Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weekend viewing catch-up: Splice, Rain, Greek and more

After a few moribund weeks, my moviegoing habits roared back to life last weekend, even if the theatrical movies themselves didn't quite roar - well,except for one - at the very beginning.

On the big screen

Get him to the Greek: The latest product of the Judd Apatow machine turns out to be one of the weaker efforts. It's decent enough, with a few inspired routines. Russell Brand's gleeful and brave tastelessness makes him fun to watch, and Rose Byrne matches him so well as his female counterpoint rock star, I wished the movie had used her more. Unfortunately, the script is missing the heart that made Forgetting Sarah Marshall by the same director so winning. Jonah Hill is miscast as the straight man, and Elizabeth Moss, playing Hill's girl, is used even less well than Byrne . I laughed enough to recommend it slimly, but not enough to see it again. GRADE: B-

Singin' in the Rain: Caught this at Columbus' classic film series. How classic is this film? "Moses Supposes" got applause at my screening. "Moses Supposes!" To say nothing of the ageless "Make 'Em Laugh" or the title number. GRADE: A+

Splice: In a way, I can see why the mass audience rejected this eerie tale of science gone awry. The story of two maverick scientists who create sort of a female Frankenstein bites off more than it can chew thematically, making for some fuzzy character motivations. The movie also suffers from failure of tone in its last act, which resorts to conventional horror shocks. That's disappointing because most of the way, the film is quite effective, owing a great debt to the work of David Cronenberg, who knows a thing or two about gooey Canadian horror. Leads Adrien Brody and Sarah Polly work very well together. For those who like their sci-fi/horror offbeat, this one is worth a look, even if it's not as good as it could be. GRADE: B

On the small screen

New Moon: It's not quite so bad as many critics said it was. The basic story of vampires meeting werewolves work, even if it is old hat, and the performances are fine, but it's undone by Chris Weitz's overly showy direction, and by laughably lame dialogue that makes Avatar seem like the work of Billy Wilder. Note that I dispensed with that "Twilight saga" BS. GRADE: C

Make Way for Tomorrow: Criterion recently rescued this Leo McCarey picture from obscurity, and bless them for that. It's a wonderfully charming and heartbreaking tale about an elderly couple that's forced to separate and live with their children, who don't put much stock in their elders. If this movie had pointed things to say about the marginalizing of senior citizens in the 1930s, just imagine what it would say about the modern era. When McCarey won an Oscar for the much better known The Awful Truth, made the same year. he said, "Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture." I don't know about that, but I do know this is a gem worth discovering. GRADE: A

Picture This: Netlfix's Instant feed unearths another gem, this one a short but excellent documentary on the making of Peter Bogdanovich's classic The Last Picture Show. The film usurped the lives not only of the people who lived in Archer City, Texas, but of the people who made it. When director George Hickenlooper turns his cameras on the making of the sequel Texasville 20 years later, he finds some of the old wounds still remain. Hickenlooper co-directed Hearts of Darkness, the excellent look at the chaotic making of Apocalypse Now. Clearly, he has a knack for movies about movies. GRADE: A

Note: Toy Story 3 comes out this weekend. I am unsure when I will get to see it, but I promise you I will review it as soon as I can.

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