Now, Harry Brown, that's the new Michael Caine movie. I saw it as part of a Michael Caine evening arranged with the Museum of the Moving Image and BAFTA and held at the DGA Theatre in Manhattan, which included an hour of conversation with Caine supplemented by a few film clips. The conversation was wonderful. Caine is wonderful, he's a born raconteur, I'm sure some of the stories he was telling us he has told to 89 other audiences, but he has the gift for making it seem like we were hearing them for the very first time that night. Harry Brown is not so wonderful. When I realized 30 minutes in that it was essentially a Brit remake of Death Wish with Caine in the Charles Bronson role, only more violent and overmade, I decided that I was very tired, that I didn't need this, and that it would be a good time for a nap. I have no regrets about that decision.
When I was in London, I saw How To Train Your Dragon. This was an OK movie. It's a very archetypal movie, kind of like one of those sports movies we've all seen in 10 variations where you can check off the required scenes on the checklist. Every once in a while you see a really archetypal movie that manages to be great in spite of it because it's just so so so good, or has some kind of fresh approach that somehow manages to elevate the stale material. This movie wasn't that good. But it was good enough to hold the attention of an adult, and it was very lively. If this doesn't sound like a rave ... well, it's not. But most animated movies these days I don't even want to see, and the fact that I did want to see this and didn't mind having done so puts it above at least two-thirds of its peers.
I also saw something called I Love You Phillip Morris. The recent movie The Informant with Matt Damon was really good and fun and zesty, and this is a poor man's version with Jim Carrey and Ewen McGregor. Carrey plays a truth-challenged con man, prison escapee, etc. etc. who is in love with a character named Phillip Morris and played by McGregor. If there's any chance of Carrey avoiding recidivism, his efforts to stay with and lure the McGregor character undo it. Carrey isn't bad at all. But McGregor, who shows some of his inate British puckishness to very good effect in the otherwise overrated Ghost Writer, here has gone back to the dark side of the force. It's a character role playing a 33rpm playing on a 45 weird off version of a southern gentlemen with a bad accent, icky effeteness, and weirdly subdued. And Carrey is playing his character with a zest and joy that's delightful and appropriate to the role, but he's the only person doing that. The movie as a whole seems under-acted, under-lit, under-decorated. You can make a good low budget movie, but whatever the budget was on this it really wanted and needed to have been higher.