Posts Tagged ‘jude law

07
Jun
10

A Medical Credit Crunch and Its “Repo Men”

I wonder what they charge for a spleen.

Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Based on the book “The Repossession Mambo” by Eric Garcia

Some movies really do sound like good ideas. In our current economic situation, and with passing of the healthcare bill, and with previous mentions of a “medical FICA” score, a movie like “Repo Men” seems to have more than a grain of truth to it. What would happen if in the future you could buy a new heart/liver/lung/etc.? What would then happen of you ran behind on your payments and repo men actually came to take away said organ? And what happens if a repo man himself had these things happen to him?

Such is the premise for “Repo Men,” the latest and (not so) greatest sci-fi movie since “Surrogates” (itself based on a graphic novel). Here’s the thing: the premise is good, but the execution… not so much. Imagine “Blade Runner” without the noir or “Brazil” without Gilliam’s humor or ambition. Someone once stated that science fiction was supposed to be dramatic elements with a hint of techno-do. The problem here is that the technology, and the premise, are far more interesting than the dramatic elements.

The movie begins with Remy (Law) in someone’s apartment. The guy gets home with a hot blond woman, they start getting hot and heavy, and that’s when Remy introduces himself. Using his stun gun he disables both of them then quickly suits up to do some quick surgery to remove one of the guy’s organs. He claims that it’s “just a job.”

Which is what he continues telling himself, reiterating it over a few beers with buddy Jake (Whitaker). Remy narrates the fact that if you run behind on your car or house payments, the bank takes them but if you run behind on organ payments, that’s his job. The company he works for gets people to sign up for a new, state-of-the-art organ at 19% interest and if you fall behind… well, Remy and Jake are two of the best at knocking on your door and collecting.

Problems ensue with the fact that Remy’s wife Carol (Carice van Houten) isn’t too thrilled with her husband’s job and wants him to go into sales. Remy has a problem with this because it means that his pay will be cut in half and Jake doesn’t want to lose his best friend/partner who he’s known since 4th grade when he kicked Remy’s ass on the school playground. During an outdoor cookout Jake pulls a job in front of Remy’s house, collecting a kidney from a guy taking a cab ride, and Carol is quickly upset and takes their son Peter away. Remy decides to talk with his boss and take a sales job, but does one last “pink slip.”

He awakes in the hospital. Apparently the defibrillator he used to “shock” the heart of a musician with money problems short-circuited and knocked Remy out. Now he lays in a hospital bed with a new artificial, top-of-the-line heart. He doesn’t want it but the longer it stays in the more he grows accustomed to it. Jake and him hit the streets again to collect on some pink slips and he has… problems. He can’t do it. Going from collector to potential collectee client is not what he had in mind and his attitude towards it all changes. He falls behind on payments and leaves it all behind to become like those he hunted.

Meeting and saving Beth (Braga) he finds that she’s opposite of him: her heart is real but the rest of her body is made from replacement parts from other companies and countries. Meanwhile, back at the company ranch, their boss Frank (Schreiber) gives Jake the assignment of finding Remy and collecting his heart. Jake at first refuses but after breaking in and threatening Frank, he has no choice. The movie goes into action as Remy and Beth evade Jake while trying to find a way to get their accounts closed.

What a statement on the credit industry, if not a slightly muddled one. There are several problems with the film which are not just limited to the fact that it comes after a same-themed movie called “Repo! A Genetic Opera.” While I have not seen the “genetic opera” I can say that while the premise for both is intriguing, there’s a squeamish factor to the two; namely, opening someone’s skin and pulling out an organ, Not my idea of a fun time and I squirmed every time I saw it in the theatre (and yes, I know the organs and blood are all fake… it’s just the thought of it happening).

The main problem: structure. The beginning narration leads to a feeling that the character is ruminating on his job and that maybe there’s a social statement involved. Maybe. I’m all about sci-fi social statements (see: “District 9”). And “Repo Men” could’ve a wake-up slap in the face for the modern moviegoer in the same vein as “Fight Club” was a wake-up call against commercialism. It could’ve been. Instead, director Miguel Sapochnik gives up that idea once Remy is on the run and opts instead for action sequences which, while degrading the concept of it all, actually improves the movie because the beginning is so… muddled.

Which brings me to another point: without the core concept of organ repossession, I wouldn’t have made it through the first 30 minutes. I could’ve really cared less about Remy and Jake because their characters do exactly what you think they would do and there’s nothing really interesting about them. After Remy goes “off the reserve” he becomes interesting, but that takes a while. Forest Whitaker as Jake is okay and let’s face it: doesn’t Whitaker play the same “best friend” he’s always played? I’m not a big fan of Schreiber and in this one he looks like he’s cashing a check. He may have been.

There’s one last thing: there’s a difference between homage and building a movie based off of scenes one loves from other science fiction movies. “Blade Runner” was a big influence on this (as noted in the overhead blimps advertising, etc.). There are a few others the movie harkens back to but I can’t think of them except to say that the end was seemingly “stolen” from “Brazil” (director’s cut). If you’ve seen it and you watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

This is the type of movie that ends up relegated to cable where those who watch it will go, “It’s not bad.” It wasn’t overly great either but if you find yourself stuck in a snowstorm and it’s the only thing on, at least enjoy the concept.

My grade: C

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

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25
Feb
10

Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Visually fascinating and bleedin’ boring.

Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Andrew Garfield. Directed by Terry Gilliam

I’m not a big fan of fantasy movies. There are a few I’ve liked such as “Legend” (Tom Cruise, Tim Curry, Mia Sara) the “Lord of the Rings” saga, and even “Stardust,” but Terry Gilliam is a different type of fantasy movie director. On one hand I can appreciate the fact that the guy can craft a scene and make it feel three-dimensional through the use of various lenses. On the other his ambition can exceed his grasp and the story he’s trying to tell suffers. Such is the case with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

The film opens with a wagon that’s seen better days navigating the streets of London like a naval carrier. It stops outside a bar and the stage unfolds. A guy (Garfield) dressed up as the messenger god Mercury traverses the stage, calling for people to hear of the exploits of the 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Plummer). A drunken guy climbs onstage and is thrown into a mirror. Once inside he is treated to a few punches from Valentina (Cole) and his undoing is wherever his imagination takes him, which happens to be jellyfish aliens that release him to crash to earth where he stumbles into a bar that explodes soon after he enters it.

And who is Doc Parnassus? Parnassus was once a monk living a thousand years ago. He held a sacred order in one of those inaccessible mountain areas where it snows all the time. On a personal note I’ve always wondered how these places are made, why they have a fairly decent population, etc. (movies never explain this). The monastery’s monks share a magic that allows them to float on carpets and their one mantra is that by telling stories the world continues to perpetuate existence. Hence, if no one tells stories then the world ceases to exist. The Devil (Tom Waits, wouldn’t ya know?) visits the Doc and gets him to gamble. The Doc wins and the Devil gives him immortality as well as the “itch” and in return, Parnassus becomes the Devil’s pet project.

Fast forward to modern day where Parnassus falls in love with a woman at first sight. He makes another deal with the Devil to become young and youthful again but the Devil puts in a stipulation: his first child would become the property of El Diablo once they turned 16. Parnassus’s wife turns 60 and dies during childbirth. Parnassus now finds himself an aged, immortal single father who has to keep the secret of his pact with the Devil from his daughter. This little fact becomes the subtext the movie rides on.

Fate or fortune intervenes when the crew of Anton (Garfield), Valentina (Cole), and Percy (Troyer) find a man (Ledger) hanging from the bottom of a bridge. When he comes to he can’t remember who he is, why he was hanging from the bottom of the bridge, etc. He exerts his wile, professional demeanor, and smooth capacity for salesmanship and brings money and attention to the traveling troupe’s show. It also attracts the Russian mobsters that tried killing him by hanging. He throws himself through the mirror (the entrance/exit of Parnassus’ mind) to get away from them.

For a moment let me discuss the mirror. The mirror allows people to enter a world they imagine. If more than one person enters the one with the most vivid, or prevalent, imagination trumps any other imagination. Otherwise the world is whatever the main person’s makes it. Eventually the “ride” ends when the Devil comes to claim the souls of the pure, part of the pact Parnassus makes with him.

Back to Ledger’s character Tony Shepherd. Tony apparently took money from the Russian mob for a children’s charity and didn’t know they were laundering their money through it. Or that’s the story he tells. While in the “mind” of Parnassus, Tony’s face keeps changing and it symbolically reflects the changing of his lies. He goes from looking like Johnny Depp, to Jude Law, then finally Colin Farrell. All the while he tries holding onto his flute which he shoves down his throat in order to keep his windpipe from crushing while hanging.

Note: this probably makes more sense while you watch it as opposed to me translating it on the page here.

So how did I feel about this one? If you’ve worked a full 8-10 hour day you would seriously need some coffee to get through this one. There are some really cool visual moments but Gilliam’s leaning on CG environments doesn’t always work and some instances look as if the graphics weren’t completed. The story flounders majorly and Ledger’s death caused various shifts in the movie. Or maybe Gilliam isn’t great on directing the “quiet moments” of the movie as opposed to the fantastical sequences. Whichever it may be I was hoping for more “umph” from the movie or at least something that felt more magical. This felt like someone going through the motions interjecting sad footnotes along the way.

And hey, I may not be the audience on this one; this plays more for those fans of Gilliam’s work. I liked “Tim Bandits,” and “Brazil” is almost a guilty pleasure for me, but that’s it. If you’re a Gilliam fan, this may be your movie.

Most of the actors do well with the parts they have to play. Plummer is good, Waits as the Devil was interesting, and Ledger worked for the scenes he was in but again, the tonal shifts with the various actors playing his character throw the story off. Lily Cole was beautiful and did a great job. Then again, the story didn’t really feel complete to begin with. My friend John said that it’s a literal re-translation of the Parnassus tale and I’ll have to research that…

Can I honestly recommend this? I recommend coffee (or some form of caffeine) before seeing it but if you’re a true blue Gilliam fan, go for it. Otherwise you may want to rent it.

My grade: C

30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Winding his way down on Baker Street…

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is back in the latest adaptation from director Guy Ritchie. The story begins with the illustrious English detective (Robert Downey, Jr.) infiltrating a building’s basement, slowly closing in on a sacred ceremony. Friend and assistant Dr. John Watson (Law) is blocks away and not far behind, bringing with him Scotland Yard’s finest presided over by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). Meanwhile, back at the ceremony, a woman in a white dress lies on a stone slab and convulses as incantations are muttered by guys in black robes surrounding her. Watson quickly joins Holmes and they stop the ceremony, arresting its leader Lord Blackwell (Strong).

Blackwell is tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. For his last request he calls for Holmes. Holmes is in a slump, having no clientele for weeks and spending time with experimentation over socialization. Watson is moving out and planning to wed Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Answering the request Holmes visits Blackwell at prison who tells him that three people will die and he cannot do a thing about it. Also, Holmes will question his sanity and he will rise from the grave. Blackwell is subsequently hanged and Watson confirms that he’s dead.

Or is he? Holmes and Watson are called down to the cemetery because Blackwell has apparently risen from the grave. Preceding that long-lost love and cat burglar Irene Adler (McAdams) re-enters Holmes’ life. She needs him to find out about a guy named Reordan (Oran Gurel). Who she is working for and why is a mystery. Holmes finds Reordan in Blackwell’s coffin and while the whole scene looks like dark magic, to Holmes it smells like something else. Holmes is then abducted by a Secret Society that keeps order in England and who are afraid of Lord Blackwell as well as the black magic he wields.

Caught between a conspiracy, a secret order, and dark magic, Holmes and Company must keep themselves alive long enough to figure it all out. When Irene is nearly cut to pieces Holmes gets away unscathed –until barrels filled with explosives almost take his life, along with Watson and Adler. He’s woken to find that Blackwell, who is now calling the shots over Scotland Yard, wants him brought to his justice. The game is afoot (had to put that somewhere in here) as Holmes uses his wits, strength, and powers of deduction to stop Blackwell and save Parliament.

I liked it. It may not be the best movie of the year (ok, it’s not) but it’s far from the worst and a decent addition to the Sherlock Holmes catalog. I found the movie to be entertaining, witty, funny at times, and decently original.

Let me start off with what worked for the movie. First, it’s difficult to have a character such as Sherlock Holmes and “re-invent” him. The guy has been in movies since 1905 and TV since its inception; Basil Rathbone is the most renown of actors to have played him. Add to that our society’s cynicism (I’m not saying it isn’t undue) about re-inventing characters for franchise (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.) and there are some heavy odds to battle. I’ll give Guy Ritchie the fact that he did a fairly solid movie without relying on too much substance.

Instead of making an “origin” story, or basing the film on a previous book, Ritchie instead opted to craft a creative story that involved dark magic, a difficult subject to tackle in the mystery/suspense genre. “X-Files” pulled it off pretty well, but a late-19th century detective dealing with black magic? Current culture might not be on the boat with that idea, but I found it original enough to keep my interest.

While “Snatch” had amped the style found in “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” Ritchie has kept a good deal of his filmmaking style down (undoubtedly hampered by Madonna). This, his first post-Madonna feature, has him back telling a solid story and taking a few risks (original story). One scene has Holmes in a boxing match. With the folk music playing in the background, it felt like the bare-knuckles boxing match in “Snatch.” Also, there are jump-cuts and fast edits that Ritchie fans will be familiar with. Lastly, the recap on how Holmes “figured it all out” was pretty cool.

One thing I have a problem with is the formula for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Although I will state that as of this writing I have not read any of the books, I know the formula: mystery that leads to a rapid resolution at the end where everything is explained (best used in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) It works for this film because the ending justified the means of getting there, but the “non-motive” formula (where the reason why is really thin and it’s merely an explanation of how things got to where they did) is not conducive to our “CSI” society. Or maybe that’s me.

On the downside, I wanted more –umph- from the movie. I felt like it was too soft, like Ritchie wanted to make something geared more for teenagers and maybe senior citizens instead of adults or kids. I hoped for something great but the return was good/better than mediocre. Plus some of the CG of olde England didn’t feel finished or detailed enough.

As for RDJ as Holmes… interesting. Sherlock Holmes has always been a stoic, staid character. In this movie Ritchie, and Downey, portray him as more of a discombobulated scientist-meets-detective. Law as Watson has more control over emotion and deduction than Holmes. I’m not saying this is bad, just different. McAdams’ Adler is limited, as is Strong’s Blackwell.

For better or worse the movie set itself up for another Sherlock movie, almost shamelessly. We find that Adler worked for someone named Professor Moriarty (longtime arch-nemesis of Holmes) so we’re setup for a face-off between Moriarty and Holmes, should that ever happen. I honestly hate when movies do this and funny enough, most of the time when they do it’s a movie that doesn’t get a sequel (see: “Flash Gordon,” “Daredevil”). Yes, we know the bad guys are out there waiting, but please don’t make it so obvious.

Should you see this movie? I vote that it’s a solid rental/matinee. It’s enjoyable and you’ll laugh a few times. If they work up to a bigger and better “Holmes” movie, more power too them. Otherwise, this one may be forgotten.

My grade: B