So I've made it to a few movies the past few nights and some early progress has now been made on the gigantic list. Here is what should (and shouldn't) be added to yours.
Idlewild- As anyone who's paid attention to music over the past few years knows, OutKast is one of the most innovative artists working today. After "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" expectations would be high for their next album. The good news is, the album doesn't disappoint. The bad news is, the movie of the same name does. I really wanted this movie to be great. Some of it is. Director Bryan Barber (who's also directed several of their videos) brings an exciting visual flare to the film. "Idlewild" is beautiful to look at and the musical numbers are incredibly vibrant. The anachronistic songs are, of course, great, and Andre Benjamin and Antwan Pattan (Big Boi) are no slouches as actors, especially Andre. There's some great work from the supporting cast as well, particularly from Terrence Howard ("Crash") as the sadistic nightclub owner, Trumpy. The real problem with this film is the anemic story. Not only is it bland and uninspired, it's just downright dull. I wouldn't say, "Oh, it's style over substance," because the style doesn't really overwhelm, it just would have been nice if there had been some substance to match. This might have been helped tremendously if Andre and Big Boi had had more screen time together. Their characters, Percival and Rooster respectively, were best friends as children, and supposedly are now, but we hardly ever see them in the same scene. Their relationship could have really brought some life to the storyline.
Ultimately, if you're interested in seeing this movie, go to a matinee because this movie is worth watching on the big screen, just for the visual style alone. Be sure to stay for the end credits. "PJ and Rooster" is the album's best song and it provides the best musical number of the movie. 6/10
Conversations with Other Women- Aaron Eckhart ("Thank You For Smoking") and Helena Bonham Carter ("Fight Club") are simply credited as Man and Woman. And while we never know their names we certainly come to know these two over the course of this highly enjoyable film. Man sees Woman across the room at a wedding reception and the two of them begin to talk. Their banter is natural and playful right from the start. It quickly becomes apparent that these two have a history. What that history is and what the future holds for them is slowly unveiled. Writer Gabrielle Zevin and director Hans Canosa are not concerned with having us figure things out about their past before the characters themselves actually tell us the full truth (or at least their particular versions of it). The fun of "Conversations" is figuring it out on your own and afterwards discussing with your friends exactly when you all figured it out. For Justin, Maureen, Craig, and I it all came at different points in the film. (For the record, they all liked this one too.)
This film is ALL talk. Going in I was worried that this might end up being a film where people decide, "Let's talk about pretentious philosophical things in a highly pretentious and philosophical way." But they don't. They sound and behave like real people and we come to like these two very much. Canosa also shoots the entire film in split-screen. What could have become an annoying gimmick within ten minutes actually works tremendously well. This is a hard film to find right now (in Seattle it's only playing at the Harvard Exit) but it's definitely worth seeking out if it's in your city. Also, Thomas Lennon of "Reno! 911" has a funny couple of scenes as the wedding videographer early on. 8/10
Beerfest- I can't believe that these are the same guys who made "Super Troopers." There is very little here that actually works. It's a funny idea, even to a non-drinker like me: The Olympics of Booze. The Americans versus the Germans. I had hoped that the Broken Lizard guys would be able to mine this for comic gold, but all we get is a terribly flat film that just leaves us shaking our heads. Clearly the guys themselves are having a good time, and while "Beerfest" has its moments they are incredibly few and far between. This is only made worse by the running time, which is about an hour-fifty. Not that that's long in general, but like many other films I've seen recently, it has absolutely no sense of pace. The movie's best moment by far comes when the German team is hiding in a submarine along with Jurgen Prochnow who complains about feeling cramped inside a U-boat. "I had a bad experience once," he says. This very funny reference to "Das Boot" was sadly lost on the entire audience I watched this with however. Don't bother with this one. 4/10