's other books (I'd been recommended Blink to start with), at least for some time. Perhaps as a change of pace after I've burned through other authors.

Now...the waiting game until I receive The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest via Amazon, which will be arriving in early June. To start another book in the interim or no (keep in mind, I don't read but maybe a half hour a day, and am not the fastest reader). I might just stick it out with magazines until then...

6 people have chosen wisely: on "The State of the Cabins (5/12/10)"

Nick said...

Luc Besson is great when directing, but merely brainless fun when only writing or producing (like Taken or The Transporter). For his more recent stuff that involves his directing, I still have to recommend Angel-A. And his upcoming Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec looks really good... the trailer reminds me of something like Amelie, but if she were a detective or something.

Buffett35 said...

I also saw Taken for the 1st and 2nd times last week. The 2nd time wasn't my choice, but I told the people I was watching it with to take a drink every time he "killed" someone. I put quotes around that word because it became very difficult to determine what was and was not a mortal blow. We ended up drinking every time he made someone fall down, and it was the best movie I've ever seen in my life.

Rachel said...

The Gift was the second film I reviewed after starting my blog. I don't really remember much about it but I didn't like it as much as you. Random trivia though: you mentioned Billy Bob Thornton being a co-writer. I think I read that the main character was based on his mother, who claims to be a psychic and raised three boys alone in the South.

Marcy said...

The Gift is a pretty entertaining movie. There are scenes that I thought were genuinely suspenseful. I actually think Keanu Reeves is quite good in it, a thought that usually never crosses my mind.

Jason Bellamy said...

I haven't read The Tipping Point, but I "read" Outliers and Blink and loved both of them. By "read" I mean that I listened to them as audiobooks (with Gladwell reading) while marathon training. What I love about those two books, at least, is that each chapter is somewhat self-contained. They all apply to the book's larger theme, but you can easily put the book down for a long stretch and pick it up again and not have any problems. I also love the number of tangential things I learn about beyond the central themes of the book, whether it's rice farming in Outliers or the New Coke fiasco in Blink.

Having not read The Tipping Point, I can't tell you if Gladwell just isn't for you or if the other books are better. But I will endorse the two I've read and the audiobook format. Don't give up on Gladwell too soon, I say.

Fletch said...

Nick - you'll be glad to hear that I've got Angel-A sitting on the DVR waiting to be watched. The bad news is that things can sit there for a year or more before being watched.

Buffett - LOL at it being "the best movie you've ever seen." I'd imagine a drinking game like could make just about any movie great. But seriously, that sounds like fun.

Rachel - interesting Billy Bob tidbit. The man never stops surprising.

Marcy - I wouldn't say that that thought never crosses my mind (I think people bag on Keanu way too much in general), but I get your point. He's legitimately creepy in this one, and his Southern accent tops the one he sported in The Devil's Advocate by far.

Jason - sounds like Gladwell's books all follow a similar structure. I might pick up Blink one of these days as that was the most recommended one.

It's not that he isn't for me, I think I was just a bit underwhelmed. I was under the impression that he was some kind of smaahht guy, a brilliant writer. What I found is that, while the book can give you some nuggets to chew on, he's really just an average writer and much of the points seemed largely obvious. The Tipping Point being about minutiae, I'd say that he did a good job of selling the details, but that might be pretty obvious, too.