WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 22

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 22nd WWW:

1) The Big Bounce:
This was a very tough one to rate. Owen Wilson was generally likable and charming as a smalltime thief who gets on the bad side of the wrong people, and Sara Foster was great eye candy as the girl who captures his heart and lures him toward something a little bigger than breaking and entering for the thrill of it. Morgan Freeman, as Krispy recently noted, could talk about anything and give it substance and class. Still, Freeman, bathing beauties, and the gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii weren't quite enough to save a movie that doesn't quite go anywhere. There's a lot of character development and set up, then there's a series of “twists” in which 2 or 3 too many people are just being used in double, triple, and quadruple crosses, and then it's over. In the end, it comes off as a subpar adaptation of an Elmore Leonard book and falls short of the wit and cleverness of other films based on his work. I liked the actors and the scenery, and that's probably why I gave it an overly generous 3 out of 5 stars. The potential was there to be something more, but it never delivered.

2) The Thirteenth Floor:
I don't remember hearing about this movie, and vaguely thought it was going to be some horror movie or ghost story about a nonexistent floor in a hotel building. I either dreamt that movie or was thinking of something else. This turned out to be a film about virtual reality and having our minds interact with computer simulations of other people and places. If that sounds slightly like The Matrix, then that could explain why this movie slipped through the cracks and I confused it with something else. It was released a few months after The Matrix, and while dealing with similar themes, didn't have the budget or cast. Still, The Thirteenth Floor turned out to be a very intelligent and cerebral exploration into the nature of reality. What is real? Am I real? Are the keys on this keyboard real? I can feel them, I can hear the sounds as I type, but what if that's all part of the program? Because I've seen The Matrix, and Dark City, and a few other science fiction journeys into this theme, I managed to predict a few things, although I wouldn't call The Thirteenth Floor predictable. It's just that, from the moment the 1930s world in the film is revealed to be a program, it leaves many possibilities open, and I was more than happy to have them explored. Craig Bierko is one of those generic actors who will probably never be a household name, but the cast is rounded out by the likes of Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Dennis Haysbert. It's gritty and dark, and while the effects are limited to a few laser light shows, this is more of the classic, thought-provoking science fiction that makes you wonder about everything. Definitely worth a rental.

3) Gran Torino:
When I grow up, I want to be Clint Eastwood. The guy is pushing 80, but just grits his teeth and turns out both solid acting and directing. Here, he plays a grizzled Korean war vet and recent widower dealing with the changes in his own neighborhood as well as ungrateful sons and bratty grandchildren with no respect and an inappropriate sense of entitlement. Welcome to America. For all his comments and racial slurs, you gradually see that he's just a product of his generation, and some of the comments he makes are just banter, while others are just honesty. He doesn't mix words. He might be wrong, but he speaks his mind. When a Southeast Asian family moves in next store, it's a further source of irritation, especially when the young boy next store tries to steal his beloved 1972 titular car as part of a gang initiation. Eastwood stops the kid, and later saves him from the gang, earning gratitude and friendship from his neighbors. He befriends the boy's sister, and eventually the boy himself, and becomes more of a father figure than he ever was, or the kid ever had. In the waning years of his life he discovers his own humanity, and perhaps a way to make peace with all the killing he did in the war. There's a lot of guilt and pain under the surface, and people expecting this to be a vigilante movie might be disappointed to learn that, while Clint still kicks ass, he somehow manages to do it without firing a single damn shot. Anybody could be Dirty Harry with a big enough gun; Eastwood doesn't even need to pull the trigger anymore. He's earned it, and that's fitting in a film about earning things. His character's granddaughter already starts asking him what she's going to get when he's dead. The local gangs take what they want, and the boy he befriends doesn't see how he'll ever afford what he wants. But if we put in the time, and some things take more time than others, and work hard enough, then we can more than earn what we want. It might take sacrifice, and the cost might be high, but being a man means facing any challenge head on, and paying whatever price is necessary. Another solid film and performance from Clint.

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



Anonymous Krispy said...

I like your take on Gran Torino being about what we have or haven't earned. I hadn't thought about it that way. It adds yet another quality level to the film.

I love Elmore Leonard, I love Morgan Freeman, but I've never been able to talk myself into watching The Big Bounce. It just looks entirely BLAH. Sounds like my hunch is correct.

12/20/2009 8:13 AM  
Blogger Krispy said...

Hey, check your e-mail.

12/21/2009 7:13 AM  

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