"No film whose closing credits list a 'senior inferno artist' is likely to lull us with its tranquil charms, and 'The Kingdom' is a thumper of a movie, full of furious souls."
"It is no mean feat to make a boring film about Jesse James, but Andrew Dominik has pulled it off in style."
The above lines are the opening salvos in movie reviews penned in this week's New Yorker by the film critic Anthony Lane. They are also excellent illustrations of why I enjoy a good movie review as much as any written form. The New Yorkers is a weekly that tends to pile up around my house, and, unlike my neighbor, I don't read every word before disposing of old issues, but I make sure to get to anything by Lane and his colleague David Denby (and I thumb through to make sure I don't miss any of the cartoons, of course).
It doesn't matter that I will likely never see either of the above films. I have read far more reviews than I could ever see movies. I will read reviews of movies I have no intention of seeing, and I will read several different reviews of the same movie if I stumble upon them.
One of my favorite pulp novelists, Stephen Hunter, is a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic for the Washington Post. I also enjoyed his regular radio appearances on the Tony Kornheiser Show, although I generally cannot stand televised movie critics. So it must be about the writing.
And before I go any further, I have to mention Joe Bob Briggs, the king of the the drive-in movie reviews. I certainly can't explain him, I can barely defend him, but I have read way too much of his work to not include him in this post.
I have heard people say that they don't like to read movie reviews because they give away too much information. I long ago gave up trying to avoid reviews that would spoil any secret endings, a strategy that will forever be known as The Crying Game Gambit. Even if you know what's coming, a good movie can still be entertaining. Most movies are pretty predictable anyway, so it's more about the execution than just the suspense (The Usual Suspects would be the first exception that springs to mind). And the studios put out so much press material, it's pretty hard to escape.
So, let's wind this up with a little movie review of my own. The other night, the Doc and I watched Disturbia, an updated retelling of Hitchcock's Rear Window, with a little Silence of the Lambs and some Sex, Lies and Videotape swirled in, an frivolous dash of John Hughes' Pretty in Pink maybe and a tiny taste of Blair Witch Project. Very suspenseful, lots of cameras being jerked around, plenty of claustrophobic and voyeuristic atmosphere. Shia LeBeouf plays a teenager who should hate his parents for naming him Kale, but he can't because they are so cool, and, anyway, his dad dies in a sudden, violent car crash very early on. There are many moments of sudden violence but none of them seem gratuitous and there is very little gore for a plot involving a supposed serial killer. The acting is great, the plot is a little predictable but still satisfactory. With all the shadowy scenes and convulsive camera work, this one would have been fun to see in the theater. It won't change your life, but it has to better than three straight nights of Dancing with the Stars (now there's a show that needs a serial killer).
Oh, and about The Kingdom, which is where we started today ... I saw Jamie Foxx on Letterman and The Daily Show this week, and there is no way the movie can be as good as those 15 minutes of television. Each appearance was full of completely different material, even when they were talking about the movie, and each was equally hilarious. He still uses some of the affectations he tossed out on In Living Color, but you know what, they are still funny. Bill Bob says, "Check him out."