Marley & Me/The Spirit, plus a rundown

Brodie Fanns!

I’ve been away, here’s a rundown of the movies I’ve seen recently and not given full reviews.

Yes Man- 3.5 stars
Seven Pounds – 2.5 stars
The Day The Earth Stood Still – 2 stars
Zack and Miri Make a Porno – 4.5 stars
Saw V – 2.5 Stars
RocknRolla- 3.5 stars
Twilight – 3 stars
Four Christmases – 2.5 stars
Australia – 3.5 stars
Transporter 3 – 3 stars
Punisher: War Zone – 3 stars
Nothing Like The Holidays – 4 stars

And now onto the reviews:

The Spirit

2 Stars

Comic book movies really came into their own as a legitimate genre this year with impressive critical and box office results from both Iron Man and The Dark Knight. But if there was one movie that could undo all the positive press those two did over the summer, it would have to be this years last entry of the genre, Frank Miller’s adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

The Spirit is the tale of rookie cop Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) who is gunned down in the line of duty, only to rise from the grave (due to a medical experiment), only now he’s invincible. In order to truely rid Central City of the despicable criminal element, primarily from The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), he dons a mask, coat and hat to become The Spirit, with only Police Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria) knowing his true identity. As the Spirit works to clean up Central City’s streets, he has passionate love affairs with nearly every woman he meets, including his childhood sweetheart Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), his ex-fiancee Ellen (Sarah Paulson) and even having a grand old time with Octopus croonie Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega). Even the angel of death (Jamie King) seems to have a thing for the Spirit.

It’s a hype-noirish tale in the fashion of Miller’s own Sin City, but more like a watered down, store brand version of Sin City. The comparisons are unfortunately inescapable. Eisner and Miller were contemporaries and friends (Eisner passed away 4 years ago). Miller created Sin City, Eisner, The Spirit (not at the same time, just giving you some background on the two). Here’s where I must call on the comparison of the two cinematic treatments. Miller was credited as a co-director on Sin City, but after watching this, it’s clear he took on a more advisory role, as Robert Rodriguez handled the actual execution of the craft. Rodriguez has had 10 years to work on his craft and warrented the visual experimentation he utilized on Sin City. And he created a beautiful piece of work.

For Miller, it seemed like he may have picked up a few things from Rodriguez, and when he got to helm his own film, at every turn he must have been thinking, “Well, that’s what Robert did…” But he never took the time to figure out why Rodriguez did what he did in his film. There was a reason for everything. Miller was just looking to follow suit. I hate to say this, because Miller is a legend in his field and I truely admire him as a graphic novelist, but it was reminiscent of late 90’s punk bands, the bands that sprung up from the ashes of the true 80’s punk bands. They were copying the sound, but not the emotion.

And the script he wrote wasn’t much better. The dialog, while with full intention of calling back to the days when the comic was written and set, seemed cheesy and full of camp. The actors struggled with it, though oddly, the only one who seemed at home was Lauria (The Wonder Years).

And that does bring us to the performances. They weren’t on a whole terrible. Just… not very good. Almost indifferent I suppose. I think Macht (Because I Said So) was looking to challenge himself with a different sort of role, but it fell flat. As did Mendes (We Own the Night) and Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation). Though Samuel L. Jackson, who is such a character in his own right, was able to rise above the material. Barely, as by my count he was only able to track a 20% success rate with his lines and actions in this film, but that’s still better than anyone else.

Sin City, this is not. Hell, it’s not even Spider-man 3. But fanboys may find it enjoyable. I like graphic novels, including the source book, but still found it hard to get into the movie. If you are looking for quality comic to film adaptations, re-watch The Dark Knight on DVD, or till April for Watchmen to come out.

Marley & Me

4 stars

When I originally presented this review on-air, I used three words I never thought I’d ever use for a film starring Jennifer Aniston AND Owen Wilson: emotional, evocative, effective. Ok, maybe Wilson, because he’s at least got some indie cred… but not Aniston. But they all work for Marley & Me.

Marley & Me is based on the bestselling memoir by John Grogan about his rascal of a dog, named Marley. Wilson plays Grogan, Aniston his wife, Jennifer. It follows their marriage, with the life of the dog as a plot template. As the dog grows up with the Grogan’s, their marriage grows. Grogan turns his life experiences as a young husband, dog owner, his subsequent fatherhood into fuel for his journalism career. It all culminates in an ending you know is coming, but is none the less effective, which is about all I can say without completely giving away the ending.

What makes this movie work, is the typecasting the two leads have built for themselves over the years, and the chemistry they create together. Wilson (Wedding Crashers) tends to come across as a directionless slacker, with Aniston (The Break-Up) as the neurotic love interest. But on this, the character types clash, and it works. I wouldn’t call the Grogan character a directionless slacker, but Wilson still brings a hint of that attitude to the character. The characters are almost written to their respective strengths and weaknesses. While they won’t win any major awards for their work, the two are certainly better than we’ve seen them in a while (if at all).

But the real accolade goes to Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy, I believe they call him McSteamy, not that I watch the show or anything), who was Grogan’s friend Sebastian. The character, and Dane’s portrayal of him, is a not to subtle, but not to obvious counter to Grogan. While Grogan’s dealing with married life, and the drudgery of his starter articles at the newspaper they work at, Sebastian is dating woman after woman, and jetting to Colombia to write articles on drug kingpins. And that foil continues through the entire film. Dane perfectly plays the guy Grogan wishes he could be, but also is glad he isn’t.

And that brings us to what I have yet to talk about. Marley. The dog. This isn’t a typical family film about a dog. I view it as a love story. Between a family and their dog. And that’s what it is. The dog loves the family. The family loves the dog. And it’s about the life they share together. And it’s beautiful.

I’m not ashamed one bit to admit this movie made me cry. It has joined the ranks of Field of Dreams and The Green Mile as one of the few movies to make me cry. But it’s that good, and that effective.

Coming soon… Valkyrie and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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