Saturday, March 27, 2010

Greenberg: A film about (doing) nothing

Here's what we know about Roger Greenberg.
+ He's just been released from a mental hospital.
+ He functions — sort of — on a cocktail of pills.
+ He lives in New York, but is house-sitting in Southern California.
+ His college rock band was about to sign a record deal when he backed out.
+ He doesn't know the name of his best friend's son.
+ At the moment, he's busy doing nothing except writing letters of complaint to Starbucks and American Airlines, a pet taxi and Mayor Bloomberg.
And in this eponymous movie, he's played by Ben Stiller, who's superb as a 40-year-old narcissistic, paranoid, anxiety-riven, socially inept Peter Pan.
Greenberg, the man and the movie, are both sad and funny. Movie-goers will laugh, not at him or with him — he's not laughing — but because we see something of ourselves in this lost soul, and because we know that at least some of his nuttiness is a sane reaction to an insane world.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Bounty Hunter: Bad? Or the worst?

Buzz has it that "The Bounty Hunter" is the worst movie to ever stain the big screen. Let's take a look.
You have Jennifer Aniston as a tenacious New York City newspaper reporter dashing through Gotham in spiky stilettos and a second skin mini. You have her ex-husband, Gerard Butler, a former cop turned bounty hunter, who's out to get her because she was a no show in court. That's not so bad. Is it?
The trouble is that Aniston, despite her attire, plays her role straight, as if she's a hardboiled newswoman out to expose curruption, evil and vice. Meanwhile, on the other side of the screen, Butler is romping around like he's in a brainless, screwball rom-com. Not good. Still BH has five things going for it.

1. It is not set in Las Vegas.
2. Matthew Macconaughy is nowhere in sight.
3. No one says, "You had me at hello."
4. It is not in 3D.
5. While the flick may be bloody awful, there's no blood — squirting, spouting, spritzing, oozing or gushing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Runaways: Grrrrl Powr

It's 1975 and girls don't play electric guitar. Say what?
Well, Joan Jett isn't your ordinary Marsha, Jan or Cindy. And neither is Cherie Currie. They're brought together by wacko genius music promoter Kim Fowley. He tells them their music is not about women's lib. Women's libidos is more like it. The rest is rock 'n' roll history.
"The Runaways" is a typical rock music biopic — drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll — still the story of the girl group that crashed through barriers is so compelling that movie-goers won't give a fig. Stars, Kristen Stewart (Joan) and Dakota Fanning (Cherie), are joined by real rock 'n' roll royalty. Riley Keough, Elvis' real life granddaughter plays the part of Cherie's tamer twin sister.
How cool is that!

How cool is this!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When You're Strange: Doors Encore

This documentary on the legendary rock group sure lit the Movie Slut's fire. It's been nearly two decades since Oliver Stone did his take on Jim Morrison and The Doors and she forgot how insanely sexy and talented he was. Morrison. Not Stone.
Writer/Director Tom DiCillo wove his crazy musical quilt without the help of talking heads (Usually, windbags anyway), or a preconceived agenda, a la Stone's. He worked with footage of the guys, some never seen before, and a narration by Johnny Depp. In this way, viewers draw their own conclusions about the boozing, drugging poet/musician.
The Movie Slut now considers Door's music a soundtrack for their times. Morrison died in 1971. His music played as a backdrop to the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, the Kent State Massacre. He was a musician for those tumultuous times. And still sounds pretty amazing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Green Zone: Lest we forget

Iraq. 2003. A U.S. soldier searches for W.M.D. and comes up empty. Again and again.
"What the f--- is going on?" he wonders. "Could it be faulty intelligence?"
Huh-lo, Captain Obvious, we've been all over this and then some.
The Movie Slut was hoping Green Zone would tell her something she didn't know. Like why did we REALLY invade Iraq? And what was with that reporter who wrote exactly what the Bushies spoon fed her? Was she a neo-con posing as an impartial journalist? Or was she an incompetent, who forgot Journalism rule No. 1, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out?"
In the movie the questionable journalist is a thin blond working for The Wall Street Journal, instead of a slim brunette who pens for The New York Times. But we're still no closer to understanding her motives.
So what we have here is a mega-action war flick starring Matt Damon as a soldier of bad fortune, the last honest man standing. And hey, nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: Less than the sum of its parts

Johnny Depp had the Movie Slut at "Edward Scissorhands." Now, he brings that same wacko sensibility to "Alice in Wonderland," as the Mad Hatter. Who else?
He's joined in the lunatic fun by Helena Bonham Carter as the demented Red Queen, who delivers the line "Off with her head," as if she were in an off-off-off-off Broadway production of "Les Mis." Anne Hathaway rounds off the tipsy triumvirate as the white queen, skating through the role like a drop-out Olympic ice dancer.
The trio play off Alice's strait gal, she of the falling-down-the-rabbit-hole dream. It's easy to forget how terrific Mia Wasikowska is in the role. Please, try to remember.
Her Alice is a liberated 19th-century chick, who flees from the sniveling Lord Somethingorother when he threatens to entrap her in a loveless marriage and pointless existence.
So far so great. Unfortunately this flick, which is based on
Lewis Carroll's, "Wonderland" book, as well as "Through the Looking Glass," is just too noir for its own good. The landscape between the two queens' castles is positively post-apocalyptic, and the colors are murky and muddy. Or was it the Movie Slut's 3D glasses? Don't get her started on that gimmick.

The Ghost Writer: A haunting tale

Are you tired of oozing blood and oceans of gore?
Have you seen one too many decapitated heads?
Do you long to hear a sentence without the F-word?
If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, "The Ghost Writer" is for you. It's a smart political/espionage thriller that relies on an intelligent script, nuanced acting and moody settings. Not a gimmick in sight.
Pierce Brosnan is Adam Lang, a former British prime minister with Tony Blairesque parallels. But who is he really? The dim charmer he appears to be? Or an extreme ideologue hiding behind that image. And what's up with his wife, Ruth? (Olivia Williams) Is she the one pulling the strings?
Ewan McGregor, the ghost writer whose name we never learn, is the only character in this confounding flick who can be trusted. He signs on to write Lang's memoirs when the former ghost washes up on a beach in Massachusetts.
Secrets swarms through this movie like invisible gnats that get under your skin and leave you squirming. But then it does come to us from the director of "Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist."
Roman Polanski, whose life is stuffed with more tragedy and drama than anything on the big screen, has done it again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Crazies: Gore galore

Rural Ogden Marsh, Iowa is the epicenter of an outbreak of homicidal zombie lunatics. And well it should be, because it also happens to be the capital of second amendment rights zealots. That is to say, everyone has at least one pistol, a rifle and assorted other firearms.
If only the Supreme Court were forced to watch this flick as they ponder the gun laws in this country. (Better yet we could ship them out to Ogden Marsh.) But that's another story.
The story movie mavens will see on the screen, if they chose to watch this bloodbath, isn't much of a narrative. In fact, after 101 minutes it's doubtful they'll know what's really going on. Is it biological warfare chemicals in the water or something even more nefarious?
Oh, who cares. Certainly not the horror junkies who'll fill the seats. The Movie Slut was just a bit pissed because, except for an inspired car wash scene, this movie should have been much more fun. Then she checked out the Internet.
See for yourself.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Last Station: A tearful, fearful farewell

In 1910, during the final days of Leo Tolstoy's life, his aristocratic wife and his extremist acolyte battled it out for the rights to his legacy.
Who knew?
Certainly not the Movie Slut who thought it was Dostoevsky who wrote "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina." How much she had to learn. And how much she hoped to learn from this movie.
Instead, she got a lot of wailing and flailing and crashing dishes as the two people closest to the Russian icon fought for his mind and soul, love and money.
That's not to say the flick is a waste of your time, though you could be reading "War and Peace." The excellent cast keeps you glued to the screen, especially Christopher Plummer as the writer/philosopher. Helen Mirren, is the wife, Paul Giamatti, is the obsessed follower, and James McAvoy, is the young secretary through whose eyes the events unfold. Like him, dear movie-goer, your eyes will be damp when you leave the theater. Now, if that's not the mark of an excellent move, what is?

The Wolfman: Howling good fun

A misty, murky forest + a creepy creaky manor house + a gruesome mysterious death = the latest wolfman flick.

Benicio Del Toro is superb as the earnest young man who returns home to investigate the pukingly gory death of his beloved brother. Emily Blunt is the fetching fiancee left behind. And the on screen man-to-beast transformations are riveting even in the post-Avatar age of uber-special effects.

The one problem with this horror flick is that it's just not horror-filled enough.

The Movie Slut places the blame squarely on the ridiculous shoulders of Anthony Hopkins, lord of the manor and father of the mauled man. Hopkins insists on reprising his role as the homicidal, cannibalistic psycho in
"Silence of the Lambs". He's busy kitsching it up while the rest of the cast plays it straight.
Get with the program Sir Anthony.