Bloated but charming and effective WWII-period piece by native Australian Baz Luhrmann (Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge). Fellow Aussie and Luhrmann go-to gal Nicole Kidman stars as Lady Ashley, a.k.a. Mrs. Boss, the wife of a wannabe cattle baron who’s off in Oz running a withering ranch and doing whatever else wealthy men do when separated from their wives by a continent while she’s riding horses and bossing the help around back home in England. She’s brought to Australia by his grisly murder. To prevent the territory’s almost-monopoly from strong-arming her into selling, she hires a local badass/outcast drover named, well, The Drover (another native Australian, Hugh Jackman), who, when he’s not pouring water over his hairy, buff torso, helps bring her “fat, cheeky bulls” to market –– the neighborhood boys are going off to war and will need an ample supply of beef to see them through. (Remember, kids: Top sirloin is an important part of every battle!)
The almost-monopoly, though, is also angling for the government contract. In trying to derail Mrs. Boss and Wolverine, the baddies pull a bunch of stunts, all while threatening to send an orphan to whom the ragtag ranchers have grown fond to a nearby slave island/Christian mission. Nullah (Brandon Walters), the offspring of a white man and aboriginal woman, is “creamy,” meaning that he’s neither white nor aboriginal but half-caste. He also is the film’s cipher for all kinds of pedantry about our skewed, Western notions of culture and class.
As the dances-with-natives cattle driver, Jackman is imminently likable. As always. Other than maybe Brad Pitt, Jackman is the only Hollywood hunk I can think of who’s appreciated openly by everyday Joes, who typically introduce their fondness for the man by saying, “I’m not gay, but …” Kidman is as stunning as ever. Some people think that her face is stuffed with so much Botox that she can barely blink. I dunno. I sill think she’s the prettiest, most talented leading lady in Hollywood. In Australia, she pulls off everything, from deadly serious to deadpan, sultry to just about every emotional shade in between. She also gets big laughs, by playing either absolutely flustered or cool and calm when she clearly isn’t. When Mrs. Boss is advised to console the “creamy” kid after he’s suffered major trauma, she approaches his sobbing, curled-up personage and says, while wringing her hands, “Nullah, I wanted to extend my condolences … ” Angelina Jolie would have just bitten the kid’s head off.
The cinematography, like the yarn itself, is epic: lots of wide-angle shots of the outback and the port town of Dublin. The palette is all gunmetal grays, chocolates, and beiges, with bursts of fiery orange. Very painterly. And beautiful.
The movie certainly isn’t great, but it is the work of a director with a vision.
Look. I’m as arty-farty and “indie” as the next dirtball. I’m also a fanboy. I’d put my collection of Silver Age comics up against Kevin Smith’s any day. But I couldn’t endure 20 minutes of Let the Right One In, a critically lauded, arty-farty indie vampire flick from someplace cold. Sweden or wherever. The story is about a young female bloodsucker who, with an adult keeper (maybe her father), moves into an apartment next door to a woman and her son, who is bullied at school. The pacing is slllooowww, and not in a meditative, time-elapsed-camera kind of way, and the editing creates more confusion than clarity –– the exterior shots of the buildings where some of the “action” takes place are inconsistent, and there’s no visual connective tissue among the supporting players. How are you supposed to know that that guy at the bar is the same guy at the apartment when you never even get to see his face clearly and he keeps changing his damn clothes?! The child actors are bad enough to make you want to bite yourself.
Clive Owen and Naomi Watts star in this unnecessarily long thriller about an international bank that wants to start Third-World wars to profit from them. Or something. Except for a protracted shoot-out at the Guggenheim, most of the action here is people’s lips moving. As an Interpol agent trying to bring down the bank, Owen is his usual serious self, though I’m still not convinced he’s leading-man material –– he’s kind of dopey. When he walks, his knees bend in a little, and his feet point outward. Basically, if he wore his pants just an inch higher, you’d be obligated to give him a wedgie and a swirly (in that order). Watts, as a tough Manhattan DA, is totally creamy.
Two actresses who everyone thinks are hot but who do next to nothing for me, Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, star as two-thirds of a domestic ménage a trois that takes place in the present day in the titular Spanish city. The lucky guy is Javier Bardem, who’s reminiscent of an older, beefier Robert Downey Jr., all wall-eyed, sunken-eyed, and slightly pan-faced. Bardem, as visual artist/seduction artist Juan-Antonio, gets things started by propositioning Cristina (Johansson) and her friend Vicky (Rebecca Hall), who are in Spain together on summer vacation, at a fancy restaurant. Witty banter and panoramic shots of B-lona ensue.
The film is another male fantasia directed by famous pervert Woody Allen, who tries to redeem his lust for pretty young thangs here by introducing sheer mayhem into the plot –– Cruz’s Maria-Elena may or may not have tried to murder Juan-Antonio in the past, and Vicky agrees to marry the dorky Wall Street douchebag to whom she is engaged even though she’s in lust/love with Juan-Antonio.
Allen, per his m.o., is aiming for a Shakespearean farce but doesn’t generate enough laughs to qualify. The last chuckle comes early in the film, when Cristina responds to Juan-Antonio’s proposition by saying sweetly, with a twinkle in her eye, “I can’t guarantee any lovemaking because I happen to be very moody.”
To the director’s credit, however, he does raise some interesting questions about the nature of love and why we believe only two people can be in love with only each other and only at the right time. Plus, as one of the characters asks, can only unfulfilled love be romantic?
Two words: Stu. Pid. Rent something else instead, please. Disco Beaver from Outer Space, perhaps. Or maybe Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Whatever you do, don’t contribute to the delinquency of Transformers director and overgrown child Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, Bad Boys II), who treats explosions as tenderly as other directors treat characters and treats characters like just things to be exploded and is the very definition of the pejorative “hack.”
I’d just missed the toyline on which the cartoon series on which the movie is based –– the toys had the misfortune of coming out right around the time I’d discovered girls. I had a general idea about them, though. (The toys, of course. Not the girls. I still don’t know a damn thing about them.) Good and evil shape-changing alien robots, you say? What’s not to like?!
The movie, for one thing, which is just an excuse for Bay to blow shit up. Clearly, when he’s in the director’s chair, logic is wholly fungible. The early appearance of a scorpion ‘bot that battles U.S. forces for what feels like two hours is never explained. The friendly ‘bot Bumblebee loses his ability to speak –– even though he’s a freaking alien robot who can transform into a freaking car! And why is Megatron, the head of the bad robots, two times larger than every other ‘bot in one scene but about the same size as them in another?
But why ask why? As my wife said during viewing, “Why are you getting all logical about a movie about alien robots?!”
As for the plot: Guns. Guns. Guns. Explosions. Bullets. Bullets. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. Bullets. Canons. Flamethrowers. Guns. Guns. Guns. Bullets. Bullets. Explosions. Explosions. Grenades. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions.
As for the acting, Megan Fox effortlessly interrogates the psychological trauma that underpins new romance in a time of war, and … oh, who am I kidding. She’s just freakishly hot. Co-star Shia Labeof, though, is not only much less easy on the eyes but also supremely annoying. His nervous shtick gets real old, real fast. I wanted to like him. I really did. He has a nice face and does a good job of sinking into his role –– like a quality actor, his acting is “invisible,” as they say. But for every one witty thing that comes out of his stammering mouth, he utters 10 or 12 completely useless words and phrases. Such a delivery might work wonders in a Woody Allen movie but not in what you expect to be a fast-paced action flick.