The Girl in the Café

The Girl in the Cafe movie poster

 

David Yate’s The Girl in the Café, a made-for-HBO movie, was incredibly cute, and my heartstrings were indeed pulled, but I couldn’t shake the sense the love story was wrapped around the real purpose of the film: explicating the issue of extreme poverty to help warm the public up for Live 8. Of course, I feel like a bastard for criticizing this aspect of it. Plus, the age difference between Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald was so icky that, forget about disagreeing over whether to battle or defer to stubborn politicians, it’s an issue unto itself.

Actually, it’s a perfectly charming and lovely movie, I’m sorry.

Reykjavik should hereby pass an ordinance decreeing its name shall heretoforth be spoken only in a Scottish accent.

Eight Below

Eight Below Movie Poster

 

More dogs! Fewer people! In fact, how about no people at all? Then this two-plus hour slog could be transformed into a nice hour of lovely nature photography and cute fluffy pups fighting adversity.

I hope Disney makes it clear this is a PG film not for the really little ones, for there’s a scene in there that scared the bejeezus out of a room full of seasoned adults. But it is often too cute; most notably in the scene where the dogs suddenly begin “talking” to each other. And the lovable canines remain plump and well-groomed despite starving in the tundra for 3 months.

Lord of War

Lord of War movie poster

 

I initially dismissed Lord of War when the trailers and posters first appeared. In other words, it got caught in the crude mental filters that routinely handle my first-pass “ignore” of all the crap that flows through my eyes and ears all day every day. But when my regular email newsletter from Amnesty International endorsed the film, it seemed possible this was something more substantial than National Treasure.

And it is. In an impressive marketing slight-of-hand, Lions Gate marketed it as an action comedy. But like Syriana, Lord of War is actually a very strongly-felt topical film loosely based on actual events. It has a more human and darkly comedic tone than Syriana, which often felt like a very consciously-constructed intellectual puzzle. But on the other hand, Syriana’s strict focus is perhaps a virtue; Lord of War’s several dramatic plotlines involving the main character’s marriage and wayward brother don’t always sit very well against the larger themes of entrenched human violence.

For another Nicolas Cage treasure hidden in plain sight, I recommend Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men.

Red Eye

Red Eye movie poster

 

I had heard Red Eye was a refreshingly unpretentious thriller that played on Americans’ changed relationship with air travel in a post 9/11 world. While technically true, it’s actually a very disappointing runaround decidedly lacking in the most routine pleasures that come with thrillers. Where’s the expected third-act twist? Is the twist that there actually isn’t one?

King Kong (1976)

King Kong 1976 movie poster

 

About the only saving graces of this piece of gorilla dung are: A) Jessica Lange actually does a pretty good Marilyn Monroe, and B) Seeing the movie now provides some unintentional emotional oomph: Kong is actually drawn into Manhattan by the primal lure of the World Trade Center.

Whose idea was it for Kong to walk upright? Would it have been too much work for the guy in the suit to hunch over and drag his knuckles a little? And he throws like a girl.

The New World

The New World movie poster

 

Why didn’t I know better? Although I stand apart from nearly all (it seems) critics and fellow cineastes, I hated Badlands, Days of Heaven, and Thin Red Line. And The New World is, of course, more of the same. The problem isn’t necessarily the pacing, although it is indeed punishingly slow. It’s partly the storytelling technique of mumbled interior monologues of inarticulate characters grappling with giant issues beyond their comprehension, in voiceover over admittedly gorgeous nature photography.

Sample sequence from Thin Red Line: shot of stream running over eroded boulder. US Grunt: “Why… are… we… KILLIN’… each udder… in duh jungle…?” Shot of pelican. Repeat.

And this was a screening of The New World DIRECTOR’S CUT, with TWENTY additional minutes! Arrrrrgh.