Tropic Thunder: Not only very funny, particularly if you know anything about Hollywood, but the best vehicle for Tom Cruise in ages.
Note: the movie got condemned by the politically correct for use of the word "retard." If this offends you, be aware that the word "retard" is deployed frequently in this film, along with a whole lot of other offensive words. (This is a Ben Stiller film, after all.)
13 Tzameti: Meh. I seem to be the only person who's seen this film who isn't raving about it. I thought that, for a film made in France on a budget of what seems to be a couple hundred bucks, it wasn't bad.
It's about a young man, Sebastian, working to restore the house of a man under police surveillance. His employer dies, leaving him (a) in the lurch financially, and (b) to find a mysterious letter giving even more mysterious directions to a hidden rendezvous. Scenting money, Sebastian takes his employer's place, and follows the directions.
This was a decent noir-ish beginning, if a little slow and borrowed from Antonioni's The Passenger (which wasn't slow, but glacial). I figured our hero would get involved in a complex, Hitchcockian plot, but instead he finds himself in a . . . wait for it . . . russian roulette ring! Most of the movie then follows the russian roulette game, in which twelve or thirteen candidates blow each other's brains out over the course of maybe an hour.
The film is very straightforward. There aren't a lot of surprises past this point. You know that Sebastian's going to end up in the finals. There's a twist at the end that isn't very surprising, either.
I kept comparing it in my head to the knotty little film I would have made from the same premise, and finding it not very interesting.
Little Miss Sunshine: Three generations of a desperately unhappy family head West in order to watch the youngest member of the group compete in a children's beauty contest. Each family member has a different philosophy of life--- I particularly liked the teenage boy who reads Nietzsche and has taken a vow of silence, and Alan Arkin as the hedonistic, heroin-snorting grandpa.
Funny, but the humor is very, very bleak.
Only Angels Have Wings: I read a Cary Grant biography recently that offered the theory that Grant was the first big male star without macho, thus paving the way for actors like (say) Johnny Depp. Whoever offered the theory hadn't seen Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939), in which Cary Grant out-machos a whole squadron of hard-boiled pilots. (Hawks, come to think of it, made something of a specialty of showing macho characters in ways that weren't offensive.) Set in South America, the film involves the suicidal hazards of flying the mail over the Andes. Jean Arthur plays the love interest, and there's also a nice part for a young Rita Hayworth. If you like Thirties melodrama, you'll like this.
Army of Shadows: This 1969 film about the French resistance was made by a director who actually served in the French resistance. Perhaps that accounts for its slow pace and the fact that no one in this film outruns a massive explosion or transmits vital Nazi secrets to FDR or is played by Tom Cruise. The film has a near-documentary style, and eschews melodrama whenever possible. I was never very excited by the film, but on the other hand I had the idea that it was very possibly true.