Saturday, July 14, 2012

Movie Reviews-2 Days In New York, Flypaper, Conspiracy

2 Days in New York
written and directed by Julie Delpy
This film is a sequel to 2 Days In Paris which was also directed by Delpy. I hadn't seen the previous film but it didn't really matter. This is also a romantic comedy but instead of being about the travails of two crazy kids and whether or not they can wind up together this is about the travails of two very grown people and whether or not they can or should stay together.


Marion (Delpy) is a French artist who has dumped her previous love interest Jack and moved in with the quite bohemian Mingus, (Rock) a writer for the Village Voice and radio show host. In flashback it's revealed that Mingus was the friend on whose shoulder Marion went to cry when her previous relationship started going south. Mingus made a move and evidently successfully jumped ladders. Marion and Jack each have children by prior relationships but do not have a child together as of yet. Both Marion and Rock love each other but it's not necessarily true that they're in love with one another. Their relationship will be suddenly put to the test.


Marion's father, Jeannott (Delpy's real life father Albert Delpy), her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and Rose's boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon), who is also Marion's ex, all come to visit Mingus and Marion rather unexpectedly.
This sets off some static as Mingus is not crazy about the fact that suddenly his girlfriend is speaking to her friends and family in a language he doesn't understand. He really takes a dislike to Manu, who appears to be something of a hipster racist. Have you ever dealt with someone who out of the blue says something racist but claims no malice?  You're black right? So you must have voted for Obama. Do you know him? Do you know where I can get some good weed? That is Manu.
Marion has an art exhibit that's she trying to get ready for and she doesn't like Rose making goo-goo eyes at Mingus or refusing to adhere to American standards of female propriety. Rose has some sort of weird sibling rivalry dynamic with her sister. Jeannot is blissfully chaotic. He speaks no English. He has a lot of misunderstandings with Rock and other Americans. He is happy to see his grandchild and wants to give Mingus' daughter some wine. The arrival of Marion's family ultimately makes Mingus and Marion look at each other and at themselves a little differently. There is also a theme about the fleeting nature of life and how family is both people we choose to include in our life and people we didn't choose. Delpy recently lost her mother as did her character Marion and the movie touches on that a bit.


This was a fun movie, not a great one but definitely enjoyable. Anyone who has ever had to bite their tongue in front of their significant other's family to keep the peace or for that matter has lost their temper with their significant other's family or friends may get a few chuckles out of this film. It's obviously set in NY and if you're familiar with that environment there might be a few more treats for you. Vincent Gallo has a cameo.
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Flypaper
directed by Rob Minkoff
This had the star power to be a better film than it was. I'm not really quite sure what went wrong. It had the comic relief, the double cross, the misdirection, a little violence, a little romance, a little sex appeal. But it just didn't quite do it for me. But you may feel differently. I dunno. Perhaps the writing was trying a little too hard to be cute. I'm not sure.


Anyway a slightly autistic man with OCD named Tripp (Patrick Dempsey) enters a bank just before closing time to get a large sum of money exchanged into a very particular number of coins. He chooses the lane operated by new teller Kaitlyn (Ashley Judd) in part so he can look down her top while she busies herself with his request. I've heard men do things like that on occasion. They exchange banter. However before Tripp can find out if the engaged Kaitlyn has any play in her he notices that the bank is about to be robbed by not one but two different gangs.


The first duo of bank robbers is somewhat low class and definitely low intelligence. They are heterosexual life partners Peanut Butter (Tim Blake Nelson in the movie's funniest role) and Jelly (Pruitt Vince). They are after the cash in the ATM's and appear to be stereotypical rednecks. The second trio of bank robbers are Darrien (Mekhi Phifer), the leader, his buddy Weinstein (John Ventimiglia aka "Artie Bucco" from The Sopranos) and psycho for hire Gates (Matt Ryan). They are more professional and have a plan that requires split second timing to disable outside communications, alarms, get into the vault and leave before anyone on the outside even knows what is happening. Gates has a constantly expressed desire to kill a hostage just to show who the boss is.
Anyway, after a brief standoff after which Tripp suggests that as the two group's goals do not actually conflict, each group tries to work on its plan but things keep going wrong. Also people keep dying though each group swears it's not the one doing the killing. Tripp notices some oddities and along with Kaitlyn tries to figure out what is actually going on. Apparently there might be some commonalities between both sets of bank robbers and all of the eccentric hostages.


Oscar winner Octavia Spencer's role veers uncomfortably close to Mammy histrionics but perhaps I am just being too sensitive. This is a broad comedy and only a few people come off looking competent or clever. Peanut Butter and Jelly are for example, certainly not the sort of dimwits that anyone would trust with explosives and are very touchy about their unacceptably low ranking on the FBI's most wanted list. All the top criminals know their ranking and those of their rivals. Everyone wants to make sure that their ranking stays high. Jeffrey Tambor, Curtis Armstrong, Adrian Martinez, and Natalia Safran also have roles.
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Conspiracy
directed by Frank Pierson
Where you work do you spend a lot of time in meetings? I do. And often the higher you go, the more time you spend in meetings and the more you have to work with people outside of your immediate department or direct line of command. And when THAT happens there is always friction and either subtle or direct challenges to authority, bureaucratic infighting, threats to escalate disputes to bigger and more powerful bosses, fights over budgets, passive aggressive ignoring of commands, favors owed and paid, and occasional harsh collar pops to remind certain people just who works for whom.


I will never forget that one time my direct supervisor told our group that we weren't going to be doing what the department business account manager wanted. In a department meeting with that woman (who was quietly intimidating-she controlled the budget and had links to VERY important people) he started to lay out the reasons why his plan was better than what she had earlier requested. Not two minutes into his speech, she looked up from what she was doodling and said " I thought I told you before that we weren't doing that. It's senseless. Move on. Do you have anything else??". Old dude was never the same after that. It was a source of humor in that department for years.


In Conspiracy the same elements are at play though obviously the stakes are much higher than some accounting middleware projects. It's 1942 and Hitler has decided that the killing of the Jews of Europe is not proceeding as fast or as neatly as desired. So through SS chief Himmler he directs that this be changed. The Jews are to be gotten rid of. Period. But given the sensitivity of this no written orders are to be given. The project, and make no mistake, that is what it is, is turned over to ambitious SS/Gestapo general Reinhard Heydrich (Kenneth Branagh) and his mouselike subordinate Adolf Eichmann (Stanley Tucci).
Heydrich sees in this not only an opportunity to rid the world of Jews for once and for all but just as importantly a chance but also to gain power for himself, his superior (Himmler) and the SS in general. To this end he chairs the Wannasee Conference to which he invites numerous leading Nazi officials and bureaucrats.
Heydrich lays out the plan of what is to happen. Some of these people are bootlickers who are only too happy to follow who is strong. And Heydrich is strong. Other people resent the fact that the SS is taking the lead and turning their various departments into virtual SS appendages. Others don't like Jews but worry that they need to do things legally in accordance with laws already passed. Some other people think that extermination is a bridge too far and expulsion or unpleasant living conditions are what is required for Jews. Others want to know who is going to pay for it all or get bogged down in details like mixed marriages or what is to be done with half-Jews or quarter-Jews.


With some of these people Heydrich cajoles, with others he bribes or uses reason and logic. With others he takes them outside for a brief chat and tells them straight up that as protected or as important as they think they are, it might take the SS a while to get to them, but get to them they would. So get with the program and don't give him any more s***. This is an older film but very worthwhile. It's the best of those listed here today I think.
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