Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekend of Movies - Crash, Blade Trinity, Red Eye

thanks to a vicious headcold, just had a movie-rich weekend.

Crash - I know, i'm late to the party, but you'll have trouble finding
a more arresting movie in recent years.
So what is it about Ryan Phillippe? Ever since he seduced Selma
Blair away from Sarah Michelle Gellar, Phillippe has been that rarest
of things, a professional catalyst - BSG might put him in the Robert
Horay/Nate Dogg corrlelary - He never carries a project, but if he's
AROUND it, you're guaranteed a funky, exotic and quality movie.
Way of the Gun. Gosford Park. Cruel Intentions. Antitrust
(ENORMOUSLY underrated - see it just
to take in Tim Robbins playing a guy who is 1-based on Bill Gates and
2-is really a 70s-Bond-level villian. Also, in the mandatory Hot Girls
slot, you get Rachel Leigh Cooke, just months removed from her
jiggle-queen breakthrough in She's All That, and Claire Forlani, soon
after Joe Black, when it looked like she was poised to take over the
world - how did this movie disappear so completely?)
But back to Phillippe - he was even the "Host" on Outkast's watershed
'Hey Ya' video.
AND he bangs Reese Witherspoon.
And now, Crash. Phillippe, now that i've carried on about him, is
just one of about 10 A-minus/B-plus actors who play in Crash, which is
a multi-story meditation on various kinds of racial hate in America.
It's incredibly smart and tough and - key point - expertly made. All
the jumps are seemless, the cameras zoom smoothly through rooms to
follow conversations, the lighting paints the mood, and the director is
as likely to keep watching the actor reacting to a key line than on the
actor delivering it. Big League talent behind the camera.
The plot takes the four or five main stories of the movie - the
lives of a few sets of strangers, all with various racial issues - and
wraps them around each other. In fact, it wraps them so tight, by the
end it gets a bit comic. You're basicly asked to believe that the
population of Los Angeles is, at most, 30. It's like 6-degrees of
seperation, only, at most, 3-degrees.
But again the writer helps you out - often when the stories collide,
the characters don't even know it - only you do, since you're been
following them.
The movie builds all its hate and mistrust and loathing into two
critical moments - the first one is diffused by Phillippe. The true
apex, then, comes a minute later on the driveway of the locksmith's
house (interesting metaphor, the locksmith, the man we trust to keep
the world at bay) and it's one for the ages. You think you know what's
coming, you think you know, you think you know and bam! - Way worse
than you thought.
From there, the movie begins to diffuse, which turns out to mean
that only 5 or 6 coincidences still have to be revealed.
Of the 10 central characters, only Brendan Frasier can't punch his
weight, which should surprise no one.
It's fun to watch Sandra Bullock be a screaming, unapologetic rich
racist bitch.
And almost stealing the show is Ludacris, the planet's current best
rapper - he is so good as a conflicted street criminal that the
director allows him to both open and close the movie.
One more interesting note - this genius I've been going on about who
wrote and directed Crash is a guy named Paul Haggis, who also wrote
Million Dollar Baby. And episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and the Love
Boat. Just for perspective.

Also checked out Blade Trinity. Usually, I wouldn't even bring it
up, but, like i said, it was a movie-filled weekend, so I will: Skip

Finally, we went out and saw the still-in-threatres Red Eye - and what
a pleasant surprise, to find a low-budget, formula studio movie as well
made as this one. It's directed, with pop and tempo, by Wes Craven,
who puts in absoluetly nothing that isn't vital. The movie ads and
trailers, for some reason, sell this movie as a sort of horror movie,
'Elm Street' in a 767, but it isn't at all. It's a thriller, closer to
Die Hard than Freddy. Well, closer to Hitchcock than either of those,
and like Hitchcock movies, it lives and dies on its lead - and on that
note, Rachel McAdams has arrived. She was great in the Notebook
(dragged to it, but she was the only thing that kept it afloat),
stellar in Mean Girls and she's great here. If Nicole Kidman can be a
major star, so can this woman (of course, by that corollary, so can
anyone, but whatever). She's paired with the guy from 28 Days Later,
who is just too creepy to be boring. The entire movie is a mind game
between a pretty, smart girl and the wierdo she's next to on an
airplane. And all of that is really great. It's so cerebral that the
one moment where violence erupts is so unexpected, the whole theatre
It falls apart - as absolutely every movie like it must - when they
land the plane and, therefore, take away the playing field. Then it
quickly becomes a very ordinary chase movie with explosions and killers
lurking behind shower curtains. But that bit - again, to Wes Craven's
credit - lasts at most 10 minutes.
But perhaps the best part is the opening 20 minutes, where Red Eye
expertly captures the misery of modern airport/airplane living. The
gate person, overhead compartments, the ticket agent, the mindless
pre-flight 'announcements' (all electronic items in 'off' position,
etc), the stuffy sense of privilidge that you have to walk through as
you transit the first-class cabin back to your seat - it's all here.
Great movie.

ps - This is season premier week on (network) TV, and my expectations
are low - Lost and Desperate Housewives are going to have to find an
entirely new trick to keep the mojo rising, and I don't think either
will (Lost has a fighting chance; Housewives, I think, is already in
the post-sex "Moonlighting" realm); West Wing - it's been a long, long
time since I rooted for a Republican, but I think that's what I'll be
doing this year, but will it matter? The last 2 years have been so
bad; the Simpsons - no clue what's going on with that show, but I just
spotted this the other day - does anybody watch The Family Guy? I
caught one episode and it's like the Glory years of the Simpsons all
over again! Hysterical! Revelation!
(PS on the Simpsons - if you're unclear on "the Glory years," that's
seasons 5, 6 and 7 - and six just joined 5 out on DVD - worth
And Season 2 of Laguna Beach... come ONNN!!! Know your worth,
girls! KNOW YOUR WORTH!!!!! Tomorrow (Tuesday) night is the Cabo
episode - I'll have more after that.

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