Despite being a February weekend, I found myself feasting on four flicks this weekend. None were the best foreign film Oscar contenders that I have been vowing to check out, but I am already beating myself up over that as it is. In any case, you would think that at least one must be a rancid dud, but I am shocked to recount that I had a grand cinematic romp all around. Call it batting for the cycle. What, did I just drop sports lingo? Feel it. Onto the goods.
1) I began the series with Rampart. As it was set in the 1990′s I was already giving it bonus points. 90′s forever. I’m just saying. Woody Harrelson stars as a LAPD cop bordering on vigilante. He uses ostensible street justice for his own corrupt gain. When he is caught on camera laying the smack down on a nearly innocent perp, an investigation into his ways begins. As all of this gets underway, the film focuses on Woody’s spiral out of control in all facets of his life. He shares a sister wives-esque lifestyle with former paramours and their children. He has bromantic but aggressive relationships with other bad boy cops and their junkie informants. The plot is extremely simple but the examination into Woody gets the complex treatment. His behavior isn’t as dark or unseemly as I anticipated but I feel this created a more dynamic script. The mood is darkly lit and Woody nails it as a self-assured Alpha Dog gone rogue. For all of you who tuned out this indie movie review, let me remind you of the elongated orgy scene. I should also note that Woody is in appallingly good shape.
Between Training Day (I fell asleep and never finished, a regret to this day) and Brooklyn’s Finest (6.5) I give this an 8.5.
2) The weekend continued with Journey 2. What occurs in Journey 1, I really couldn’t say. But after the fine entertainment provided by the sequel, I am eager to learn. This was certainly not on my radar, but I have recently connected with a “Little Sister” (as in the Big Brother program) and this was her pick for our excursion. I’m pretty sure I ultimately loved it doubly as much as she did. And I was reassured that she enjoyed it. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson delights as a beleaguered stepfather determined to bond with his sulky teenage stepson. The stepson (Liam Hutcherson, soon of the Hunger Games) is a Jules Verne expert and believes that the mysterious island referenced in one of Verne’s works is real. The Rock steps up to give stepson the adventure of his dreams, and also be there to support him when said adventure doesn’t live up to the literary aspirations. I think it’s fairly obvious that the titular journey takes both on an adventure that surpasses either guy’s expectation, including a love interest (Vanessa Hudgens) and an old cooter (Michael Caine). Exotic creatures and innocuous life and death challenges abound. If you have a child available to use as your beard for seeing this film without shame, I urge you to borrow them for the day.
Between The Pacifier (7) and The Rundown (10) I give this solid 8.
3) Taking a break from action, next up was The Vow. I find Channing Tatum relatively bland, but he was close to charming during this romance. As the previews have informed you, Tatum and Rachel McAdams are happily together until a car crash renders her an amnesiac. The film bounces between the initial courtship and life together and the couple’s fractured relationship post-crash. When Scott Speedman showed up as her former love interest- and one she recalls- I was tempted to abandon Tatum on the spot. A real Noel v. Ben all over again. There were never any moments that particularly pumped me up, but conversely, there were no moments that disgusted or deflated. I call that a romance film win. Other than Speed, the B-characters are nothing to write home about. Or write on this post about. I found the budding relationship between Channing and McAdams charming and organic which is often disregarded in favor of hurried cinema-love. McAdams’ road to self-discovery was slightly nauseating but never so much as to derail my interest. I know you are all wondering. No, I did not cry.
Between 50 First Dates (0.5) and Memento (9.5) I give this a 6.
4) Finally, I returned to my manly pursuits of high octane cockbusters. Safe House provided the combustible end to my already successful weekend. In short, Denzel plays an off the grid CIA turncoat who is finally apprehended in South Africa (no spoilers- this is the opening scene). In order to maintain Denzel’s imprisonment while waiting for an ops team to retrieve him, he is escorted to yes, a safe house, wherein he will be interrogated. Ryan Reynolds portrays a low-level CIA newcomer whose lone task is to man the house. After 12 months of twiddling his balls with no action, the first need of the house on his watch is the deadly Tobin Frost. What ensues are the chases, cat and mouse games, psychological warfare and shootings required by such a film. It gives me no shortage of pleasure to inform you that although inevitable, each vignette is highly charged and full of surprise potential. Sam Sheppard and Vera Farmiga are virtually impotent as the lead team back in the states who are trying to govern Reynolds’ movements. The one major flaw is the haphazardly constructed Reynolds romance which is neither affectionate nor useful. Denzel kills as a master of psychological manipulation; that said, I was disappointed by his transition from full beard/fro to clean cut. If anyone is interested, I really tried to pay attention so I could provide an audio recap to save you from bothering. But seriously, it’s pretty damn entertaining. My major grievance is that the girl beside me kept exclaiming at every obvious shooting like she was watching Passion of the Christ for the first time (I’ve actually never seen this but can only assume it makes you jumpy). Have you never gone to an action movie before? Sheesh.
Between Unstoppable (5.5) and The Bourne Supremacy (10) this gets a 7.5.
Until next weekend…