Sunday, March 13, 2011

Battle LA, Full Metal Jacket, and The American

Even though it's the slow movie season (not yet summer and post-Oscar season), I've managed to see quite a few movies in the past month.  Also I haven't updated in a while so be prepared- there'll be a lot.  

Battle: Los Angeles 

I saw this movie today.  When I first heard about this movie, at the very best, I expected it to be along the veins of District 9 (gritty, more "realistic" look) and at the very worst, I expected it to take itself seriously enough that it falls just short of the being campy and the sort of movie "that's so bad it's good."  A recent movie that falls into this terrible category is I Am Number Four, which I reviewed recently.    

I wasn't expecting much from Battle: LA since it got PANNED by reviews- rotten tomatoes gave it a dismal rating of ~30 %.   I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Battle: LA.  It's actually a pretty good solid movie.  It's entertaining, captures your attention, and is action packed.  Usually, I'm all for character development, but as it stands, in this movie, I really would have preferred less since everything back story related was terribly cliche and even maudlin at times. At times, the movie's almost a Marine's commercial.

It was very refreshing to see a smart alien species attacking earth.  I'm probably one of the few people who actually *liked* War of the Worlds, but I was very disappointed by the very anti-climatic ending.  We should believe that invading aliens who were smart enough to get to earth but not smart enough to do their research on earth died naturally form disease?  Oh well.

The Campy quote of the movie:
"They're falling down like bowling pins!"  Michelle Rodriguez's badass character (but when does she ever not play someone badass) as they drive over aliens with tanks.      
On the note of Marines, there's Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.  
Full Metal Jacket
Private Joker: The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.
It's always fascinating seeing great directors take on movie genres and see them do something new, say something new with the genre.  There are a ton of war movies out there, and I've seen quite a few, but I don't think I've seen anything quite like Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.  

I started on a Kubrick movie watch ~2 years ago when we got one of his box sets.  I've worked my way through it, leaving Full Metal Jacket for the end b/c war films aren't really films I go out of my way to see unless they're really good.

In a lot of ways, Full Metal Jacket is a lot like Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo in the sense that the first half is flawless.  And while the second half of both movies are still very good, it doens't quite get back to how good the movies were during that first half.  In the first half of Full Metal Jacket, we see a group of new Marines go through bootcamp- essentially the drill instructor Hartman (R. Lee Ermey who is really fantastic) yelling commands at them non stop.  What really works well here is the environment- it's so insular and so closed off from the world that you can understand how the mantras, the patriotic songs, the insults can and do become the whole world to many of the soldiers like Gomer Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio).  In the second half, the soldiers ship off to Vietnam and encounter combat, and while it's still a very intense movie, it seems to have lost some of that earlier claustrophobic intense boot camp energy.  It's a fine film overall.  Features a badass younger Adam Baldwin (but seriously, he still looks exactly the same), fine performances all around, and of course, an incongruous, fascinating song mash up (Mickey Mouse against a warzone backdrop.)     

The American 
(the one with George Clooney in it)

A common critique of modern movies is that they're insanely fast and too explicit.  The American has the opposite problem; the movie proceeds at a snail's pace and is extremely restrained.  I think it's better though to be slow and restrained since that can come off as classy and polished.  The American is about an assassin and custom-weapons manufacturer (George Clooney) who goes to a remote Italian city to manufacture a custom rifle for a fellow assassin.  The first five minutes of the movie are cold, brutal, and exciting but is really  misleading for the movie.  The next hour and a half is essentially about George Clooney doing nothing.  It picks up towards the end and last tenth of the movie is actually quite good and memorable.  Why couldn't the rest of the movie be like the end?  The cinematography is gorgeous in this film- it makes the whole film seem like a fancy European car commercial.  If you're short on time, just watch the last fifteen minutes or so of this movie- you'll get the gist of it.              

Two upcoming movies to watch out for: 

I saw the trailer for Bad Teacher before Battle: LA today.  Red band version here.  It looks promising.  It's refreshing to see Cameron Diaz play the role of a bad girl.  Or maybe I'm just a little bemused by a nerdy, shy Justin Timberlake.

Sucker Punch since the graphics just look amazing.   

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