Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 9 and April 16

Kick-Ass - 3 1/2 stars

I loved it. It does have this wierd tonal shift half way through. For a while, it is simply funny. A little dark, but mostly funny. Then, people start getting killed, and the movie gets serious. And dark. Very dark.

The finale was awesome. Exactly what you would hope for from this kind of movie. Some people are going to have trouble with Hit Girl, though. If the idea of a 12-year-old girl killing people, saying the worst curse words, and getting the crap kicked out of her makes you queasy, maybe this isn't your movie.

Death at a Funeral - 3 stars

I can't remember the last time a movie was remade within 3 years, when both movies are in the same language. The British version was directed by Frank Oz and starred a bunch of British actors (plus Alan Tudyk and Peter Dinklage). This version stars Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, James Marsden, and Peter Dinklage.

I liked the British version, but I don't remember it specifically enough to compare these two. But this one was really funny. The rhythm isn't quite as good as I remember the other version to be. Farce is really difficult to pull off, and at times that's what this is. But the jokes keep coming and I laughed enough to recommend it.

The best laughs come from not Martin or Rock, but James Marsden. Over the last several years he has been the best thing about almost every movie he is in. Remember when he was the most boring part of X-Men?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 3 1/2 stars

A great thriller from Sweden. A reporter who is about to serve a prison sentence is asked to solve a 40-year-old murder (apparently in Sweden, you get sentenced to prison, but you don't have to report to prison for 6 months). He is aided by a girl with tattoos, piercings, and a very dark past. She is a little psycho.

The movie is 2 and a half hours, and it does take a while to get going. But before the plot kicks in, we get a little sub plot dealing with the girl and her parole officer (called a guardian in the movie). What happens with them is very creepy and disturbing, but it establishes how smart she is and how well she can take care of herself.

The Eclipse - 3 stars

Ciaran Hinds is one of my favorite actors, and I'm glad to see him in a starring role playing a sympathetic character. Set in Ireland, Hinds plays widower who is trying to raise his two kids. He volunteers at a literary festival to play chauffeur to visiting authors, and he strikes up a friendship with a lady author from London. The two kind of start an awkward romance, but because he is still grieving about his wife, he takes things slowly with her.

Oh, did I mention that this is also a ghost story? Every now and then, he sees a ghost. This isn't the typical ghost story. The ghost isn't trying to get him to solve a murder. It isn't coming to hurt him, although it does scare the crap out of him (and the audience) a few times. The funny thing is this movie puts you off your guard. You don't expect to see the ghosts, so when something scary does happen, it makes you jump and scream because it is so unexpected. At least, it did that for me.

The Joneses - 3 stars

Very interesting idea. A family moves into a rich neighborhood. Right away they start making friends with everyone, showing off their latest toys. Everybody is jealous, and wants to keep up with these Joneses. But they are not a real family. They are stealth marketers. Their job is to set up networks and get all these people to buy certain products.

David Duchovney and Demi Moore play the pretend couple. Moore is very career oriented, and claims she has no problem with this lifestyle. But Duchovney starts feeling conflicted, and starts developing feelings for his fake wife.

The movie makes some nice comments about our consumer culture, and shows how always trying to get the latest and greatest toy can ruin your life, if you are living above your means.

Date Night - 3 stars

Very predictable. We have seen this type of movie many times before. What makes it better than it should be is Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. They improved a lot of lines that elevate the material. It reminded me of Ghost Town, another by-the-numbers movie that was made a lot better by having a really funny leading actor.

The Runaways - 3 stars

I liked the first half. Michael Shannon steals the movie as Kim Fowley, the guy who put the band together and served as its manager. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are pretty good as Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. In the first half, the band gets together and they have their successes.

One problem with the movie is that it focuses on Cherie Currie. I was more interested in Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I didn't care about Currie's sister or father or their home life. The movie feels like it is missing a good 20 minutes from the end. One of the rare cases where I say the movie was too short, but when it ended, I was like "that's it?"

Vincere - 2 stars

Really the only reason to see this is if you are a student of Italian history circa World War II. I knew a bit about Mussolini, but I had never heard of his alleged first wife who bore him a child. He tried to keep her hidden, because he was married to another, and didn't want the scandal. I guess being allied with Hitler was ok, scandal wise, but having another wife was not ok. Well, he did need The Vatican on his side in the beginning.

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