500 (is possibly too many) Days Of Summer

Levitt & Deschanel doing a literal translation of a bit of dialogue in their new film (500) Days Of Summer, a flawed Romance-Comedy that I'd say is good despite some gaping flaws.
Deschanel & Levitt doing a literal translation of a bit of dialogue in their new film (500) Days Of Summer, a flawed Romance-Comedy that I'd say is good despite some gaping flaws.

The PR machines for small quasi-indie films really need to calm the fuck down, because I really don’t see how (500) Days Of Summer could have been the darling of any film festival, much less Sundance. It’s cute and quaint, and much more aware of itself than comparable films (Garden State), but it does not reinvent anything. It’s more of a retelling of a guilty pleasure television series of mine, in that it’s original title was How I Met Your Mother: The Movie.

Flaws aside, it is -for the most part- nice, and enjoyable. The romance-on-shuffle structure works about as well as it could have, jumping from day 15 to day 359 and then back to day 25, to show how an specific momentary emotion lives and dies, and letting you focus on the story despite the fact that the never-seen-narrator has already clued you in on an unhappy ending. When Levitt hits rock bottom, it’s well handled and really funny. The movie handles the grungy broken-up-with guy angle very well for a scene when the deli clerk must be wondering if he needs to get the kid in touch with a life coach. When he’s really happy, it’s handled in a comically-unbelievable tone that connects perfectly. Even the subtle touches for that scene, that everyone is wearing blue or off blue, work much better than they should.

Summer’s failings hurt all the more because of their proximity to the film’s successes. The script is a hodge-podge of the best and worst of recent romantic comedies, the omniscient narrator who seems to only appear as a narrative crutch when the script’s kneecaps are breaking, and an all too precocious little sister that smacks of every Abigail Breslin role rolled into one, and played by a talented young actress who bears such a resemblance that you expect her to have been the stunt-double in Little Miss Sunshine’s running-to-the-van-that-can’t-stop scene.

The movie’s largest blunder comes when the movie tries to cash in the good will it’s built up. The film downright drowns in the typical in-meeting-breakdown that we’ve all seen in movies, and the scene where absolutely nothing original is brought to the table. For a movie so proud of itself, this scene needs to have a few belly laughs in it, and it’s about as funny as watching Patch Adams sober.

When the movie succeeds, though, it’s thanks in part to an inventive touch that was all too sparing. One scene does a split screen showing how expectations and reality are only divided by a grand, gaping, Springfield Gorge-like chasm that Levitt’s character falls into. This reminded me slightly of when Harold (he of Kumar, White Castle, and Guantanamo Bay) dreams of having a very casual conversation with the girl of his dreams, rather than the muted stumbling non-conversation they have moments later. This, though, had more impact with the audience and was one of the better split screen moments in recent memory.

Ms. Deschanel does her best with the underwritten role of Summer. When the film does decide to let him realize that she hasn’t been as perfect as his obsession with her led him to believe, it’s anticlimactic to the audience, because we’ve been able to see it all along. Someone should have realized that there’s not much reward in the Shamalanian reveal that She’s Been Flaky All Along! The camera adores Ms. Deschanel for about 80% of the film, while the script has only been showering her with adoration for half that time. She’s just as strong a talent as she was playing the-sister-turned-flight-attendant in Almost Famous, and her time in folk duo She & Him doesn’t seem to have distracted her from acting, yet her under written character undermines anything she could do as an actress.

Her character really wears thin with the scene I’ll call, And Here Comes The Quaint. When Summer invites Levitt’s character, whose name nobody will remember, into her apartment, the movie grinds to a halt as with this small space that belies a set designer run amok and a director who should have known to cut down on the schmaltz. You know what really takes away from a character? When their apartment is more furnished than their personality. She loves Ringo Starr and doesn’t really know much about architecture, and … she likes Ringo Starr. One wonders what was cut as we all can tell what should have ended up on the cutting-room floor of forced quirk.

Despite these scenes, though, I enjoyed the movie more than I disliked it. It shares the major flaw of Public Enemies, though: a script obviously undercooked. I didn’t review Mann’s latest here, but I’ll use this opportunity to explain it’s flaw: both films smack of The Writer’s Strike. Studios must have been wondering what scripts they already had, yet had not produced. Then they made the films and had less access to writers for revamping the rough edges. What the movie-going public receives, now, though in exchange for their $12.50 are unfinished are movies that are nice and have a good flow that turns rocky on occasion thanks to script detritus gone uncleared.


• The Most Artful of Dodgers

How Could People So Cool Look So Toolish?
How Could People So Cool Look So Toolish?

Thursday night, I got to see a preview screening of the new Bond flick, the inexplicably named and once vaguely referenced Quantum of Solace. Inexplicably, because, well, most Bond titles have a direct link to the plot, as in a villain or some such. The title’s obscurity was, in fact, the first sign that the Daniel Craig led Bond-verse is going to be a very good one. The OED in my computer claims that the Quantum’s second definition, which is by far the most easy to parse and relate to this film, is:

a required or allowed amount, esp. an amount of money legally payable in damages.

And there we find that a “Quantum of Solace” is comfort and peace found in revenge earned, which is the point of the film. Yes, the latest Bond movie is about revenge, and it can be about as much very well, because, it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, the previous Bond movie, one of two actually fiscally and artistically successful franchise reboots of this decade (which places James Bond on a pedestal only Bruce Wayne is perched on at the moment). Will I go further into the plot? No. I’d rather not spoil anything here as I actually had some respect for the film.

The film is for the most part just as beautiful and balanced as Royale was, yet one scene is still annoying me in thoughts about the way it was shot. There’s a boat chase early on in the film that suffers from either piss poor coverage or lazy editing. The climax of the chase isn’t earned at all or well explained within the Bond Film laws of physics.

From the opening credits, you’d have thought the problems wouldn’t be confined to the editing of a single scene. The already publicly trashed Jack White & Alicia Keys opening number “Another Way To Die” is the precise nadir of the film, and it also helps me prove a point. Alicia Keys is god awful and has been such for a long long time now. Maybe her first single was good for the time, but that’s about it. Remember my post about coworkers with way too loud radios? Well, the other song I keep hearing coming out of that contiguous cubicle is the Alicia Keys track, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” which I can summarize as best: It’s What Depressed Single Parents Break Down And Cry To When They’re Pushing Their Idiot Spawn Around In Target. Find the track and tell me it’s not that song. I’ve heard it enough to condense it down to that brief description.

The other red flag that comes up during the opening credits is one of the names in the writer credits: Paul Haggis. Paul “Crash” Haggis. Paul “I-Suck-&-Stole-The-Oscar-From-Brokeback” Haggis. But then I realized he had been on the writing staff for Casino Royale, so I sort of accepted it, as the movie had a lot of great dark comedic touches that I was kinda sure Haggis had his hands in.

Now, when it comes to the ladies, y’all were on point. Supposedly Olga Kurylenko, left in the top photo, has been doing this whole object of interest of the stoic pissed good guy for a while now. But seeing as I don’t go to see video game adaptations like Hitman and Max Payne, I wouldn’t have known. It turns out though, that whatever practice she’s had in this kind of role prepared her well. Hers and Bonds plots tie well together, as they’re both on a vengence beat. Judi Dench, you continue to rock M out with your metaphorical cock out. And Gemma Arterton, who played the wonderfully named Strawberry Fields, right in the top photo, your role in this movie was small, but you did manage to stay memorable in quite a long drawn out memorable Bond flick. Sure, Eva Green was amazing and we’d all love to see her again, but hey, her absence makes the revenge plot all the more strong.

But the real gem of the film is the performance from Mathieu Amalric, who I think I remembered from Munich, playing Dominic Greene, a fancy schmuck you want to see fail and fail hard. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) from Royale wasn’t really the villain you thought Bond deserved, more gimmick than character, even though gimmick is seemingly always a part of the Bond villain mold. But with regards to Dominic Greene, this slimy shite, the audience delights in his fall, and he’s also particularly handy with melee weapons, which makes things fun.

All the other tropes of the film are finely handled, with the film being a tad light on gadgets, though. Cleese wasn’t in Royale either, though, so maybe in our ultra modern times, the franchise is going to try and limit 007 to more conventional weaponry and leave the gadgets to the functionality of plot devices. The film is beautiful and well rounded in terms of epic locales, along with a great taste in typography to further announce each new city Bond hops to.

On the last note, I’d have to say that the Felix Leiter character continues to be perfected by Jeffrey Wright, who I hope to see continue to survive the series for as long as the actor so wants. The disgruntled American, angry with his toolish government fucking everything up, is expertly handed by Wright, and really helps the film fit this time period it’s being released in, even better than the evils behind Going Green plot that is almost lost in the horrible Greene pun of the Amalric character.

All in all, Quantum of Solace is more than worth the now exorbitant price of admission.

• How To Fix The Movie Theater Experience #1 of Many ★

Keep Him Out Of Your Movie House
Keep Him Out Of Your Movie House

First off: ★ = Original Essay, a la Gruber.

So I went to the movie theater today to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army, with the intent of ripping apart Stephen King’s new piece in Entertainment Weekly wherein he told people that they should feel lucky enough to be GOUGED for concession candy and they should be like him and buy a large popcorn ($7 @ Union Square 14th Street theater), and over-saturate it with the fake butter glop.

What I left with was enough ammo to shell King, as well as a few other ideas about what is going wrong in movie houses these days and having bought this damn domain name, I’ve decided to start a series of articles from the consummate movie goer’s P.O.V.. But this being the first, let’s go back to King.

This moment cemented King as Entertainment Weekly’s John McCain, or to be more specific EW’s Phil Gramm. He is so disconnected with the current state of society, wonder how this is enhanced by how much time he spends in his rich bitch seats at Fenway on the fucking base-line. He mentioned how his matinee seats are only 5 bucks, but I wonder how many people have matinee price theaters near them.

I’m sure that these matinee price theaters aren’t of the major brand theaters (Regal, Loews, AMC, whathaveyou), and he’s not using this article for any noble purpose like telling fans to support mom and pop theaters. This goes to the current debate between Stuart Scott of ESPN and the Deadspinners, wherein with access and the MSM connections come a lack of responsible journalism (see new issue of GQ). Not that EW is where people go for journalism, but this is a font that King has to pontificate, and he should be using it better.

Going back to King’s love of $4.50 gummi bears, the average bottom line attentive consumer knows they can get two different candy items from a nearby newstand for under two bucks. The even more on point movie watchers know to stop by their local drug store and get the same size candies from the concession stand for half the price.

I wonder how many people King is taking to the theater with him, or if he starves himself prior to screenings, because even a small popcorn these days is more than one person needs. If I’d asked for a large, as the guy in front of me did, I would have been handed a giant bucket o’ popped kernels.

This is not just another moment wherein I lose respect for King, but another reason to stop picking up EW. Also: their coverage of Katy Perry in their new issue loses points from their tally while Dr. Horrible coverage replenishes the loss. Next Friday, I’ll have more reasons to read or not to read their publication, and probably another movie to go see and explore the dynamics of the big screen houses. So we’ll have another report from the movie houses next weekend.

And finally, what’s my verdict on how to fix the movie theater? Obviously: Don’t Listen To Stephen King.

• Fantasy: The Other Reality

Dubya is your stoner uncle who’s angry at his dad for making him work with Walker Bush’s cohorts. He’s as willing to pardon stoners as he’s willing to pardon turkeys on Thanksgiving.

New York City is Liberty City: where you can drive anywhere you want, take your frustrations out on anything, and instantaneously transport yourself to an even more fantastical world where everybody’s as bloodthirsty as you are.

Rich millionaire alcoholics who built their empires on war can have moments of truth when they realize they can be robotic genius liberators (No Dubya) by night. Your buddy is Terrence Howard and your Secretary is Gwenyth Paltrow.

War is actually just a game, and the concept of soldiers being mentally manipulated translates to a scientific device, not the death of mass media. And it’s being beta tested to get the bugs out instead of becoming a quagmire.

This current stretch of time is geeky as all get the fuck out.

Avoid Time Out New York’s “The Wire” review

Maybe I was wrong for thinking that the weeklies would be good about staying away from spoilerville.

In the “Detox” issue of TONY they reveal what one major character’s plot arc will be. I really regret reading this. New York magazine, on the other hand, did a great review that shows their publication to be not only smart to the show, but smarter than the other magazines in general. This came from their love of using literary references to discuss one David Simon.

I don’t have much time as I’m still catching Cameron up on Season 4, but here’s another YouTube video:

Kanye West with T-Pain – The Good Life