Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Rachel Getting Married" / "House of Games" / Crappy Classic: "Reign of Fire"

Rachel Getting Married - Directed by Jonathan Demme, starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Bill Irwin - Rated R

Too many parts of this film were as pointless as Bruce Banner's Dad's superpowers.

First off, a movie like Rachel Getting Married would usually not be my top review for the week, but the pickings have been getting slim lately. The only DVD release this week that I would consider reviewing was the new Friday the 13th, but I already reviewed that when it came out in theaters. And the main releases in the theater this past weekend were Year One and The Proposal and I didn't have much interest in either of those films. So rather than wait until the new Transformers comes out this coming week, I decided to go with this film since it featured an Oscar-nominated performance from Anne Hathaway and even though I tend to disagree with the Academy, I still feel some sort of obligation to check out the nominations.

Rachel Getting Married is about Kym (Hathaway), a troubled young woman who gets out of rehab for the weekend for her sister's wedding. As you can imagine, the film is one tense family moment after another. At first this annoyed me quite a bit. Watching a family yell and cry every five minutes is pointlessly miserable unless you have an interest in the characters. It's just that my interest wasn't established until an hour or so into the movie. At first, I didn't care why Kym was in rehab or why she felt the need to be so confrontational and demand the attention of everyone at all times. I don't know what it is, but after seeing these characters interact for an extended amount of time, I started to care about what was going on with them.

Don't get me wrong, though. This movie is mediocre at best even when it is slightly interesting. There are far too many useless wedding scenes. I know it has the word 'married' in the title, but that doesn't mean you have to go all Deer Hunter and through in forty-five minutes of footage that advances the story in way at all. This movie is about Kym, despite her sister Rachel's name in the title, but Demme keeps in all this material about the wedding. You get these long, boring scenes of people giving congratulatory speeches to the married couple, but nothing is gained from it aside from establishing an example of what to say for when Kym takes her turn and makes a mess of herself. I suppose you could argue that the longer the set up the bigger the payoff, but it didn't work for me. I just wanted to fast forward to a scene that had something to do with the story.

Usually, a largely pointless and boring movie like this is saved by a nominated performance, but Hathaway's performance, while good, is no match for those long, torturous montages of pointlessness. She does make things a bit easier to watch, though. I liked the whole character gimmick of constantly smoking a cigarette (though it was done better by Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums) and she handles some very heavy emotional scenes realistically. But watching someone cry and break down a lot doesn't make a movie more entertaining to me. So this movie isn't for everybody (it certainly isn't for me), but if you're into watching families have emotional breakdowns and you reall love the goings on of weddings, then give it a try.

House of Games - Directed by David Mamet, starring Joe Mantegna, Lindsay Crouse, and Ricky Jay - Rated R

This con movie had the Kurgan fooled a couple times, and that's good enough for him.

Once again, a very slow week for me, new-movie wise. Which is why the second review this week is over a con movie from 1987. I had never even heard of this movie until a few weeks ago when all the podcasts I listen to were reviewing the new Rian Johnson film, The Brothers Bloom (which I will eventually review myself, but I'm in southern Indiana and small releases never venture closer than three hours away), which is a con movie. All of these podcasters were talking about their favorite con movies and this movie showed up on multiple lists, so I gave it a try and since I liked it and I have nothing else to review, here it is.

House of Games is about a successful psychiatrist (Crouse) who, through one of her patients, gets involved with a group of con artists, led by Joe Mantegna. Like all con movies, this movie has its surprises and its fun moments, like learning how to steal small amounts of money by sending telegrams. If you're into movies in which you spend your time wondering what character to trust, then this is for you. It is certainly a top rate con movie. The cons are good and you might get fooled along with some of the other characters and that's all you can really ask for in a movie like this.

That's not to say that the rest of the movie isn't good as well. The cast does well, Mantegna being the most entertaining, and Ricky Jay stands out in his short scene during a poker game. David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Redbelt) isn't a fancy director or anything, but his dialogue is always entertaining and it almost always makes sense. In other words, a character never says something that seems unnatural or forced. I know he's always praised for the dialogue and it can get old, but I think the praise is deserved in this situation. Try this movie out if you have a slow week like I just had and want some good con artist fun.

Crappy Classic: Reign of Fire - Directed by Rob Bowman, starring Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, and Gerard Butler - Rated PG-13

Chigurh might not care for the dumb factor, but he knows good apocalyptic action when he sees it.

When I first saw a preview for this 2002 dragon hunting movie, I thought it was going to be pretty stupid. I was right. This is a dumb movie and if you try to take it serious, you might end up hating it. But I grew to love this movie because it does contain some very entertaining, ridiculous action. When I hear 'dragon hunting' I instantly think stupid, but when I see it, I have to admit it's very fun to watch.
Reign of Fire takes place after the dragons have reclaimed the planet, so it contains plenty of apocalyptic survival type stuff which is a bit interesting. I'm not a fan of long drawn out explanations of survival, but when they work some action into it, it works. Example: we get a few conversations about how they grow food to survive and everything, but when they have to go and stop a fellow survivor from picking the crop too early, the dragons show up to make it all a bit more interesting.

The cast is fun as well. Christian Bale does his serious thing, but he gets to do it in his native British accent, which instantly makes him cooler in my book. I don't know what it is, but when he yells out orders or tries to change somebody's mind, the accent makes it authentic. It's too bad Batman isn't a British character. The best part of the cast, however, is McConaughey. I know, I know. He's the shirtless joke of the movie world lately (though I thought he was great in Tropic Thunder), but this was seven years ago and he actually tried acting this time. He's gruff and severe instead of light-hearted and laid back. His shaved head and thick beard do wonders at breaking the expectations an audience may have created. If you give this movie a chance, I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised with his performance.

This film delivers on all the action you could hope for, it has a quality cast who take the ridiculous premise seriously, and the constant gray tint creates an ash-covered style that really creates a feeling of bleakness. As stupid as the movie might sound, it is actually a very entertaining and fun action/sci-fi movie.

1 comment:

  1. I tired "Rachel" but gave up after 30 minutes. As much as I love family movies where there is arguments and drama (I can really relate to this!HAHA), I just couldn't see it through to the end. I did watch "Frozen River" today and fast forwarded through "Wicker Man". I think Melissa Leo was very believable and I had forgotten had bad a movie Wicker Man actually was!!