Monday, July 26, 2004

Movie: The Italian Job (2003)

I caught this for the second time on cable last night, and it held up nicely. (So now that Mark Wahlberg has finally gotten a ‘60s remake right – after PLANET OF THE APES and THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE, aka CHARADE 2.0 – will he promise to leave that decade’s films alone?) The movie’s no classic, but then neither is the original. This new version is simply solid entertainment, served up with a surprisingly light touch.

This is the movie that Edward Norton did under threat of legal action, and his evident dislike at being involved actually improves his characterization. OK, it is his characterization, but it works. It’s strange to see Donald Sutherland roaming the canals of Venice again after DON’T LOOK NOW.

What’s needed in a film like this is a cast with charismatic, quirky appeal that performs with precision. On that score, the Mini Coopers deliver. As for the human actors, they’re all ridiculously attractive. I can barely believe that Charlize Theron is a member of my species, much less an ace safecracker. I wouldn’t mind seeing people who look like Sterling Hayden show up on heist crews every once in a while.

TV: Entourage

Mark Wahlberg’s first foray into television is HBO’s latest must-see series. It’s a comedy based on Wahlberg’s own life, about a kid from Queens who becomes a movie star and the friends from the ‘hood who migrate to L.A. to coast on his fame. The show is brutally honest about the show biz pecking order, and if it exaggerates life in Hollywood, it’s only by a matter of degrees.

Adrian Grenier makes a believable superhunk. (That’s an official industry term. I looked it up.) The most interesting dynamic is between Grenier’s closest friend/quasi-manager, who’s in way over his head, and his agent Ari, who as a professional can’t believe he’s got to put up with this nonsense but will do whatever it takes to please his client. Jeremy Piven finally gets the breakout role he’s been waiting for as Ari. The rap he lays on Jessica Alba, telling her she’s an amazing “self-empowered” young woman of the millennium whose “unique energy” needs to be showcased, is mesmerizing. Particularly because Alba, playing herself, utterly fails to register onscreen. Piven goes after her like she’s, well, Charlize Theron. If he can make me believe that, he can make me believe anything.