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Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, on the surface, is prime property for Terry Gilliam. And he nails it. Visually, it's quite interesting.
If only he'd understood a single Goddamn word of what the book stood for.
At best, it's a naive adaptation, more intent on showing off neat visual tricks than making a point. At worst, it's a lousy mess with some good performances that elevate it above a complete disaster; a very weak movie worth watching. One that substitutes substance with all the fun of watching people do drugs (which, if you've ever seen it, isn't much fun). It's nice if things look good, it's not nice if they're meaningless.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Someone give Batman some Halls
It's a good thing Batman is, for the most part, a supporting character in The Dark Knight. His irritatingly raspy voice and weak characterization (from an otherwise solid actor) would have weighted a lot more of the movie down had Nolan not been mor...(read more) e interested in other (stronger) characters like The Joker and Harvey Dent. Ledger's Joker is more of a wounded, feral creature than a human, absently licking his lips and limping away from the chaos he creates. And Dent (played affably but not to perfection by Eckhart) is more his opposite than Batman.
Ambitious would be an understatement, and that's part of the problem. There are a lot of interesting ideas at work, but few come to fruition. The film opens with Batman impersonators, which at a glance would fit in with the main arc of Batman's influence on the city. Yet, once introduced, they're hardly brought up again. Batman has this absurd sonar gadget that essentially stands in for U.S. government wiretapping (he can spy on every Gothamite through their cell phones), something that Lucius Fox disapproves of. It is mentioned and used once, then disposed of in a pretty silly way.
Nolan, however, has improved on his previous installment in a lot of ways. Gotham feels more like a real city - one even existing in a post 9/11 world, nonetheless. And despite it's length (which could have easily lost about 20 minutes), The Dark Knight never gets boring. Although, much like with Batman Begins, Nolan couldn't put a decent action scene together at gunpoint.
It's an ensemble piece, and a very good one at that. But it's far from the brilliant epic it clearly aspires to be.
Cruising is more interesting when you learn that many of the more (and some less) entertaining sequences were based largely on fact...just not any series of linear or consistent facts.
The first film that came to mind after viewing Cruising was Shock Corridor - a great Sam Fuller thriller about a journalist who goes undercover at an insane asylum, only to find his own sanity slipping. Only it's not sanity that's slipping here, it's heterosexuality...and that's kind of offensive.
Friedkin insists that Cruising was not meant to be offensive or hinder the acceptance of homosexuals into society, but scenes that equate getting fatally knifed in the back to getting buggered by a dude in leather make that suspect.
The first hour of Cruising leaves you unsettled for all the wrong reasons. It should have been nothing more than a murder mystery with a provocative backdrop (switch genders and it's a Shannon Tweed vehicle). Rather, Pacino wanders from gay nightclub to gay apartment complex to gay park, not really doing much police work (undercover or otherwise), just kind of voyeuristically watching. Friedkin's "documentary" style couldn't have made 1980 audiences all that comfortable.
But Cruising, as a film, commits even worse crimes. It's characters, particularly Pacino's, are weakly drawn or downright out of place. It presents interesting ideas and themes, but focuses only on the smarmy and shallow.
The finale almost redeems much of the film, save for a nonsensical, ambiguous implication.
Rather than smoothly incorporate the gritty, true facts that Friedkin had extensively researched for the film, he chooses to use them in the two most inappropriate ways: unrepentant smarm or a mish-mash of good but out of place ideas.
Pineapple Express (2008)
Midnight Pineapple Run
Rather than pay homage to great action-buddy comedies of the 1980s - films like Midnight Run and Beverly Hills Cop - Pineapple express merely tries to be one. Of course it's impossible to perfectly recreate the period, and some contemporary sensibilities have made their way on screen - but nothing particularly distracting. Weed is a MacGuffin here, and those expecting a stoner comedy should rent a Cheech and Chong film (also, change your underwear and get a job, you bum).
Franco nearly walks away with this film. It's been a while since you see an actor in a comedy completely disappear into a role. But it's McBride, the latest of Apatow's man-children (and hopefully the last - he's great, but how many more can you have?), who is the revelation. His improvisational talents and brief screen time make him more of a secret weapon.
Gary Cole is having a lot of fun.
Rosie Perez warning in full effect - but she doesn't say much.
Great cameos from Ed Begley Jr. and Bill Hader.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Almost very clever
If Ben Stiller never existed, Tropic Thunder could have been a masterpiece. I'm fairly certain it's entirely fair to pin Thunder's failings entirely on Stiller's mainstream comedic sensibilities. After all, it's his character whose arc is the least...(read more) self-aware. In Stiller's mind, he is still a hero in Tropic Thunder, but the actual hero is clearly Jay Baruchel who pulls off a very funny and incredibly likable performance as the only not-yet famous actor in the film within the film. He's put-upon, but delightfully earnest.
Don't get me wrong, there's some truly great stuff here. I found myself laughing hard and loud more times than I can count, but there would also be gaps where I wouldn't even giggle. If the gags - which are plentiful - aren't working, it's because they are one tweak away from perfection or one toke over the line.
Tom Cruise is getting most of the hype here, and it's well-deserved. As Les Grossman, the overweight, bald studio head, Cruise is hilariously crude. It's a great cameo. But then it stops being a cameo, as Cruise just keeps coming back, even dancing to a Ludicrous song over the end credits - a prime example of running a brilliant joke into the ground, something Stiller knows a a lot about.
Still, I have no problem enthusiastically reccomending Tropic Thunder to anyone. When it does work, it can be pretty damn funny.
Someone get Debi Mazar off my television!
As many people have said before, the only aspect of "Entourage" worth seeing is Jeremy Piven, who has never failed to disappoint.
There's nothing even remotely redeeming about any of the shallow characters, making it impossible to care. "Entourage" prides itself on it's shallowness, and perhaps that's the point. But it's hard to appreciate any episode unless you're equally shallow. Otherwise, you'll just be repelled.
The performances, apart from Piven, are lackluster. The cardboard Adrian Grenier simply isn't convincing as a big star (coincidentally, that's why he never was one to being with, and hasn't gone beyond being listed as "the next John Travolta"). Kevin Dillon is...well, Kevin Dillon. It only goes further downhill from there.
Masters of Horror: Homecoming (2005)
The worst kind of satire
The last sentence of this review is a major spoiler.
I have enjoyed Joe Dante's work since Piranha. He's done a great deal of different genre parodies that were both funny and honest.
But this is pure crap. This is the kind of satire - in line with Thank You For Smoking - that is so literal and direct that it leaves nothing a) to be laughed at and b) to leave the audience to think about.
It's a shame, because the plot and the material is so rich, timely and ripe for intelligent commentary.
By the way, there is absolutely no reason for the main character to shoot the Ann Coulter character at the end of the film. It's just flat out ridiculous.