Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Changing Tastes

This isn't really a movie blog, for all that I talk about them off and on. If nothing else, they give me inspiration when my well seems to run dry.

I own a lot of movies on DVD, and for a while I bought them almost compulsively, but I haven't watched a lot of them in a long time. I used to say I didn't have the time, but the truth is that lately I have trouble sitting in front of a screen unless whatever I'm doing/watching is interactive, like a video or computer game. The much-mentioned Mass Effect 2 consumed many such hours last year. I haven't been able to get online at home for the past five days, so I've been trying to fill my downtime with other activities. I read some, Matthew Chapman's Trials of the Monkey, and made myself sit down and watch two movies.

The first of these was Joe Carnahan's The A-Team. I know, I should have known better. I've ranted before about needing brain bleach to scrub the horror that is Smokin' Aces out of my head, but I have a soft spot in my memory for the original material.

The original A-Team hit television when I was ten, and for all my internal turmoil, on the outside, I was very much a boy of that era. I liked action figures, and still played war games in the yard with the neighborhood kids, and liked to see stuff blow up. The characters were veterans of Vietnam, a conflict which still has a large place in American mythology, and I looked up to anyone who had been "over there". I also liked Robin Hood, and the idea of these modern outlaws helping ordinary people in need was appealing.

The film is a sort-of reboot. The story has been brought forward so that the characters are vets of the current Iraq war. The movie opens with Liam Neeson as Hannibal assembling his "A-Team" as civilians (or at least de-mobbed troops), then catapults them into the war to kick off the story with the "crime they didn't commit". Bradley Cooper (Alias), Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (he's apparently an MMA fighter) round out the 'Team. Jessica Biel plays the leader of the DOD team chasing them, and doubles as Cooper's love interest. There isn't much story. Being a Carnahan film, there are lots of gun battles, and explosions, and some neat aerial action. Copley gives the standout performance as the crazy pilot, Murdock.

For all that, it was only okay. Is that damning with faint praise? Once upon a time I would have loved the movie, for all of the reasons enumerated above.

Yesterday I sat down and watched Whip It, with Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden. I loved it!

I wrote about the movie and posted the trailer back in 2009, before the movie was released. I've been interested in roller derby since it was resurrected a few years ago. It's one of those things I have to worship from afar, as they're never going to let a girl like me into something like that.

Ellen Page is Bliss Cavendar, a 17 year-old girl from sleepy little Bodeen, Texas. Her mom pushes her to enter beauty pageants, but she wants to get out and do her own thing. On a shopping excursion in Austin, she hears that the roller derby league are having try-outs. She lies about her age, and ends up finding her niche skating for the "Hurl Scouts". All of the skaters and teams have punny names: Eva Destruction, Smashley Simpson, etc. Bliss becomes "Babe Ruthless".

I laughed, a lot. I cried a little. All in all, I enjoyed everything about this movie. The acting is great from all the players. This was Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, and if she's this good starting out, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

I talked to my sister-in-law about this, because I couldn't figure why the two movies hit me the way they did. She says I'm becoming a girl. Small steps, right?