Flixchatter Review: Public Enemies

This flix was on my must-see list of this year, and I was determined not to be affected by the mixed reviews. I mean, more often than not, the critics are wrong anyway, so I went in convinced I was going to absolutely LOVE this flix!  Alas, the flix was just ok, it didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. As I’ve hinted in my previous post about the trailers, I enjoyed the trailer ten times better than the flix, and that is such a pity because it could have been a great one.

The best thing about this flix is definitely Johnny Depp as the notorious bank robber John Dillinger. Michael Mann made Dillinger out to be such a hero even though he’s nothing more than a charming and crafty criminal. I don’t have a problem with that because it’s a movie, not a documentary, where creative liberty is an art form with the key purpose being to entertain. But what I do have a problem with is the fact that the flix never quite got me excited enough about the story nor the character. Even Depp with all his magnetism just couldn’t make me care about Dillinger without a strong script that fully fleshed out his character. On top of that, the pace was a so slow at times that I remember glancing at my watch wondering when it’ll be over. Not a good sign.

I learned as the movie progressed that Dillinger was not an enemy ‘of’ the public, but rather, an enemy ‘in’ public. He lived his live thinking he was invincible, having escaped from prison multiple times, and he reveled in being such an elusive delinquent who constantly one-uped the FBI. In fact, the coolest scenes were the prison escape scenes (especially in the opening of the movie) and when Dillinger stealthily sneaked into public places right under the Fed’s noses. Even as his photo was flashing on the movie theater screens and people were told to look around them as ‘the enemy might be sitting right next to them,’ he was virtually invisible. The camera would then zoomed in on his smug smirk and it was such a thrill because of the way Depp portrayed him.

Another issue I have with this flix was the love story between Dillinger and Billie Frechette, played by recent Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. Such a beautiful couple, but despite their best efforts, they lacked a certain chemistry that’d make their emotional bond believable. I didn’t cry when Billie mourned Dillinger at the end, even as the camera focused on her tear-filled eyes. And most of my friends know I’m such a sob, I cried watching Finding Nemo for shrimp sakes, and those cute animal videos on YouTube!

Nonetheless, what’s lacking in character development, it was largely made up with style. Mann’s glossy 1930s recreation was fantastic down to the last detail: the costume design, the cars, music, etc. – they all worked well to capture the mood and sensibility of the depression era. Love the costumes of the film, all those dapper men in suits, it was like a good long retro GQ commercial!

Besides Depp, there were some notable performances: Billy Crudup was excellent as the eccentric FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; and an unknown actor Jason Clarke was quite moving as Dillinger’s buddy John ‘Red’ Hamilton. Christian Bale was okay as the ambitious but morally ambiguous agent Melvin Purvis, but compared to his other terrific roles, this one was practically forgettable. I can see now why he wasn’t in the promos for this flix. I think his next role as a crack-addict boxer opposite Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter might be something more worthy to sink his teeth into. The supporting cast was full of pretty well-known actors that was unrecognizable at first: David Wendham (Dilios in 300), Stephen Dorff, Giovanni Ribisi, and jazz singer Diana Crall had a cameo as a lounge singer.

In a nutshell, this film could’ve been a classic with a stronger script. As it is now, it’s style over substance, which makes for a fairly entertaining but not memorable fare. If you’d rather see a compelling story with truly believable and affecting characters that’s also based on a true story, rent The Insider instead – my favorite Michael Mann’s flix by far!

Have you seen this film? What do you think of Public Enemies?

Apparently, there IS an award for trailers

I was just thinking about this last night when I was about to write my Public Enemies review. I thought the trailer was just so cool that I watched it over and over again before I actually saw the film. I’ll save my thoughts on the film until the actual review (which I was going to write tonight but I left my notepad on my desk), but suffice it to say that I liked its trailer a LOT better.

Well apparently there is an annual Trailer Awards called The Golden Trailer, judged by industry professionals from directors, studio execs, producers, even a blogger (Ain’t It Cool News founder). There’s even a gala in Los Angeles to fete the winners. I think this is great, I think trailers are awesome and hugely entertaining. I love watching ’em on my computers and in theaters, and more often than not, they are way better than the films they promote. Here’s a quote from their site:

The best trailers are works of art in their own right, expertly blending elements of cinema and advertising.

Their latest award show took place just last month, June 4th. You can see the list of winners on their website, but here’s a sampling:

Best Action: Fast and Furious
Best Drama: Frost/Nixon
Best Romance: 500 Days of Summer
Best Comedy: Bruno
Best Animation: Wall-E

I haven’t seen Fast and Furious or Bruno, but I agree with the other three. I should think Public Enemies should be nominated for the Best Action (or Drama?) category. LOVE the music used for the trailer (song is by Otis Taylor – Ten Million Slaves album), it just fit the style and mood perfectly.

So, what’s your favorite trailer you saw recently?

Charming bad boys on film

After watching Public Enemies this weekend, it’s clear the film portray the dangerous criminal as a charming hero. Obviously his real life story offers a stark contrast to how the film made him out to be.

Hollywood does this all the time it seems, making a hero out of otherwise shabby characters. I thought of some ‘bad boys’ that not only ‘captured’ the audience’s hearts, they are essentially the ‘heart’ of the movie itself.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Phantom in Phantom of the Opera
This is the flix that I came to know and love Gerard ‘Gerry’ Butler. One look at this seductive brooding ‘opera ghost’ and you’ll know why Christine’s lured by him. The half-deformed rogue is supposed to be an ugly creature not much to look at, but it’s hard to take your eyes off Butler’s Phantom. Raoul who??

2. Castor Troy in Face/Off
This despicable character is fascinating to watch, played by both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. When playing Troy, each actor got the best lines and both seemed to have more fun playing that character than the good guy Sean Archer.

3. Hans Gruber in Die Hard
The masterful performance by Alan Rickman always made the list of ‘best villain.’ He’s ruthless but yet so refined, elegant and polite that you can’t help rooting for him. He offers such a stark contrast to the crass and ‘everyman’ John McClane (Bruce Willis) and made the game of cat and mouse so much more fun to watch.

4. Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma
The Bible-quoting outlaw played by Russell Crowe is a complex yet sympathetic character. Even Dan Evans (Christian Bale), the good guy who escorts Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, can’t help liking the guy. The battle of wills between the two of them is the essence of the film right up until the end.

5. The Joker in The Dark Knight
The role that eclipsed the Dark Knight himself. Heath Ledger was ‘lost’ in this quintessentially evil character that might’ve cost him his own life. The Joker stole literally every scene he’s in, yet despite our abhorrence to the things he did, we were mesmerized by him.

Honorable mentions:

Simon Gruber in Die Hard 3 (Jeremy Irons)
Dr. Octopuss in Spiderman 2 (Alfred Molina)
Elijah Price in Unbreakable (Samuel L. Jackson)

What do you think? Any particular bad boy stood out to you?

Flixchatter’s Must-See Flix for the rest of ’09

The Must-See list in the order of release date:

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Who could resist that pathetic squirrel still on the hunt for his beloved acorn? I couldn’t stop laughing from the moment that thing came on the screen. There’s possible romance for this little guy as well – hilarious mayhem can’t be far behind.

Public Enemies
Depp. Bale. Michael Mann doing what he does best. The trailer looks positively awesome! Based on a true story about a charismatic bank robber set in the Depression era. It’s a wild goose chase to outgun and outwit each other. I’m so there.

The Time Traveler’s Wife
(See my post about it earlier). I’ll see this on account of Bana, and the story promises to be a gut-wrenching drama. I REALLY want to like this one, I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Say what you will about James Cameron but he’s a moviemaking genius. A decade after Titanic, he’s back at the helm in one of the most ambitious projects to date. Set in a distant planet inhabited by a humanoid race, it’s filmed with ‘steroscopic 3D’ which basically means it mixes live-action and CGI more seamlessly. What I’ve heard so far promises this to be an epic thrill-ride. Count me in!

Sherlock Holmes
Robert Downey Jr. plays the fictional detective with Jude Law as his BFF Watson. Downey is always enjoyable to watch, and the trailer looks like fun. Sure Guy Ritchie’s done some unwatchable stuff in the past, but this very British story looks like something right up his alley.

Honorable Mentions:

(500) Days of Summer
We all know Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a looooong way from his 3rd Rock From the Sun days. IHMO he’s one of the most talented young actors working today. This is an offbeat rom-com in the span of one Summer. The tagline says: “Boy Meets Girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” I’m hooked.

The Ugly Truth
Now, those who know me probably thinks this SHOULD have been on the main list. GB has great comedic timing and looks like he and Katie Heigl has great chemistry. But this looks an awful lot like Someone Like You (Hugh Jackman + Ashley Judd). So it depends on what the reviews say, but I’m not rushing to see this one on opening nite.

Daniel Day-Lewis in a musical by the director of Chicago? Hmmm, that I gotta see. It boast a great cast who play all the women in the protagonist’s life: Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, to name a few.