Movie Roundup: Films I didn’t have time to do full reviews for, in handy capsule format, as is all the rage.
Away We Go. "This movie does not like you," Times critic A.O. Scott memorably wrote about Away We Go, though I think it’s more accurate to say that this movie does not care about you. This movie lives in a bubbleland of its main two characters’ heads, who shamble along to and fro, never really engaging the planet or stepping outside themselves in any noteworthy way. These are nice, friendly, likable people … as long as you don’t scratch below the surface. To them, the world is just a playground for their own mutual regard, and somewhere out there, there’s a good movie about that, one about two people who are so in love that the rest of the planet can’t help but be a supporting character to their ongoing romance. (I’m thinking Barfly meets Bio-Dome. Or something.) But here, even though we’re presented with a world is full of scary people to be ignored, cocooned away from, Away We Go still wants to tilt at profundity. It wants to mean something. It doesn’t: This is a film about two charming sociopaths that has no idea it’s a film about two charming sociopaths. (And the cloying, tip-toeing score by Alexi Murdoch will make you want to put your fist through a wall.) The film still almost works, thanks partly to some lovely (if awfully writerly) detail and lyricism, and mostly to Maya Rudolph, who finds a real human being underneath all the winsome narcissism. (Even if the script botches its lone attempt at a storyline, Rudolph’s struggles dealing with the death of her parents.) This film is smart about the little things and deeply, grotesquely wrong about the big ones. Grade: C+.
Moon. The premise seems promising: A man dispatched by a megacorporation to spend three years in solitary on the moon finds himself going mad by the end of his tour of duty. Interesting! And those elegant shots of lunar landers plodding across the moon’s surface, empty machinery in an indifferent universe? Pretty! Unfortunately, those are all the ideas Moon has, shifting from a quiet meditation on loneliness into a ponderous, half-baked plot about, well, clones. Yep: For all the big ideas this movie wants to play around with, ultimately, it’s about cloning, and how big corporations will use it for … well, you know, I kind of lost track after a while. I think Sam Rockwell did, too; he’s certainly up for the challenge of playing multiple roles, but ultimately, he’s just yammering to himself. This movie has half an idea and, and the end, tries to convince you it had seven. Grade: C.
The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3. Dull, paint-by-numbers Urban Thriller. Much has already been made of how dreary and bored John Travolta looks — he honestly appears to have sprinted off to his trailer every time Tony Scott said cut — but Denzel Washington is sleepingwalking here too, taking a potentially compelling character and consistently steering him into Everyday Hero mode. (Washington’s so good that even his sleepwalking can enthrall, but have no doubt, that’s exactly what he’s doing here.) It seems unfair to pick on the actors, though; this whole film is on autopilot, from the empty Look! Locals! NYC “flavor” to an entirely unnecessary police-car-screaming-through-New-York City “chase” sequence. (Scott has several buses crash into an important police car because, well, because otherwise the movie would have been over in half an hour, and because a movie about a stalled subway car makes it difficult for things to crash and explode.) It’s funny how Scott’s trademark blurry quick-cutting — once considered so cutting edge — feels so dated now, isn’t it? (And Paul Greengrass does it so much better anyway.) This movie isn’t really trying. Only James Gandolfini escapes the carnage as a mayor who’s part Bloomberg, part Giuliani and part Spitzer. He should have his own, better film. Grade: C-.
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