I?ll admit that my disposition towards [b]Monk[/b] is several episodes incomplete. But, I?ve got other things on my Netflix queue I?d like to see, so I?ll hold off on finishing the first season. This isn?t to say that I didn?t like it, though I do shy away from television crime shows in general. There?s just no way that you can put together a solid mystery in 40 minutes plus commercials without rushing the plot and having the fewest number of suspects possible. Monk suffers from those flaws, but it has a trump card, and that?s Tony Shalhoub as the titular obsessive-compulsive detective. Just as Jack Bauer keeps us watching through the lamer moments of [b]24[/b], Adrian Monk gives the show some weight. He?s funny, quirky, and his relationships with his weary nurse and the grouchy police chief are consistently entertaining. It?s a gimmick that could run thin, but for now, I like it.
Now that I?ve rented [b]Miller?s Crossing[/b], I?ve seen all but two of the Coen Brothers? filmography. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, this movie ranks near the bottom of the pile. Yes, the Danny Boy scene does kick all kinds of ass. The rest of the movie, however, is extremely impenetrable. The plot is too convoluted to fully enjoy all of the twists and machinations. The characters are just as obtuse, with only Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney showing any real promise of depth. Miller?s Crossing doesn?t even seem like a Coen Brothers film. The characters aren?t as unique and the dialogue isn?t as snappy. There are some exceptions to those rules; Finney?s mob boss and The Dane are memorable, and the opening monologue is just short of brilliant. However, there?s little of the Coen?s trademark dark or quirky humor to be found. As such, Miller?s Crossing makes [b]Fargo[/b] look like [b]Raising Arizona[/b]. As usual, however, the cinematography is great and the score is fantastic. There?s something really deep and meaningful in Miller?s Crossing, I just haven?t found it yet.
[b]Wet Hot American Summer[/b] has been hailed as a modern cult classic and an overlooked gem, and is a favorite of college students everywhere. That puts it up there with [b]Office Space[/b], [b]Donnie Darko[/b], and [b]Super Troopers[/b]. Therefore, I felt obligated to rent it. Wait? I thought all of those movies were overrated. Oh, shit.
So yes, I didn?t like it either. To be honest, it?s pretty lame. The jokes can be separated into two kinds: inspired lunacy, and making fun of film clichés. The former works and the latter falls flat. Here?s an example. A can of vegetables saying that it can suck its own dick is funny. People running around screaming and knocking stuff over while looking for a phone are not. None of the romantic subplots work, on comedic terms or otherwise. A pattern eventually develops wherein something really brilliant will happen, and then something really lame will happen. And if you thought that [b]Napoleon Dynamite[/b]?s quirkiness was labored, this isn?t the movie for you.
I can kind of see how Wet Hot American Summer became a cult hit, but its appeal is still foreign to me. Maybe because I never went to a sleepaway summer camp or saw [b]Meatballs[/b]. Maybe because its raunchiness is uninspired (unlike, say, [b]Scary Movie[/b]). I?m all for dumb comedies, but this isn?t one of them.
[b]Garden [/b][b]State[/b] is [i]The Perks of Being a Wallflower[/i] ten years later; it?s the music video for a Death Cab for Cutie album. It?s also the first feature film by Zach Bra- I?m sorry, [color=black][u]Northwestern [/u][u]University[/u][u] graduate[/u][/color] Zach Braff. You?d be hard pressed to find a more auspicious directorial debut, too. Every scene has some sort of flair to it, though the camerawork alternates between being clever and showing off. There are eccentricities to spare, and the overall tone is hard to describe. It?s too grounded to be magical realism, but too quirky to resemble anything serious. It?s somewhere in between, and ends up being what I least expected, a version of what life should be.
You?d think that a directionless college student like myself would find plenty to identify with. Not really. Garden State paints a view of the world that?s a bit too aloof. Braff?s high school friends are mostly doing drugs and nothing worthwhile with their lives. One of his old pals is a cop, but he?s more interested in playing a role than serving and protecting. With all that alienation, there isn?t much left to work with. And if I ever turn out like that, shoot me. Plus, there?s the obligatory Big Confrontation Scene that fails to tug on the heartstrings. A few months ago, I read Nick Hornby?s [i]How to be Good[/i], a novel about a woman considering divorce. I had more in common with her than with anyone in Garden State. That shouldn?t have happened.
Braff?s acting is okay, but unremarkable. Considering that he?s supposed to be emotionally stunted, I guess I can excuse that. The real gem is the supporting cast. Peter Sarsgaard goes from stick-up-the-ass moralist in Shattered Glass to ne?er-do-well hedonist here, and he?s just as good. As for Natalie Portman, despite the fact that I initially found her annoying in her ebullient chattiness, I eventually realized that was the embodiment of every girl I?ve ever pined after. It?s not her actions, but the way she talks and does stuff. It?s enough to make you wilt.