September 14, 2012, - 6:26 pm
I didn’t dislike any of the new movies this weekend, which is rare.
* “Arbitrage“: There is a lot of Oscar buzz around this movie starring uber-lefties Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. And, though the movie definitely has an Occupy Wall Street vibe to it and an Occupy ending, it’s a taut, well-done thriller that will engage you and keep you on the edge of your seat. There is also a Black-versus-White vibe to it, with the White guy as sort of the user in a “Driving Miss Daisy”-on-steroids kind of a way that I resented, since it’s manipulative and the same old, stale, liberal older-rich-White-dude-uses-younger-poor-Black-guy narrative we always get (and it’s never the other way around). Still, even with all of these strong caveats, I enjoyed it anyway because I know better and, as with any good thriller, I wanted to see what happens next. You will, too.
Gere is a Bernard Madoff-esque billionaire in Manhattan who is married to Susan Sarandon. He is celebrating his 60th birthday at the same time that he is desperately trying to avoid auditors finding a giant hole of missing funds (which he lost on a bad investment deal) that could sink him and his hedge fund. He’s trying to sell the company to save himself and his family, but the billionaire thinking of buying keeps putting him off. One of Gere’s rich friends has given him a massive amount of money as a “loan” to cover the whole, but he wants the money back now. Gere’s ethical, diligent daughter (Brit Marling), who is his company’s compliance officer, begins to notice accounting irregularities and starts asking questions. And at the same time all of this is happening, a much larger crisis emerges: something happens to Gere’s extramarital girlfriend (former supermodel Laetitia Casta), and he is now under investigation. All of these crises come to a head simultaneously, and Gere must do the impossible: fix them all at once and outsmart a Columbo-like detective (Tim Roth).
The script in this is tight and, unlike most Hollywood movies that root against the rich, this one is designed to make the audience root for Gere to extricate himself and get away with it all. He’s not one of these evil rich that Hollywood’s hypocritical class wars usually give us. He’s more nuanced and has a conscience, despite his cutting ethical corners all around. He wants to do the right thing, even if he’s a marital cheat, fudges numbers on the books, and lies to police about an accident. All of these things are definitely bad and wrong, but still, there is something redeeming about him that causes you to want him to make out okay in the end. And he’s not really like Madoff. He didn’t deliberately cheat his company or the government out of money. He just made bad investments and risky choices and is trying to fix it without stealing.
As I noted, I didn’t like the ending or some of the typical liberal narrative, but it’s still fun to watch, anyway. I like a good thriller, and this is that. And whether or not you like Gere’s politics (and I do NOT–particularly the U.S.-funded campaign commercials in which he appeared with Islamic terrorists and Jew-haters for the Palestinian elections), you cannot deny his acting chops. It’s a weak year at the movies, thus far, so I’ll bet he gets an Oscar nom for this role.
TWO-AND-A-HALF REAGANS (Would Be Three-and-a-half, But For the liberal-infused themes)
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Robot & Frank“: I like actor Frank Langella. Even when the movie is bad (which is rare for his projects), he’s always good. But this was a good movie, and he sparkles as usual. It’s a fun, light movie that takes place in the future. Cars haven’t changed much, but libraries are in the process of closing up shop (along with physical, bound books), and phone calls are on video. Also cellphones are transparent, and robots exist to help people as caretakers and companions.
Langella is a divorced, retired jewelry burglar whose memory is lapsing, as are his self-care skills and his homemaking. His son (James Marsden) buys him a robot to help take care of him and make him healthy. At first he is resentful, but soon he is planning a robbery with the robot. Langella’s daughter (Liv Tyler) is an anti-robot liberal who is touring the world on grant proposals to help the poor. Susan Sarandon also co-stars.
Funny, enjoyable, entertaining, and it has what I like in a good movie: a semi-ambiguous and cool sci-fi ending to an interesting futuristic movie.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Sleepwalk With Me“: At first I hated this movie and every single person in it. All of the characters were annoying and none of them was likeable. Plus the main characters are hipsters, and I hate hipsters . . . with a passion. But the movie finally got better and became more interesting once it delved into the sleepwalking dysfunction of the main character. And thankfully, the high-pitched Carol Kane made a quick exit.
Mike Birbiglia plays a comedian wannabe who is stuck in a dead-end job as a bartender. But soon he gets a gig on the road. He’s not funny but he keeps getting booked on gigs no one else wants and/or which have to be filled quickly. Suddenly, he is on the road non-stop, and comes out of his shell becoming funny once he begins ripping on his new fiancee (Lauren Ambrose) in his act. At the same time, his anxiety about getting married and being on the road in a tiring routine exacerbates his sleepwalking disorder. Birbiglia’s disorder gets so bad, he runs through hotels and jumps through windows while he is asleep. It’s interesting, but once we really get into it, it kind of collapses into the ending.
Not really sure I’d pay ten bucks for this. But I might rent it.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Detropia“: While I enjoyed much of the cinematography in this documentary about the dying and death of Detroit–it has a retro cool vibe to it, there isn’t much new in it, especially if you live in and/or grew up in the Detroit area, as I did. You’ve seen similar footage around the internet, and we see it whenever we drive into or through Detroit: dilapidated, decayed, collapsing buildings that were once grand. A desolate city becoming ever more desolate by the day. The thing is, the movie doesn’t show the Marxist Third World Detroit City Council and its responsibility for much never getting done. There is no comment on the welfare state that has overtaken Black culture and, with it, Detroit. And constant commentary by a Cadillac-driving auto union official fails to really challenge the union’s contribution to the death of jobs and the auto industry here. On the other hand, it unintentionally shows that contribution when a union meeting results in militant workers refusing to take a pay cut. The plant closes as a result, and they all lose their jobs. But, again, there’s little new in this movie. Still, the visuals are well shot and it is entertaining from that perspective. The sadness of Detroit and the sense of the greatness it once was is well captured. As for the pretentious street theater in the movie, it’s just stupid (and, thankfully, limited).
Watch the trailer . . .
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