Film Roundup XIV

I was very much looking forward to today, as it feels (here, at least) like the first day of the Fall movie season. There are three new releases that I am very much interested in seeing, and three more which I want nothing to do with. Quite a haul. I find, however, that I am unfortunately too broke to take in three flicks at the multiplex, or even one. In consequence, I will pretend to not be saddened and dejected and look back on some previously viewed items for solace. If you should have a chance to catch Appaloosa, Flash of Genius, or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, let me know how they were.

Ocean’s Twelve – 86%

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) returns with his crew of thieves and con artists for a second adventure. Making good on his promise to track down the gang that ripped off his casino in the last movie, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) is twisting their collective arm to return his money. Unfortunately, they’ve already spent a lot of it. To make good, Ocean’s eleven (and one extra) will have to pull an even bigger job, this time in Europe.

Ocean’s Twelve got a lot of undeserved hate because it was a mediocre sequel to an exceptional heist movie (which was itself a remake). That said, it is quite a bit of fun in its own way, certainly comparable to, say, The Italian Job. It’s also worth noting that the Ocean movies decidedly got their act back together for the third movie, Ocean’s Thirteen, but I wouldn’t skip this one.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit – 93%

A Hollywood private eye who hates toons finds himself investigating the murder of practical joke king Marvin Acme by jealous cartoon star Roger Rabbit. Soon, it becomes clear that someone else is behind the killing, pulling the strings of a much larger, much darker conspiracy. Who Framed Roger Rabbit represents one of the happiest confluences of technical innovation and quality material. While the mixing of live-action film with animation was certainly nothing new, this movie took the level of human/cartoon interaction into places it had never been, and it did within the bounds of a relentlessly-entertaining, side-splittingly hilarious story. This is also, perhaps, the only time you will see the beloved Disney and Warner Bros. characters share the screen together.

Taxi Driver – 96%

Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a young Vietnam vet, works as a late-night cab driver in New York City, and is disgusted by the decadence and filth he sees around him. Meanwhile, he tries to court Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), an idealistic campaign worker, and feels driven to rescue Iris (Jodie Foster), a child prostitute. His failure on both fronts ultimately leads him closer and closer to a violent mental imbalance.

Taxi Driver is, in my not-yet-complete experience, Martin Scorsese’s finest film. It is a disturbing, but thought-provoking masterpiece of madness and isolation, but also a strange idealism and ambiguous sense of hope. Scorsese brilliantly draws us into sympathy with Travis before turning the screw that unhinges him from reality and flips our perspective on its head.

The Aviator – 63%

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as enigmatic billionaire Howard Hughes in this star-studded, Oscar-bait biopic. On the flip side from the previous entry, this represents a low point for Scorsese in my opinion; the height of his desperation to finally get his hands on the Academy Award that he had richly deserved for almost three decades. DiCaprio is miscast, though not nearly as grating as Cate Blanchett attempting the inimitable Katharine Hepburn (to be fair, the problem is not really Blanchett, who is a fine actress). The film is long, pretentious, and almost unrelentingly dull, despite a number of very impressive effects and sequences. Unlike the Spruce Goose, the final result is just too clunky to get off the ground.

The Emperor’s New Groove 2: Kronk’s New Groove – 35%

Kronk, the likable villain-cum-comic relief in Disney’s Emperor’s New Groove, returns as the star of this direct-to-video sequel. Kronk, now the owner and operator of the restaurant from the previous movie. As the story begins, Kronk is desperately trying to prepare for a visit from his disapproving father, who is coming to see Kronk’s wife, kids, and home (none of which he has). Kronk then explains via flashback how his father came to be under this false impression and what went wrong along the way.

Why, oh why, did I watch this? And why am I writing about it here? I believe, in answer to the first question, that it was my wife’s idea. As the second, well, to warn you away, of course. Naturally, I’ve already said all that I need to, cleverly working it into the synopsis (note the careful mention of “Disney direct-to-video sequel”). I suspect that you could do worse than this, considering the genre, but happily I have thus far successfully avoided all other such sequels, and therefore cannot say for certain. If you enjoyed Kronk’s antics in the first movie, you’ll find him amusing enough here, but this is definitely a movie aimed at a juvenile audience which makes few concessions to any viewers over the age of 10.

~ by Jared on October 3, 2008.

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