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Entries in Cynthia Nixon (2)

Friday
Feb242012

Rampart

A great performance does not make a great movie. People tend to forget that sometimes. The best example in recent years is The Wrestler. Although still a good movie and certainly recommendable, its story wasn’t as captivating or as complex as it thought it was. Mickey Rourke was breathtaking and deserved to be standing on that stage during awards season clutching an Oscar just as much as Sean Penn was for Milk, but the movie that surrounded that performance simply wasn’t up to his level. The same can be said for this week’s expanding release, Rampart. Woody Harrelson is terrific in the lead role, even as the movie struggles to find what it is it wants to say. It’s good, but given its lack of awards recognitions, it fell far short of film glory.

The film takes place in Los Angeles in 1999, during the famous LAPD Rampart scandal where more than 70 officers were charged with misconduct that included everything from covering up evidence to unprovoked murders. Harrelson plays David Brown, one of the cops suspected of unethical behavior, who, after being caught on tape violently beating a fleeing motorist after an accident, goes under investigation for his behavior.

All of that is fine and dandy and it creates a perfect backdrop for what could have been a wonderful drama. There’s corruption, violence, cover ups and all kinds of struggles, both internal and external, that the character has to face. With a clear idea of what it was going for, Rampart could have been a intriguing character study, but as is, you never truly get a sense of Officer Brown’s personality, despite Harrelson’s gripping performance (which is one of the main reasons this movie still succeeds), because you never get to see it. Instead, most of his personality traits are simply read off in passing dialogue. At one point, his daughter calls him homophobic, yet he has no interaction with a gay person throughout the entire film. She also calls him a racist, but as far as the viewer can tell, he’s only called a racist because the person he’s caught beating up on camera is black (and you get the feeling he would have done that no matter the person’s race). She even goes so far as to label him as sexist, but no scenes support that claim. In fact, the only four people in the entire world he cares about are female. Sure, when he picks women up at bars, he’s a little forward, but sexual aggression does not equate to sexism.

The only thing she gets right is when she calls him a misanthrope. As he expressly states, he hates everyone equally and, although this fact negates nearly every other label attached to his character, it provides for the most interesting sections of the film. His cold demeanor and brutal tactics don’t seem to stem solely from his reckless disregard for the rules. They seem to have evolved from the practices of those he works with. For instance, after making the news for beating that motorist to the edge of death, he is greeted with cheering and applause by his fellow police officers. Only a select few, mainly the ones investigating him, seem to have a moral compass. His brutal behavior reflects the culture of his job and those around him. As time goes on, his past actions begin to look more like inevitabilities than poor decisions.

Nevertheless, the meaning of all this is left vague. Whatever Rampart is trying to say about Officer Brown, the Rampart scandal or simply police corruption in general gets lost in its own maze of contradictions, but Harrelson keeps the movie afloat, even though his supporting cast isn’t the strongest in the world, especially Ice Cube, whose proven ineffective screen presence is that much more noticeable when opposite a veteran such as Harrelson. One could make the argument that the potency of the supporting characters is what makes a character study, especially one like this where the protagonist’s line of work forces him to interact with others. It’s a completely valid point and a suitable critique of this movie, but Harrelson is so good, he makes you forget all that and appreciate the film for its strengths rather than its weaknesses.

Rampart receives 3/5

Wednesday
May262010

Sex and the City 2

There’s a term we movie reviewers like to use to describe certain films, those that already have an existing fan base and will make loads of money regardless of what we write. That term is “critic proof.” Now I’m aware that I’m the last person whose opinion you’d ask for when it comes to Sex and the City 2, but duty calls nevertheless, so here it goes. I hated this movie.

The story takes place sometime after the first movie. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is married to her dream man, Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but they are in the middle of a slump. Big wants to stay home and relax while Carrie pushes for outside interaction. Eventually, Carrie gets an invite to attend a movie premiere with her friend Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and her young boy toy. Meanwhile, the other two girls are dealing with parenthood. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) loves her husband and her child, but is unhappy at her job and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is finding it hard to deal with a constantly crying baby and a beautiful nanny (Alice Eve) who she fears may lead to her husband’s infidelity.

Meanwhile, Samantha gets invited to spend a week in Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, but she refuses to go alone and drags her three friends there with her. Besides, they are all having problems and need to get away for a while. But while there, Carrie runs into an old flame, Aidan (John Corbett), which threatens to throw her marriage further off track.

Again, I know nobody cares about my opinion on this movie, but I fear you may consider it even less valid when you hear this. I have never watched a single episode of Sex and the City. I’ve seen chunks of it here and there, but never found it tolerable enough to sit through an entire episode. I’ve always found the characters insufferable, people I would never want to hang around with. Materialistic and shallow only begin to describe them. Take an early scene, for example, where Big and Carrie have a warm, romantic evening together where they hold each other and watch an old black and white movie, the classic It Happened One Night. For their anniversary, Big buys her a television for their bedroom because he wants to recreate that night. He thought the idea of wanting to be with him would trump any material possession, but Carrie misses the romantic gesture and insists that a piece of jewelry would be better.

Maybe it’s because I’m a man and my ignorance of the female mind plagues me, but I found myself siding with Big most of the time. Soon after the above events, Big comes home from a terrible workday and wants nothing more than to spend a quiet evening in, but still he humors Carrie and accompanies her to the aforementioned movie premiere. Yet she still isn’t satisfied. Eventually he goes a little overboard and asks for two days a week away from her, which any woman would understandably scoff at, but she actually goes along with it. Carrie's problems are all self inflicted, but they are all blamed on outside factors. I wasn't buying it.

The writing, if not already understood, is fairly bad. The story meanders, the dialogue is boring, consisting of scenes where the four sit around a table and talk about food, fashion, clothes and shoes (as well as the obligatory "man hate" speech where they insist men in America don’t want them to "have a voice")—and the humor is mostly pretty lame. The opening of the film sees our protagonists at a homosexual marriage and they drop more gay jokes than MacGruber. It’s all pretty trivial, really.

Like the original Sex and the City movie (which I have seen), this thing goes on and on with no signs of letting up. It spends two and a half hours throwing the girls into random, contrived predicaments that come off as over-the-top and cartoony, including a late scene where Samantha shows off her condoms while thrusting around a group of Middle Eastern men who find her sexuality offensive.

These are not the type of women that should be idolized. Yes, they have some redemptive qualities and yes, they are strong, powerful and independent, but that doesn’t mean they are exemplary. They’re sex crazed materialists who are, at times, quite selfish. I bring up their unfortunate influence for one reason. At one point in the movie, a prominent character cheats on her significant other, something that is clearly wrong, but struggles over whether or not she should tell him. The girls sitting behind me, talking amongst themselves, argued that she shouldn’t, agreeing with another character onscreen. Sex and the City 2 is daft, and that’s fine, but when that daftness translates to the audience watching, something is clearly wrong.

Sex and the City 2 receives 1.5/5