Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Movies in Brief

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

This diverting bit of nonsense blends romantic comedy with A Christmas Carol in a blatant ploy for feminine hearts: the lead is swoon bait Matthew McConaughey, and the story is a sharp rebuke against womanizing. McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a successful creep of a magazine photographer who uses and discards women like Kleenex, even breaking up with three at once on a conference call.

(The movie's ideas about how photography is done is pretty laughable; for example, Connor has a woman archer shoot an apple off a model's head. Ever heard of PhotoShop, guys?)

On the eve of the wedding of his younger brother (Breckin Meyer), Connor makes a cynical speech denouncing love, and that night the ghost of his idolized, swinging Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, clerarly having a grand time), appears, warning Connor not to end up as he did, old and alone. The ghost tells him he’ll be visited by Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Present and Future, who take Connor on a journey to confront the origins and consequences of his caddish behavior.

Connor predictably realizes he’s missed out on true love with childhood sweetheart Jenny (Jennifer Garner), who now regards him with pity and contempt. This labored conceit plays better than it sounds, since the script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Four Christmases) has enough funny, acid dialogue to compensate for absurdities like the bride’s middle-aged militarist dad, described as a Korean War vet, which would make him around 80.

Next Day Air

This crime action-comedy directed by Benny Boom, whose background is in music videos, comes across like an African-American version of a Guy Ritchie caper (comically inept criminals, menacing masterminds, stylish cinematography and editing) crossed with Pineapple Express (criminal mixup fueled by incessant pot smoking).

While the level of violence — much of it implied and offscreen — might be aversive to some, the movie is a model of tense, economical storytelling (it runs a compact 84 minutes) and low-key humor. Leo (Scrubs Donald Faison) is an overnight delivery driver whose work performance is hampered by his copious pot smoking and whose exasperated boss is his mom (Debbie Allen). Stoned Leo delivers a package to the wrong apartment, allowing a pair of bumbling crooks, Brody and Guch (Mike Epps and Wood Harris) to get their hands on a huge shipment of cocaine. This sets off a series of dangerous events when Brody and Guch decide to sell the coke, while the vengeful dealer (Emilio Rivera) and intended recipients (Cisco Reyes and Yasmin Deliz) try to get it back.

While it relies too heavily on stereotypes (Latino characters named “Jesus,” “Chita” and “Bodega”?), the movie maintains a nice balance of suspense and humor. The casual interplay between the characters, as written by Blair Cobbs, is a lot of fun. It’s morally pretty reprehensible, but entertaining nonetheless.

Beauty in Trouble (Kráska v nesnázich)

This comedy-drama by Czech director Jan Hrebejk was made in 2001 and first released in 2006. Written by Petr Jachovský and inspired by a Robert Graves poem, the film tells the story of Anna Geislerová (lovely redheaded Ana Geislerová) who lives a frustrating life with her two children and husband Jarda (Roman Luknár), who runs a stolen-car chop shop, and with whom she shares a passionate sex life but little else.

Anna takes the children and moves in with her meddlesome but well-intentioned mother (Jana Brejchová) and stepfather Richard (Jirí Schmitzer), who resents the intrusion and mentally terrorizes the children. After Jarda is arrested, Anna the man whose car he stole, the older, wealthy, kindhearted Evzen (Josef Abrhám) who courts her and whisks her to his Tuscany estate. When Jarda is released from jail, Anna must choose between financial security with Evzen and returning to life with her husband.

The film peers down some psychological dark alleys, and the acting is compelling — Schmitzer’s sinister stepfather, by turns generous and sexually threatening, is especially chilling. But the story threads don’t lead anywhere very interesting. The soundtrack’s inclusion of English songs now recognizable from the film Once seems oddly out of place, and the irresolute ending may leave viewers wondering what all the fuss was about.

No comments: