Every once in a while, the stars align in little ways that turn out to be AWESOME... like when A) you're off work for a week, and B) your parents are in town, so you C) get to spend the week seeing a ton of movies. This never happens... I mean, I like to see a lot of movies, but in the past few days, I've seen 6 movies-- nirvana!
I've seen some GREAT stuff and some HORRIBLE stuff, so I just wanted to give you guys the quick rundown of what I saw...
Amreeka - Not as self-important or touchy-feely as the premise might make you think, this is an honest look at the challenges a Middle Eastern immigrant and her son face when they move to a small town in Illinois. Don't be fooled by the reviews and summaries that say it's a comedy about a woman who begins making falafel at her local White Castle-- that little plot point lasts all of about 15 seconds, and it's not that funny. The script has a bit of ADD, constantly jumping about between storylines without really exploring any of them, but the performances are strong and it's just strong enough, funny enough, and poignant enough to keep your interest for an hour and a half.
Extract - Few people do a better job at revering, celebrating, and skewering middle America than Mike Judge, and while this isn't as tight or funny as Office Space or King of the Hill, it's got some great moments. Jason Bateman is terrific as the bored owner of a vanilla extract plant who hires a gigolo to sleep with his wife so he won't feel guilty about having his own affair. The plot meanders a bit, and while the B-story of a con artist trying to swindle the company never really coalesces into anything, it's still fun. And Mila Kunis is nice to look at.
State of Play - To be honest, I was ready to hate this movie... if for no other reason than it has Russell Crowe in it... who, yes, is a great actor, but is such a dick in real life that I never want to like his movies (to be fair, I've never met him in person-- he always just seems like a dick, throwing phones, beating people up, etc.). But I can't lie... I liked it. Based on a British TV series, this story of two reporters (Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams) who discover a corporate conspiracy behind the murder of a congressional aid is a solid B+ political thriller. The bad guys are never quite as evil as you'd like, the conspiracy never quite as sinister, the danger for our heroes never quite as scary... but it keeps the twists and turns coming right till the end.
My One and Only - How this turd of a movie got 73% on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. A biopic of George Hamilton's early years (does anyone care?), the story follows George, his brother, and their flighty mother (Renee Zellweger) as they road trip across the country in search of a new husband/father, a home, a sugar-daddy, a job, anything. The rambling script strings together a series of encounters with random characters, but never explores any long enough to become truly interesting. Most of the performances are banal at best, and mugging at worst (Chris Noth in a cliched role as an abusive military man who almost marries Zellweger, and J.C. MacKenzie as a stereotypical gay teenager). (Although I will say that Logan Lerman, who plays George, does a decent job.) Trust me on this: STAY AWAY.
District 9 - Awesome. Not only a surprise underdog movie (from South Africa), but a great piece of allegorical science fiction. It takes place in Johannesburg, where a giant spaceship has been hovering over the city as its inhabitants, ugly reptilian-humanoid aliens, have been rounded up by South African officials and dumped into District 9, a ghetto for E.T.'s. The story follows a government worker who gets infected with a chemical that begins transforming him into an alien... and his only hope of survival is to enter District 9 and find a cure. That's a pretty gross simplification, but this is smart, witty sci-fi... if you like B-movies, and lots of alien killing, you gotta see this.
In the Loop - A fast, smart, biting satire of government ineptitude, cowardice, and petty backstabbing... and how they led us into the Iraq War. James Gandolfini is probably the only recognizable actor (although Anna Chlumsky from My Girl-- remember her?-- shows up), but this British movie has nothing but hilarious performances and clips along at a speed that makes its two hours fly by.
In the Loop trailer