July 08, 2009

Summer Movie Roundup

I've made it clear how I feel about "Transformers 2," but here are thoughts on a few other recent releases that I've seen but not written proper reviews for:

"Whatever Works." This one had a lot going against it- it's a typical Woody Allen old-guy-dates-hot-younger-chick story, but since 73-year-old Allen is too old for that now, he instead recruted... 62-year-old Larry David to romance 21-year-old Evan Rachel Wood. Plus, it's a script from the '70s that Allen discarded back then, and he's since found about 30 different ideas he deemed more worthy of production than this.

The movie, though, is a pleasant surprise, Allen's best pure comedy in quite some time. David is a perfect conduit for Allen's persona, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr., shine in supporting roles, and Wood is as appealing as I've ever seen her on screen. Sure, you've gotta get past Allen's open cultural prejudices- all Southerners are idiots, no young woman can resist an aging, misanthropic slob- but it's another step in Allen's unlikely resurgence.

"Public Enemies." There's a lot to like here, but I couldn't help but think with that cast, that director (Michael Mann), and that crew, it should have been SO much better. Depp is excellent, Marion Cotillard even better, and there are three or four great moments. But the style Mann uses to shoot the film is so off-putting that it all but cannibalizes it. Way too much handheld, way too much close-up, to the point where we know there's a beautiful production design; we just can't see it. (Full review to come next week.)

"(500) Days of Summer." Here's an awesome romantic comedy, funny as it is sweet, and certain to appeal to fans of "How I Met Your Mother," right down to the time-shifting narrative, superlative soundtrack and hero who aspires to be an architect. It's bound to be a breakout role for Zooey Deschanel, who comes across at first as an MPDG but later turns out to be much more. Only complaints? It gets way too cute at times, especially in a song-and-dance sequence that looked like something from "The Drew Carey Show," and its final line, which I bet most moviegoers will guess five minutes before it happens.

"Bruno." Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to "Borat" has a couple of moments of pure hilarity, and I give Cohen credit for fully committing to the bit. But this movie isn't nearly as funny as "Borat," mostly because Bruno isn't nearly as funny a character. It's also maddeningly repetitive, as pretty much the same sequence repeats itself about ten times. The movie's second half is almost entirely laugh-free, as the audience I saw it with can attest.

Posted by Stephen Silver at July 8, 2009 10:03 PM
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