T&C at the Movies

Between squinting at obscure coins and squinting at sunlight streaming into the bedroom at the crack of noon, I’ve had a chance to watch some films that have been piling up on the AppleTV.

THE KINGDOM (2007)

garner_kingdomJennifer Garner demonstrates her preferred tactical shooting stance, known as “spray and pray”.

The film’s title sequence, a short but concise history of US-Saudi relations, gave me the impression that this movie might actually be entertaining.  Ditto for the taut opening sequence which clearly strives to evoke the Khobar Towers bombing.  Unfortunately at the 12 minute mark, it becomes merely an extended and boring rehash of CSI, albeit one without the drinking game appeal of watching Horatio Caine don or doff his sunglasses a half-dozen times while uttering a pithy one-liner.  Then throw in the usual paternalist Hollywood BS about foreign professionals not being able to do anything right unless rebellious, quirky Americans show them how, first.  Finally, there is a lame-assed ending which features the stupidest moral equivalency grief counselling ever given to a colleague of the deceased.

Ashraf Barhom does a great job as a Saudi police colonel assigned to babysit the unwanted FBI investigators.  Everyone else associated with this film should be ashamed of themselves.  Jennifer Garner’s agent should never permit her to be captured on celluloid firing any kind of firearm, ever.  Jamie Foxx was surprisingly wooden and should not be placed in scenes which require believeable interaction with pretend offspring.  The ever-annoying Jeremy Piven should be beaten with a shovel for his many crimes against acting.

T&C Rating: 2 greasy, stale falafels out of 5.

STEEP (2007)

steep_skiingBig mountain skier takes the express lane back to the chalet.

As a skier, I understand the allure of ripping down a fresh hill and tackling runs with pristine snow.  On the other hand, I have a fairly robust sense of self-preservation that keeps me away from perilous inclines greater than 55 degrees.  That said, though, I cannot fault the foolhardy alpine daredevils on display in Mark Obenhaus’ documentary.  Skiing big mountains, where there are no designated runs, no safety patrol, and no margin for error, takes a special breed of human being.  It also takes no small degree of skill to read a mountain’s mood and terrain correctly so that you don’t end up dead.  Steep is an informative and entertaining look at the personalities involved in the genesis and development of big mountain skiing.

Spectacular scenery and skiing, tinged with the bittersweet knowledge that some of the folks that appear in this film have been claimed by the mountains they loved.

T&C Rating: 4 short-lived thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies out of 5.

SPEED RACER (2008)

ricci_speed_racerChristina Ricci following in the footsteps of the first pink helicopter pioneer, Dini Petty.

I had extremely low expectations for this one, since a) the critics savaged it; b) I have seen next to nothing of the original Speed Racer cartoon; and c) the Wachowski brothers directed it, and their Matrix sequels sucked and blew at the same time.  Fortunately, Speed Racer was fairly entertaining.  The Wachowskis not only reproduced the extremely bright palette and frequent jump cuts of anime in their live-action version, but they seemed to grasp the spirit of it, too.  Old ’70s Japanese anime has lots of odd moments, juxtaposing soap opera-level drama with comic relief in the next scene.  Speed Racer has much of the same goofy charm.

The cast did a superb job, too.  In a typical live-action kids movie, the actors phone in largely forgettable performances, as they know Oscars aren’t riding on the outcome.  See any one of the Spy Kids or Santa Clause series for numerous shameful examples.  In Speed Racer, Emile Hirsch (as the title character) and the rest of the cast play this stuff like it matters.  For kids fare, that’s just plain shocking.  Especially when serious stuff like grieving the loss of a family member is handled in a respectful way.  It’s a rare kids’ movie that tries to reach out to the parents, too.

I’m not sure why the critics hated it so badly, but I strongly suspect they have either 1) never watched any anime in their lives or 2) used selective memory to forget just how truly vomit-inducingly awful the average kids’ movie is.  I would rather watch Speed Racer than anything featuring Care Bears, Pokémon, Barbie, Bratz, the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, or Disney’s neverending High School Musical franchise.

T&C Rating: 3.75 tire-squealing, door-crunching Hot Wheels car crashes out of 5.

HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY (2008)

harold_kumar_2

Full disclosure: I have never smoked weed ever, and I never will.  Nevertheless, I can relate to the first H&K goofball stoner outing.  I have accompanied pals on spontaneous all-night road trips to remote townships on the flimsiest excuses.  Adventures were had, narrow escapes were made.  I am reasonably sure everybody, at some point in their life, does something similar, with or without weed.  This common experience is, I am sure, a large part of the first film’s enduring popularity.

But it takes a special sort of moron to pursue a virtual stranger to another continent, and while enroute, to light up a doob in the bathroom of the airplane that is taking you there.   This would be classified as clinically moronic even before Bin Laden decided that a few thousand random office workers had to pay for America’s sins.

I like flying, and I hate travel delays.  Getting arrested, diverted from your destination, and chucked into a detention centre in another sovereign country is one fucking huge travel delay.  So whatever odd charm this flick might have had is instantly lost on me.  Yeah there’s a lot of gross-out humour and, naturally, Kumar’s ongoing obsession with getting high, which gets the pair into a boatload of trouble.  Truthfully, I don’t understand why Harold hasn’t killed Kumar yet.  If I had a pal who kept getting me arrested because he lacked the common sense God gave cabbages, he would get the beating of a lifetime.  Several, in fact.  I’m assuming this hasn’t happened because Harold has not yet seen Cool Hand Luke.  Get your mind right, son.

T&C Rating: 1 THC-addled burnout out of 5.

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2 Responses
  1. Plooka says:

    Steep – looks like a cool movie for us adrenaline junkies!

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Steep was fun. I wish they had spent a little more time on the death-defying skiing and a little less time on talking-head interviews, but I suppose getting inside the skiers’ headspace is an important part of the journey.