April 25, 2010

'Bad' Bridges Mumbles to Imperfection in 'Heart'

How I hate movies about down-and-out, once-popular performers who've hit the bottle as they've hit bottom.

Didn't we get enough of that type of thing (played for laughs, of course) in This Is Spinal Tap? I mean, do we have to go once more unto the breach with this plotjerker in Crazy Heart?

It's so easy, methinks--a device that never fails to win accolades. Which it did, of course, for Jeff Bridges, who landed an Oscar earlier this year for his mumbling, muttering performance as boozin', womanizin' country "music" has-been Bad Blake.

Oh, he's bad all right. Bad to the bone. And that's just a description of Blake's songwriting.

Which, to be fair, isn't Bridges' fault. Scott Cooper, CH's director, pads out this rather thin film with interminable musical interludes that slow down the pace greatly and provide little insight into the man, the myth that is Bad Blake.

And yet, this character's so uninteresting, I hardly care that we aren't seeing how the great genius got to be where he was...though we do get glimpses into his lying-semi-prone, half-naked-with-booze-and-a-guitar creation process.

Yeah, a regular Mozart at work, that.

The problem with CH is there really isn't much new here. Blake calls the son he never knew and is rejected by him. He hasn't written a song in years...but he does by the end of the movie.

If this doesn't get your dreary buttons blinking, I don't know what will.

Through all the cliches and uninspired music, there is some decent acting here. Old pro Robert Duvall, who apparently helped produce this flick, provides crusty support as, well, a crusty bartender. Who's seen a lot of life...or something. And Maggie Gyllenhaal is her usual reliable self as Blake's new, single-mom flame. Even Colin Farrell steps in as a new-breed singer mentored by Blake, though his character is dropped halfway through the movie, only to reappear at the end singing one of Blake's unmemorable tunes.

The movie, however, meanders too much...just like its subject. It's episodic, with a rather threadbare plot. And as Blake, Bridges is almost incomprehensible at times, summoning Marlon Brando and Tom Skerritt in a performance worthy of asking the question, "Is the TV on too low, or is this dialogue too garbled to understand?"

Not that it was interesting enough to warrant a quick rewind. The film does pick up a bit as it lopes toward the end, but by that time, it's too late. Maybe CH gets better with a few shots of moonshine, but I'd say, don't waste it.

Save it for Amadeus.

April 04, 2010

Tacky 'Titans' Takes 1D to New Low

Before Trudi and I entered the movie theater to see the remake of the 1981's cheesy Clash of the Titans, a cinematic travesty of Greek mythology if there ever was one, I wondered aloud if the newest version would be worse than the old one.

We agreed. Sure, it would.

Oh, we realized that was setting the bar really, really low. But it had to be done, ya know? The old version, which had the wooden Harry Hamlin battling antiquated-looking Ray Harryhausen special effects, hardly had anything going for it...which led me to wonder why anyone would want to remake it in the first place. I mean, was there anything worth remaking?

My feeling is that someone thought, "Hey, let's update this with a lot of CGI and put Liam Neeson in as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes in as Hades, and maybe do a little research in Bulfinch's Mythology"--(Editor's note: "A little research" means "almost none at all")--"and then almost completely refrain from following the original story and make it 3D, because that's what folks like these days, right?"

Yeah...I think it went something like that.

The funny thing was, I went into the film with such low expectations that I didn't completely hate it. It was trash, sure, but at least it was short...though the dialogue was interminable, making some scenes (especially ones dealing with "back story," a now-overused Hollywood treatment that is applied to classic tales as one applies mustard to a corned-beef-on-rye sandwich) excrutiatingly tedious.

Though not as tedious as almost every bit of conversation in Nixon. That's the top tier, there, methinks.

Still, I'm a little miffed that for all the CGI and chase scenes in 2010's Clash, there was not one bit of excitement. The reason? A combination of poor direction, editing, cinematography, and perspective, plus the most important missing piece of all: caring about the characters. Not that I was expecting Charles Dickens, but any development was nil. So what we ended up with was less than a trifle. It was a pittance.

CGI chase and/or battle scenes done right are tough to do, though I believe the greatest example of this was exhibited in 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. But that was rather judicious in its treatment. Clash felt like it was rushed to the theaters in the hopes of making a Friday night showing.

It did that, all right. And how.

Whether anyone will be back, however, is another story.