Friday, December 29, 2006

Episode 2

CONfidence - Edward Burns, Paul Giamatti, and Brian Van Holt play con men who unknowingly con someone out of a large amount of money belonging to a nut-job criminal played by Dustin Hoffman. Rather than run for their lives, but also not willing to return the money, the three of them decide to run a con for Hoffman's character to repay him. To do so they enlist the help of Rachel Weisz, who plays a pickpocket with nothing to lose. Donal Logue and Luis Guzman are a couple of dirty cops who lend a hand to Burns and his crew on occasion for a cut of their earnings, and Andy Garcia is a federal agent with a grudge who uses Guzman and Logue to get to the con men. I had no knowledge of this movie's existence before it was referred to me by a friend. Going in, it honestly didn't interest me much as you see tons of movies like this one come and go with barely a ripple in the buzz pool. The thing that really made me seek it out was Edward Burns who I've liked since I saw Saving Private Ryan and 15 Minutes. As it turns out, CONfidence proved to be quite worth the rental. First, does anyone out there think that Dustin Hoffman is scary? Of course not. But that's because you haven't seen CONfidence. His character is so crazy that he actually manages to come off as threatening. Sure he's played nutty characters before (i.e. Meet The Fockers), but never anything like this. Then, there's the direction and editing. CONfidence feels fresh and manages to use a lot of cool editing tricks that haven't been played out yet. Particularly of interest was a scene in which Burns and company lay out their plan for the big con at the climax of the movie. As they do so, the viewer sees the actions they're describing taking place as though the job goes off without a hitch. When the scenes they're discussing actually occur later on in the movie, it's very interesting to see how their plans change as the events actually take place in comparison to the preliminary run-through they made previously. When you get right down to it, though, the cast is what really holds the movie together. Burns, Giamatti, and Hoffman, specifically, are the ones who really sell the movie. As I said, worth a rental.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Episode 1 - The Beginning Of An Era

Deja Vu - I saw the previews for Deja Vu and the first thing that stuck out to me was the director's name: Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott). His name stuck out to me because at the time I had recently seen Man On Fire and Domino, both of which he directed. This immediately turned me off to the film because I am personally not a big fan of the flashiness Scott has injected into some of his more recent movies. Domino, for example, was sometimes difficult to bear because of how many times the screen would blur, change colors, and repeat the same action over and over again for seemingly no reason at all. Man On Fire wasn't nearly as bad, but as it turns out, Deja Vu is my favorite of the three. Deja Vu centers around an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) agent played by Denzel Washington, who becomes obsessed with saving the life of a woman who is already dead via the use of a new technology which allows government operatives to "see" back in time. When this technology is first introduced, the viewer is lead to believe that it is merely capable of allowing us to view the past. However, taking a sharp turn into the science fiction genre, we discover that it can also be used to transport objects (eventually including people) back in time. Unlike some films, this one can be very easily separated into the "beginning, middle, and end" based on the sudden turns the plot takes. As such, I am able to dissect my views of the movie to fit these three sections of the plot. The beginning of the movie, while not mind blowing, set up all the questions quite nicely. Many seemingly small moments take place which become important later when Denzel travels back in time. The "middle" of the film (which I consider to be from the time we are introduced to the time travel technology to the time Denzel uses it to go back) was my favorite part of the movie. First of all, I had no idea that Deja Vu was going to have any real science fiction elements in it (as far as futuristic technology goes). I was extremely interested in the discussion surrounding the time device. Time travel is beginning to become a rather overdone subject in movies these days, but through very strong footing in real world science and interesting new concepts which I, for one, haven't ever seen tackled before (in or outside of the realm of film), I never found myself bored with this movie's use of it. Also in these "middle" scenes, we are introduced to the characters played by Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg, and Elden Henson, who give the pacing a bit of a boost with some mild humor. Finally, we have the "end" of the film. While the climax was equally entertaining and rewarding, I was left wishing that we'd gotten to see Kilmer, Goldberg, and Henson's characters one last time. Also notable is James Caviezel's portrayal of the villain. Overall, a movie that I am definitely looking forward to seeing again.

The Italian Job (2003) - My main two reasons for taking an interest in this movie were Edward Norton and a recommendation. Edward Norton is my favorite actor and a friend told me that I should give The Italian Job a watch. I'd been meaning to see it since it came out, but just never got around to it until recently. The best parts of The Italian Job were the heists. Undoubtedly you're saying to yourself, "No shit, Rian. That's what the movie's about, after all." It's true, though. Whoever came up with the intricate ways in which the characters made off with their goods did a bang-up job. The robberies were all exciting and interesting. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was plagued by unrealistic characters, bad quips, cracks, and one-liners, and every other cliché that almost all action movies fall victim to these days. As though someone had a really good idea for a movie, but somewhere along the way lost interest and stopped caring. It's shows promise, but ends up just being too weak to hold it's own. The Italian Job was just too much like every other movie out there that you saw, reasonably liked, and promptly forgot about. In fact, if you saw it in the theater, I'll bet you'd essentially forgotten about it until I just brought it up in this blog. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me (and I realize that this is only because of my love of the actor) was that Edward Norton was simply not used to his full potential in this film. After seeing him in such demanding roles as those he played in Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club, The Italian Job was severely disappointing as far as Norton's role was concerned. As for the other actors, I think that Mark Wahlberg was perhaps best in his role out of all of them. Charlize Theron is, easily put, the movie's piece of ass who learns a lesson and gives Wahlberg's character something to do when he's not stealing things. Seth Green plays the stereotypical young hacker who does everything on the computer by typing away on the keyboard because it's more visually interesting than using a mouse and has seemingly "Almost got it!" just when anything has to be done involving technology at the last minute. Jason Statham plays the cocky getaway driver who seems very unimportant since Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron's characters are also apparently professional stunt drivers. And finally we have Mos Def, the light-hearted demolitions expert who, despite blowing things up professionally, is made more accessible via a back story in which he accidentally lost the hearing in one of his ears by setting off a cherry bomb in the toilet at his middle school. Not a movie that I'd recommend, but it's shortcomings are mostly based on it's similarity to everything else out there and not on any particularly horrible filming/editing choices.