When Steph and I were leaving Public Enemies, I saw the composer's name on the screen; Elliot Goldenthal. I had one of those "Oh yeah" moments.
I'd sat through the entire movie wondering why the music reminded me of the music from another movie. Interview with the Vampire kept coming to mind.
So when I saw the guy's name on the screen, I knew why it reminded me of the vampire flick.
I said as much to Steph. She responded with a bit of nothing, though there was something behind that nothing. I didn't have to ask what she was really thinking. I knew.
She called me weird. I don't think it's that I'm weird so much as I just have a head loaded with all manners of random movie crap, and it comes out at random times. It's like a malfunctioning mental movie wiki.
The score was just all right, by the way (I almost typed "btw"). Nothing to get excited about. Often reminded me of Interview with a few moments of The Last of the Mohicans (which is a damn good score if you're into that sort of thing).
I don't often talk about the music in movies, despite that, depending on the film, it's one of the most important elements for setting the tone of a particular scene. Mostly I don't discuss it because I have absolutely no background for talking about music. I can't play anything, can't read it. I have no business talking about music. I only know what I like, which, you know, is nothing uncommon.
But as I'm writing this, the music of the two films this weekend is on my mind. I just told you why for Public Enemies. Moon was scored by Clint Mansell, and he's easily one of my top five film composers working these days.
He composed the music for Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain ... pretty much everything directed by Darren Aronofsky, though there are a ton of other works to his credit. Mostly, I'm familiar with those three, and I listen to The Fountain all the time.
It's a solemn, haunting and introspective work. It's fantastic for writing to--but again, that's just me.
His work on Moon reminds me of the stuff he did for the Aronofsky films, which is a good thing. I'll have to track down the soundtrack on Amazon (hopefully).
Anyway, so the music was all right for these two films. Fortunately, the films were better than "all right," though they both fell short of "great."
Johnny Depp has pretty much been a superstar since he first smiled on 21 Jump Street, though technically, by that time, he'd already been a victim of Freddy (Nightmare on Elm Street) and been in Oliver Stone's Platoon.
But I don't know that he's ever been thought of as a leading man. Oh, I know he's the star in whatever movie he's in, but even after the Pirates trilogy, I don't think of him as a leading man.
Instead, he's the go-to guy for odd characters. I mostly think that's because he has the balls to do what other actors won't, but then there's the fact that if someone else had tried to do Icabod Crane or Jack Sparrow, I just don't think the result would've been as memorable.
What I'm saying is that it was a bit odd casting him as John Dillinger in Public Enemies, because there's really nothing odd about the guy. He was a cold-hearted, murdering bank robber. Sure, he was a "folk hero," but this was a career criminal who spent more than eight-and-a-half years in prison during one stint.
Still, Depp's a good actor, and he did a good job. Though honestly, I really don't know how much he had to work with.
The film, as a story, follows Dillinger's life of crime after he started robbing banks. As bad luck would have it, I missed the opening of the film. The first five or 10 minutes. Didn't see the opening credits. When I sat down, Dillinger (Depp) and his crew were escaping from a prison. Some of them made it, some of them didn't.
Pretty much from there, we went right into robbing banks and running from the cops. Took me awhile to get into the flow of the thing. I hate missing the beginning of a movie.
After the escape, we're introduced to Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), who's in the process of hunting down and killing Pretty Boy Floyd, one of Dillinger's bank robbing contemporaries. He gets put in charge of hunting down Dillinger.
The FBI hunt for Dillinger composes the meat of the film, the exciting parts being the jail breaks and massive shootouts between Dillinger's gang and the FBI.
I liked the movie, but to be honest, there was something odd about it all, something that didn't quite click for me, like there was a disconnect between me as a viewer and every character in the film save for Dillinger and Billie (Marion Cotillard), his "love" interest.
And honestly, other than the scenes where Dillinger is mugging for the press (in jail) or taunting the police, there's not much to him. They try to present him as a charismatic guy, but he all-too-calmly shoots any cop who gets in the way. It's difficult to imagine why Dillinger was a folk hero of sorts during that time. I understand why from an intellectual sense. He was robbing the banks that caused the Great Depression, but I can't imagine rooting for a guy so willing to take a life. Then again, maybe the disconnect is on purpose. Maybe we're not meant to empathize with Dillinger. Maybe we're just meant to spend time with him.
As for Bale, he's given almost nothing to work with here. I've gotten used to him as a leading man, and his Purvis is pretty much cardboard. You don't know anything about him, and he plays it so straight, there's not much there to root for either.
The performances, the parts maybe, are just odd and unbalance the movie. And there's just no depth to any of it, as though the film is a slave to the events recorded by history. That's the positive and negative of making what amounts to a bio-pic. You can only embellish it so much before you're not telling the story anymore.
Sure, it's a pretty film. It's a Michael Mann movie. Even his bad movies are beautiful. Sure, he has pretty awesome shootouts and chase scenes. It even has its moments of levity.
But when the end comes for Dillinger, I was oddly unaffected. I'm not sure that's the way you want your viewers to feel when they're leaving the theater. I for one wasn't sure what I thought about it on the trek to the parking lot.
Again, it's not a bad movie. I enjoyed it. But there's something missing from it.
Fly You to the Moon
Moon is my kind of science fiction. Small, slick and high concept. And it's actually science fiction, as opposed to space opera or alien-themed action movies. Moon, by the way, opens this weekend, I'm assuming at the AMC, but you might be able to find it elsewhere. I'm hoping you do. It's a beautiful island in a sea of summer dumb.
The premise of Moon is simple. After returning to the lunar surface, astronauts found a substance, Helium 3, which has allowed Earth to overcome its energy problems and conquer global warming. You get this information from a handy infomercial that opens the film.
Then you get straight up to the moon where Sam Bell is closing in on the denouement of his three-year solo stay at moon base Sarang, his only companion a self-aware robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Sam's sort of losing it. He's talking to himself and not bothering to keep his beard trimmed. Even he thinks he's losing it, but he's doing the job.
He doesn't even have real-time communications with anyone, and has to content himself with recording messages and waiting for replies. He goes out to check on one of the H3 harvesters, thinks he sees someone standing on the surface of the moon, and ends up crashing into the harvester and passing out.
He wakes up back in the base, somewhat confused. He doesn't remember the accident. Gerty keeps him confined to sick bay for a couple of days, and when he finally comes around, he's curious as to why one of the harvesters isn't moving. Gerty's under orders to keep him from leaving the station, but Sam tricks him and gets out anyway, then heads straight for the downed harvester.
There he finds a crashed work truck/crawler. Inside, he finds... himself.
And that's all I'm giving you.
I will say that in terms of story, Duncan Jones (writer/director) made the wrong choice. There's this sweet spot in the middle of the film where Sam's trying to figure out just what in the hell is going on, and the first third of the movie set it up perfectly and then...they go a different way.
Not that the direction they go is bad, but I felt sorta let down they didn't continue. Ah well, it's the movie they wanted it to be, not the one I wanted it to be. Once I made peace with the fact they chose the other path, I really enjoyed the movie.
It's good stuff. Sam Rockwell is pretty much the only guy in the movie and has to play off himself, and it wouldn't have worked in the hands of a lesser actor. He's unappreciated as an actor, and other than Choke, I've pretty much liked everything I've seen him in. Here, he's awesome, especially when he has to play off himself.
He's surrounded by a cool set and awesome lunar effects, a great score and what turns out to be a pretty cool story. It's good stuff.
Better still that it's actually science fiction, as opposed to whatever the hell something like Terminator Salvation should be called. There needs to be a term to differentiate between the two things. Something like Moon should still be called Sci-fi, but something like Star Wars should be called something else.
The largest distinction between the two types of movies is that real science fiction films are typically smart, whereas the other types are just future'd-up action films. Maybe that's the term. Future fiction. I dunno.
What I know is that I'd rather watch Moon four or five times than have to sit through another damn Terminator Salvation flick or any of the other brain-dead summer blockbusters this summer. Movies like Moon remind me that the medium hasn't died yet. There are still good stories to tell, and good filmmakers to tell them.
Do yourself a favor. Support a movie like Moon. Tell Hollywood you want a better, smarter kind of movie.
Go see Moon.
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