After The Sunset - Pierce Brosnan plays a diamond thief named Max Burdett who has never been caught and never leaves a loose end. Beside his lover Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek), he's stolen two of the three famous Napolean diamonds. Over a period of seven years, FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) has tried and failed numerous times to catch Max and his sexy sidekick. However, after a particularly humiliating experience during the most recent heist, Stan has been suspended from his duties. As it happens, Max has promised Lola that this same heist would be his last, and the two of them move to a Jamaican island to live out their days in paradise. That is, until Stan unexpectedly shows up, suspicious that Max may be after the third of Napolean's diamonds, which is part of an exhibit aboard a large, ritzy cruise ship that is planning a week-long stop in Jamaica on it's way to Paris. Teaming up with a local police detective named Sophie (Naomi Harris), Stan attempts to first find out whether Max has any tricks up his sleeves, and if so, make sure that he doesn't use them. In my last movie review blog, I talked about the movie Man Of The Year and how the trailer led me to believe that it was a comedy, when it was actually a drama. Well, the exact opposite is true for After The Sunset. Based on the previews, I was ready for a serious movie about a game of cat and mouse between a jewel thief and an FBI agent. Instead, what I ended up with was a series of ridiculous events revolving around a mismatched pair of men reminiscent of The Odd Couple or Perfect Strangers. Pierce Brosnan and Woody Harrelson's characters are supposed to be mortal enemies, but they somehow manage to go fishing, get drunk together, and even end up sleeping in the same bed when Salma Hayek kicks Brosnan out of the house. The plot revolving around the diamond heist takes a back seat to the situational humor very early on in this film from Brett Ratner, who directed such similar movies as Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. While the movie may not have had much to offer in the intelligence department, there was plenty to look at, and I'm not just talking about the Jamaican skyline. Salma Hayek was half naked for much more than half of the movie. In fact, I think that the most clothing she ever wore in the entire film may have been when she put some overalls on over top of her bikini while she was building a deck on her oceanfront home. Then, of course, right from the moment that Naomi Harris tells Woody Harrelson's character that she's not going to sleep with him, you essentially know that you'll see her in her underoos eventually. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Don Cheadle's in After The Sunset as well? That's probably because he gets more screen time on the cover of the DVD box than he does in the movie itself. Finally, the ending comes out of nowhere. I know that a lot of movies are filmed with multiple finales in mind so that they can run them by test audiences, but never before have I actually been able to tell that an ending was tacked on at the last minute. The movie is essentially over, but Brett Ratner wouldn't be able to live with himself if middle America didn't leave the theater laughing. I don't recall laughing on my way out of X-Men 3, though. God knows he could have done a little better with the ending of that movie.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - New York City. 1939. A swarm of giant robots threatens mankind. Who will come to our rescue? The Sky Captain (Jude Law), of course. Soaring to the rescue in his fancy flying machine, The Sky Captain seems immortal. However, when his secret base is attacked by the same giant robots and his futuristic-gadget-making buddy Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) is kidnapped, everything goes to hell. Luckily, Dex pinpointed the origin of the robotic horde just before being abducted, and was able to leave a message behind for our hero. Along with his journalist ex-girlfriend by the name of Polly Perkins (Gwenyth Paltrow), The Sky Captain sets out on an adventure that will take him to the ends of the Earth, and hopefully lead to the location of the giant robots and the rescue of his friend. I have got to applaud Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow's intentions. What the filmmakers tried to do was recreate the joy and wonder of old science fiction action stories. We often forget the origins of these types of tales, but try to remember that there was a time before special effects and modern technology when the only way to imagine high-flying adventures was to see it written about or illustrated in comic books, sci-fi novels, and pulp magazines. There was once a time when to be a pilot, in the eyes of a young boy, was the equivalent of being a superhero. Being a big science fiction nerd myself, I get goose-bumps thinking about a time when space exploration was all about dome-shaped bubbles around your head and when all heroes were depicted with torn shirts and a woman with an exposed shoulder or thigh clinging to his arm. Men's adventure at it's finest. These are the types of feelings that the makers of Sky Captain were trying to evoke in viewers, and to a certain extent, they achieved just that. Jude Law was perhaps not the perfect physical specimen for the role of the hero, but he certainly handled the acting end. Gwenyth Paltrow, I felt, did essentially the opposite. She looked the part, but just didn't pull off the character for me. Angelina Jolie felt a bit misplaced to me as Sky Captain's old pal Franky, but wasn't terrible either. The characters are such stereotypes that I felt like I already knew them even though I'd never seen them before. In this regard, the actor who really hit his role on the mark was Giovanni Ribisi. I don't think there was a better person for the role of the young, scientific sidekick to the Sky Captain. The design of the film couldn't have been more spot on with the types of stories that it was trying to replicate, and the story was spectacular, if not a bit oddly paced toward the beginning. Kerry Conrad, the writer/director who masterminded the entire project from concept to completion completely understood the genre that he was trying to emulate, and in my opinion he knocked it out of the park. If you can sit down in front of the television and try to forget for a moment that you can hop online and order a plane ticket to anywhere in the world and be there by tomorrow, you can genuinely have a blast watching Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. I truly believe that if we could travel back in time to 1939 and show this film to any young boy, that it would be the highlight of their adolescent lives. In almost every respect, if you pay attention to what the movie was trying to achieve, Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow is a perfect film. Unfortunately, I think that because of the expectations of modern movie-goers, it's about six decades too late to find it's true audience.
The Ice Harvest - Charlie (John Cusack) is a less-than-reputable lawyer. His usual company includes bar patrons and topless dancers. It should come as no surprise, then, that along with his pornographer buddy Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), he's just embezzled two million dollars from mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). The backdrop for their little scheme is a particularly gloomy Christmas Eve during which there is (as the title would suggest) a bad ice storm moving through town. With hitmen on their tails and loose ends to tie up in their hometown of Wichita Falls, Vic and Charlie just have to act natural for a few more hours before they can make their escape and live rich, happy lives elsewhere. Unfortunately for Charlie, acting natural seems to be one thing he's not very good at. I'll admit it right off the bat. I'm not a big John Cusack fan. I've seen a movie or two starring him that I've liked (Runaway Jury, Con Air, High Fidelity, etc.), but I've never much cared for his acting. As such, I'm always a bit hesitant going into his films. I like Billy Bob Thornton, but he's really not in The Ice Harvest as much as I'd have thought based on the advertising. The love interest, played by Connie Nielson didn't really do it for me either. All in all, I felt that The Ice Harvest was a fairly mediocre film. There were a few great scenes such as those involving Thornton, Mike Starr, and a storage trunk. Also of note were all the scenes involving Oliver Platt, whose role was essentially "drunken idiot". The story tries to be funny, but is usually so drab that it's nowhere near standard comedy, and doesn't quite reach dark comedy, leading to many instances where I thought that I should be laughing, but never found myself doing so. I had no real interest in The Ice Harvest until I found out that it was directed by Harold Ramis, but he's always held a place in my heart as Egon from The Ghostbusters, and not as a director, and The Ice Harvest is a perfect example of why that is. So thus far we've got a main character that I don't like, a story that doesn't really deliver, and directing that is all over the place. All that we need now is a confusing plot thread that seems to be very important to the ending, making the climax a perplexing mess. Wouldn't you know it? The Ice Harvest has it all.