Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen

I used to be kind of ashamed that I liked these movies so much. I mean, they really are flimsy excuses for a bunch of Hollywood assholes to dick around Vegas. But after watching Ocean's Thirteen, I can proudly say: I like this shit. If you don't, go eat a dick.

I'm a big fan of the insanely obtuse, dirt cheap throw-offs that Steven Soderbergh grinds out between Oceans installments (though I haven't seen Bubble yet, The Limey and, especially Full Frontal are underrated gems), but I'm also a big fan of the big, dumb commercial films that fund the artsy stuff. What makes these films so cool is that Soderbergh doesn't commericalize his visual style just because he's directing a summer blockbuster. Ocean's Thirteen looks amazing, with an aggressively oversaturated color pallet that gives the film a 1970s vintage feel. Soderbergh never lets the viewer get too comfortable with camera movements, either. He'll go from a long, slow elegant pan across a casino floor to queasy, Bourne-style hand held stuff to old-school Thomas Crown Affair-esque split screens, all in the service of a steel-trap caper plot that steels a few gags from the first two movies, but throws enough curveballs to keep the proceedings interesting. Another neat feature of these movies is that the people involved, swinging dick, gold-plated movie stars like Clooney and Pitt as well as an Oscar-winning director like Soderbergh have the confidence in their charisma and ability to hold an audience that they're willing to let the film slow to a crawl several times in the service of the sort of subtle but priceless interplay that is totally absent from most summer films. The makers of most other would-be blockbusters are so worried about ENTERTAINING with every frame that they're not willing to risk losing momentum.

Score: 7.8

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Knocked Up

This was, hands down, the film I was most looking forward to this summer. It didn't quite live up to expectations, but that would have been almost impossible.

Knocked Up isn't as funny as director and all-around comedy God Judd Apatow's first film, The 40 Year Old Virgin, but it's probably a better film. The dumb-friends-hanging-around moments in KU are fewer, farther between, and less memorable than those in 40YOV (there's nothing like the "you know how I know you're gay?" scene, for example), but the inevitable Apatow stab at relevance is more pointed in this one. The struggles and terrors of dealing with commitment and children are explicated vividly, to an almost squirm-inducing degree. There are a few canned moments of standard issue romantic comedy plotting and emotional beats (the whole idea that the hot young professional woman would keep her one-night-stand baby in the first place), but they're outnumbered by the moments that hit home. Frustratingly, though, Apatow, like pretty much every other successful purveyor of comedy in American film, is unable to successfully meld the comedy in the film, which is mostly the result of slack, improvisational hang-out scenes, with the emotionally truthful plot points and encounters. The plot is just an excuse to produce gags, until it isn't, at which point it gets poignant, but stops being funny. I think the best way to watch this movie will be on the special edition DVD, where all the serrated relationship observations will stand, as well as a good five hours of deleated "stoners insulting each other" footage. It will definitely be the DVD I'll most be looking forward to this fall.

Two miscellaneous points:

1. While Kathrine Heigl is incredibly hot, she is not very good in this movie: her entire performance is pitched at a level of near-hysteria...even before she gets impregnated by goofy furball Seth Rogen.

2. My Paul Rudd mancrush officially knows no bounds. I would literally watch Paul Rudd eat a sandwich and read the newspaper, then take a shit, do a few miles on the treadmill, then watch an episode of Maury Povich. He's fucking hilarious.

Score: 8.0