Thursday, January 3, 2008

Legacies, Legends, and Lengthy Layoffs

Sorry readers, I know it's been a while since yours truly has made an update on SMFIT, so let me quickly recap:


  1. Heavy drinking all night + an early morning speaking appearance at your old Catholic high school on behalf of the anti-drug group you were once a part of = shame, shame, shame... and the envy of pimply-faced stoners and oh-so-not-legal-Vanessa-Hudgenites.
  2. Unemployment (or lackthereof a legitimate job with consistent paychecks that don't depend on whether or not someone needs a porn review) does in fact breed obesity, alcoholism, sloth, and all the good things they warned you about in Catholic school.
  3. It's a bad sign when you approach clothing shopping the same way you would approach preparing for a nuclear holocaust.
  4. "Self-love" is a misnomer. "Self-inflicted-minimal-joy-due-to-abhorrence-of-all-things-living" is more like it.
  5. Waking up early after a full night's sleep can be invigorating. Realizing you have nothing else to do for the rest of the day that can remotely contribute to society can be suicide inducing.


And now... an actual post!


Will Smith is a god. Yes, I know that sounds like pure hyperbolic drivel, and I mean no offense to religious demonitions (though seriously religious folks, if you're reading this, God-or-whatever-gods-you-believe-in bless you) but Mr. Smith is a fucking golden god.

Sure he's had his snafus (My 13-year old self forgives him for "Wild Wild West," but "Bagger Vance"? C'mon man.), but overall he's a proven commodity, and I don't care how cynical, racist, or pretentious you may be- you can't help but trust Will Smith.

Obviously you can't necessarily trust him on giving you a good movie, but there's this reassuring air about Smith that makes him today's ultimate draw. He can be cool, violent, and vulgar without actually being threatening ("Bad Boys", "I Robot") and he can recite horrifically Hallmark happy lines ("Hitch," "Bagger Vance"), and still you wanna grab a beer with him. Smith is everyone's favorite relative/older brother that you can't help but trust in any given situation, cause you know he won't do you wrong or touch you in the bad place. (Uncle Phil just wouldn't allow it)

Which brings me to my review of the IMAX version of "I Am Legend," Smith's recent example of why no matter how tired, mediocre, or lazily written a script may be, Smith will make you trust him. Which doesn't say much about the actual film, ofcourse.


Zombies, visually sexy empty metropolitan centers, and themes of isolation..."28 Days Later" really was a pretty good film. But "I Am Legend" relies completely and totally on Smith's ability to keep an audience entranced by his presence, which, amazingly enough he shows he's capable of doing. Yet like his previous hit, "Hitch" the penchant for horrifically inept dialogue and complete disregard for subtlty rears it's ugly head -

"You've never heard of Bob Marley?"

"You mean Damian?"

"No, Bob Marley? Come on now, you haven't heard of the greatest album ever made, 'Legend'? He talked about peace, harmony, and people being understanding of each other. A legend of his time."


Get it? Cause Bob Marley's a 'Legend', and Will Smith's character is a 'Legend', and they're starring in a film called, "I Am Legend"? Get it?(Smacks head and continues to do so until blood begins pouring down ones' head)



Now for Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There," a wonderous opus of visual and narrative hyperbolic mismashed minutia. Dylanites will love it, casual fans will sorta love it, arthouse fans will change their undergarments upon viewing it, and everyone else...well, everyone else will be fucking confused and hate it. (I had to replace my favorite pair of Joe Boxers, so I think you know where I'm going.)

Haynes' dissection of the legend of Bob Dylan is hilarious, moving, poetic, and at all times pretentiously engaging. The cast of Dylans within the film perfectly encapsulate the various stages of Haynes' multifaceted Dylan, with each shard of glass in the broken mirror providing an entertaining interpretation of a life defined by introspection, celebrity, and isolation. It is without a doubt, the most interesting take on a bio-pic that will naturally polarize average Joe viewers against film geeks, while still properly fellating the hardcore Dylan fanbase.

Cate Blanchett is worthy of all the hype, with her seemingly natural turn as Bob, and Ledger and Bale do their deliriously delicious takes on movie star Bob, and beatnik-turned-rebel-turned-born-again-Christian Bob. (Thinking of the "Dark Knight" just ruined another pair of smiley faces. Damn it.) Honorable mention also goes to David Cross' Allen Ginsberg, whose brief appearances onscreen filled even the most pretentious Film Forum crowd with uproarious glee.

If there's one glaring weakness (aside from the non-linear narrative that may confuse some) it's the most flighty take on the Dylan legend, the ethereal "Billy the Kid," played by the not-so-convincing-or-childlike Richard Gere. Gere's "Kid" essentially bogged down the pacing and spirit of the film, launching too far out into the fantasy realm without maintaining a Dylan-esque spirit consistent in the other facets of Haynes' Dylans. Gere appears to be miscast as the spiritually fantastical representation of Bob, as his half-hearted accent and empty gaze left many longing for their fast forward button.


Staying on the theme of bio-pics, comes "Charlie Wilson's War," a Mike Nichols release that does exactly what his ill-fated "Closer" failed to do; it remembers to have fun.

While the much ballyhooed pairing of Hanks and Roberts has inundated the entertainment rags, Hoffman is once again showcasing his chops, hilariously capturing a role that might have easily been phoned in, and going an awe-inspiring three-for-three in recent film roles during awards season. His turns in "Devil," "Savages," and "Charlie Wilson" is undoubtably some of the best and most consistent acting of '07.

Although there is no moment during the film when you are not keenly aware of watching "movie stars" Hanks and Roberts on-screen, their inability to completely embody personas (ala 'character actor' Hoffman) appropriately works with the larger than life personalities of Charlie Wilson and Joanne Herring.



Hanks plays to his strengths as America's favorite man to root for, and even in the guise of an alcoholic womanizer, still manages to maintain his everyman allure. Roberts on the other hand, departs from her BFF persona and portrays her right wing Christian sex pot with just the right balance of humor and old school sexuality. Honorable mention also goes to Amy Adams, whose turn as Hanks' assistant is playfully perfect for the tone of "Wilson." (I know, I know, I should see "Enchanted," but knowing McDreamy ain't singing is a bit of a killjoy.) Mix Hoffman's degenerate straight talker into the pot, and you find a Nichols film that's charming, smart, and rides that Goldilocks' balance of political implication and present day indifference just right.



And now a brief review of "Walk Hard" which, following the trajectory of Apatow releases, is obviously no where close to the heights of "40-Year-Old Virgin" nor near the depths of any parody movie starring Leslie Nielsen or Charlie Sheen:

  • John C. Reilly is a funny muthafucker who deserves a starring role that will make him a mainstream star.
  • This is not that role that will make him one.
  • Music bio-pic parodies have been long overdue , and provide some innovation within the parody genre.
  • Making a parody that at times follows the bio-pic formula too closely; innovative not so much.
  • Jenna Fischer makes me want to divorce my spouse when I finally hit it big in my thirties.
  • Paul Rudd + anything = Greatness. (Yes, even in "Overnight Delivery")
  • Unexpected penii on screen is hilarious once. Twice, three times, or more...uh, no.
  • Apatow should be contractually obligated to include his wife in every film.
  • Matt Besser and Tim Meadows should form a comedy duo.
  • Who knew songs in a parody film could actually be pretty good?

Fin.

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