My Week in Movies: September 24, '11

Point Break
Kathryn Bigelow, 1991
Suck on that, "The Tree of Life". Screenshots after the jump.

Bennett Miller, 2011
I feel it's safe to say the 84th Academy Awards season has officially commenced with the release of Bennett Miller's "Capote" follow-up - an inoffensive and capably assembled true-to-life drama highlighting performances and, though distinct, not audaciously stylistic enough to alienate. The winning "Moneyball" isn't entirely shameless trophy bait, however, as under recent "The Social Network" scribe Aaron Sorkin's pen (accompanied by that of fellow Oscar winner Steven Zaillian) it deftly builds an ambiguous story of inherited tradition vs. scientific ingenuity that crackles with natural wit. It may well be 2011's definitive success story in the manner of that little ol' movie about Facebook. As a business film it will engage you; as a sports film it will make you believe. Read the full review and listen to further thoughts on episode 22 of Reel Time.

The A-Team
Joe Carnahan, 2010
With strong, rag-tag characters constantly outsmarting the competition through preposterous stunts and sparking hilarious chemistry amongst one another while a memorable television theme triumphantly blares, "The A-Team" is exactly what it should be - a perfectly fitting and nostalgic recreation Stephen J. Cannell's beyond-iconic 1980s program (albeit one somewhat awkwardly edited in certain instances to fit a PG-13 rating). The only thing missing - an absence almost jarringly felt due to all else's striking resemblance - is Cannell's punctuative company logo in which the late influential creator himself tosses a page from a typewriter to form an animated "C". I gladly accept the charismatic new actors in place of Hannibal, Face and Murdock as they mirthfully honor their predecessors, rendering the roles their own to agreeable extents (be sure to stick around through the credits for a couple amusing gags nodding directly to the original cast). Professional fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson does his best with the raw deal that is a rap-listening B.A. - no matter who tried to fill those shoes, he'd never live up to the T. Now let's get a "Greatest American Hero" adaptation rolling with Jesse Eisenberg and Bruce Campbell in the William Katt and Robert Culp parts, respectively!

I Don't Know How She Does It
Douglas McGrath, 2011
More "The Sweetest Thing" plus children than "Sex and the City" minus cosmos, this welcome diversion sufficiently fills my annual Sarah Jessica Parker quota while being just as welcomely Kinneary, Brosnany, Hendricksy and Busy Philippsy in the process (the latter aspect being a particularly notable highlight). If rhyming 'bagel' with 'kegel' on a hustling mother's hectic to-do list suits your fancy, the decidedly unimposing fast food of "I Don't Know How She Does It" may just temporarily satisfy you, as well.

Further first-time viewings:

Cedar Rapids - Miguel Arteta, 2011
Thankfully "Cedar Rapids" is not just "Andy Bernard: The Movie". It is an amusingly comedic and well-realized portrait of a quaint midwestern professional with inherently modest dreams whose rosy glasses are abruptly removed. Random observations: Stephen Root is looking more and more like Rip Torn, and John C. Reilly has been likened to different "Star Wars" characters in three films now (maybe more I'm unaware of) - Han Solo in "Boogie Nights", Chewbacca in "Step Brothers" and R2-D2 in this.

Ágora - Alejandro Amenábar, 2009
Its premise, director and writer (Mateo Gil) threatened to generate a love rivaling mine for Oliver Stone's "Alexander". Unfortunately "Ágora", though occasionally glimmering with celestial Amenábar goodness, gravely pales in every aspect not only against "Alexander" but also against just about every other worthwhile picture about early civilizations' intellectual progress.

Naked Lunch - David Cronenberg, 1991
RoboCop talks (and makes love, because why not) to cockroaches. I can't help but feel like that would be so much more interesting had I actually seen it in 1991. Gross things - and weirdness for weirdness' sake - were at least somewhat cooler then. I was six.

Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) - Luis Buñuel, 1972
I... uh... okay. Unless the sarcastic implication of its title is all this one has going throughout, I suppose I missed something.

Still Waiting... - Jeff Balis, 2009
That "Waiting..." auteur Rob McKittrick stayed on in a writer's capacity just goes to definitively illustrate just how little that original film's producer and first-time director Jeff Balis seems to comprehend what made the 2005 comedy an instant cult hit. I'd never go as far as to call "Waiting..." genius, and in many ways "Still Waiting..." matches it script-wise, but uninspired, table read-worthy line delivery and the disparagingly reserved manner by which it's all captured places this obligatory follow-up on par - if not beneath - those direct-to-DVD "American Pie" cash-ins we'd all probably rather forget.

Punisher: War Zone - Lexi Alexander, 2008
It pushes the borders of gratuity along with those of poor taste. Still dig the soundtrack, though.

The Green Hornet - Michel Gondry, 2011
Perhaps the dumbest thing I've seen all year. Sure, "X-Men: First Class" is laughably incompetent and "The Help" prosaically and offensively smiles its way through accidentally racist portraits of so-called personal breakthroughs for the Civil Rights Movement, but it's like each subsequent minute of "The Green Hornet" is testing my endurance all the more - and more and more - asking, "You still haven't turned me off, yet?" How about if I do this?" Were Rogen and his transient team actually trying to make the year's worst movie?

Total: 11

Rewatches (3): Private Fears in Public Places (Resnais, 2008), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (Zombie, 2009), Take Me Home Tonight (Dowse, 2011)
- Yet another viewing of "Private Fears in Public Places" revealed some of the more brilliant, subtle touches of its focal relationships - relationships often between only two characters at a time, a la "Closer". Its blend of surreal settings, overtly dramatic lighting, perpetually snowy fades and dreamy piano absolutely places you in its every moment - drunk, hopeful, pathetic, hypocritical, swooning, bitter, reminiscent, spaced.
- "Superbeasto" was easily my most-rewatched film of last year, clocking in at probably - no exaggeration - around 20 viewings. I was addicted. I can still pretty much quote all the best (and lowest brow) lines. The Dr. Satan voicework may indeed be my favorite Paul Giamatti performance.
- "Take Me Home Tonight" isn't as graceful or confident as "Dazed & Confused" and doesn't quite hit the era-defining unequivocalness of something like "Empire Records". It even seems, on occasion, to think it's of a lower brow than it actually is most of the time (I.E. opening with an overseen slapstick gag). All that said, it does belong under the same umbrella as the mentioned films and makes for a very fun little nostalgia trip with a cute cast. It is still among the top ten 2011 films I've seen thus far, even if instead of aggressive moralizing over his son's in-between period Michael Biehn really just should have suggested a career path in his own footsteps - traveling back in time to rescue Sarah Connor (which raises the query, can you imagine a "Terminator" film starring Topher Grace?).