Musical Memory for 9/12 – 9/18

This week’s musical memory takes us into the realm of disco and sci-fi….

Whenever you go to certain events, those tasked with “keeping the party going” know that there are a handful of songs that get people up and full of energy.  To most people’s embarrassment, that includes a number of songs from the age of Disco.

“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry has been used a number of times on TV and in movies to underscore parties and other events.  My first memory of the song was actually hearing it on the radio as I was doing small chores growing up.  But any memories I may have had of hearing the song were wiped away by the one made watching Evolution.  For those not wanting to click the link to read my review, Evolution was a sci-fi comedy about Earth being overrun by a rapidly developing alien race.  In one part of the movie, David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, and Sean William Scott have just brought down an alien creature in a shopping mall.  As the scene switches to a desert highway, the familiar opening guitar riffs of “Play That Funky Music” blast the audience as we see the Jeep with our heroes and their dead trophy head towards the army base.  Everyone is happy and celebrating.  Nice scene with a great choice of music to keep the energy up.

So, whenever I hear “Play That Funky Music,” I think of Evolution…

The Switch

I’ve been a Jason Bateman fan since he first popped up on Silver Spoons, playing the smart-ass sidekick of Ricky Schroeder.  They spun his character off to a one-season wonder called It’s Your Move.  This should have been the clue as to how his career would unfold.  Bateman has always thrived more in situations where he was the supporting actor and not the lead.  His timing and reactions make him the perfect straight guy for wackiness around.

Since Arrested Development folded, Bateman has been given two opportunities to headline a movie.  The first one, Extract, did not do well.  Granted, it was a Mike-Judge effort and those can be hit or miss; Office Space hit, this was a miss.  The second one is the subject of this review.  To help him carry the load, The Powers That Be cast Jennifer Aniston as his love interest — not a bad gig for Jason Bateman.

I had some time to kill between getting off work and going to a function, so I decided to catch a late-afternoon showing at the Premier Cinema in Fashion Square Mall.  I grabbed my snacks and headed in.

The story centers around Bateman’s character, despite the title of the movie and the ads.  He is a guy in love with his best friend but unable to tell her.  What unfolds is perhaps, for me, the most depressing comedy I have ever seen.  Depressing because the story does not contain many laughs, and depressing because it hits too close to home.  Aniston and Bateman do a great job of acting and I feel both were well cast.  Unfortunately, for me, the movie fails at the point of trying to figure out why it was made.  All it does is depress guys like me and make women similar to Aniston’s character question the intentions of all their male friends (of course I tend to side with Billy Crystal from When Harry Met Sally on this subject).

My advice:  Skip it; outside of good acting jobs, this movie has nothing to offer you as a movie-goer…

Musical Memory for 9/5 – 9/11

Over the years, I have made mention of how important I feel music is to movies.  Play the wrong song at the wrong time and you could end up with some of cinema’s greatest scenes never existing.  Since I have tied those together so much, I find myself flashing instantly on certain scenes from movies whenever I hear certain songs.

As a new feature, I will periodically post a new entry in this category.  Now, I am ruling out traditional musicals, such as Chicago, Grease, and The Sound of Music; non-traditional musicals, such as Footloose and Empire Records, are allowed.  Take a look at my entry and feel free to share yours….

My first selection comes from Grosse Pointe Blank.  For those that have not seen the movie, it involves a hitman going to his 10-year high school reunion.  At one point during the reunion, John Cusack is holding a baby and Queen’s “Under Pressure” begins playing.  At the height of the song, Cusack comes to terms with certain things.  Great moment visually.

So, whenever I hear “Under Pressure,” I think of Grosse Pointe Blank….

The American

The mark of greatness in an actor labeled as a superstar celebrity is their ability to perform in a role and have the audience forget that they are watching a superstar celebrity.  Jimmy Stewart was good at this, as was Harrison Ford in earlier roles.  Kevin Spacey is probably one of the best at it today.  George Clooney, on the other hand, has had issues with this.  In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was hard to see past the celebrity while watching Batman & Robin or Ocean’s 11.  He has been doing a better job of this given the amount of acting acclaim that he has received over the past 5 years (and Academy Award nominations).

Enter The American…

The American is a character study.  It is not a movie that you would expect to see in a megaplex to close out the summer; rather, it is one that you find at your local arthouse.  With a foreign director and being set in Europe, it is no surprise that it has a foreign film feel to it.  Clooney plays a man good at killing people.  The movie opens with him being hunted.  No explanation is given and none is needed.  The story is not about why he is being hunted; it is about the effects of the choices of his life and his attempts to pull himself out of the depths of hell he has put himself.

This movie is all about the relationships.  Clooney’s shot at redemption with the priest and the hooker; the hunter and the prey; and the environment and Clooney.  All of the cast does well with each role.  There is very little dialog, with half of it being in Italian.  The trailers do not do the movie justice, as they only focus on the action.  The action is completely shown in the trailers — the rest is quiet and slow.

My advice: wait for video — I am glad to have seen the movie, but I am not in any rush to see it again…