Recent Viewings

I've had the pleasure of viewing quite a few movies lately, so I figured I share my impressions. One note before I start, Comcast (my cable company) has this thing called "On Demand" in which you can "rent" movies right over the cable box. You can pause, rewind, etc... It's not as feature rich as Tivo or a regular DVD and the browsing/program guide service of Comcast is attrocious, but it's a fantastic idea and addictive to someone like myself. There's a section for pay movies, but if you have any premium channels, you get a special section filled with movies for free. Anyways, let's get started:
  • Collateral (2004): Another solid effort from director Michael Mann. It's about a hit man named Vincent (Tom Cruise) who hires a cab (driven by Max, played by Jamie Foxx) to drive him around L.A. for 5 jobs. Naturally, things don't go according to plan. Hijinks ensue. It has some interesting casting which has, yet again, paid off for Mann, as Cruise and Foxx have a good back and forth throughout the entire movie. The premise and story are somewhat conventional, but the film is elevated by excellent direction and performances all around. Three Stars (***)
  • Buffalo Soldiers (2001): Boy, was this released at the wrong time, or what? It's a dark comedy about drugs, theft, sex, and other scheming by U.S. troops stationed in Germany towards the end of the Cold War and it was released a few days before 9/11. Talk about the wrong movie at the the wrong time. Oddly, I'm not sure we're really supposed to like any of the characters in this movie. The main character is a crafty clerk named Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix), who manages to hustle everything from cleaning supplies to missiles, not to mention his skills as a drug processer. Phoenix does his best and for the most part succeeds at making the audience root for him, if only because he's the least unlikeable character in the lot. It's an interesting film and it held my attention, even if it was a bit uneven. If you can deal with seeing our troops handled in this light (it is fiction, after all) check it out. Two and a half stars (**1/2)
  • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001): This movie is based on an anime series of the same name. It follows a band of bounty hunters as they track down a terrorist who controls a deadly biological weapon. I have to admit, the name "Cowboy Bebop" always turned me off, but once I started watching I found myself really enjoying it. It's a fun movie, filled with complex action sequences, fantastic music, and great animation. As animated scifi-action-comedies go, it was pretty good. I haven't seen the series, but I've heard it's better than the movie, so I'll probably check it out at some point. Three Stars (***)
  • Swimming Pool(2003): This cryptic, plodding pseudo-thriller is about an English mystery writer (expertly played by Charlotte Rampling) who visits her publisher's home in France in the hopes that a change of scenery will provide inspiration for her latest novel. Things seem to be going well, until her publisher's sexpot daughter (and her spectactular boobs) shows up and breaks the writer's concentration. An odd relationship builds between the two, leading to a pseudo-Hitchcockian plot point and a bewildering ending. Truth be told, not a whole lot happens in the film. It's slowly paced and has some odd plot points that don't quite ring true, but the ending shifts the perspective of the entire movie. You have to pay attention, and it makes for interesting viewing, though I could see how some would be very disappointed in the film. Two and a half stars (**1/2)
  • Men With Guns(1997): John Sayles' impeccable film about a wealthy doctor in an unspecified Central American country who makes a trek through the country searching for doctors he had trained to help out Indian villages. The more he searches, the more he is shocked by what he finds. Outside of the Capital (where the doctor lives), poverty, violence, and lawlessness reign. It is quite an ambitious film, tackling a wide set of issues from diverse angles. This is thoughtful, if a little bleak, filmmaking. Three and a half stars (***1/2)
That's it for now. Since these are little capsule reviews, I've no doubt forgotten some things, so I may add a bit here or there during the week...