Monday, May 12, 2008

Movie Time


What's the old saying - if there's a gun over the fireplace in the first chapter, it will go off by the last? In this case, the gun shows up and goes off in the first act, setting in motion an increasingly implausible series of events and ruining what could have been a pretty interesting movie.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as an inner-city jiu-jitsu instructor who gets caught in a scam more labyrinthine than the one at the center of Mamet's earlier movie The Spanish Prisoner. The best thing in the movie, Ejiofor projects unworldliness while avoiding the cliche of the soulful black man who is sent to teach a profound lesson. He is also especially effective when it's time to go into human-weapon mode.

In contrast to Ejiofor, the rest of the cast,which includes Emily Mortimer, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Tim Allen (?!), inhabits a parody of Mamet-world, delivering flat, affectless performances intended merely to recite the writer-director's grossly overrated dialogue.

Jimmy Carter - Man from Plains:

A few years ago, Jimmy Carter wrote a work of historical fiction set in the South during the Revolutionary War. The New York Times titled its review of the novel "Founding Bubbas." Which is to say, if you are from the South, or if you actually believe in Jesus Christ, it does not matter if you win a Nobel Prize. There is an intellectual elite in this country that will still portray you as a simpleton.

But the New York Times' condescension is nothing to compared to the insults aimed at Carter that are presented in "Man From Plains." Jonathan Demme's documentary is not a full biography, but rather an attempt to convey the essence of its subject by focusing on a very narrow slice - Carter's book tour to promote "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid." While the furor that erupted around the book could not have possibly been predicted when the movie was planned, it brings into high relief the most interesting question surrounding Carter and his legacy: Is Carter's love-your-neighbor philosophy unbelievably naive or is it the sign of a genius made only more profound by its simplicity?

Demme gives ample time to the former, while making it clear that he firmly sides with the latter. At times Demme is a little too adulatory, including (apropos of nothing) references to Carter's time as a nuclear engineer and his fluency in Spanish (gained, apparently, through self-study of the Bible in Spanish). Ultimately, though, "Man from Plains" proves that the most infuriating thing about Carter is not his simplicity or his self-satisfaction, but his merely living in accordance with principles that most of us espouse but very rarely act on.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

The Onion once had a headline that read "Ugly Guy with Large Penis Wondering How to Get the Word Out." One solution to that eternal dilemma, apparently, is to write a movie that requires the lead to show his junk and then cast yourself in that role.

Just to be clear, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and I will gladly sit through 10 seconds of dongbone if it means that Hollywood will continue providing me with gratuitous boob montages. The problem with "Sarah Marshall" is that it's a romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor comedic. Jason Segal becomes more and more irritating as he mopes through the movie, while the script piles on bit players (including the normally-reliable Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd) and then gives them nothing to do.

This movie clearly owes its entire existence to its association with Judd Apatow, who at this point could probably get his grocery list green lighted. If Apatow puts his name on one or two more turds like this, though, I predict he will have plenty of free time on his hands.


Blogger hostage crisis said...

right on about ejiofer. he alone saved redbelt from being completely unbearable. kudos to him for completely committing to a role that might've been given to van damme in the early 90s, complete with (unintentionally) hilarious Mamet-speak.

5/12/2008 4:42 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

i liked forgetting sarah marshall. though i concede the hill and rudd appearances were pointless.

speaking of apatow gone astray, did anybody actually see drillbit taylor?

5/12/2008 7:06 PM  

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