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In-Flight Entertainment 8 August 17, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Up and Away.
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I’m postponing another round of Random Travel Notes until after I fly back home. Likewise, Dissertating will be put on hold until after I get to consult with the powers that be later in the week. In lieu of these, another roundup of the films I missed in theaters but caught in transit gets your undivided attention:

Charlie Bartlett. I thought it was interesting enough, but certainly not the sort of thing I would’ve wanted to watch on the big screen (and based on the trailers, I actually wanted to). The movie has this whole Dazed and Confused vibe going for it with a character that reminds me of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, which is probably why I wasn’t too taken with it (I’m not too fond of The Catcher in the Rye). There were moments the movie reminded me of The Royal Tenenbaums, too. I thought it would’ve been more interesting had the film revolved around the “kid becomes peers’ de facto psychologist” angle rather than the hodgepodge of drug dealing, teen angst, rebelliousness and relationships it turned out to be. For that matter, off the top of my head I’m at a loss to describe what the movie was about at all.

Drillbit Taylor. It’s like a trainwreck: I knew exactly what to expect, and yet I couldn’t resist but watch it. The long and the short of it is that this is one feature-length “meh” from start to finish. Why is it Owen Wilson gravitates to these kind or roles, anyway? Guy used to be funny, and the irony of it all is I think the movie would have been so much better had it headlined Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller insead.

Iron Man. Everyone that would rave about the film described it in ZOMG terms. The verdict? ZOMG! John Favreau is a genius, pushing all the right buttons and getting the perfect cast for the film. It’s a pretty straightforward superhero movie that wouldn’t have been half as good were it not for Robert Downey Jr., who pulls of the Tony-Stark-was-inspired-by-Howard-Hughes characterization near perfectly. Terrence Howard was a tad underutilized (a la James Franco in Spider-Man, so this one cries “sequel!”), and I felt Gwyneth Paltrow was a little too stoic for her role, though she played it well. And Jeff Bridges nearly steals the damn show. Overall, it would be unfair to compare Iron Man to The Dark Knight as the two have different appeals, but both go to show what comic-inspired movies can accomplish with a great cast and a good screenplay. Oh, and the mech-on-mech throwdown at the end? Epic!

Leatherheads. George Clooney is still the man, both as actor and director. I hear he got into this project because he didn’t want to be typecast after doing such serious roles in Goodnight and Goodluck, Syriana, and Michael Clayton. So it all works out, but perhaps not as well as it could’ve. The film’s good for a few chuckles, to be sure, but in other areas falls flat. In my opinion, I think the screenwriters should have shot for a more out-and-out love letter to the prohibition era beginnings of professional American Football rather than something along the lines of A League of Their Own, because in the process the film got stranded somewhere in the middle — and that’s not a good thing.

Run, Fatboy, Run. Ah, Simon Pegg. He’s my new hero. The guy is an awesome scene stealer (even in the lead role) and manages to make a movie with an otherwise unremarkable premise (man leaves woman at the altar and then years later tries to win her back by entering a marathon?!) shine purely on the basis of acting ability. It helps, of course, that Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria are along for the ride. David Schwimmer directs, too. There’s a fair degree of brown and otherwise completely inappropriate humor thrown into the mix (which is probably why it’s funny), but there’s more to enjoy in the movie than the wisecracks and punch line. Heck, I’m practically kicking myself in the head for not buying the DVD while waiting for my connection in Hong Kong, because now I know that the US release won’t be until September. I think the movie resonated with me because I’ve taken a liking to running. Jogging, really, though some have said it resembles “walking really quick-like” the way I do it. Ahem. What was I talking about, again?

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