Monday, October 17, 2005

3 Short Movie Reviews

I am going to discuss plot and ending details for A History of Violence, Two For The Money, and Flightplan. So, be warned.

The best of these movies is A History of Violence. It's tense, well-acted, and stays with you. I won't re-review it, but Ebert's review is one I completely agree with. Here's a snippet:
David Cronenberg says his title "A History of Violence" has three levels: It refers (1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope. "I am a complete Darwinian," says Cronenberg, whose new film is in many ways about the survival of the fittest -- at all costs.


"A History of Violence" seems deceptively straightforward, coming from a director with Cronenberg's quirky complexity. But think again. This is not a movie about plot, but about character. It is about how people turn out the way they do, and about whether the world sometimes functions like a fool's paradise. I never give a moment's thought about finding water to drink. In New Orleans a few weeks ago, would I have been willing to steal from stores or fight other people for drinkable water? Yes, if it meant life for myself and my family. But I would have made a pitiful thief and fighter, and probably would have failed.
Also, if you see the film, notice the use of doors. I didn't really think about it when I saw the film, but in retrospect I really appreciate the way a director can use a particular visual motif in a non-overbearing way to emphasze the film's theme. Also, Maria Bello is a babe.

Now, you know what sucked? Two For The Money. Oh, baby, this sucked. And WTF happened to Rene Russo's face? She looks like a cross between Rene Russo and Marv from Sin City. Now, the primary subplot involved sexual tesion between McConaughey and Russo. Sorry, that's absurd with what happened to Russo's face. I wouldn't have fucked her with the proverbial dick of Bea Arthur, and she used to be exceptionally hot.

Here's the film's plot. Ex-college QB is great at picking against the spread (80% over like, half a season). Pacino decides he's the Second Coming, hires him and gives him the obligatory Sugar Daddy treatment including a $5,000 hooker, the BMW, and a huge NYC apartment. Initially, the Wunderkind goes on a three-week hot streak. Everybody loves him and there's lots of money. But after he thinks he's the shit, he starts picking without study. Now he's losing every game, and a mobster wants to kill him, but just winds up pissing on him. See? First the super highs, then the super lows. Once he loses his confidence, that's all she wrote. He loses almost every game, every week for the rest of the season and then flips a coin and wins the Super Bowl pick. Pacino and Russo (who are married, btw) reach an uniteresting catharsis. But by that time it doesn't matter because he's learned a lot about himself, and realized he doesn't want the crazy up and down life. Naturally, he goes back to his roots in the final scene, flying out of NY to some place in Americana where he can just coach 7 year olds and reacquire The Love. Oh, and gambling is bad and just destroys everything it touches.

Awful, awful film.

Now, Flightplan was pretty good. It seems harder and harder to come up with a clever, original thriller plot these days, so you have to give Flightplan its propers for coming through. For reals. However, there seem to be two significant plot holes. First, how did they know Jodie Foster would go to sleep, giving them an opportunity to snatch the girl? I mean, that's a pretty big leap of faith. Maybe they had a backup plan that involved drugging her for an hour or so. But still, the plot required that Foster get loose in the plane for a significant length of time in advance of landing.

Second, how could they make the huge assumption as they were planning this whole thing that nobody would notice the girl's existence? Not when she first came on, not when she got up to to a back row to sleep with her mom? Not saying that it's impossible, just that it's a critical part of the plan that Foster be regarded as crazy and there's no way they can count on that so far in advance as they make their plans. What if Foster had made just one request of a flight attendant (like a pillow for her daughter)? Or if she wanted to calm her daughter by showing her some of the features of the plane? I suppose one answer is that one good feature of the plan is that they don't necessarily have to execute it. It's not like anybody's going to find the C4 in the coffin.

Oh, and I guess I lied - a third question. How do they know that $50M is the right amount to ask the airline for and that the airline will pay it instantaneously based on hearsay (they didn't hear it from her directly)?

Still, what's good about the film is you are genuinely in doubt about whether the girl exists. And you don't connect the girl's disappearance to hijacking until they're already telling you. So it succeeds on the biggest front - keeping the audience in the dark.

Ratings: History of Violence - 9; Two for the Money - 3; Flightplan - 8.


Blogger man with knife said...

You can always tell when a movie will suck. In the last 10 years, either De Niro or Pacino = suck. And Renee Russo is and always will be terrible.

Also, why two plane movies at once - Flightplan and Red Eye??

2:03 PM  
Blogger Vanilla Bullshit said...

Untrue, man with knife. Pacino was great in The Insider which was 1999. He was tremendous in that. And Insomnia was respectable. Donnie Brasco was only 8 years ago. I saw snatches of "Angels in America" and he clearly was turning in a great performance. So he still has a few bullets in the gun.

DeNiro seems done. Jackie Brown (97) and Ronin (98) seem like a long time ago.

Rene Russo was hot, perhaps never more so than in The Thomas Crown Affair. You've always been wrong about that. I don't care about her acting. But her face sailed off the edge of the world. Here there be dragons.

2:16 PM  
Blogger man with knife said...

Check this out, dude:

Renee Russo = bad movie.

12:54 PM  

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