Sunday, July 03, 2005

42nd Street Screenings

More screenings (trying to catch up)

War of the Worlds
Poor Spielberg. He just can't help himself. Despite the cheap 9/11 audience baiting tactics, I was kind of going for it in patches. Because, well, he can stage a good scene. But that ending --Oy. He really is pathetically addicted to not disturbing the audience. Even within the context of a horror movie. It's just so frustrating in its enthusiasm for pandering. [spoiler] Everything must always be "A-OK" no matter that you've witnessed 1/2 the population being exterminated*. Not even one hair on the heads of any of our heroes will be damaged. Even the teen-age son who was standing right where a massive mile long explosion happened. Wish fulfillment fantasy at its most pandering ugh. The family even looked like they'd stepped out of a catalog at the end when they came out of their brownstone. Not a hint that anything terrible had recently happened. Nice hair. Clean pressed clothes. Happiness. Happy family! Happy! Happy! Happy! Never mind about those millions of murders and the world's greatest cities being a pile of rubble. Forget it. You'll be A-OK! C-

*why is this movie PG-13? What does one have to do for an R nowadays? Seriously. I'm not much of a fan of the MPAA but this is one of their worst calls ever. People being blown to bits several times in full screen. body parts. massacres. dead bodies. destruction. mob violence. This is a hard R even. It's an easy call.

This must be as embarassing for Kidman as Laws of Attraction was for Julianne Moore. Both are super actresses. But even the greatest actors are just not suited to all genres. You can feel her effort and the calculation in every frame here which is totally NOT appropriate for light fizzy comedy. She just didn't know where the jokes were at all. I can't imagine who this movie is for really. A total mess. D

Not exactly subtle (which I'd heard) but also kinda good (which i didn't believe until I saw it because of the 'unsubtle' tag) if only because it's overemphatic, underlined thematics are graced by humanism (no villains and no heroes -hooray!) and a uniformly good cast; Terrance Howard shines brightest in my mind but for the first time I saw Sandra Bullock as an actress with real unfulfilled potential. It wasn't fulfilled here (not much to do) but she seemed to know what to do once handed something worth doing. So hopefully some interesting director will give her a real role soon. Save her from Miss Congeniality 3! B


Anonymous said...

Nice to see that you liked "Crash" - but where on earth did you hear that it was unsubtle? *he says grinning*

Aww, I wanna see "Bewitched"! Me and my gals are gonna go soon. It looks moderately entertaining! Moreso than Laws of Attraction was. This almost won me a Golden Globe.


Still haven't seen War of the Worlds - every time I've tried it's been thwarted by people being sick or spontaneous road trips to the (far away) snow-capped mountains for Snowmen and Tabogganing fun.


NicksFlickPicks said...

Nat, it warms the heart to see you going to so many movies again... I love all your posts, but these are always my favorites! Especially lovely to see that we agree about War of the Worlds and about Crash.... which probably suggests I should ignore the voice in my head and stay away from Bewitched.

Next up for me in 2005: Howl's Moving Castle, Inside Deep Throat, and Dark Water.

Calum Reed said...

I totally and utterly agree with your assessment of War of the Worlds. It was typical Spielberg, where he had to satisfy the mass audience and ruin much of what had come before it. Seriously, I've never wanted a character in a movie to be dead as much as I wanted that kid to be.

You never even mentioned the ridiculous family drama/irresponsible parent cliche. I'm not surprised. I'm cringing even thinking about it.

I personally can't believe it's getting this good reception

Gustavo H.R. said...

I think you're specially stupid when it comes to understanding nayhting Spielberg makes. I don't know how your little life is, but there is plenty of happiness in the world. You do not have arguments good enough to sustain your hatred for Spielberg, so, you always use the same cheap trick: "the ending is bad! The ending is bad!". Spielberg is maybe the greatest filmmaker alive. Deal with it.
Maybe it's your brain that is falling out... Isn't it?
Give us a break, Nathaniel.

Joe R. said...

The man makes a good argument, Nat. Maybe your brain IS falling out.


Is that what that mess is on my living room floor? Here I thought it was cat hair.

NicksFlickPicks said...

It's interesting, Gustavo, how you're so put out by Nathaniel's tendency to dislike Spielberg movies, even though he provides articulate and specific reasons that actually do change from review to review (except insofar as some of Spielberg's worst habits never change, which is his own fault). Point: Nathaniel.

Whereas, by some miracle, your own tendency to adore every single thing Spielberg does, without any kind of logical defense, is some kind of self-evident truth. Game: Nathaniel.

It's also interesting how you continue to return to this site even though you profess to dislike it. Set, Match: Nathaniel.


To Gustavo:
Peace offering!

I accept that there is much happiness in the world. I'm not totally and hopelessly cynical and I hope that I don't always come across that way (even if I do lean in that direction)

But most people don't feel happy when millions of people have been blown to bits and most of the buildings, cars, and civilization of the world have been destroyed. I'm just sayin'...glaringly out of place. Time and place for everything etc...

Happy ending in ET, Close Encounters, etc...? Fine. Fits the movie. Happy ending in, say, Minority Report and this one? Not appropriate.

To Jake:
Who did Chris Bridges play in Crash?

To Glenn:
Choose tabogganing and snowcapped mountain fun! WotW isn't as fun as wooshing down hills or making snowmen.

Joe R. said...

Chris Bridges = Ludacris = Larenz Tate's carjacking buddy.

And I know I wasn't asked, but I thought he blended in well as an actor (didn't stick out like some musicians trying to act do), but I thought his role was too comic-releif for my tastes.

John T said...

Nathaniel-I agree on Bewitched. Kidman, whom I adore, was out of place in the airy world of sitcom television. I really should rent Birth to redeem her in my eyes.

As for War of the Worlds, I have to say that I really like that (I, however, do go for that Spielberg Touch, particularly when he's building a suspenseful scene). However, I could not agree more about the ending-everything clean and tied nicely in a bow. It was the first thought when I was leaving the theater, and this isn't the first Spielberg film that I left the movies wondering why he ruined a film with a sacchrine ending. Minority Report, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the list could go on but I won't. I just wanted to point out even a big Spielberg fan didn't like this ending.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Nath, me and some friends spontaneously decided to travel 6 hours up into the hills to go to the snow on a Friday afternoon. Fun fun fun.

I think EVERYBODY should go watch Birth. RIGHT. NOW.

I wasn't that thrilled about Ludacris - don't get me wrong I thought he was perfectly able and was a fine actor but I felt he got the bum's rush in terms of dialogue. That scene where he's telling his friend about why busses have giant windows made me cringe.

btw, Thandie Newton and Sandy Bullock were the stand-outs for me. I always knew Sandy had it in here. Now we just need a much bigger role for her to chow down on.

"I like doggy chow too!"


Anonymous said...

There is another point in Spielberg's War of the Worlds that really upsets me - besides the ending. Cruise's character kills Robbins's because he is hysterical and could put Fanning's character in danger. Ok, there is some logic to that within the screenplay, however, it is Spielberg's naivety and/or hypocrisy to justify the death of a man on the grounds that he is crazy and could put the life of a child in danger. Hey, this is after September eleventh, we are in 2005, a so-called pacificist (Spielberg) justifiying assassination through "Cruise"'s hands? In the book, there is a different and appropriate resolution to that.

P.S.: And I am a huge Spielberg fan.

Marcelo - Brazil.

Anonymous said...

Please, put a "spoiler" before my posting.
Sorry and thank you.

Marcelo - Brazil.


what I liked about Sandy's performance was that it was so unforced. A lot of times when a 'lighter' actor tries to go the heavy drama route you feel all this 'i'm doing something important now!' heaviness too it.

I didn't see that at all in her performance which is a teensy miracle given that the film itself has that tone. Appropriately underplayed and confidently delivered with a minimum of fuss. Me likey.

And yes Glenn, everyone should go watch Birth immediately. It gets better in the memory and it's pretty entrancing to begin with. Watching Kidman ace something that complex IS an easy way to forgive her for her horrible attempts at mainstream comedy.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, it makes me all warm and fuzzy when people agree with me!

Okay, I just got back (or, 2 hours ago I did, but whatever) from War of the Worlds... er, wtf mate?

The constant 9/11 and WWII references were really annoying

Spielberg needs to hire a better editor PRONTO - his last 5 now have been partially dampened due to bad editing (or should I say, lack there of any editing)

-Tim Robbins (his scene needed to be 10 minutes shorter and he needed to be somebody else because he was horrible)

-the sets looks sorta fake

-WHY WOULD YOU ESCAPE ONTO A BOAT?! there's nowhere to go!

-Not a lot was explained - like the blood thing - wtf?

-The ending was done better when it was in Signs (a much MUCH better film) 3 years ago kthnx! At least there the weakness of that plot development wasn't ruined by being able to see it and have people explain every iota of information to us

-That ending! My gosh! And it also sorta reminded me of the horrible Last Samurai ending with the whole last man standing = Tom Cruise thing

-Was Spielberg secretly trying to get people to enlist in the army?

-Why didn't these aliens take over our planet BEFORE HUMANS EXISTED and therefore save themselves time, energy and ammunition!

-It felt weird watching Tom at the start because I couldn't stop thinking about TomKat shenanigans

But, still, parts of it were good and it'll definitely get a Sound Design/Editing nod in my personal year end awards.


PS; I mean seriously... A FRICKEN BOAT?!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the main reason I didn't like it!

Considering it's about the destruction of our planet and billions are supposedly dieing and so forth... i didn't feel anything. I felt stuff in The Day After Tomorrow for crying out loud, yet not here! It was odd but... it felt cold.

..that is all


Calum Reed said...

Am I wrong for thinking Sandra Bullock is a good actress? I mean, I've always thought of her as great in the rom com genre. The smile, oh cmon, you have to love the smile. I thought she was good in both Practical Magic and Miss Congeniality.

As for Birth, I've no time for that. I can't follow a film that just continually mocks its characters. Kidman is excellent, esp. in the opera scene, but come on! It's not good. Bonus points for amazing cinematography + score though.

War of the Worlds is getting even worse in my memory now. I actually liked The Day After Tomorrow for what it essentially was - a summer blockbuster. It actually talks about a meaningful topic, and the sfx are awesome.

Anonymous said...

The Day After Tomorrow had no qualms with being a popcorn movie. Steven Spielberg treated WotW as a serious apocolyptic movie and should be viewed as such, and in that case, it failed.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree about Kidman in Bewitched. The film and Ferrel were both terrible but Kidman seemed right at home. I thought she was so adorable and funny in this. Cute is really the most appropriate word for it IMO.

Anonymous said...

I see to be one of the few people who liked Bewitched, me and all of my friends like it too. I just think the reason so many people on here hate it is because oscar lovers seem to be turned off by anything mainstream.