Thumbnails August 2009
by Tony Medley
(500) Days of Summer (10/10):
In a dismal year for movies, this shines brighter than the
summertime sun. Zooey Deschanel is the girl of every young man’s dreams,
especially those of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Alas, her feminine
inscrutability (“I just want to be friends”) befuddles him as it has men
throughout the ages, especially after they become friends with
privileges. This is a captivating, charming romantic comedy told
non-chronologically, brilliantly directed by first-timer Marc Webb,
aided by a delightful wry narration by Richard McGonagle. Deschanel,
Gordon-Levitt, and Webb, at least, should be rewarded by Oscar®
nominations. But romantic comedies generally get short shrift from
Oscar®, despite the truth of Sir Donald Wolfit’s deathbed dictum, "Dying
is easy...comedy is hard."
(7/10): The mistake is in thinking that anything here makes sense.
It jumbles Biblical history, having Abraham (the always enjoyable Hank
Azaria) fathering Cain and Abel, for instance. According to the Bible,
Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Oh, well, not to worry. The
devious Cain (an hilarious David Cross, who lights up the screen) kills
his brother and goes on the lam with stars Jack Black and Michael Cera.
Even though it is all silly and ridiculous, it is cleverly directed by
Harold Ramis (who also wrote along with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee
Eisenberg). Cross and Black and Cera are 21st-Century men in
a Biblical setting. In the hands of some of the prosaic purveyors of
aseptic comedies abounding in Hollywood
today, this would undoubtedly have been awful. But with Black and Cera
scintillating, and a talented supporting cast and director, this is
imaginative and surprisingly enjoyable.
Public Enemies (5/10): While
director Michael Mann should be lauded for his fidelity to accuracy, his
film sorely lacks entertainment value, lurching from one loud shootout
to another, wasting good performances by Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard,
and, especially, Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover.
Transformers: Revenge of the
Fallen (1/10): This sequel to the 2007 movie with the same cast and
director is a movie about machines who act as people. There are some
good machines (one is a pet) and lots of bad machines. Directed by
looked like he was actually developing into a thinking director with
“The Island”) and starring Shia LaBeouf, the only good thing about it is
that it’s 45 minutes shorter than the first one. Still, sitting through
this 2-1/2 hour monument to CGI
is too daunting to contemplate unless you just love special effects.
I Love You, Beth Cooper
This misguided film makes all three girls look like cheap hookers, not
high school haughties. Worse, it presents teenagers as totally devoid of
sexual morality, showing premarital teenaged sex as mere entertainment
without commitment, responsibility, or consequence. Completely lacking a
premise and humor, this is excruciating and irresponsible.
If Sacha Baron Cohen isn’t a pornographer disguised as a social
commentating maker of mockumentaries I don’t know what to call him. This
film goes from one disgusting scene to another, which is the point.
Cohen isn’t funny; he’s outrageous. He wants to make his viewers
uncomfortable. Loaded with full frontal male nudity, and lots and lots
of explicit scenes of homosexual sex and other things involving the
anus, why it’s not rated NC-17 is beyond me. Even if you do find this
type of thing humorous, at some point the shock just becomes tedious. If
this doesn’t come across as derogatory to gay people, I can’t imagine