Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ted




Seth MacFarlane's first feature film Ted is smart and observant in the same way that his Family Guy and American Dad have been. Of course, Ted is much more vulgar than either of those cartoon series and packs a heavier dose of cultural cynicism -- if you can imagine that. This tale of a 30-something emotionally under-developed, pothead rental car dealer (Mark Wahlberg) and his wishfulfillment talking/cursing/farting/sexing stuffed bear (voiced by MacFarlane) doesn't have a whit of subtlety or nuance though its pop culture references and cameo appearance (Sam Jones, Norah Jones, Tom Skerrit) add a shimmer of sophistication to the raucous proceedings. The movie is funnier than not and Mila Kunis gets lovelier by the minute (IMO). If I were to boil the movie's formula down it would be Talking Bear + Hootie and the Blowfish Karaoke = Laugh Riot.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Headhunters (2011)





The Norwegian thriller Headhunters tells the bloody tale of Roger Brown (not pronounced as it is spelled), a diminutive hiring consultant and art thief (Aksel Hennie) who compensates for his lack of vertical reach by stealing paintings out of his clients' homes and lavishing his statuesque art-dealer wife, Diana, (Synnove Macody Lund) with gifts he can little afford. His latest mark is Clas Greve, a former mercenary (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones) who appears to be everything the Brown isn't -- tall, handsome and imbued with otherworldly charm.  While burglarizing  Greve's home, Brown makes a discovery that sets off a cat and mouse chase that, quite literally, is the "sh*t." Director Morten Tyldum appears to have studied at the Paul Verhoeven school of visceral / visual excess. And as with much of Verhoeven's catalog (Robocop, Starship Trooper), the blood and viscera create artful patterns on the screen that enhance the smart and cagey story. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dr. Strangelove


And speaking of Stanley Kubrick, I remember riding with my foster father one night to pick up my foster mother from a showing of this film at the college where they both taught. After she got into the car, he said, "How was the movie?" I vividly recall her saying, "... they blew up the world." That's a pretty frightening notion for an anxious, displaced 10-year-old, and it's not exactly Howdy Doody for a 50-year-old either. Still, it's a satirical icon loaded with outrageous performances.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Battleship


Peter Berg's enjoyable motion picture Battleship is a high-concept military orgy of heroic implausibility that is expertly crafted to get the audience rooting for our side -- which in this case is the human race. In doing so, the film trades the heavy chauvinism found in similar films for more universal concepts of brawny honor and the triumphalism of intellect over weaponry. Perhaps as a nod to some who said we got what was coming to us on Sept. 11, 2001, the humanoid space invaders are simply answering what they perceive as a hositle intergalactic message that naive academics have been targetting at an Earthlike orb in another solar system. The signal, which is beamed from Hawaii, draws a fleet of alien craft to the scene of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which invites the audience to make all manner of comparisons and knowing historical references. It's a neat and nifty conceit in a film that is packed with dizzying special effects that, in the end, still make room for some pretty successful human interactions, most of them between the men and one woman (pop singer Rihanna) on the ships poised to defend the planet from destruction or conquest or both. Pretty boy Taylor Kitsch (best known for his work as a pretty boy on Friday Night Lights) is the storied screw-up looking for personal redemption for a host of bad choices, perhaps his most egregious is dating the daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of the admiral (Liam Neeson) of the fleet stationed in Oahu. Berg keeps the narrative and direction wonderfully tight and his action sequences match or surpass what I've seen lately from Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor) or Roland Emmerich (Independence Day). Battleship, based on the Hasbro game, is mind candy for those who enjoy watching stuff blow up real good but who also want to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice needed to keep us safe. Note to Hollywood: Why are black folks in movies so often saddled with the profanity and the voicing threats of bodily harm? Let's move on.

Queen & Slim

In the soon to be iconic photograph from Melina Matsoukas's distressing Queen & Slim, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith...