The Toronto WinterCity Festival officially starts tomorrow (link). There are tons of great things to see and do, not to mention a bunch of free concerts: The New Pornographers, Sloan, The Philosopher Kings, The Bicycles, etc. (full list of artists). The New Pornographers for free! Is it Christmas time already?
The crap train of 2007 continues to roll at a brisk pace. Going into the screening of Smokin' Aces I really had no expectations; at best I was hoping for a mindless action movie. The trailers did not "wow" me; and the casting seemed to have high points (Jeremy Piven, Jason Batman) and some rather questionable ones (Alicia Keys, Common). Within the first 10 minutes the plot, which involves the mob placing a million dollar bounty for the death of an informant, is established; and the eclectic cast of characters are introduced. All that is left is to set your mind on cruise control and enjoy the ride, right? Oh, if only it was that simple.
The problem with Smokin' Aces is that it is never content with just being a zany film for the hyperactive video game generation. The film is a buffet of genres that refuses to give you a true taste of any one thing in particular. Clearly writer-director Joe Carnahan could have used a better script editor. Carnahan is constantly switching back and forth from 70's exploitation flicks, to madcap action (i.e. gratuitous violence), to Farrelly brothers’ style comedy, to moral based drama. Which is somewhat remarkable if you really think about it. Very few films offer convoluted plot twist, jokes about granny’s dildo, a karate loving kid on ridallin, sadistic skinheads, and speeches on loyalty all within minutes of each other. Needless to say the disjoint script hurts the performances also. Half the cast plays their roles seriously (e.g. Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, etc.) and the rest are completely over the top. It is pretty sad when Alicia Keys is one of the few standouts in a film that features an all-star cast. Jason Bateman’s cameo was hilarious; and Matthew Fox did a decent job in his cameo as well. Too bad their characters served no real purpose in the film. The same can actually be said for several of the main characters as well. Smokin’ Aces does have a few laugh-out loud moments, but the film is too much of a mess to recommend.