Summer's officially begun. I know this by who's down from school. Obviously, my roommate and I are down, my editor/girl Friday is down, and the people who never left the city are here. But when Caleb comes down from New York, it is official: the Four Month Movie Mega-Marathon has begun!
We celebrated earlier, seeing two movies before he came down, saving what had to be the best for last. Let's see how we did...
Then She Found Me
Helen Hunt's debut as a director is not completely terrible. There are more than a few good moments here and there, though she seems to have a problem with continuity. Many times, you can tell the scenes were spliced together from several different takes. There is one scene near the ending featuring Bette Midler in her dressing-room, for example, that feels as though it was filmed between lunch and the scheduled shooting. Awkward and rushed, not all the shots seem to go together: one minute her pants are around her waist, next she's just putting them on, then she's clenching them around her ankles. Work on it, Helen.
What it does boast is a fine cast. Bette Midler, it is no surprise, is just fine as the talkative birth mother of Helen Hunt's April. Hunt herself turns in a remarkably moving performance, leaps and bounds superior to her Oscar-winning one. Colin Firth outshines everyone else, putting in what might be the best work I've seen from him thus far (though, admittedly, I've yet to see Pride & Prejudice). While everyone else, even the scribe herself, seems to be having trouble making sense of Hunt's dialogue, Firth makes every word, every syntactical element, believable. It is the most sympathetic role in the film, I think, and most of that is the way Firth plays it. Good show.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Look, I grew up with these books. My mother read them to us, then we read them ourselves. We watched the BBC movies. We listened to the radio series. They're fun and imaginative and suspenseful and amazing. Why is it so hard for Andrew Adamson to make a great film out of these books?
It's better than the first one, which wasn't bad but startlingly mediocre. The problem is, one has to wait almost an hour for it to happen. The lead children appear to have gotten a little bit worse--except for Skander Keynes as Edmund, the only one with a sensible character that's believably played. Of the kids, that is. Ben Barnes' Prince Caspian is quite something, dashing and gallant and sexy. Both my roommate and I were reminded of a young Johnny Depp, and I hope his career is just as successful.
Still, I wish someone would tell Adamson that slow-mo does not equal suspense. I'm so tired of battle scenes where we get close-ups of Peter's face screaming, "NAAAAAARRRRRRRNNNNNNNIIIIIIIAAAAAAA!!!!!" while swinging a sword for five minutes. Not only is it terribly cheesy, but it takes one out of the moment. And I do wish they'd do something with Georgie Henley's Lucy. I don't know what, exactly, but whatever thrill there is just dies when she's around. See, this is why I didn't like child actors for years.
But Caleb eventually arrived, and insisted that we see Redbelt, the new David Mamet film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. There are twists and turns throughout that are great fun to witness without any prior knowledge, so let's just say it's about assholes and Jujutsu.
As a student of both film and theatre, I'm ashamed to admit that my only experience with Mamet thus far is the so-so The Edge, with Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, and a bear. I was ready to hear odd dialogue delivered awkwardly. The usually dependable Ricky Jay wrestles with his script in his first scene, yet his performance thereafter is eloquent, slimy, believable, and played completely differently. Most of the cast has no problem whatever the task at hand, except for Alice Braga. While impossibly beautiful, she is just not credible as the "Brazilian princess" married to Ejiofor's Mike Terry. Her line readings are just that--readings, emotionless and rushed.
And that's a pity, because the rest of the flick just shines. Rodrigo Santoro, playing Braga's brother Bruce, is suave and dastardly. You hate him, but at the same time, there's a certain charm. Tim Allen, in the small role as Hollywood actor Chet Frank, is just fine, and makes a great case for him to do more drama. Please? Joe Mantegna, as Chet's agent, is just as good. Emily Mortimer, as an attorney who befriends Mike Terry, is superb. I've followed her for a while, through The Kid and Scream 3 and Lars and the Real Girl. I love her. She always does a fantastic job, and I love her for it.
Ejiofor is absolutely solid in the lead. Mike is someone you want to lunch with, train with, meditate with, hug it out with. It's a subtle, controlled performance, never going into melodrama, never emotionless, never dull. Just watching him react to everything around him is a pleasure, a reward for watching him all these years. It's his best performance, period. The end: perfect. Just the whole way he plays it, the way Mamet just knows exactly where to stop. It's perfect.
On the whole, a pretty good time. A so-so "epic", an all right chick flick, and a superb sports movie. The Summer Movie Season is in gear. Lord help us all.
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