Monday, February 16, 2009

At the Movies - Confessions of a Blurbaholic

Ben Lyons starring in Confessions of a Blurbaholic
Mank: Did you just Google "What is good film criticism"?
Lyons: Yes. I Googled.

Do you want to see an interesting, complicated, and exciting action film that both delivers on suspense and finds the hero unweaving a complex set of corrupt relationships that give the action an even greater sense of purpose? Look no further than The International--I'll have a full review near the end of the week. Want a really lame reason not to like it? Look no further than Ben Lyons on this week's episode of At the Movies.

Ben Mankiewicz introduces the film by mentioning childish releases like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Bride Wars and My Bloody Valentine and saying how he was looking forward to this more adult movie (which he recommends). His cohort responds,

Lyons: You mentioned some of the stinkers that came out in recent weeks and I too was in the mood for a smart, intelligent, adult movie, and this was that at time.

Actually, what Lyons doesn't mention here is that he said "See It" for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which he apparently thought was better than The International. He continues,

Lyons: But I learned some things in this movie. Apparently, bullets don't hit people . . . Our lead who is supposed to be in peril obviously isn't.

This coming from the guy who said that all he really wanted out of Max Payne was to see him shoot people rather than learn about Payne's back story and motivation. Apparently, all he wanted out of The International was to see Clive Owen get shot.

After Mank says that there is always a plausible explanation for Clive Owen escaping danger,

Lyons: A little too conveniently. There is always a reason for him to get out.

Yes, Clive's character is extraordinarily lucky, but part of that luck comes from getting help in an entirely unexpected way in a really fantastic shootout. And he survives only to discover that he is isolated and trapped by the unwillingness of democratic governments and powerful institutions to do anything to help him prosecute corruption. He can survive a gunfight, but he can't challenge the whole system--that is both surprising and engaging, and Mank sees well enough to compare it to the likes of Three Days of the Condor. Lyons says "Skip It."

Speaking of Mank's superior critical faculties, he threw out a couple of hilarious lines that Lyons could never say because they are not only clever but will never end up on a movie poster. Displaying a level of snark that would make David Denby cringe--and make me laugh my ass off--he takes down all of the contrivances and confusion of Confessions of a Shopaholic, which he says could be eliminated by a few simple converstaions:

Mank: It seemed like a long, bad Three's Company episode. Just tell Mr. Furley you're not gay and get it over with.

Mank, I swear. He then recommends Religulous as his DVD pick.

Mank: See it with a loved one, then afterward you can have a really uncomfortable argument.

Speaking of DVDs, the show has finally decided that they should not simply advertise the latest DVD releases but also include the critics' own ratings alongside them. That's certainly a step forward. In a more nit-picky vein, the segment was introduced as DVD "Out Now" List, possibly a result of air-quotes taken literally by the same overworked staffer who wrote the title of Rachel Getting Married. Forget snark--Denby should write a book about this in the tradition of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. He could put John McCain on the cover and call it "Health" of the Mother, And Other Unnecessary Air Quotes.

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