Crime Families? Movies Reviewed: We’re the Millers, 2 Guns, Blue Jasmine

Posted in Action, comedy, Crime, Cultural Mining, Drama, drugs, Guns, Mexico, Uncategorized, Wall Street by CulturalMining.com on August 2, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Something strange happened to me recently – apparently my downtown bank was robbed… while I was there! The thing is, I didn’t even know it had taken place. In fact, if a teller hadn’t handed me a mugshot photocopy and told me to circle a face, I still wouldn’t know. Meanwhile, the bank refused to say that they’d been robbed, just what do you remember, what did you see? (Truthful answer: nothing). All very strange.  Nothing like the movies where someone in a mask always shouts Nobody move! I have a gun and it’s loaded! Don’t move and you won’t get hurt!

This week I’m looking at three new movies about how crime can affect the criminals themselves, their friends and their families. Two of the movies – one action, one comedy – focus on the lucrative drug trade across the US/Mexican border. And one’s a drama, set in San Francisco, about the ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff-type character.

were the millers poulter sudeikisWe’re the Millers

Dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Dave (Jason Sudeikis) is loving the single’s life as a small- time pot dealer. But when street punks steal his money and his drug stash, he suddenly finds himself in debt to his drug boss, a goofy, but cruel, businessman who keeps killer whales for pets. So he’s forced to do a one-time smuggling run from Mexico in an RV. But, in order to fool government agents at the border, he must totally change his look, from stoner to suburban straight guy. So he recruits a fake family to accompany him. Rose, a bitter and angry stripper who lives in his apartment building (Jennifer Anniston) is now his “wife”. (She hates him). Naïve Kenny (Will Poulter) — another neighbour, who was abandoned by his mom – is his pretend son, and homeless Casey (Emma Roberts) is his wisecracking daughter.were-the-millers-jennifer-aniston-jason-sudeikis-emma-roberts-439x600  Together they cross the border, evade vengeful Mexican druglords, and try to fit in with the lily-white Christian campers they meet on the road.

were the millersMeet the Millers is a cute, risqué road movie about a bunch of ne’erdowells who, in spite of themselves, gradually morph into the family roles they are given. The laughs come from the fact that we, the audience — but not the characters they meet – know that this suburban family is actually just a façade. The characters are all funny and sympatico, but Will Poulter (the wide-eyed kid in the UK comedy Son of Rambow) especially stands out as a goofy twerp forced to grow up.

2 Guns2 Guns

Dir: Baltasar Kormákur

Stig and Bobby (Mark Wahlburg and Denzel Washington) are carefree partners in crime. They kibitz with a Mexican crime lord, knock over banks and blow up donut shops. And Bobby has a beautiful non-girlfriend, Deb (Paula Patton), who’s a fed. But when a simple bank job yields the boys $30 million in untraceable cash, the dynamic changes. There’s no honour among thieves. They turn against each other. Both of them turn out to be secretly working for competing groups – and everyone seems to know this except the two of them. Soon enough, they’re each being chased by the military, the CIA, another sinister and deadly agency, and the drug lords themselves – all of whom want to get their hands on the cash. If 2-guns-denzel-washington-mark-wahlberg-549x600Bobby and Stig can’t trust each other, how will they survive this “war on drugs”?

If you like light action movies — with getaways, shoot-outs, explosions, disguises and chase scenes – this is a good one. Wahlburg is a very likeable comic actor. Washington seems to have a bit more trouble doing good comedy, but he’s got the weather-worn-persona down pat. And I love Icelandic director Kormákur’s constant use of stark, rusty-steel locations: all his trains, cars, industrial kitchens, rooftops, deserts… just beautiful to watch.

(One point: both 2 Guns and Meet the Millers are filled with dated, negative stereotypes of Mexicans… but, since the movies are also filled with negative stereotypes of Americans, I guess it evens out.)

Blue Jasmine Cate Blanchett  Photo Merrick Morton © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsBlue Jasmine

Dir: Woody Allen

Rich, blond and upper-class, New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) arrives in San Francisco with just the shirt on her back (and some jewels and dresses in her Louis Vuitton luggage.) She’s losing it. Penniless, lost, disgraced. She can’t stop thinking about her ex-husband’s – a Bernie Madoff-type Wall Street investor who bilked his clients – fall from power. Now she has nowhere to go, so she’s forced to bunk with her sister. Frowsy but affable, working-class Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is her exact opposite – could they have come from the same womb? Snooty Jasmine insists they’re not biological relatives.

Ginger lets her stay in her messy but happy home, along with two kids Blue Jasmine Sally Hawkins Andrew Dice Clay Photo  Jessica Miglio © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classicsand a boorish boyfriend. Jasmine holds that the only way for a woman to improve her lot in life is to marry up. Ginger should meet better boyfriends. (Unmentioned is the fact that it was Jasmine’s billionaire husband that broke up Ginger’s marriage when he squandered their nest egg on worthless stock.)

Blue Jasmine_Alec Baldwin Cate Blanchett Photo Jessica Miglio © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsBut impeccably good taste isn’t enough to feed Jasmine. A Vassar drop-out, she has no skills, no experience. She is forced to double- date with her sister. She takes work as a dental receptionist, wears a nametag, and deals with relentless customers and sexual harassment from her boss. But she still dreams of better days in the Hamptons, even as she recalls, through flashbacks, the events that led to her husband’s financial collapse. Can a widowed diplomat she meets pull her from this morass? And will Ginger follow suit with a newer, richer boyfriend?

Blue Jasmine is a moving character study of a mentally unstable woman forced to make it on her own. Cate Blanchett is great in the title role, and Sally Hawkins good as her sister. Alec Baldwin and Andrew Dice Clay as their respective ex-husbands, Hal and Augie, round out the cast quite nicely. But I thought this movie dragged. The dialogue is rarely witty, and often repetitive and tiresome. The characters keep having identical arguments, almost word for word: Jasmine say Ginger’s boyfriends are losers, Ginger still likes them, Augie blames Jasmine for his financial losses… While I remember the good parts in retrospect, the film felt slow and repetitive while I was watching it.

We’re the Millers opens on August 9th, and Blue Jasmine and 2 Guns open today. And coming next week, a rare appearance at the TIFF Bell Light Box by French director Leos Carax at a retrospective of his fantastic movies, including Holy Motors and Les Amants du Pont Neuf. Go to tiff.net for more information.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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