My Week in Movies: November 5, '11

Puss in Boots
Chris Miller, 2011
¡Holy frijoles! When a studio is so blatantly squeezing scratch from a former cash cow with a spin-off origin story, one would be justified in certain, tempered expectations. Instead of just what you'd expect, however, "Puss in Boots" is everything you'd hope for in such a venture as itself. Toying with cinema legacy like a ball of yarn along the way, it hones in on the only character the "Shrek" flicks are almost worth tolerating for, cleaving with him everything that had potential for goodness in that source series and approaching it with fresh spirit that never takes itself seriously for a second. It's apparent that Chris Miller & Co. love Antonio Banderas' uproarious Puss - essentially a Zorro cari-cat-ure, if you will - as much as we do, and it is that passion fueling the pure-hearted pilferer's stand-alone adventure, creating an embodiment of why the character is so great - the film is his essence, unfiltered. In a sense, this ideal cat lover's fare can be read as parody of "Shrek" - as those ogreish movies so annoyingly do with their every clever wink, Puss thrives hilariously on his cockiness - an aspect of his righteousness which, in this case, is surprisingly allowed to make him weak against more underhandedly cunning adversaries. It's difficult to imagine someone of any kind not having a good time with "Puss in Boots".

Further first-time viewings:

Copie conforme (Certified Copy) - Abbas Kiarostami, 2010
Though I certainly do not dislike Kiarostami's latest, I do observe that disliking it would be against its point of subjectivity vs. objectivity and the ambiguous nature of art - the same points raised by Banksy's "Exit through the Gift Shop" and classic works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp. It brings me back, yet again, to the anecdote about the Prado custodian who jokingly hung a bathroom floorplan where a painting should be, only to find a telling swarm of critics bathing it with praise the next day, presumably because it was new and, perhaps most importantly, because they didn't "understand" it. Like a relatively more focused "Before Sunrise", the first half of "Certified Copy", well, copies itself again and again but in different contexts, arguing without need to convince that it all simply comes down to perception (I.E., place a Coca-Cola bottle in a museum...). When things become, almost inevitably, their own little game of perception and false realities, the cool infallibility is lost. Judging from this and "Close-Up" (immediately below), Kiarostami seems to like these compromising games. As his protagonist here states of a painting, it's "Interesting enough, but nothing new. ...There are examples everywhere; at some point you have to close your book." Listen to further thoughts on Reel Time #027.

Nema-ye Nazdik (Close-Up) - Abbas Kiarostami, 1990
Is it because reality is boring that all films recognizing their own "fiction" as a cloaked form of reality (since it has very real and potentially deeper affects on participants and audience members alike - as the film puts it, "It's pointless if it's not taped") are, well, so boring? "Apocalypse Now", "Eyes Wide Shut", the forthcoming "Dau" - these are life as film, and vice versa; I need not this C-SPAN-esque game. "Close-Up" is not without its moments, but I'll take "I'm Still Here" over it any day. Listen to further thoughts on Reel Time #027.

Tower Heist - Brett Ratner, 2011
Seeing Eddie Murphy headlining a rated "R" comedy feels like hopping in a time warp. Only, oh, no, this is a "PG-13" Ben Stiller thing (in which Stiller intermittently flaunts an awkward New York accent) that only happens to co-star a somewhat back-to-form Murphy, who will still need to nail his Oscars gig to fully respark comedic relevance. Apparently, prior to casting a bunch of honkies, "Tower Heist" was conceived as "a black 'Ocean's Eleven'", and those roots do still show in that the heist construction is almost identical to Soderbergh's first Rat Pack reinvention and that the black characters are the only ones semi-worth watching (well, outside the wise, old doorman who so melodramatically imparts, "Truth is, people can open their own doors"... after a catalytic suicide attempt ripped from the recent "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps", no less). What the film really is, though, is a transparent effort to expound upon current economic events, so definitively tedious you can practically hear each brick clumsily clacking in to place before a climactic and contradictory disregard for human life akin to that of a D.J. Caruso film (or, come to think of it, a Brett Ratner film). Occupy... towers? And/or Alan Alda? At least we get cameos from Robert Downey, Sr. and Zeljko Ivanek. As if that justifies the numbing tedium. I may have forgiven it had Matthew Broderick, when metaphorically dangling a red Ferrari out a high window during the action centerpiece, turned to camera and shrugged, "Not again!"

Saw: The Final Chapter - Kevin Greutert, 2010
Having only seen the pre-Roman numeral "Saw" when "Saw" was still just the little independent horror movie that could as opposed to the relentless Halloween mainstay of the aughts, with nothing but morbid curiosity I come in to the ineptitude of "The Final Chapter" (an oft-implemented title horror for once used in what would appear to be truth) knowingly missing the wagon regarding much of the fan-tailored proceedings. I can't imagine, though, that there's much more to any of this than watching obvious immorality forced to gruesomely dismember itself for the sake of salvation. Judging from this conclusive (yet obligatorily open-ended) piece the series has devolved in to a hasty slapdash collage of "traps", all of which detrimentally lack the cringe-inducing, drawn-out simplicity of the original, which wasn't even quite the cat's bananas to begin with.

Season of the Witch - Dominic Sena, 2011
Is this supposed to be a real movie? All the excitement of spectator larping. Honestly, I was compelled to avert my eyes for much of the runtime. Simply horrendous.

Total: 6

Rewatches (1): The Last Exorcism (Stamm, 2010)
- "The Last Exorcism" improved slightly with a second go. Though its obvious foreshadowing is bothersome, the original approach to the standard science versus religion subject matter that swirls within most exorcism films deftly carries it through. I see via IMDb a "Last Exorcism 2" is slated...

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