Movie Project #25: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]
Director: Shane Black
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan
Runtime: 103 minutes

Look up idiot in the dictionary. You know what you’ll find?
A picture of me?
No! The definition of the word “idiot”! Which you fucking are!

Now where in the hell did this movie come from? It’s rare that a film can combine dark comedy, action and mystery so effortlessly in one package. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has all of this, with a satirical spin on Film Noir to boot.

The always charismatic Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry Lockhart, a common thief who acts as the meta narrator for our story. After a botched robbery attempt, Lockhart cleverly evades police by running into an ongoing audition for a detective movie. The part, conveniently enough, is eerily similar to the exact situation Lockhart is going through at that moment. He nails the gig, eludes the cops and gets a part in the movie. Now THAT’S how you run from the law.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

To train for his role, Lockhart is teamed up with private investigator Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), commonly known as “Gay Perry”. While working on a case, the duo unwittingly stumble upon a vast conspiracy involving kidnapping and murder, and they soon become swept into a web of crime. Also caught in the heat of things is Lockhart’s high school sweetheart, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan), who he happens to run into at a Hollywood party.

What transpires is an expertly written mystery that is both hysterical and suspenseful. The movie moves at a brisk pace, one that is occasionally hard to keep up with but always entertaining. The laughs are dark and crude, without resorting to slapstick or lazy humor. The story doesn’t take long to spiral out of control and it stretches the boundaries of believability (okay, it is hardly believable at all), but that doesn’t matter. This is a self-aware movie that revels in its irreverence.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

And who better to play the lead narrator/thief/pseudo-actor than Robert Downey Jr.? The man’s comedic timing and delivery is impeccable, and he plays the lead with just the right amount of cynicism. His chemistry with the surprisingly buoyant Val Kilmer is off the charts. In fact, there are moments where Kilmer steals the scene. His “Gay Perry” delivers some brilliant wisecracks, a perfect complement to Downey’s zaniness. Bonus points go out to Michelle Monaghan who is as stunning as I have seen her, and boy does she know it in this film.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the last decade’s more underrated films. Somehow this slipped under my radar (and many others, apparently) and I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this gem. Sure, the plot can be hard to keep up with, but damn if this isn’t an fun and wild ride. I am very glad to have included this in my project.

8/10

Movie Review: Source Code [2011, Jones]

Source Code [2011]

Source Code [2011]
Director: Duncan Jones
Genre: Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

Groundhog Day meets… Speed?

Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhall) is having a hell of a day. He wakes up on board a Chicago-bound Metra commuter train, and he is no idea how he got there. Worse yet, he appears to be living in someone else’s body. This person, a school teacher named Sean, is sitting across from his good friend Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Everything appears to be business as usual until the train explodes after exactly eight minutes, killing everyone on board. Stevens wakes up in an unfamiliar location and is quickly contacted by Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who briefs him on his situation. Stevens learns that there was a bomb on the train, and that he is being used as part of a secret U.S. Military program to figure out who placed the explosives. He is forced to repeat the same eight minute sequence over and over until he determines who was responsible for the destruction.

Source Code [2011]

Source Code is pretty intense, with several twists and turns amidst the frantic sci-fi thriller pacing. Even though it presents some interesting philosophical and ethical questions, the movie has a mostly benevolent attitude throughout (somewhat similar to The Adjustment Bureau in this regard). There are several moments where one will need to suspend their disbelief, but this is to be expected given the plot premise.

It’s easy to get behind the character of Colter Stevens thanks to a great performance from Gyllenhall. He brings a certain human element to his character, even bringing the laughs during dire moments. Michelle Monaghan does well despite having what is essentially a throwaway role. I was most impressed with Vera Farmiga, who excels despite being on a computer screen during many of her scenes. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. Jeffrey Wright is also another standout here as the leader of the Source Code program, effortlessly showing he is the man in charge.

Source Code [2011]

I enjoyed Source Code about as much as I enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau, which is to say quite a bit. Duncan Jones’ title digs deeper and is perhaps “smarter” overall but both are a lot of fun. I would have opted for a different ending in Source Code, but it hardly ruined the experience for me. Fast-paced, intelligent and suspenseful, Source Code is one of the better movies to come out this year.

8/10

Movie Review: Somewhere [2010]

Somewhere [2010]

Somewhere [2010]
Director: Sofia Coppola
Genre: Drama
Language: English/Italian
Country: USA

Somewhere opens with a shot of a black Ferrari aimlessly driving around in circles in an open area. This goes on for a few minutes, after which popular actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) steps out and gazes into the horizon. End scene. This minimalistic shot sets the stage for the rest of the movie, one that most either seem to love or hate, with very few settling somewhere in between.

Johnny Marco is an apathetic actor who shows little emotion to what surrounds his life. Twin strippers, hotel parties, movie press conferences — he seems disillusioned by it all. As he inches through his life, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) is left to live with him for an undetermined amount of time by his ex-wife. This brings a sense of change to Johnny’s life, and now he has no choice but to begin to show some signs of responsibility.

Somewhere [2010]

Not a lot happens in Somewhere. The movie focuses on Johnny’s life outside of the movies and it shows the strain of his relationship with his daughter, but there are no major events that take place. We are merely taken in on a period of this movie star’s life, one who is marred with some sort of depression. Director Sofia Coppola lets the film crawl along, often invoking the use of extended scenes, many of which will leave some people scratching their heads in bewilderment. Occasional quirks are brought up but never resolved. I found these traits to be enjoyable and oftentimes humorous, but it’s easy to see how they could bother certain audiences.

The best moments in Somewhere happen when both Johnny and Cleo are on screen together. Their relationship is simplistic, but there is noticeable chemistry between the two. This is helped by strong performances from the two leads. Stephen Dorff is effective at showing minimal emotion, and Elle Fanning’s acting feels natural and authentic. Since the movie is strictly about these two characters, there aren’t many noteworthy roles played by others. A seemingly random selection of Chris Pontius (of Jackass fame) plays Johnny’s friend and roommate, Michelle Monaghan plays an actress that he has worked with before, and Ellie Kemper (The Office) briefly escorts Johnny around in Italy.

Somewhere [2010]

While Somewhere’s slow pace sometimes works against itself, I found the movie to be a very interesting character study overall. It requires a fair amount of patience and the right mindset, but if you are willing to stick with it you should be able to get something out of it. While not up to the level of Lost In Translation, Somewhere is still an involving experience that can be utterly compelling at times.

7.5/10