#43 - Bullets, Bombs and Babes

Dedicated To
Andy Sidaris
1931 - 2007

Added 4/2/07

Well, things were bound to slow down here sooner or later. After last week’s mammoth 9-movie review-a-thon, this week’s Electric Theatre will be a quick one. Don’t cry, I’m sure we’ll return to our usual bloated entries soon enough.


Blades of Glory

I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about Will Ferrell. Considering that many of his fellow Saturday Night Live alumni fill me with instant and total revulsion, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not a big enough fan to seek out his movies but I don’t exactly avoid them either. Blades of Glory is volume three in Ferrell’s apparent efforts to make a movie revolving around every sport, this time figure skating. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with an easier target for a broad comedy like this one. Possibly synchronized swimming, although Harry Shearer and Martin Short pretty much nailed that one on SNL back in the 80s. Anyway, with such a big bullseye to shoot at, it shouldn’t be a surprise that at least some of the jokes hit home. Ferrell, of course, plays Chazz Michael Michaels, an arrogant, sex-addicted champion skater who teams with his arch-rival Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) after both are banned from singles competition for life. Blades of Glory is one of those movies that won’t suffer in the slightest if you don’t catch it in theatres but despite a few lulls, most of the movie is at least lightly amusing. I laughed out loud at least a few times and that’s not too shabby. As far as I’m concerned, any movie that offers Will Arnett chasing Will Ferrell through a convention center with a crossbow while both are wearing ice skates can’t be all bad. (* * ½)

The Lookout

I knew very little about this neo-noir going in and that’s probably the best way to approach it. If you’ve seen the trailer, it sets you up for something akin to Memento. In fact, The Lookout plays more like a companion piece to the recent John Cusack/Billy Bob Thornton movie The Ice Harvest. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, a young man who suffered a serious head injury in a car crash a few years back. He now has trouble with his memory, sometimes blurts out inappropriate remarks, and can’t quite control his left hand. He works nights as a janitor in a small-town bank, making him a perfect mark for an old high school acquaintance with plans to rob it. Screenwriter Scott Frank makes a solid directorial debut here. He’s not trying to dazzle the audience with camera moves or jumbled timelines. He has enough confidence in his writing to allow that to carry the film’s momentum. His secret weapon, however, is Jeff Daniels, absolutely terrific as Chris’ blind roommate. Not that there’s a weak link in the cast, it’s just that Daniels walks off with every scene he’s in. The Lookout isn’t a great film but it is a very good, well-constructed one. Sometimes, that’s enough. (* * *)


Going Places

Here’s an odd one, the kind of movie that could only have been made in 1974 and in France. Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere star as a pair of aimless petty thugs who spend their days harassing women, shoplifting and occasionally stealing cars for a joyride. After one of them is shot, the two of them hit the road, getting deeper into trouble at nearly every stop. Directed by Bertrand Blier, Going Places tests your patience, focusing on two characters who are at best obnoxious and at worst sociopaths. And yet, the movie remains compelling and provocative, helped in no small part by the veritable who’s-who of classy French actresses in the supporting cast (including Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Fossey and a young Isabelle Huppert). I can’t say I enjoyed Going Places and by the time the credits rolled, I was questioning what the point of it all had been. But at least I thought there was a point to it, which is more than I can say for some of the obscure arthouse flicks I’ve seen. (* * ½)

I Trust You To Kill Me

Like most big-time movie or TV stars, Kiefer Sutherland has a side business going. When he’s not staying up all night as Jack Bauer on 24, he’s partners in a record label and this documentary follows him and a band he’s promoting, Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, on a brief European tour. Kiefer assigns himself the job of tour manager, a role he proves to be astonishingly unqualified for. The band isn’t bad and for a while it’s fun to watch them party across Europe and see Kiefer use his celebrity to promote their gigs, especially as he gives out free tickets to disbelieving locals on the streets of Dublin. Unfortunately, it all gets a little tedious after about an hour. Director Manu Boyer can’t quite decide whether his movie is about Sutherland or DeLuca, so in the end we don’t really get to know either of them. But if you want to see Jack Bauer repeatedly lose his cell phone and drunkenly tackle a Christmas tree, here’s your chance. (* * ½)

My Country, My Country

On the other end of the documentary spectrum, we have this Oscar-nominated film about the months leading up to the Iraq elections. Director Laura Poitras spends most of her time focusing on a doctor running for council whose party (the Iraqi Islamic Party) withdraws from the elections in protest. If you’ve wondered why the mainstream media isn’t telling stories like this, it’s apparently because half the journalists over in Iraq are making films, at least judging from the large number of them that have come out recently. My Country, My Country is one of the better examples. By spending time with actual Iraqi citizens instead of just military personnel, we get a much better sense of what life is like over there. In this case, the elections were heavily promoted on the news at the time but even so, a lot of what we see here was news to me. It’s virtually impossible not to be moved by scenes of a worried father whose son has just been kidnapped by extremists or to be struck by the similarities between American and Iraqi families when Dr. Riyadh urges his daughters to vote for him. Not surprisingly, this is a melancholy film and, somewhat refreshingly, it doesn’t thrust its agenda in your face. It’s a somber, low-key movie and while it certainly doesn’t allow us to hear every voice in the complex country of Iraq (possibly no one movie could), the voices we do hear are humane and often surprising. (* * *)

Your pal,