Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SuckerFlix #4: Anything Else and Cop

Last week, we took a mini-tour of my TiVo Season Passes, but now we return to movieland. And, not to disappoint, I did watch a crime film. But it gets second billing to Anything Else, a latter-day Woody Allen joint starring Jason Biggs and the lovely Christina Ricci.

I have to preface this review by saying I'm a big Woody Allen fan -- who isn't, I guess? His characters, their dialogue and his sense of humor have made for more great movies than duds, especially Annie Hall, Manhattan and a few others. A lot of people slag on Allen's later works, but I've found most of them to be pleasant and wonderful at best, with Sweet and Lowdown and now Anything Else as prime examples.

Anything Else tells the story of Jerry Falk (Biggs), a neurotic young comedy writer with bigger, more literary aspirations. Jerry befriends David Dobel, an older and less successful writer with an interesting and slightly screwy world view. Jerry, you see, is head over heels in love with Amanda Chase (Ricci), a smart, funny and sharp actress who is at times emotionally charged and intense, and other times detached and direct.

The plot, while interesting and involving Jerry's quest for bigger writing opportunities, is secondary to the dynamic between Jerry and Amanda. As up and down as their conversations and scenes go, you quickly fall in love with Amanda along with Jerry, and you find yourself understanding why Jerry cherishes her company. Ricci does a great job of making Amanda believable and real -- sure, she can sometimes be tough on Jerry, but she is equally vulnerable and caring. The film presents the very normal and funny story of two people falling in love and trying hard to stay that way.

I can't say I was much of a Biggs fan going in, having really only seen him in the first two American Pie films, but he holds his own fairly well, sharing scenes with the veteran Ricci among others. He's not outstanding, but he is competent and believable as a guy who's deeply in love and dedicated to his partner. Ricci is the standout in the film, though, charming the viewer with her sense of humor and realistic, human moods. You find yourself rooting for Jerry and understanding Amanda's frustrations, all the while not really feeling like you're in the midst of a romantic comedy, but regular life.

Allen himself serves as the bulk of comic relief in the movie, as Jerry's pseudo-mentor Dobel, and does a fine job of letting his two young stars handle the majority of the movie's major movements. Stockard Channing also has a nice turn as Amanda's nutty but emotionally in tune mother, with a touching musical interlude in the film's final act.

If there was anything I didn't like about the film, it was the ending, only because after spending a few hours with the couple and their connection, you don't really want to leave. A

Cop: A fairly mediocre adaptation of one of neo-noir crime writer James Ellroy's lesser works, Cop stars the overrated James Woods as Sergeant Lloyd Hopkins, a fearless and dedicated cop (get it?) chasing after a serial killer preying upon young women in 1980s Los Angeles. The movie chops up and moves around scenes and key plot points from the book, Blood on the Moon, not for the better. Instead of building toward a climax slowly, the movie starts hot and keeps going, allowing for very little time to get to know the characters, much less care for them. Lesley Anne Warren is also pretty unsettling as Woods love interest, but not in a positive way -- she just comes off as nervous and odd. A forgettable, passable and mostly predictable flick. C