Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix theater: Westworld, I Love You Man, Milk, Breathless

Westworld (1973)
Westworld works because the premise is so goddamn fun. I want to go to Westworld. And I'm sure every other 13-29 (?) year old male, dropped off at the theater by mom in 1973 still wanted to go to Westworld after the credits rolled, too, even after seeing a bunch of androids go all Cyberdyne in the Wild West. The film is set in an unidentified future year (thank god, writers need to stop setting sci-fi just 15 years in the future), when the most popular new amusement park allows adults to enter Westworld, Romanworld or Medievalworld — fully realized recreations of each time, place and setting.

The twist is the worlds are populated by robots, indistinguishable from humans with the naked eye. Even the horses are animatronic devices designed to make the experience seem as authentic as possible. You can romance a damsel in Medivilworld or a lady of disrepute in Westworld. You can break your friend out of the county lockup and shoot the (android) sheriff (with a real revolver), before heading to the saloon and having a draw with a stranger. Every night the maintenance crew picks up the mangled robots and brings them back to the shop for repair. But the robots go rogue (Palin must have escaped from Westworld), and the second half follows effete Chicago lawyer Richard Benjamen as he tries to elude the menacing Gunslinger (Yul Brenner) and escape the park. The final chase ends the film on a disappointing note (not to mention Benjamin has the daintiest fairy run in the history of cinema), but the rest is inspired, and holds up surprisingly well for a 35+ year sci-fi film. B

I Love You Man (2009)
The premise: Paul Rudd doesn't have any dude friends 'cause he's always focused on one romantic relationship after another, a problem he doesn't realize until he needs a best man for his wedding to Rashida Jones (The Office). I don't know where to begin. Paul Rudd plays against his strengths here, instead of being nonchalant, funny and easy going, he labors as a mommy's boy who can't make conversation and feels out of place hangin' with the dudes. Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) also seems out of place, playing a duderino take on the MPDG role (Natalie Portman in Garden State) sent from hey-look-I'm-wacky land to pull the stick out of Rudd's ass. Only fitfully funny, I Love You Man also suffers from a reliance on trying-too-hard trend words, introducing the audience to "man dates" and "bromance" for the bajillionth time. (Note: I apologize for using MPDG so loosely and often, but once you're introduced to the term you start seeing it - or variations of it - everywhere.) C

Milk (2008)
Mickey Rourke was great in "The Wrestler," but Sean Penn fully deserves his Oscar for his work in the titular role here. Josh Brolin should also get a high five or at least a gift certificate to the mini-golf course for his sad and believable portrayal of Milk's rival city council member. "Milk" is a bit uncomfortable at times for those of us not used to watching gay intimacy, but the central focus is on the adversity faced by a movement still fighting injustice in the Sunshine state. Director Gus Van Sant does an amazing job incorporating archival footage and new shots, made to look archival, into the story without dipping into documentary territory. It's still a Hollywood production, but it feels believable, even when the sentimentality nearly becomes unbearable near end. B+

Breathless (1960)
Along with Truffaut's 400 Blows, this debut feature by Jean-Luc Godard kick started the French "new wave." But while Truffaut's first two films (and his only two I've seen) lived up to its billing as timeless artwork that reinvented French cinema, Godard's heavier reliance on jump cuts and stylistic flourishes lend more of a amateurish, bratty personality to a film that feels much more dated and confined to its '60s setting of burgeoning baby-boomerdom. The plot follows the modest crime spree of Michel, as he jumps from hot wired car to petty cash grab, all the while dragging his American lady friend around for the ride. Most of his lines consist of "Awhawhaw American birdyy, you are so prettyyy, lets a make love again." Then she argues for a bit and then eventually they go under the sheets. Occasionally Michel's snide comments and total lack of concern for those around him creates some sharp humor. But, considering the impact this film had on audiences and the cinema world in France and in America, I was a little more than disappointed. C+


The Juice Box said...

1) I love the poster to WestWorld, especially the very bottom where the "wrong" is misspelled and tipping off the page. Amazing.

2) You are completely comfortable with gay intimacy, and you know it.

3) Brolin should have gotten a certificate for mini-golf, as well as a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. Because who didn't need some ice cream at the very end? At least, girls who like to cry at movies like that.

Warped Coasters said...

did you ever see "I Love You Man?"

The Juice Box said...

Nope. I've got it queued and it'll probably be coming to my house in the next week or so. I keep upping other movies in favor of not watching that one yet. I'm less optimistic about it after reading your review, because I really like Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.