Round Two of Summer Movies

Thanks to the glorious generosity of AEIOU Philadelphia, a local arts & events listserve, I got some free movie passes this week. I should note that my ratings are probably skewed; seeing a movie, any movie, free of charge automatically bumps it up at least a whole letter grade.

“Anchorman” – B-
Granted, this is basically an extended SNL skit, and therefore a lot like its consciously wacky predecessors, “A Night at the Roxbury” and “The Ladies Man.” (Question: Are former cast members contractually obligated to do at least three Lorne Michaels-bankrolled flicks?) Still, the movie won me over about halfway through. Steve Carrell (of The Daily Show and the forthcoming American version of The Office) get the most belly laughs playing Brick Tamland, a weatherman with an IQ of 48. Farrell has his moments, too, and doesn’t totally let Carrell steal the show. He ramps up the pomposity of his character, Ron Burgundy, to a level that eclipses his past chauvinist incarnations. Some of the scenes are so bizarrely nuttylike the a-capella version of “Afternoon Delight” or the Toonland fantasy dreamthat I couldnt help but like them, even if their funniness was questionable. Hearing the director, a former SNL head writer, on Fresh Air yesterday, it sounded like some of these scenes were more fun to write than to watch. Ahh, enough bitchin’? The bottom line: Will Farrell could gargle monkey pee and it would be hilarious.

“Before Sunset” – A
First off, I know that “Before Sunrise,” this film’s predecessor, is like a Rorschach test. Either you love it or think, in the words of Gabe, “that’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen!” Well, I’m a lover, not a hater. Call me a sucker for dialogue-heavy cinema verit set in Vienna. Yet I was skeptical about a sequel. Isn’t the whole point of “Sunrise” that you’re not supposed to know whether they actually get back together? Um as it turns out: No. “Sunset,” I’ll argue, is actually superior to the first. Maybe its the compressed timeframe and added urgency, maybe its the tension of knowing the backstory (like watching “Godfather 2”), or maybe I’ve just grown older, like the characters, and can identify with their more adult problemsgetting married, settling down, job fulfillment. It’s almost spooky how the director, Richard Linklater, can tap into the cultural zeitgeist in such a way that everything the characters say resonates with the audienceor at least with me.

“Sunset” did leave a weird aftertaste, though. Specifically, a quarrel between Ana and I, after leaving the theater. It was one of those garden variety “Why aren’t WE more like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy?” kind of arguments. “Why can’t we be that romantic.” Ultimately, the thing blew over, and we commiserated over not getting to see “Garden State” (the movie that our passes were for, which was over capacity when we arrived). But all you romantically insecure couples out there, consider yourselves warned.