Archive for the ‘film report’ Category

Film Report #2

Movies watched recently:

All The Real Girls (USA 2003)

There’s a scene about half-way through All The Real Girls which is so brutal in its naked honesty it transcends acting and the definition of character. You feel like you’re watching real people in a real situation.
This is just a culmination of the naturalistic, realistic vibe that runs through David Gordon Green’s small but impressive relationship drama. Shot in a measured, composed style, it hardly has a plot, only situations which revolve around a young couple in a small town in North Carolina and their friends and family. The movie eschews almost all kinds of sentimentality and cinematic traditions of portraying lovers, which creates a viewing experience that requires some patience and acceptance from the side of the viewer – we’ve been conditioned to see love portrayed in certain ways in movies – but if you go along for the ride you find a rich character study peppered with beautiful cinematography. Nature is a big part of the story: The behavior of nature and animals vs. the behavior of man. The movie seems to live and breathe between the dialogue, between the words, in looks and feelings and small gestures. It’s not the most flamboyant or flashy movie in the world, but as a story which depicts love and heartbreak it feels extremely real and genuine.

Ghost Town (USA 2008)

David Keopp is one of the most high-profile screenwriters in Hollywood. Among others, he wrote the scripts for Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, and the last Indiana Jones adventure. He’s also a director in his own right, and as a filmmaker usually creates thrillers such as Stir Of Echoes and Secret Window, which is a pretty neat adaptation of Stephen King’s scary novella. In Ghost Town he goes back to dealing with the ghostly world, which he first tackled in Stir Of Echoes (which I didn’t see), but this time, it appears, on a much lighter note. The movie is billed as a comedy, but it plays more like a drama. Much more Ghost than All of Me. Ricky Gervais plays a misanthropic dentist who, following a botched anesthesia, dies for seven minutes and subsequently gains the ability to see dead people, and that includes Greg Kinnear’s ghost who wants Gervais to prevent his widow from marrying a stuck-up lawyer. The first 30 minutes or so are pretty amusing, but once the romantic plot kicks in it all becomes a little too familiar, and the third act makes it very hard to keep the suspension-of-disbelief going, ending on a too-familiar note. The subject matter was handled much better (and with no ghosts) in the brilliant As Good As It Gets (also with Kinnear). Still, the performances are good (Kristen Wiig almost steals the show as a hilarious surgeon), the tone is whimsical at times, New York in Autumn looks great, and the film is an enjoyable, but ultimately slight, fantasy.
One thing: I wonder why dentists are always such SOB’s in movies (and on TV, like Dr. Whatley on Seinfeld). Anyway, from what I’ve seen of Keopp directorial work, I would say he’s much better in thrillers than in this kind of fluff.

The Big Lebowski (USA 1998)

Trying to describe The Big Lebowski‘s plot line (if you can call it that) is a meaningless gesture, and also a headache inducing one. This movie, one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved, lives and breathes in its characters and dialogue, which comes to life through some fantastic performances, especially from Jeff Bridges who plays the ultimate slacker, The Dude, and John Goodman, who is his friend, a traumatized Vietnam War vet who insists on keeping the shabbos and have no control whatsoever on his impulses or mouth. All these characters inhabit a hyper-realistic world which is classic Coen brothers territory. The movie is peppered with some imaginative and fun dream/hallucination sequences, but  the entire film, with its weird kidnapping tale and bizarre characters, looks and feels like one big dream sequence. The story is scattershot and unfocused, but the dialogue is very funny for the most part and the characters are memorable. I don’t think it’s the Coen’s best work by far, but it’s certainly one of their most quotable and giddily insane. Also, the amount of profanity is so staggering it’s almost like poetry.

Film Report #1

 Movies watched this week:

Constantine (2005)

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This flick actually improves in second viewing. First time I saw it, I thought is was just a hodgepodge of recycled ideas about demons, angels, heaven, hell, and all that jazz. Second time around I still found it a hodgepodge, but at least it was an entertaining, well paced hodgepodge. Mind you, I’ve never read Hellblazer, the comic book series this movie is based upon, so I can’t say if it does justice to the literary source, but on it’s own, it’s a pretty entertaining film in the Dark Fantasy sub-genre. 

Keanu Reeves is basically fine, although a bit muted, but Rachel Weisz is fantastic. She imbues her character with the right amount of warmth and skepticism, as the lady cop who asks Keanu (as exorcist tough guy John Constantine) to help her find out what made her twin sister commit suicide.  Lots of great special effects and creepy imagery in that one. It doesn’t really make sense, not even within the boundaries of it’s own world, but the movie zips fast enough (except for a lull in the second act) that you just don’t care. By the way, the movie was supposed to be titled Hellblazer, as the comic, but was changed so that people won’t confuse it with Hellboy, another comic book adaptation that came out that same year.

The Eye (2002)

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I’m a fan of Asian cinema, and of Asian horror cinema in particular, and this film, while not the best in the genre (try Audition for some nerve racking shockfest), is far from being the worst. The Eye, an import from Hong Kong, directed by the Pang Brothers, is the tale of a young woman, who’s been blind since she was two years old, and gets a cornea transplant which lets her see the world basically for the first time. But that’s not all she sees. Just like Hailey Joel Osmont, Mun starts seeing dead people. She sees all kinds of ghosts and apparitions around her, until she feels she is losing her mind. She enlists the help of her psychologist in order to help her find out what’s going on (and he of course has to believe her first). The film is slow moving and even a little boring at times, but it also has great atmosphere, a very good performance by Angelica Lee as Mun, and some truly creepy, frightening moments.

Many Asian horror flicks deal with ghosts and demons, and The Eye is no exception (the spiritual world is an integral part of Asian culture), and although Asian horror enthusiasts has already seen a movie or two similar to this (I can’t say for sure, but it seems Ringu was a big influence on The Eye), this flick is a well made, subtle horror tale.

The Eye has a sequel (which has nothing to do with the original) and an American remake is in the works (naturally!)

Flight of Fury (2007)

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Ok, first of all, this is a bad movie. But I don’t really want to talk about this tale of a retired army colonel (or something) who is sent to Afghanistan to retrieve a State-of-the-art stealth fighter stolen by terrorists, but about the career of one of action cinema’s formidable action movie stars.

I’m talking about Steven Seagal.

Steven Seagal, Ikido master and a retired CIA operative (or something) started his film career with some great action/crime entries like Above the Law and Out For Justice, directed by some top action names such as Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, and who also directed Seagal later in Under Siege). He starred alongside great actors like Pam Grier and Tommy Lee Jones, and basically made good, clean, efficient, brutal and kick ass action pictures which were distributed theatrically.

But then Seagal suffered the same fate as fellow action has-beens Jean-Cleaude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgern (and to a lesser degree, Wesley Snipes), and was relegated to the Land That Time Forgot, or in other words – the land of direct-to-video movies.

For the past six or seven years, Seagal has been making them fast, cheap and furious. His movies never reach the cinemaplexes, but stop at the video stores, and quality has suffered as a result. Why did that happen? I honestly can’t tell. Did Seagal stop being a bankable star? I guess so. (I think Exit Wounds was his last theatrical release, but don’t hold me to that).

It’s always a shame when action stars deteriorate to crap like Flight of Fury. Seagal is maybe older and chubbier, but he still has charisma and the moves, but he must find better scripts and directors, and fast. We want another Executive Decision. Come on, Steven!