Saturday, April 01, 2006

What I've Seen

by Alex Stroup
I've unexpectedly been on the road a lot the last couple weeks so I haven't been saying much. In the vein of Brian's Quick Takes here is what I've seen recently.

The Hills Have Eyes - I'm not really a fan of gore films and I have never seen the original 1977 version, but I had a couple hours to kill between meetings and this fit into the time slot so I figured I'd give it a try. It actually does a decent job of building and maintaining the tension but I still don't really understand the appeal of a movie that seems to have goal other than filling the screen with gore.

Pollyanna (1960) - I hadn't seen this Disney saccharine classic since I was maybe 10 years old. I remember rolling my eyes at it back then but I was surprised to find that up until the super-sweet ending it's actually a decent family film. Watching it highlights the regrettable fact that much of "family entertainment" made these days is done ironically and I don't know that this is so good for the kids watching it.

Inside Man - Spike Lee is a mixed bag for me. Some films are brilliant (Do the Right Thing (1989), Clockers (1995)) while others are just a mess (Jungle Fever (1991), Summer of Sam (1999)). But I am very interested in seeing what Lee will do with such an overtly commercial film. I think it was Ebert who noted that the tangents are more interesting than the substance of the film and I would have to agree with that. The heist itself is tight and only once resorts to the "Omniscient Villain" copout that I so despise. But it was also obvious and with insufficient payoff for having sat through two-hours of movie. Also, Jodie Foster's presence in the film was pointless other than to pad the time. Overall I liked it though.

A History of Violence - This one has been sitting with me and I'm still trying to decide what I think of it. Before I'll be able to decide for sure I need to come to terms with what I think was going on with the Maria Bello character after she learns the truth. I suspect that the other 90 minutes of the movie is merely the vehicle for delivering to us those 6 minutes of film. I enjoyed the movie while watching and am intrigued by what I'll find in her and myself in thinking about it further.

Good Luck, and Good Night - My bachelor's degree is in American History and while my main focus was the antebellum period from Andrew Jackson to the Civil War I also spent a lot of time on the anti-communism immediately following World War II (Russia had only recently fallen and very interesting primary source documentation was starting to come out of there). So perhaps I have too much of an understanding of the events of that time period to place as much importance on Edward R. Murrow's McCarthian defiance. It was important but it was much more an imprimatur on an existing defiance than the movie depicts. Still very tightly made by Clooney and I love the decision to go black-and-white and use actual McCarthy footage. Also, I think the film mostly sticks to the important lesson of the period. McCarthy was actually right in his general accusations more than the left likes to admit, but that is completely irrelevant since he was wrong in his methods every time. The movie, by focusing on the latter does well.

Thank You For Smoking - I've read the book on which this is based and while the satire in that was biting, I felt that it simply tried to carry the joke too long (like a bad SNL skit) and began to fray by the end. I was hopeful that the more time limited nature of a film would help with this but apparently it just made it worse as I felt the joke was played out about halfway through the movie. And worse, the satire, even while it was going strong, wasn't as sharp as in the book. I try not to review movies in comparison to the source material but in this case I'm failing and was just left disappointed by the movie.

Hair (1979) - Watched about 40 minutes of this musical before turning it off, putting it back in the mailer, and having it on its way back to Netflix 10 minutes later. It was just that bad.

Slither - I saw this one solely because my wife wanted to. And she wanted to see it solely because it stars Nathan Fillion (of Serenity and Firefly) and also because the TV commercial compared it to Tremors (1990), a movie she loves. The comparison to tremors is actually a pretty good one and if you liked that movie you have a fair chance of liking this one (even with more of a focus on the gross-out). On a scale of one to ten, where ten equals Tremors and one equals Eight Legged Freaks (2002), I'd call Slither an 8.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Inside Man yesterday (couldn't bear the potenttial spoilers), and really liked it, but didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Tooo uneven.

SPOILERS How the hell did they come to the conclusion that it was diamonds that therobbbers was after? This conclusion was easily got tp. No, the ending just disappointed me.SPOILERS END

I was expecting more from a Spike Lee film, but it was too superficial. Still a good movie, just not a great movie, had its high points, like the sikh, and Clive Owen talking to the kid in the vault, but otherwise just a small-timme star vehicvle.

Maybe my expectations were set too high. Good, fun, not great.

And CHiwetel Eijofor was given nothing to do. And he is the best thing to happen to acting in British cinema since Michael Caine, so that's too bad.

- Nick

4/01/2006 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Saw Thank You for Smoking today and was moderately amused, but overall I think you're just about right. I'm not familiar with the source material, but I imagine that it had more of a bite when it came out than the movie does a decade later.

At some point the film stops being a satire and becomes a farce. I think it's right about the time that Katie Holmes tells Eckhart that she wants to fuck him while she watches him on TV. Or maybe it's a little earlier, when we see Rob Lowe in his kimono. Or maybe just a bit earlier, when we see Finnister wearing Birkenstocks in his Senate office. Which is pretty early.

But it's too broad of a farce, so the movie ends up coasting on a handful of witty moments which are mostly in the trailer anyway.

Eckhart's good though. So is David Koechner. Rob Lowe, not so much. And William H. Macy continues to get on my nerves. Dude really needs to dial it down a notch or two.

4/01/2006 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I saw Inside Man as well. I was digging it all through the bank robbery and hostage bit, but I found the ending to be a let-down. It didn't equal the tension of the set-up. A weakness in the script more in the direction.

4/03/2006 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

Way off topic...
Stroup... are you going to the Pirates premiere this year? Should we have gone-elsewhere liveblog that scene?

4/04/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Oh man, did I love Slither! I thought it was pretty much flawless, for what it was. Sure there were some (gaping) plot holes, but it wouldn't be a good space zombie slug invasion without a bunch of those. The acting was great, the smartass dialogue was excellent, and it managed a depth that was completely disarming in a film like this. It brilliantly used the villain to explore the themes of loneliness that course through the entire movie (brilliant because the target audience, horror fans, really get the concept of loneliness). We are allowed to feel almost sympathetic for the poor lonely squid bastard.

The comparisons to Tremors are pretty accurate, but I think Slither is very much a spiritual cousin to Dead Alive (which played heavily off the "still living in mother's basement" segment of the horror fanbase.) Both movies are loose, funny, splatterific, and reach a little deeper thematically than Tremors did.

4/04/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Stroup said...

I know people have also compared it to Dead Alive but I've never seen that so I couldn't.

As for the Pirates of the Caribbean premiere. I almost certainly will not actually see the movie at the premiere (which is being held in Disneyland and will coincide with the reopening of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride with new elements from the movies). That screening will be VIP only and I don't expect any press (other than the biggest of celebrity wanker TV shows, and probably not them if the last premiere was any indication) will be allowed in to watch.

I may end up photographing the red carpet arrivals down Main Street but we at MousePlanet have a better photographer than I so I'll only do that if he isn't available. Whether I'll be down there at all that weekend depends on what other stuff might be going on with the ride reopening.

If I do end up covering it, though, I'll almost certainly be too busy doing it for MousePlanet to really commit to anything for here (though I might be able to post something I couldn't promise anything).

4/04/2006 12:22:00 PM  

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