Monday, February 07, 2005

Mini Movie Reviews, 02/07/2005

Saw some flicks!

Door in the Floor

Premise: A husband and wife are in the final stages of grieving the loss of their beloved sons.

John Irving is my favorite writer, and Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors, so I had little hope that this would be any good at all (through the law of inverse hopes in proportion to quality of participants - sort of a critical weltschmerz if you will). I watched merely to note the level of suckitude, not the presence thereof. Well, heck, I love nice surprises, and this was a good movie. Not a great one. Not one you'll carry to your grave as a fond memory. No, it's just a good two hours spent. You'd be better off reading the book, natch, as with all Irving properties, but the movie will do, pig, it'll do. (Don’t take that personally, it’s a movie reference, babe.) In my opinion, the only truly enjoyable adaptation to an Irving novel thus far was The World According to Garp, but that's because George Roy Hill had a talent for adapting unadaptable novels. Yes, some folks like Cider House Rules, and it was a good adaptation, but it still pales in comparison to the book, as it has a tone that cannot be transferred to cinema. Mild warning: "Door" is rated "R" for all the right reasons, and besides, I think it would bore the hell out of anyone under 30 anyway.





Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Premise: Two pothead buddies decide they must have sliders when they see a commercial for the same after a couple post-work tugs from a bong. Hilarity ensues.

Cheech and Chong would have enjoyed this movie very much, that is if Cheech wasn't embarrassed about his stoner movie past and if Chong wasn't a political prisoner over having an online bong store land him in jail (and hopefully since Ashcroft has slide down his Crisco trail into the sunset, maybe that kind of shit will stop). It was a fun, lightweight flick if you enjoy pothead humor, which I do. Many reviews have mentioned the refreshing take on race in the movie, where it acknowledges, exploits, and defies stereotypes all at once. I would agree, but would say that it has a realistic take on race that's more in line with real life, and not like the after school special identity politics crap most movies indulge in.





Control Room

Premise: An "inside look" at Al Jazeera, the pan-Arabic CNN.

Boring, sloppy, and not worth the one bit of information you get from it, which I'll proffer here, so by reading this, there's no point to waste the hour and a half of your life: Pretty much everyone in the middle east now lumps us in with Israel; they view us as one and the same. No matter that it's not the case by any stretch of the imagination. So, just understand we are all Jewish in the eyes of the Arab nations, and therefore considered fair targets.





Before Sunset

Premise: A man and a woman meet again years after spending an intoxicating night together after meeting on a train.

Before Sunset is the wonderful sequel to Before Sunrise, which you don't have to see before seeing Before Sunset, but you should. If you've not seen the first, you should rent these together and watch both at once for a pretty cool movie experience. Be aware that these are just walking and talking movies; you could almost turn your TV off and just listen. I know a lot of folks who could never make it through a film that's just dialogue, so of you're one of those, do avoid. The rest of us will dig how profoundly right the exploration of new love and lost love are in these two (now) classics. Can Linklater (the director) do any wrong? (I just noticed through the All Movie Guide that he's remaking The Bad News Bears, so we will probably have the definitive answer to that question when it's released.)




The Village

Premise: All who dwell in the Amish-esque village are afraid of the monsters in the forest who attack anything of the "bad color," which is probably an oblique jab at Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain" series.

Shyamalan is still a wonder, as far as I'm concerned. The secret behind The Village is ultimately somewhat silly, but the script is still full of small, real observations about love, fear, and commitment. As long as you don't expect the big "so that's what's going on!" bitchslap of his first three films, it's a decent flick.





Ladykillers

Premise: A group of bank robbers take up residence in an old woman's house, as it is adjacent to a vault. Hilarity ensues.

Ladykillers was OK, but merely so. There are two burst-out-laughing gags, but the rest is kinda tedious, which is amazing considering the combination of Tom Hanks with the Cohen brothers. Also, both my wife and I quickly tired of the foul language. One character can't open his mouth without dropping multiple f-bombs. It might be amusing to watch this if it's ever broadcast on TV, just to see if they can reasonably loop (replace) all of the swearing out of it. It'll probably feel like a spaghetti western or an Asian flick, since the motion of their lips will not often match the dialogue.





Alien vs Preditor

Premise: The monsters from Alien and Predator open cans of woop-ass on each other in an ancient pyramid buried under the ice at the South Pole, which completely contradicts the premise of the original two films. Hilarity ensues.

Well, of course, and as has been noted elsewhere, this is a must see for all geeks, even though it had absolutely no chance of not sucking out loud. And suck it did. Sadly, the most egregious trend that took hold of the "Alien" series, that being an odd permutation of identity politics blended with gangsta faux badassness - to the point where a previous installment included a guy in a wheelchair being part of a band of rough and tough space vigilantes - has come to full odious bloom. In "AvP," we get Dora the Explorer all grown up and tougher than any guy (she likes to climb ice mountains when she's not training a bunch of Navy Seals), who represents and keeps it real, so that even the Predator gives her props and drafts her to help clean up the 'hood, rather than use her for target practice or sighting in a new weapon. The plot ticks along like so many predetermined puzzles in a video game that it becomes apparent that's all it is - especially when some scene elements are clearly gratuitous because they look good, like when they're running through mazes of frozen whale ribs - a video game that was filmed rather than coded and put on a chip. The only thing that's shocking about that fact is that the writers of Alien itself were involved for the first time since the original film. Well - surprising until I remind myself that this hybrid of fanboy wet dreams never had any chance at being decent, regardless of who was at the reins and the whip.





Envy

Premise: A modern day Ralph Cramden actually has success with a silly idea for a spray the makes poop evaporate, and his resulting wealth makes his best friend envious.

Envy needed to wink at the audience more often than it did. It's played as a straight-up comedy about a buddy jealous of his best friend's success. No Jack Black riffage. No Ben Stiller riffage. No poop joke riffage even though the door was wide open for just that! As such, it's pedestrian and predictable. I kept wondering, how can you get both Jack Black and Ben Stiller in a comedy and not kick out the jams? And how can you recycle a joke from Animal House so brazenly? The one saving grace is, surprise and yet again, Christopher Walken. Walken has a similar blessing/curse that William Shatner has in that his acting style is so distinctive that it easily lends itself to parody, and you'd think it'd limit the parts he could play, but he mixes it up so well and puts such a great spin on his persona in all of his roles that it's always fresh and believable. If you find yourself trapped under something heavy and this comes on the tube, make sure you regain consciousness for the Walken parts.





The Forgotten

Premise: A woman remembers having a son, who disappeared in a plane crash, but everyone around her insists she made it all up and is really a (real) red-headed actress who typically stars in sexually charged dramas and wherein she gets naked a lot.

The Forgotten should remain so. This is essentially an "X-files" episode wanna be. The primary difference is that the "X-files" managed to remain interesting over several seasons, where this movie is so tedious it's hard to sit through all 100 minutes of it.

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