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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Secret in their Eyes

I was surprised to see a nearly packed house on Saturday afternoon -- for a movie with subtitles. The Chronic Critic is accustomed to being one of only a handful of cultured folk in any given theater in her hometown.

She was not surprised, however, when the crowd burst into applause as the closing credits rolled. This Argentinian winner of the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film has everything.

"Having everything" is not always a good thing. To wit, T.G.I. Friday's could be said to have everything from potato skins to chicken tenders and quesadillas to surf and turf. But, none of it is done well.

The Secret is part murder mystery/part love story/part political thriller/part comedy/part a rumination on life and love ... and every aspect of it is superb.

Let's start with the first-rate acting. Ricardo Darin smolders as Benjamin, the brooding hottie at the heart of the film. We meet Benjamin in the present day, when he's retired from his work in the criminal justice system and is trying to write a novel about a 25-year-old unsolved murder/rape case he's never gotten over.

His romantic interest, Irene, is every bit his equal. She's as lovely and intelligent as Benjamin. There is chemistry and desire between the two, but it's not acted on. Benjamin seeks out Irene -- after a 25-year-absence -- to ask her advice on his manuscript. She's now a prominent judge with a family of her own. We don't know much about what Benjamin has been up to in those 20-odd years, other than he's been consumed by this unsolved case.

The movie quickly takes us back two decades and shows us -- in gruesome detail -- why Benjamin remains haunted. He and his sidekick -- the most comical deputy since Barney Fife -- investigate and are certain they've found the perp. They have, been in a corrupt political/judicial system, they'll never be able to make it stick.

Meanwhile, Benjamin can't shake his passion for Irene. And, the murdered woman's husband can't shake his love for his slain wife. There are parallels between the men and their lost loves. But, they're doled out bit by bit in an intelligent and delicious way.

The movie moves back and forth in time, yet there's never any confusion about where we are in the story. This is first-rate story-telling and film-making (those close-ups! those continuous shots!) that deserves whatever awards and applause are heaped on it. See it!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Get Him to The Greek

Get Him to The Greek is raunchy, juvenile and totally not-to-be-missed.

Russell Brand reprises his preening rocker character, Aldous Snow, from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But this time, Snow has released a new CD to universally scathing reviews and has gotten sober. So, he's not nearly as interesting to his sexy rocker girlfriend, Jackie Q. She says as much on national TV, and that's enough to send Aldous back to the booze and pills. But, falling off the wagon might be enough to catapult him back to the top of the charts. Jackie Q. wasn't the only one who liked Aldous better with a buzz. Apparently, his fans feel the same way.

Jonah Hill is equally fun to watch as Aaron, the nervous record label rep sent to accompany Aldous from London to New York (for a Today show appearance) and then to L.A. for a comeback concert. Aaron is forced to live the life of a rock star for 72 hours while he's responsible for the notoriously irresponsible Aldous. He's also got to keep Aldous sober for part of that time, which proves to be as difficult as it sounds.

Aaron is willing to go to great lengths -- including several episodes where he vomits on himself -- to deliver his rock idol to The Greek Theater and to pacify his demanding boss, played by P. Diddy (if that is indeed what Sean Combs goes by these days). Diddy is not likely to be nominated for an Oscar, but he's great fun to watch as a tyrannical executive. (Remember Snoop Dogg's role as Huggy Bear in Starksy & Hutch? They're both so cool that you're willing to overlook their bad acting.)

Aside from Diddy, the supporting characters are as equally good and well-cast as the leads. Colm Meaney shows up as Aldous' washed-up, ex-rocker father. Elizabeth Moss is likable as Josh's sweet, always-exhausted live-in girlfriend. But, Rose Byrne gets to have the most fun as Aldous' fame-loving, oversexed girlfriend.

The most delightful surprise of all, though, is how much heart this movie has. Aaron eventually views Aldous as a human and not just an idol. Aldous proves to have some genuine emotion beneath his chest hair and man jewelry.

If you're not easily offended and in the mood for a feel-good, gross-out comedy, get yourself to Get Him to The Greek. See it.