IN THE LOOP
Why so hilarious? At first, I felt like I was too dumb to understand the proceedings, but I settled into the groove of things and holy shit was I rewarded. I'm glad I finally caught up with it. Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander and Mimi Kennedy are hilariousest, but the rest of the cast is equally incredible. It is only fitting that I see this before the SAG announces its nominations in the morning, because it is so richly deserving of Best Ensemble. The writing is quick, witty and sharp as a tack. "Fuckety-bye-bye" is probably one of the best sign-offs I've heard.
The film is all about language, and how one slip of the tongue can change the course of, say, foreign policy. Or a war. Hollander is the Minister of International Development who slips up, and it's nice to see him playing a good guy for once. Capaldi is the foul-mouthed communications director, in one of the best roles to grace the screen this year. Across the Atlantic, Kennedy is an Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy trying to use Hollander's words for the anti-war side, while David Rasche plays a politico who uses a live grenade as a paperweight. The whole thing is smart, ludicrous...and absurdly realistic.
Final verdict: Smart, hilarious, awesome.
HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE
I like Miley Cyrus, so I guess I'm already biased by stating here, in print, that she's a good actress. Taking her television alter ego to the big screen, Cyrus (and the creative team) dial it down. No longer do we get the vaudevillian mannerisms of Miley and Jackson, nor are we forced to sit through the grating presence of Moises Arias. Instead, Robbie Ray Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus) forces his daughter to stop being Hannah Montana for a time and return to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee. There, she runs afoul of a British tabloid reporter, falls in love, and saves the meadows from becoming a Strip Mall.
The movie is pretty well-done. Peter Chelsom helms; the man previously directed one of my favorite rom-coms, Serendipity. Suffice to say, despite the limited abilities of Lucas Till (he looks great, but...meh), the love story really works. Cyrus certainly works it, and when the inevitable Big Fight happens, it seems to awaken this untapped talent within. Her voice cracks ever so slightly, her eyes lose their sparkle: this girl can act. And it's all preceded by a well-executed yet cliched bit of "zaniness".
It's interesting, actually, that the weakest aspect of the film is the comedy. I mean, it's based on a sitcom. Yet it's the quiet moments that triumph, especially in scenes with Grandma Ruby, ably played by Margo Martindale, and Lorelai (Melora Hardin, finally playing a warm person instead of Ms. Business Suit). It gets weaker by the end, when they replace my charming yet familiar film with cheese. Utter cheese. "Life's a climb, but the view is great." Eh, I guess.
And, of course, the songs. "The Climb" is fine, a nice power ballad. "Butterfly Fly Away" is a diabetes-ridden father-daughter tune, but it's hard to not get a little choked up at it. For better or worse, the "Hoedown Throwdown" is a catchy little fucker. But the real stand-out is "Back to Tennessee", written and performed by Billy Ray Cyrus. It's a beautiful, heartfelt song about getting back to your roots, and the music is perfect.
Final verdict: Cliched yet charming. Check your cynicism at the door.