So, with me still recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis, the little woman and I decided to spend the weekend trying to do as little as possible. Thus, we rented flicks that we had been wanting to see. As follows:
"Mary and Max"
"The Men Who Stare At Goats"
Interesting premise: a comic-book geek decides that there's no reason why someone shouldn't, you know, dress up in a concealing costume and fight crime, like a superhero. His friends put it succinctly: "No one has superpowers, so no one can actually be a superhero." He argues back with Batman, they argue back with billionaire, and it's pretty funny. So he goes and orders a green wetsuit, buys a couple of sticks - and promptly goes out and gets beat up to the point of hospitalization. In the meantime, video of his exploits ends up on YouTube, especially the part where refers to himself as Kick-Ass, and other "superheroes" pop up out of the woodwork. Big Daddy and Hit Girl, specifically. Big Daddy is Nicholas Cage doing a bang-up Adam West impersonation, and Hit Girl is a little eleven-year-old girl with a mouth like a sailor and a knack for butchering people or blowing their brains out that has you sitting there going oh my God, oh my God. She's f**king ELEVEN.
Directed by Matthew Vaughan (of Layer Cake fame), and based on comic books that are apparently way worse than the film.
No it isn't. Rich people have difficulties we can only dream of, and to watch all these twits with their problems is to make me think more and more that it's time to line 'em all up and use them for soup. Meryl Streep gets talked into having an affair with her ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, and as soon as she says the line "I'd forgotten why you're such a good lawyer" I stopped believing anything he said. She's getting an addition onto her house that would probably cost as much as any of us little folks pay for our current houses, he drives a new Porsche and a used supermodel, Steve Martin (as the bland architect who's designing her addition) is the third wheel in all of this and looks uncomfortable the entire time. All of their children are doing just great, don't need any help from Mom & Dad.
Just like everyone you know, right?
Anyway, not an entirely fair review, as we stopped watching it about a third of the way in. I started it up again, and became even more annoyed when Baldwin starts doing the whole peeping through the window, doing pratfalls off of poorly-mortared bricks thing, while Martin is having appetizers and drinks with Streep in her "too small" kitchen (which is bigger than my living room). Urgh. Scroom.
Mary & Max
A funny, sad, very very odd claymation movie from Australia, purportedly based on a true story about an eight-year-old girl leading a pretty solitary and unhappy life in Australia, who takes it into her head to begin writing to a middle-aged, anxiety-ridden Jewish man in New York City, beginning in the late seventies. I won't go into details, as they are what make the film such a wonderful experience, but suffice to say that the voice performances are top-notch (and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is completely unrecognizable - how does he make his voice do that?), and the animation is as funny and inventive as anything done by Aardman.
I leave you with a quote from Max Jerry Horovitz: "Do you have a favourite-sounding word? My top-five are 'ointment,' 'bumblebee,' 'Vladivostok,' 'banana,' and 'testicle.'"
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Not sure how I feel about this one. The premise is really great, as it's based on actual people and actual behavior. The cast is fantastic (though I have to feel a little sorry for Jeff Bridges - is he to be typecast as The Dude forever?). Kevin Spacey is wonderfully oily as a psychic spy on the make. George Clooney comes off as a man who is sincerely believing all of his hippy-dippy training while at the same time something of a sadistic idiot, and possibly insane. With all the references to "Jedi warriors", the casting folks must have had Ewan McGregor in mind from the beginning for the part of the journalist in need of a good story to win his wife back.
The psychic spy thing is, of course, true. The Russians began their psychic spy training when they thought we were doing it (we weren't). So, in order to not be behind the Russians, we began a psychic spy training program. "Remote viewing" (essentially being able to "see" a place or situation from a great distance using the power of the mind only) is a technique that I've been hearing about for a very long time, most notably in the compellingly bad film, Suspect Zero.
Funny, but a little too detached. McGregor is likeable, but swings between completely convinced that Clooney's nuts, to totally convinced he's onto something, and back again. It's not the film I expected, and could have used a better director than Grant Heslov. As a first feature, it's not terrible, but I had high hopes for this.