Movie Bag #1 – Adjustment Bureau, Limitless, Tourist, Thor, Boondock Saints

Adjustment Bureau is a movie about a politician who falls in love with a woman, but then finds out that a secret organization that controls the entire world won’t let them be together.  The first half of the movie serves as a competent romantic comedy with hints of science fiction from time to time.  The two lead actors do a great job at making the chemistry feel real and tangible, so you genuinely want them to find a way to fix the situation.  Once you hit the second half though, the movie begins to fall apart.  The rules behind what the members of the bureau can do and can’t do seem to keep changing, and the plot is ultimately resolved in a “love conquers all” sort of way.  There’s no big showdown, they never defeat anything, and there’s no real pay off.  One minute they’re running away and in the next minute they’ve somehow won because the bureau basically decided to stop going after them.  Lame.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet but were interested, just go see Dark City instead.  It’s almost the exact same premise, but done in a much more interesting way and with a much better payoff.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Limitless.  I had only previously seen Bradley Cooper in The Hangover, so I didn’t know how well he would do in a dramatic role.  He plays a struggling author who comes across a drug that puts his brain into overdrive and turns his life around.  Before long he realizes that there are deadly side effects and that powerful people want the pills, but at that point he’s just too far in to quit.  The movie has some pretty solid performances, tense and creative actions scenes, and impressively stylized visuals.  My favorite part of the movie was how different the world looked when Cooper’s character was on and off the drug.  The change was visual, but it actually felt tangible.  When you see how he functions when he’s on the drug you can’t help but feel like you’re watching the origin story of a superhero that you’ve never heard of.  I look forward to seeing Bradley Cooper in more roles and definitely recommend Limitless.

The Tourist is a movie about an agent of some kind whose criminal lover changed his face through surgery.  The agent (Angelina Jolie) tricks her pursuers into thinking that a tourist (Johnny Depp) is actually the criminal’s new face.  Most of the actions scenes are slow and uninteresting, and there is absolutely no romantic chemistry between the lead actors.  There are a few funny moments, but the film is ultimately boring.  Every few minutes something happens that doesn’t make any sense, leading to a really frustrating experience.  Depp and Jolie both seem to be phoning it in, giving stale, wooden performances that are almost painful to watch.  The movie also ends with a twist that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t make any sense in context.  It feels like they just decided the movie would be better with a twist ending so they threw something in at the last minute.  Avoid.  I don’t even have an alternate movie to recommend.  Just go watch House or something.  Reruns of 24? Whatever.

Thor is a whole lot of fun, which isn’t really something I can usually say about superhero movies.  Lately it seems like every superhero has to serve as a metaphor for a midlife crisis or some sense of American patriotism versus terrorism thing in order to get a movie.  Instead of double meanings we get a regular superhero who essentially gets sent to Earth without his powers because he’s been a bad boy and needs a time out.  The movie constantly alternates between Earth and Asgard.  In Asgard we see tensions escalate while enemies draw near, Loki schemes, and Odin’s health is at risk.  On Earth we get a bunch of genuinely funny scenes involving Thor’s lack of understanding of what it means to not be a god.  The only real weak spot for me is the villain himself.  Loki seems to want to impress his father, but he also seems to want to kill him.  His actions and motives change several times throughout the film, and by the end I had pretty much given up on sorting it out.  There’s some big post-credits reveal, but I must not have enough geek cred because I had no idea what I was seeing.

The Boondock Saints is a movie about a pair of Irish brothers that get a hold of some guns and start hunting down people who they feel are leading impure lives.  Murderers, crime lords, etc.  We’re shown the aftermath of each encounter first as we watch Willem Dafoe’s character’s attempts to solve the murders.  His flamboyant performance serves as one of the film’s greatest highlights.  Each time he figures something out (or gets it wrong) we’re treated to the footage of what actually happened.  Most of the movie deals with serious situations that are made either fun or funny through the use of improbably stunts, interesting characters, and interruptions by Dafoe.  It’s pretty easy to see how this movie developed such a following.  Dafoe in drag.  I’ll just leave you with that thought.


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