Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paragraph Movie Reviews Double Feature

Chaos Theory
I am thoroughly in awe of Ryan Reynolds. He has managed to maintain all the pretty boy charm he started his career with while evolving into a powerful actor who is a master of both using the spoken word and brilliant physical performance. I think I can honestly enjoy any movie he is in at least to some degree just to watch him at work. That said, Reynolds' performance is the only good thing about this clunker. It's a fairly blah premise (efficiency expert's life falls apart so he does crazy shit as he tries to get it back together) that yields a few emotionally shocking moments contained in a very weak framework. It veers wildly between black comedy and "tug at the heartstrings" drama with little consistency and much of the script is just cringe-inducing. It's worth noting that Reynolds once again does a great job establishing a precious father-daughter dynamic as he did in "Definitely, Maybe," so he's definitely got an even brighter future as he continues to age. It's also worth noting that if they had subbed hilarious Sarah Chalke, who gets a bit part, with dull Emily Mortimer, who gets the female lead, this movie may have had a shot, but no go.

Josh Brolin's George W. Bush strikes me as the type of charmingly idiotic sort who I'd honestly go back to see in a franchise of romantic comedies were he a fictional character, and that thought pretty much encompasses the strengths of as well as the problems with this film. Taken strictly as a movie, I found it to be a rivetting story that kept my attention for all two hours-plus. The father and son relationship between W. and Bush Sr. (played by James Cromwell in another strong performance) that was at the story's heart was very compelling with plenty of great subplots surrounding it. The cast, led by Brolin's dead-on W., was remarkably strong, without a weak link among the bunch and with Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones and Thandie Newton in particular delivering knockout portrayals. However, if you try and qualify "W." as a biopic, it becomes a little more vexing. For one thing, once you acknowledge the events of the movie as reality it certainly becomes a lot less entertaining, but for another, even a card-carrying liberal such as myself has to wonder if Oliver Stone's almost super villain-level portrayals of Dick Cheney and friends wasn't a tad over the top, and that distracts greatly. Also, while I kinda get leaving 9/11 out of the movie given how overwhelming it may have been, it would have been nice to have seen some time devoted to the 2000 election, not to mention that Laura Bush seems to get a lobotomy at some point around the hour and a half mark and we never see why. Given that this is Oliver Stone, a guy who makes four hour movies, I don't see why he could have crammed a few more crucial scenes in. Still, at the end of the day, an entertaining movie (and highly depressing indictment of the guy who was somehow elected our 43rd president).

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