I didn't like The Book of Eli trailer much; did I need another post-apocalyptic tale set in a familiar looking world already well trodden by Sergio Martino's 2019: After the Fall of New York, I Am Legend, The Road Warrior, The Road, A Boy and His Dog (which the film references directly), and Ravagers (to name a few)?
It's unfair to judge a film by its trailer, right, even though we make decisions based on trailers all the time? It is unfair to filmmakers, but it's not always unfair to ourselves. With so much cinema out there, one has to be somewhat choosy sometimes. Despite that reasoning, I still chose to see this film.
I liked the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society very much, didn't care for Dead Presidents, was bored with From Hell, and really enjoyed their American Pimp doco; that's one you have to see.
The sincere The Book of Eli, with the ultra-sincere Denzel Washington, started to wash over me about half an hour in. It's been compared to The Road Warrior by critics who either didn't see The Road Warrior or didn't appreciate its many virtues. One major difference between George Miller's masterpiece and this is energy levels. The Road Warrior had energy to burn; Eli sits on its energy supply and never gets up.
It's not a terrible film and it's not without craft, but the desaturated look and cliched bursts of slow motion bury its assets. The action scenes are so self-consciously staged and stale, there's no sense of danger or peril. When a house in the desert is assaulted by gunfire, the camera creeps leisurely towards a spitting Gatling Gun and stops right in front of the exploding barrels, reminding us that this isn't real; if it was, the camera would be destroyed. The lack of freshness is evident in a lengthy fight scene that is lifted directly from Old Boy (I'm sure you know which scene); Washington takes on a gang of desert thugs in a tunnel, triggering fountains of CG blood. Owning up to some of its references, a character whistles Morricone (Once Upon A Time in the West), and a poster of A Boy and his Dog inexplicably hangs on the wall of a decrepit house.
On paper, this probably looked like a post-apocalyptic flick with an edge, that edge being The Book (The Bible) that Eli (Washington) is carrying and how the prospect of it falling into the wrong hands will spell doom for mankind. Well, there's not much Mankind left to doom here, and Eli just gets annoying after a while; he's such a smug cunt. Gary Oldman, playing a slightly toned down version of his 'Stansfield' character in Leon, is merely passable as the man who wants the book that Eli holds. There is an attempt to wedge a female (Mila Kunis) into the proceedings, but it is a contrived, desperate attempt, and it hurts the movie.
A couple of revelations pop up at the end, and one of them is rather ridiculous. The other is acceptable.
Ultimately, Washington's Eli is too much of a Nobody to command our attention. When Eastwood played Nobodies and Men With No Names, he always carried a dry sense of humor and unholstered it when necessary. Washinton's Eli carries no such weapon. He wears oh-so-meaningful sincerity around his neck, and it's dull.
This Jason Reitman film has been the mainstream cause celebre this year, and last night it won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, ousting The Hurt Locker, which was my pick.
Up in the Air is a perfectly pleasant film with a perfectly predictable lead performance by George Clooney. I enjoyed the experience of watching it without enjoying anything beyond that. That's why I came away from it feeling nonplussed. I did, however, respect the way the writers chose to wrap things up. Although I saw a particular revelation coming, the concluding pieces of Clooney's character's journey felt natural.
Life is compromise. In that spirit, I accompanied my romantic other to this awful pile of shit. Meryl Streep plays a divorcee who was once married to a serial killer/rapist (Alec Baldwin). Baldwin is just out of jail for his life of crime, and decides to get back with Streep in order to get intimate and incestuous with his teenage daughter. Unfortunately for him, Streep is dating Steve Martin, a reformed drug trafficker who's secretly screwing the daughter (who has a killer heroin habit). Can't say I wasn't pleasantly surprised and invigorated by this plot. From a studio?
I must confess that only the first sentence in the above paragraph is true. The rest is where the movie could have headed, but it chose the boring route instead. In truth, the film is about a divorcee (Streep) who has an affair with her cheating (is there any other?) ex-husband (Baldwin). At the same time, Steve Martin (a boring architect with a plastic face) is trying to get into her pants. In fact, everybody is trying to get into Streep's pants in this flick. I'm not sure guys in the audience were quite as keen. We're supposed to find it entertaining that Streep see-saws between Martin and Baldwin and fucks Baldwin a lot while in the process of deciding. After a while, it became excruciating watching her.
The film runs way too long and populates its frames with annoying teenagers and spoilt twentysomethings so boring, I couldn't figure out why Streep didn't post-abort the lot of them.
Where are the more realistic movies where guys leave their wives because their wives are boring?
Recommended if you're undecided.
Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, which won a major prize at Cannes in 2009, is an intelligent, disturbing, slow paced drama about the genesis of evil (pre-World War I). Its small town setting is a microcosm for Germany, and each character represents a larger social and political group.
To avoid spoilers, the less I say about it the better. It is the first from Haneke since his Funny Games remake and it's it's totally involving, beautifully acted, and shot in stunning black and white.
Let it bleed all over you.