Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"A-Team" and "The Fountain"

A couple reviews of some movies I watched over the weekend.

1.) The A-Team. Not bad. Some of the reviews I’d glanced at prior to seeing the movie seemed to suggest the ridiculousness in the film’s trailers was the kind that induces eye-rolling, not happy grins. So going in I wasn’t sure if even a turned-off brain could enjoy what was to come. But to my surprise, 'The A-Team' is actually a tightly-written, smart-sounding action movie (not actually smart, unfortunately), more “Mission: Impossible” than “Smokin’ Aces”, with controlled direction from Joe Carnahan that never loses track of the plot during all the chasing around in search of the McGuffin. Couple small things I liked: 1.) Major Dad’s Gerald McRaney’s appears in the film; a pleasant blast from the past. 2.) Jessica Biel is better in the film than she is in the trailers. 3.) Newcomer Brian Bloom turns in a funny and legitimately menacing performance. The role is a by-the-numbers crazy mercenary bad guy, but Bloom pulls it off pretty well. I expect to see more of this guy. (Fun factoid: he also co-wrote the script.) 4.) Stay through to the end of the credits.

Quality movies have been hard to come by at the multiplex this summer (all year if you want to be technical), so if you've been avoiding the movies lately due to crap selection and just want to go and see something fun, this is your ride.

2.) The Fountain. Possibly the exact opposite of ‘The A-Team’. I DVRed this off HBO and watched it over a couple days. I’m of two minds about "The Fountain". On one hand it’s not the kind of movie I usually like. It’s plodding, self-serious, and depressing as all hell. It’s a wonder it was ever made; even more wondrous Brad Pitt was for so long attached and ready to star. But on the other hand, the film’s director, Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), manages some moments of profundity in ‘The Fountain’ that are almost never seen in films outside of the art-house, and even then only rarely. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star as Tommy and Izzi, a married couple trying to deal with Izzy’s worsening disease while Tommy, a researcher/surgeon, works tirelessly to find a treatment that could cure her.

Pretty much everything else about the movie seems open to interpretation. Tommy’s overweening desire to keep Izzy alive may be an eternal struggle his soul has grappled with for centuries, life after reincarnated life. The first of these lives is Tomas's (also played by Jackman), a Ponce de Leon-like Conquistador, looking to find the fountain of youth. But is what we see of Tomas's life in Spain and later in the New World truly memories of a past life, or are they just scenes from Izzy’s unfinished novel, or both? Is Tom Creo, the future reincarnation of Tommy who floats in a bubble with the tree that grew from Izzy’s grave, actually an immortal Tommy still trying to save his wife? Or is this some elaborate vision Tommy's having on his own death-bed? Or is all of it a vision the Conquistador Tomas has on top of the Mayan temple? Are we even meant to take this all literally? I’d have to see it a few more times to attempt any kind of interpretation and I doubt I'm up to sitting through all those monkey-skull-cutting and Rachel-Weisz-on-her-deathbed scenes to get there, but I do concede it is gratifying to see a movie that rewards thought. Kind of like Transformers 2. Anyway, like I said, I'm of two minds on this movie. Couple things I liked in particular: 1.) The music is incredible. Elegiac and moving. Clint Mansell's done a great job here. 2.) Hugh Jackman. I was never quite sure Jackman could act until I saw this movie. He does good work in everything he does, of course, but I didn't know he could really play any moment required of him until this. He is amazing in 'The Fountain' and deserves better than the likes of that abyssmal Wolverine movie, or the final X-Men sequel. 3.) Aronofsky's ambition. Even though I don't think this movie totally works, I admire Aronofsky for going there and committing so many years of his career to seeing this go in front of cameras. I wish Hollywood had more directors out there willing to go as hard as they can to realize their vision. You know, like Brett Ratner. For students of film, definitely worth seeing. For a fun way to pass a couple hours, this one isn't it.

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