The RomCom double feature

Well, my dear readers, it’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. Between one awful cold and a big move, I felt a break was needed.

But since I’ve recovered from both those real life invasions, let’s get back to the business of critiquing with this RomCom double feature.

If reviews are to be believed, lately romantic comedies have been quite the suckfests. Unlikeable but beautiful people try and fail to convince us that they are worthy of a ‘happily-ever-after’ moment. Or we get a story about a deep friendship between two dudes that’s clearly only written for men.

 

It’s a bit bleak out there for men AND women, so let’s take a look backward at two modern romcoms that both succeed (to a point) but don’t necessarily leave us with bad feelings.

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“Unconditional Love” revisited

The ending still bugs me.

I first saw “Unconditional Love” in 2004; I’d never heard of it, but after discovering just how awesome Peter Sarsgaard is, I decided that I needed to watch every movie of his I could find, and with absolutely no prior knowledge, I found myself watching this quirky, uneven but cute little film about the most self-less kind of love.

And then I had to go and ruin things even more by rewatching it.

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Drag Me To Hell

Sam Raimi is one director who really knows his genre. I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies, but damn, he knows how to find spooks and chills using minimalist tricks that stopped being fashionable quite a while back. I loved his “Spider-Man 2,” and the scene were Doc Ock emerges is downright frightening in what is supposed to be a lightweight comic book movie.

In “Drag Me to Hell,” he uses every trick he’s got to scare his audience, and while the film has its problems, mood and unease are not them.

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“X-Men: The Last Stand” revisited

I have loved “X-Men” since I was kid. In the pre-Tivo days, I tried my hardest to always catch the show when it came on Saturday mornings. When I got my first job, my license and my first access to disposable income, I discovered my town’s lone comic book store and went nuts buying as many of the issues as I could afford (and let’s face it, some I couldn’t).

So, way back in 2000, when the first movie came out, I was excited…and then when I watched the first one I was largely disappointed in a cool and cerebral outing when I wanted the action and emotion that I’ve come to expect from the series.

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The Ghost Writer

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Roman Polanski is a frakked-up man. He’s lived through a lot of horrors, but well, he raped a child, and that’s something that’s not forgivable. That said, the man does have a way with a camera (and a script). The bastard.

Anyway, “The Ghost Writer” is the story of a disgraced politician, Great Britain’s Former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan in fine form as a Tony Blair homage), whose first draft of his memoir has been rejected by his editors. His publishing house has called in a new ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) after the previous ghost writer’s bizarre suicide.

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‘The Fifth Element’ revisited

While watching Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” again, I suddenly remembered the first time I saw it.

I was still in high school, in the summer between 9th and 10th grade. None of us could drive yet, but some friends (Julie, Kristen and Erica) and I planned to meet at the theater that was just down the road (and across a highway) from my house. After playing a human version of “Frogger” across four lanes of traffic (not recommended), I met up with them.

We were giggly and too loud during the wait, and I have no idea what I thought of the movie after watching with them, but that memory of that day is enough for me to give the movie a bit of a break.

And boy, does it need one.

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Ocean’s Thirteen

Man, do I love Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven.”

It’s a layered but satisfying heist movie, a buddy movie, an easy revenge picture, and an all-around good time. Sure, you’re rooting for the criminals, but that’s what movies are for.

I wish I was reviewing that movie instead.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” is a lot like the first movie; a casino owner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino, mugging it up as usual), has wronged Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), the moneybags of the trilogy, nearly killing him, so the band, led by Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), gets back together to ruin Bank’s newest casino and rob of him of millions.

To do that, they’ll have to recruit some new team members, bypass an impossible-to-fool security system, pull off several long-cons, and get out with no traces of their presence (you know, like in every heist movie).

Not a bad setup, but a big part of what made the first story so fun was getting to meet the characters for the first time. Here, we are thrust into the action midstream, and while I normally applaud that sort of thing, here it just feels overdone.

That’s basically my problem with “Thirteen” (and to be fair, “Ocean’s Twelve” too). We’ve seen what came before, we’ve watched them pull off the impossible, and by now we can spot all the tricks coming.

It’s such a waste too; the cast is still solid, but there’s no more fun to be had. The effortless charm of “Eleven” has evaporated, and all we’re left with is a film that’s trying (and failing) to recapture the glory days of the first movie.

Let’s hope there’s not an “Ocean’s Fourteen” around the corner.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007)

Written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring: George Clooney (Danny Ocean)

Brad Pitt (Rusty Ryan)

Al Pacino (Willy Bank)

Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould)

Sherlock Holmes

What a mixed bag of a movie.

On one hand, you get the inspired choices for Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson, and Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, an exceptional criminal and Sherlock’s lady love.

But, on the other hand, you get a weak script, action-movie trappings, and a lot of silly red herrings.

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“Stargate” (the movie)

Lately, I’ve been binge watching “Stargate SG-1,” the television series. Since I have liked the show so far (I’m in the middle of the sixth season), I thought it was time to go back to the beginning and watch the movie properly.

I know at some point that I tried to watch this movie; I remembered the beginning, but after that, and after watching the movie altogether, I can see why it was not particularly memorable.

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