TROUBLE CITY

FOR NO GOOD REASON: THE BEGINNENING

Movie NewsJeremy SmithComment

Preamble

I am easily distracted. Some might say I have ADD. I'd like to hurt these people. And I will. One day, I'll make the whole world pay.

Why No Ocean's Thirteen Review?

http://chud.com/nextraimages/affleckoceans.jpgWhat's there to say? It's essentially review-proof: more so than the other two, Soderberg has designed this film to evaporate from your consciousness the minute you leave the theater (one critic has compared the experience of watching Ocean's Thirteen to sipping on a good mojito; I'd go with shotgunning a sixer of Pabst). The reason you might want to bother with this third excuse for a bunch of fun-lovin' fellas to run riot on Warner Brothers' dime for a few months is that it's easily the least smug of the series; for once, you're actually in on the fun rather than kept (ever so stylishly and contemptuously) at a distance. It's also Soderberg's most engaging film since Out of Sight, which isn't necessarily an encouraging development, but I stopped lamenting the squandering of his talent sometime around Solaris (where he simplified a brilliant and complex screenplay in order meditate tritely on forgiveness).

Curiously, this is the first Ocean's movie to get a summer release, and its smart brand of mindlessness is perfectly suited to the season (leaving open the possibility that I might've been more forgiving of Eleven and Twelve had they been tossed off in June instead of December). Though some have carped over the lack of a proper heist this time out, I liked the way Soderbergh playfully set up his subverting of expectations with the opening sequence - a showy tracking shot that prepares us for a high-tech safe-crack before ending abruptly with the ring of a cell phone (the tone, almost amusingly enough, is The Human League's "Don't You Want Me"). Everything in the film is this nonsensical, which spares you the trouble of keeping straight the details of the outfit's revenge-motivated bankrupting of a brand new casino operated by Al Pacino (as if the internal logic of the last two mattered a whit) - though Vegas-friendly screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien do provide a greater level of verisimilitude than evinced in Eleven. You really feel Vegas as a character in this movie.

As for the flesh-and-blood dramatis personae, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan get the funniest extended bit of business this time out: preaching the doctrine of Zapata and fomenting revolution in a Mexican dice-making factory. These guys are so good together in these movies that you wonder why no one has written a two-hander of some sort for them (come to think of it, Caan's a gifted enough writer to do this himself). Carl Reiner is also well-utilized this time, impersonating an effete hotel and resort critic with a fussy dog - always a pleasure to watch the legend do his thing. Bernie Mac, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do (a domino game on the floor of a ritzy casino should've been funnier), though the sexy-again Ellen Barkin proves a refreshing substitute for the cast-iron bitch duo of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones. And I guess Matt Damon is funny with a big prosthetic nose.

You'd never call Ocean's Thirteen "inspired", but it entertains for a carefree couple of hours, which is more than you can say for the heavyweights of May. If you're up for the most unapologetically ephemeral movie of the year thus far, buy a ticket and enjoy the breeze.

Interminable Cruelty

http://chud.com/nextraimages/captivityposter.jpgLionsgate, After Dark and Roland Joffe may disagree, but I'd love to see Captivity delayed forever. The film, you might recall, generated a torrent of negative publicity back in March when its ad campaign was deemed misogynistic and generally evil for helpfully illustrating the four-step process of murdering Elisha Cuthbert (though I am loathe to repeat the procedure, the incipient psychos amongst you will be lost without the pictures; ergo, "Abduction", "Confinement", Torture", and "Termination"). At this point, Captivity was scheduled for release on May 18 as counterprogramming to another implement of cruelty, Shrek the Third; however, a few weeks later, Lionsgate and After Dark realized they were in direct competition with something more horrific than the precipitous plunge of Joffe's career, and promptly bumped Captivity to June 22, where it would've done battle with the no-less alarming likes of Evan Almighty and 1408. Alas, it was off to July 13, and a date with destruction at the hands of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (and another genre competitor in Rogue Pictures' home invasion flick, The Strangers).

In the meantime, Captivity's omnipresent (and now toned down) outdoor L.A. advertising has been faded by the sun, tagged by local gangs and vandalized by smartalecks who think drawing a cock on, in or near the lovely young Cuthbert's mouth is the apex of wit. They're right, of course. And it's partly for this reason that I'd love to see Lionsgate get cold feet once again and push to Labor Day weekend, where a movie of Captivity's alleged caliber clearly belongs. (Note for future column: "10 Worst Labor Day Releases".) Also, aside from the fact that there is viable and genuinely exciting art being plastered all over the porcelain white visage of Ms. Cuthbert in the name of marking territory and sheer boredom (might this be the flowering of a new, coarse aesthetic?), there's the edifying spectacle of watching a studio publicly baste a turkey for six months. In Lionsgate's defense, they haven't gone too heavy on television spots yet (at least, not during NBA games, which is all I've been watching of late besides The Sopranos and Entourage), which, judging from Captivity's trailer, has enabled them to better mask the stench emanating from the long-delayed movie. But it's never good when your movie's advertising is the joke of the town. Long may it occupy primo billboard and bus stop square-footage.

Comparatively, Joffe got off easy with The Scarlet Letter.

Not Everyone Wants a Fountain II

I couldn't run this as a news story because I never got confirmation, so here it is as a "rumor": Peter Jackson nearly turned The Lovely Bones into a reunion of The Fountain's two leads, but Hugh Jackman passed on the role of the father. Rachel Weisz, however, is apparently a done deal as the grieving mother. In terms of Oscar bait, the part of the eccentric grandmother is the one to watch. She's a vain, glamorous woman doing everything to stave off old age, but she sacrifices her vitality to lift the entire family out of an emotional abyss. Julie Christie better be Peter Jackson's first choice.

A Delightful John Wayne Quote

http://chud.com/nextraimages/greenberets.jpg"I've directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets."

Roland Joffe Got Me Thinking: Worst Prestige-Bait Directors of All Time

1. Stanley Kramer
2. Roland Joffe
3. Norman Jewison
4. Costa-Gavras
5. Lasse Hallstrom
6. James Mangold
7. Taylor Hackford
8. Richard Attenborough
9. Ron Howard
10. Michael Anderson

Because You've Been Good, More Wisdom from The Duke

"Our so-called stealing of this country from [the Indians] was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."

I'll be back next Friday with my inseam measurements.