Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Movies I'm Watching: The Best Movies I've Never Seen (April 27, 2010)

I've just seen three more of the films recommended in Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Films You've Never Seen. These three were all stinkers. I'm really surprised Maltin likes these films. Having said that, I've never thought much of Maltin's recommendations, and so far my prejudice has been reinforced by seeing the movies he singles out in this book--and I'm still in the "B"s. I saw American Dreamz, The Ballad of Little Jo, and The Big Hit. None of these three have much to recommend them in my view. Save your time and money.

American Dreamz (2006, written and directed by Paul Weitz, starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Willem Defoe, Sam Golzari, and others) is an example of everything that's wrong with American filmmaking today--slick, bland visuals; mediocre acting; and flat writing that insults the viewer's intelligence. The film's one redeeming feature is the interplay between the Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore characters, two people who don't think much of themselves that are attracted to each other precisely because they understand each other so well. American Dreamz is billed as a comedy, but I don't think I laughed once. Typical Hollywood laziness. Almost entirely lacking in wit or intelligence. I can't imagine what Maltin sees in this. Two thumbs down, to borrow a phrase.

The Ballad of Little Jo (Written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, starring Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, David Chung, Heather Graham, Rene Auberjonois, and others) at least has in it the kernel of an interesting story--although there isn't a great deal of drama in the plot. A plot synopsis would seem to exhaust as much of the story's potential interest as the film itself has.

A woman with a child born out of wedlock on the East Coast flees to the West (leaving her child behind). She finds life tough as a single woman. The film suggests the only roles available to her are wife or whore. The central character, however, chooses an alternate path through life: she becomes a man, by cropping her hair, dressing as a man, and working as a man. She eventually finds a place among the people she settles near. In a subplot, the Chinese laborer she takes on as a manservant becomes her lover. Almost no one else knows she is a woman until she dies and the undertaker begins to prepare the body for burial. Everything else that happens is pretty much standard western fare.

The Big Hit (1998, directed by Kirk Wong, written by Ben Ramsey, starring Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, and others) was about as good as American Dreamz, which isn't saying very much. It is a mostly dull, sophomoric action piece that seems to be trying to laugh at itself, but without much success. It occasionally veers off into Hong Kong-style martial arts effects, especially toward the end of the film. An implausible romance between sensitive hitman Melvin Smiley (the Mark Wahlberg character) and his kidnap victim, Keiko Nishi (played by China Chow), is embedded within strife among gangsters. At the same time, the sensitive hitman is trying to please two other women he's involved with, his Jewish fiancé, Pam Shulman (played by Christina Applegate), and Chantel (played by Lela Rochon). The kidnapped girl (daughter of a Japanese tycoon that has gone bankrupt) goes to a girls' school that has a uniform with the inevitable short plaid skirt, allowing the filmmakers to titillate in the style of soft-core Japanese schoolgirl porn. Although Christina Applegate was sporadically amusing as the Jewish bride-to-be struggling with her parents that aren't about to accept her non-Jewish fiancé, I suspect this film was more fun for the people that made it than it is likely to be for people who watch it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails