Tuesday, October 10, 2006

These Films Are Not Yet Reviewed (Pt 2)

You know how it goes. I barely ever write a lengthy review. Than I feel guilty and do a million capsules at once. And remember how I said that when someone donates I gotta do some reviewing? Well someone did. Thank you my precioussss. So here we go. Five movies I haven’t said much about.

Protector. I am rooting for Tony Jaa. He can do the splits while sliding under moving cars. Chances are he can do other amazing things with his body that no one has even dreamed of yet. (I probably have but th--TMI! sorry) Still, I practically hated this sophomore Jaa effort which is about a young man out to avenge his murdered father and retrieve two stolen elephants. I thought it was sadistic and sloppy. I don’t know the production history but everything about this film seemed to scream “we’re here for a quick buck!” This has to have been a rush job after Ong Bak: Thai Warrior caused a mini stir in the international market. Both were low budget affairs but everything is cheaper this time: The fights aren’t as exhilarating, the choreography takes a creative nosedive and the editing is chainsaw-like throughout. I’m still rooting for Tony Jaa but he’s really got to work with a stronger filmmaking team if he wants to be the next Jet Li / Jackie Chan / whomever. D

previous related post: Thai Me Up

The Queen. I am not one of those critics who pretends infallibility. If I’m in a bad mood, that affects my reaction. If I’ve just seen 10 bad movies, I may overestimate a decent one. Etc… The moral of this story is that I should probably see The Queen again before really discussing it. What I saw was a modest, simple story, well told and acted… but no great shakes in any particular way. BUT I was also sitting close enough to touch a fairly good sized screen. I arrived late (which I never do) and Helen Mirren’s face-of-awesome-acting was entirely distorted for 97 minutes. So skewed was the image that I really couldn’t tell you anything about the cinematography or any of the performances other than that I got the feeling that only Mirren's character was well drawn. I can't be sure since everyone looked deformed from where I sat. B

related posts: "...as long as i get to wear the crown" , Best Actress Predictions and From Emmy to Oscar

Science of Sleep. In retrospect, based on its ridiculous greatness, it seems foolish to have ever doubted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but doubt it I did before seeing it. It was one of those movies –the ones that get pushed into a February release, usually a bad sign. It was by the guy (Michel Gondry) who made the bizarre Charlie Kauffman misfire Human Nature. Three films into Gondry’s career now I think the picture is in focus. There’s no doubting that he’s got a great eye. What’s lacking is focus and restraint. It sounds like blasphemy but there’s too much visual invention. Consider the action film template for counterpoint: you get beats in between the big setpieces so you can breathe. Gondry never stops pushing his visuals. He needs a strong blueprint (screenplay) to keep him on track as he builds his cinematic art. Despite the meandering and the clutter (lots and lots visual and narrative clutter), there is something sweet and engaging about this goofy movie.

So, while there’s too much invention, I’m glad someone’s still inventing. Follow? There’s as many misses as hits but it’s a fun ride and Gael Garcia Bernal is in it (always a plus --what an actor). B

previous Gael drooling: Hump Day Hottie and Top 100 Actors

World Trade Center. I've placed a picture of Oliver Stone in directing mode to sit alongside this paragraph because I need the reminder: Yes, someone did direct this, no matter how generic and personality free it may feel. It used to be that the biggest gripe people had with Oliver Stone was that he directed with a sledgehammer. That complaint suggests a lack of nuance which one could certainly point at in this movie. But it also feels silly to use the word "sledgehammer" in conjunction with this film. There's a lot of wreckage on display but a film it's pretty soft. It errs heavily on the side of fuzzy sentimentality. A little of that goes a long way. Once your movie starts looking like a coffee commercial, you're drowning in it. The most vivid feeling I had watching World Trade Center was that I had underestimated the earlier 9/11 film United 93 and Paul Greengrass' determined you-are-there visceral gutpunch. That didn't feel like a point of view per se but at least it was a filmmaking stance.

The only break in sentimentality comes in a most unexpected place. Usually the subplot of the grieving wife would be a breeding ground for more squishiness but World Trade Center has two such subplots one of which is free of the stuff. Maggie Gyllenhaal brings a jarringly specific combination of catatonic grief and busybody distraction to her scenes. Only in her subplot did I feel sharp stings of memory from that terrible day here in New York. The rest of the movie felt like any other rescue drama, albeit one with a strangely reverent tone. C-

related post: United 93 review


Glenn Dunks said...

I sorta wanna c World Trade Center but, I dunno. I thought United 93 was stunning though.

The other three movies aren't out here until late December or even later. Yawn.

I'm still greatly anticipating your Black Dahlia review. The reactions to that movie are strangely fascinating (probably moreso than the actual film itself)

Anonymous said...

You should see The Queen again. Your hunch about the performances is right, but Mirren's work deserves to be seen properly, if only from an FYC point of view.

I HATED World Trade Center. If I remove my own emotional baggage about that day, judging it purely as a movie, we've got two boring guys saying boring stuff to eachother for two hours, and a ridiculously detatched tone. Conversely United 93 was, I felt, a masterpiece.


adam k. said...

I felt similarly about both Science of Sleep and World Trade Center.

Science of Sleep I called a B-, though, cause the clutter REALLY annoyed me. It felt so long. Maybe cause I was really hungry? But there were a lot of times when I just wanted OUT of that theater, I couldn't stay with it. Even with Gael there to help me. But OMG, those scenes with him in the tub, etc. and jumping around being goofy... it was like they'd made it just for me.

I also hated World Trade Center. Not only was it boring as all hell, but there were times when it actually felt like deliberate camp, it was just SO ridiculous and shoddily handled. C- is right. I'm so glad it's no longer being touted as an oscar film.

adam k. said...

And yeah, doesn't United 93 just look that much better in comparison? I mean, I thought it was pretty great before, but now you get an idea of just how much they did right... and how disastrously wrong it could've gone...

Anonymous said...

Oh god, what happened to Tony Jaa? That movie was a mess...there was an excessive amount of limb breaking, and only one single cool stunt, where he runs up a glass window just before it is shattered. That's the kind of athleticism that was great in Ong Bak, not the fighting.

Anonymous said...

We part ways on The Science of Sleep, my favorite movie so far this year.

When you wrote there was too much invention going on... it reminded me of Frasier Crane's motto: "Well, if less is more, think how much more, more can be."

I was so happy, giddy almost, through the whole movie I didn't want it to end. I understand your criticism, I just reacted differently. Sparks were flying.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please bring on 'The Black Dahlia' review. (I'm a little stunned by your B- grade, which is awfully generous for a truly awful film, IMO.)


Barry said...

WTC deserved an A+. Currently the best film of the year so far for me