July 11, 2004

Spider-Man 2
Good, solid superhero movie. Excellent sequel. Alfred Molina is terrific and Doc Ock is, in general, very entertaining without being an ineffectual villain: scary when it counts, human when he needs to be, and witty without being a cartoon. In the end, though, I think I liked X2 better, for its wider range of moods and its variety of visuals. Spidey’s appearance is fine, but not great, and he repeats some of the same tricks too many times in the film’s small number of action sequences, inventive though they are.

Quite a Mametian movie, in all the good ways and all the bad ways. I often like it when Mamet writes. I usually don’t like it when he directs. Man, does he get some wooden performances out of guys (Clark Gregg, for example, who I’ve seen do excellent work but succumbs to the strict deliveries Mamet is rumored to demand). Here is one of the stock structures for Mametian dialogue:

CHARACTER: Important line of dialogue. Incidental line of dialogue. Same important line of dialogue.

For example:

CHARACTER: The bomb’s going to blow. Can you see all right? The bomb’s going to blow.

As for Spartan, it’s good. You’ll enjoy its array of clever, low-scale secret agents operations, it’s subtlety, and it’s genuine surprises. It’s got something of a pat ending, but is well-played and not such a let-down, really. If you like Mamet, this is a good one. If you don’t know who Mamet is, you’ll find this to be a strangely sedate but nonetheless intriguing thriller.

Here’s some great Mamet dialogue, though, for the record: The smell of American tobacco carries for miles in the desert. That’s why you should never go to the desert.

Monsoon Wedding
Lovely movie with decidedly odd choices for the romantic comedy genre. But, of course, the rom-com label gets put on a movie like this for the sake of video stores everywhere. In practice, its an emotional picture that’s romantic, funny, and sad. Recommended.

Four Weddings and a Funeral
Hollywood, pay attention: More John Hannah, no more Andie McDowell. Simon Callow, Hugh Grant, and Kristen Scott-Thomas must all be kept dutifully employed. This one–which was recommended to me a great deal when it came out–is fine, but not as good as About A Boy or even Notting Hill, in my opinion (except for the aforementioned John Hannah, who we love). Still, this movie set a happy trend that’s becoming an acceptable sub-category of its own: the Hugh Grant commitment comedy.

Human Nature
The worst of Charlie Kaufman’s movies is either Adaptation or Human Nature, and they’re both pretty good, but with the following flaw: It eventually becomes impossible to like any of these characters. We ordered this one right after seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I think is Kaufman’s best yet. Human Nature has a great cast, but the central concepts and oddities are neither intriguing nor endearing enough to overcome the general negativity. I’m glad I saw it, but waited for it to end. Still, you could do worse than to watch it. If nothing else, I imagine Peter Jackson (the weirdo) hired Miranda Otto out of lust after seeing her slut it up in this movie.

But there’s this: “Ladies and gentleman, apes do not assassinate their presidents.”

Lovely, charming, and generally inconsequential movie. Just about everything is done well here, from the truly documentary-style first act (or so) with one of those Ken Burns voices you’ll recognize right off, to the picture-book scenery and feel-good performances from pretty much everybody involved. The horse races are exciting and the shop-talk is kind of fascinating, but in its heart, this isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. Still, the next time you’re thinking of popping in one of your stand-by pick-me-up flicks, think about checking out Seabiscuit. You’ll be entertaining, you’ll feel good, and maybe you’ll learn something.

Noise: Raiders of the Lost Ark


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