WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 5

My Weekend Wrental Wreviews features some outstanding movies this week, and some less so. Here's the fifth edition of WWW:

1) Idlewild:
I loved this movie. Outkast was outstanding. Part Moulin Rouge, part 8 Mile and part Shakespeare, the film is a unique entity that proves the hip hop duo capable of both acting as well as multiple musical styles. Two childhood friends in the prohibition-era South grow up to lead very different lives. One is the shy, quiet son of a mortician who dreams of being a pianist, his talent confined to a coffin-like attic and a local club. The other is more of a hustler, and a family man overwhelmed by the responsibilities he tries to avoid at home, finding haven in that same club. Terrance Howard shines and surprises as an ambitious rising gangster who menaces the lives of both. Idlewild offered comedy, drama, and unique musical numbers in a tale about how the lives and deaths of the people around us shape and influence our own.

2) The Day the Earth Stood Still:
After well over 50 years, you would think a remake of a science fiction classic would be a good idea, if only to update the special effects. Indeed, the updated robot Gort is pretty cool, but we don't get enough of him and, in the film's climax, the threat he offers is not in a form one would expect, but probably one that was easier to animate, as were the glowing spheres that replaced the ‘50s flying saucer. Where the film really suffers is in the story, a halfhearted environmental message about saving the Earth from the damage we pose as a species. The concept is fine, but the execution is dull, with blame lying at the feet of the wooden performance of Keanu Reeves. I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to include a scene of him speaking stilted, likely mispronounced Chinese, but it was hilarious. A lot of moments and lines are unintentionally funny, and the motivation of a character to change sides is an unfortunately weak switch-flipping moment that isn't very believable. The film needed a better arc for this character, not a sudden “my bad”. I wouldn't say I didn't like the movie or wasn't entertained, but the flaws took a lot away and I mourn the potential of what the film could have been.

3) Twilight:
The target audience is teenage girls, which may be why I felt this vampire tale was a bit watered-down. I certainly wasn't expecting True Blood, but I was hoping for Buffy, so something felt lacking. Twilight is the story of a high school girl who moves in with her father in a foggy town, and soon learns that some of her classmates are vampires who have made a conscious effort not to prey on humans as they try to coexist peacefully. She falls in love with one, and there was definite chemistry between the two romantic leads. I did like some of the film's conceits about vampires and why they stay out of the sunlight, although the depiction of this in the movie wasn't very convincing. I also like some of the varying traits and abilities of the vampires, though the differences weren't fully explained. Why do some get speed while others get strength or clairvoyance? The inevitable threat of vampires who do hunt humans also feels tacked on at the end, despite one or two incidents or minor characters being attacked before our protagonists encounter the bad guys. The clash, which occurs following a cool and enjoyable softball sequence that reminded of some of the games the X-Men have played in their downtime, is fine but it's resolved too quickly. Ultimately, the film feels like exactly what it is, the first chapter of a planned trilogy. Characters are introduced and potential plots are set up, but the payoff is clearly being saved for future chapters. As a vampire story, it could have had more blood and action. As a high school story, it would be mediocre without the vampire elements. I liked the movie, but it didn't live up to all the hype. Maybe the books are better, and this was just an abridged version touching on all the highlights. I hope, following the laws of trilogies, the next installment is a lot more epic.

4) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
I enjoy bittersweet tales that follow the full life of unique individuals, and this one definitely falls in the same league as Forrest Gump and Big Fish. It wasn't as bright and comedic as the former sometimes was, although there were a few moments I had to smile or chuckle at. And it didn't move me to tears like the latter, although there was a lump in my throat once or twice. The perspective from which the story is being told is a depressing scenario to begin with, so we're prepared from the first scene for the inevitable. This three hour adaptation of a seven page short story isn't about death, though, or birth. It is the story of how our beginnings and endings aren't all that different, and how the life we live in between is what matters. Brad Pitt turns in one of his best performances as a man who ages backwards. Save for that one anomaly, his life isn't all that extraordinary. What is extraordinary is his perspective. He possesses the mind of a person his chronological age at most times, while most people treat him as someone his physical age. It is the story of preconceptions and not judging a book by its cover, as well as a love story of people traveling in opposite directions, fortunate enough to meet in the middle. Time only flows in one direction, and we need to appreciate the people we meet on our own journey, and enjoy our own middle while it lasts. Great movie.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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