Monday, April 02, 2007

169. The Friday Club 2: Sprung

I'm a few days late for this second Friday Club, but "I forgot." There; that should handle any culpability.

These are movies for my wife, who is on spring break from teaching and has a birthday coming up. She wanted movies that fit into her repeated-viewing category, or that neither demand too much nor deliver too little. So here they are, for a girl gone not wild at all.

Monday Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Perhaps the best Star Trek movie--I'm ignoring the camp attractions of the original series. I think the guest cast helps "make it so" (ouch; sorry, Picard-ies): Alfre Woodard as Lily, the surrogate non-Trekkie who comments that the name "Borg" "sounds Swedish," and who scolds Picard ("You broke your little ships"), while convincing him to Do the Right Thing with a patented Trek Literary Reference--to Moby Dick--afterwards admitting she'd never read it; and the always-reliable James Cromwell as Dr. Zefram Cochrane, the reluctant icon who seems inordinately fond of Roy Orbison's "Oobie-Doobie" and, on accepting that the Enterprise crew is really from the future, queries, "So you're all astronauts on some sort of ... star trek?" An easy gag, but Cromwell sells it. And then of course Alice Krige's surreal sex kitten/dominatrix, icky and (almost) irresistible, her lips curling like an oily little wave. The Trek movie non-Trekkies can enjoy.

Tuesday (my wife's birthday) The Good Shepherd (2006)
A movie neither of us has seen, but it's a big story (2-1/2 hrs. worth) with a big cast--Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie,Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci, John Turturro--and lots of cool period details, it seems. No Lord of the Rings this week--at least not from me (as much as I love the trilogy, my wife needs no encouragement to re-view it)--but still a big quest (for invisibility of another kind?).

Wednesday The Ladykillers (2004)
Purists who revere the 1955 original and Coen brother critics who lie in wait for their slightest misstep generally band together to disdain this one. But Tom Hanks' performance is a fascinating train wreck, like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, and the rest of the cast refuses to be left behind. Profane, and careless of the necessities of narrative arc and character development--you know, like Blazing Saddles or Life of Brian--the movie asks only that you watch what is happening at any given moment, and see how funny it is. If it doesn't make you "wanna go hippety-hop," then you're probably the kind of fellow who would bring your bitch to the Waffle Hut.

Thursday Thunderheart (1992)
My wife doesn't remember seeing this one--I myself recall it only vaguely--but I am a generous husband, and am always willing to satisfy her, shall I say appreciation, for Val Kilmer. Which isn't so difficult: She gets the va-va-va-voom, and I get the troubled action-hero. (I would've picked Spartan, but we just saw it a few months ago.)

Friday Radio Days (1987)
Woody Allen is both self-indulgent and generous in this faux-innocent tribute to the pop culture of his childhood. Episodic with a balanced dual-tone, as it sways from nostalgia to satire then back again, Radio Days nods in passing at the real world of network radio (The Lone Ranger, Orson Welles) while offering quasi-invented programs and incidents generously punctuated by justifiably romanticized reminiscences of NYC in the early '40s. The scenes by the water at Rockaway Beach and the evocations of Radio City Music Hall and nightclub life are pitch-perfect. A tender memoir with a knowing wink.

Saturday Educating Rita (1983)
If you're unlucky enough not to like Michael Caine's acting--or irritated that you know someone who doesn't--this is usually the movie to watch/show as a curative. Caine is abrupt, self-satisfied, and dismissive--with him, these are strong points--mitigated by that lord-love-a-duck grin and the ability to soften slowly--as opposed to the rush toward smarminess you usually get when the Gruff go soft. And Julie Walters' Rita never descends into cliche, even with that great line about "Howard's bleedin' End."

Sunday The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
No offense, but it's Sunday afternoon, and I wanted something my wife could take a nap to. Nothing against the movie; it's just that she is famous for falling asleep during loud films. (She nodded off in the theater during Batman, even with all that Nicholson capering and cackling.) So, while she loves Speilberg's dino-series, I know she'll cozy up to the raucous familiarity of all that roaring and screaming and crunching and drift off into CGI slumberland, the distracting thoughts of the waking world wiped clean with the soothing power of the unlikely and the downright ridiculous. The only thing missing, for her, will be Sam Neill.

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