Thursday, August 3


The general absence of opinion here comes from having read many only-okay screenplays recently. And writing a new at-least okay story of my own. I respect the contribution of the stories below, so my apologies if these limited comments sound unjustly sour.

Friends With Money
Jane (Frances McDormand) belatedly tells us that she's angry that life is going to go on more or less, well, like this. That story alone would have been fascinating to follow for 90 minutes. How satisfying it would be to watch a successful and happy woman look for an answer to her free-floating rage that everything disappoints. What I found most distasteful, when looked at as a story, is that Olivia (Jennifer Aniston; way too good looking for the role) gets something like what she sought. But everything she did should have had the opposite effect. It's a strange moral world when people get what they don't deserve.

Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest
The pleasure of the last Pirates was so great and unexpected that my hopes were high. Hopes dashed. It was difficult to follow the emotional lives of all the main characters and those of new ones. The truly fascinating relationship, the unwelcome love Elizabeth (Kiera Knightly) feels for Jack Sparrow, is slapped across our faces like a flounder. And the action, which was so clever and organic to the story in Curse, certainly got contrived. When they bound onshore and climb the ruin of a church to swordfight atop the crumbling buttresses, rather than worry more, I napped.

I know that other reviewers were not kind to Adam Sandler's foray into Bruce Almighty territory, but a lot of people will see this movie. Watch and learn, I says to myself. Setting aside all the Hollywoodism - smoking hot wife who clearly has not given birth, and the very broadly sketched work and family pressures - three groaners in one movie are too many. The magical figure Morty (Christopher Walken) who gives Michael Newman (Sandler) the solution to his problems because "good guys deserve a break." Morty is the deus ex machina. Repeatedly. Okay, I concede that the answer to Michael's problems, in good story form, is his downfall, but see number 3. Number 2: New rules about how the remote works generate new complications. Enter Morty to explain. Number 3: Michael wakes up from a dream the end of the second act. Cheaters.

Nacho Libre
Can I draw a generational analogy without sounding old? This enjoyable movie reminds me of a lot of hip music I hear these days. Short of propulsion, but beautiful in passages. The movie was very attractive, shots nicely composed, and action sequences perfectly executed. I've almost forgotten what happens because it's not a story of what happens, it's a series of droll tableaus. I enjoyed all of them, including the moment when Nacho steps off the bus and looks for all the world like a b-movie hero from the 70s. Keep making movies, man.

Miami Vice

I loved Collateral, but like Heat, if I had not been sitting in a theater, I don't know if I'd have waited for it to unspool to its ending. You get the impression that what the filmmaker knows about man-woman relationships is that they are supercharged with sexual power and an obstacle to getting work done. Even if he's right - lots of us have known transport and tragedy - I didn't get any feeling about the love affair between the leads. As for the breathtaking composition of the filming, the New York Times review says it better than I can.