Monday, December 19, 2005

Movie Mon. - Women Can't Help Being a Bother, I Guess

Pretty big movie watching week for me, thanks to tons of re-runs, a movie night with the Stonehearts, and total brain-meltdown when attempting to edit the Primary Obsession. Have yet to make it see the new King King, will probably try to catch it with my folks over break during one of my dad's few days off (the Powers That Be at his job suddenly switching his schedule around so that he no longer has Christmas off, dang their hides).

And before Zinger can ask: I didn't include Trapped in the Closet in the following because it's not exactly a movie; but, it's not exactly a TV show either, so I probably shouldn't include it in tomorrow's post either . . . maybe it deserves a "What the #(*@&? Wednesday" post . . .

On to the reviews

King Kong (original): This movie still holds up very well, much better than the remake from the 70s; or maybe I'm just more willing to forgive this one of its flaws due to when it was made. Plus, the 30s version was much more action packed than the 70s version, featuring not only tons more dinosaur battles, but also a full on Kong rampage through the village, where he stomps and chews (!) several villagers to death. In fact, the 30s Kong was much deadlier all around than the 70s version, slaying his fair share of New Yorkers as well; maybe the later version toned that down because they wanted Kong to be more sympathetic. Was also surprised at just how much of the film took place on the island, or perhaps more accurately, how little of it took place in New York; again, the 70s film affected my expectations. Yeah, there are plenty of unintentional comedy moments, like the scene where Kong dumps the men off of the log and you get to see their "bodies" hit the ground and the close-ups of Kong while he indulges in his penchant for shoving people in his jaws. Gotta love the easy racism and sexism of the 1930s, from the stereotypical Chinese cook with broken English ("Me likey go too!") named Charlie to the pervading sense of chauvinism ("Women can't help being a bother, I guess. They're just made that way.") One thing I've always wondered: what ever happened to all of Kong's other "brides"?

The Island: SF action film about a community of clones bred for spare parts. An interesting film first hour or so, with its exploration of the culture that had been built up for the hapless clones. Then suddenly it was like "Oh, yeah, this is a Michael Bay film, time to turn off our brains!" Now, I can appreciate a big, over-the-top action sequence as much as the next guy, but seriously, the insanity of the big chase sequence would have required me to do more than just suspend my disbelief to take it seriously; I would have had to hunt the disbelief down and beat it into submission with a large wooden mallet until it begged for mercy by screaming "It does make perfect sense that the clone who has never driven a jet-cycle before can out-fly the season professionals, and the whole falling off the edge of a skyscraper and surviving with no injuries whatsoever because of a lucky circumstance is not totally ludicrous, oh please, make the pain stop, make it stop!" Now, was that pain comment in reference to the wooden mallet or to the brain-killing idiocy of the chase scene? I leave it up to you to decide. Still, in the final analysis, I'm glad I saw it: the first hour was interesting, and a good portion of the stuff after the chase scene wasn't too ludicrous.

And, let me take a moment to forestall anyone who feels the need to say "Oh, yeah, you're looking for realism in a movie about cloning, that's real smart" in a tone laced with sarcasm, let me say this: yes, this is a Science Fiction film; yes, as a Science Fiction film there are certain things you have to be willing to accept as true despite their outlandish natures (here it would be cloning, nanobots, and jetcycles, to name a few); however, even though it is SF, everything that happens in it should still make some sort of sense when viewed in the context of the world that has been created. Now, I'm sure someone out there might be willing to debate the merits of the things I found painfully ludicrous in this film, and that's fine; maybe they could sway me, maybe not. I just don't want to deal with any "what did you expect, it is a SF/Fantasy/Horror/Comic Book film, it doesn't have to make sense" type comments; they bug me.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reviews . . .

40-year Old Virgin: You ever have a movie hyped up so much before you see it that it couldn't possibly live up the high expectations? I think you know where I'm going with this . . . I'm not saying this was a bad movie; far from it. However, it definitely wasn't the non-stop laugh riot it had been made out to be. I think it suffered a bit from the random nature of some of the comedic bits which interrupted the flow of the story; I have to wonder how many of these sort of scenes were cut from the theatrical release and put back for the director's cut. Some of the scenes which looked like they had the potential to cause me great pain in the trailers were nowhere near as bad in the movie itself; I'm thinking primarily of the "only ask questions" sequence here. And, what the heck was up with that ending, huh? Yes, it made me laugh, but in a "where the heck did they pull that out of?" sort of way; it actually reminded me of the end of a couple of Simpsons episodes. Oh, here's a fun fact for ya: director Judd Apatow was the voice of the "Goofy Ball" on Newsradio: I know Zinger will appreciate that even if nobody else well

Puddle Cruiser: First film from the Broken Lizard comedy group (the people responsible for the hilarious Super Troopers and the mildly amusing but I still like it Club Dread). Originally released in '96, it just now got the DVD treatment. I would have to say, unless you're a huge BL fan, don't waste your time: yes, there are some inspired bits, but there's also a lot of needless fluff. The film also suffers a bit from the group's inexperience with film, especially in terms of pacing, editing, and coherent storytelling; I lost count of the number of times I felt like there were entire scenes left on the cutting room floor due to the huge jumps in character relationships. And, oh, how I loathed the female romantic lead, was hoping that the movie would end with the male lead realizing she was a hypocritical wench and move on with his life. Sadly, this did not happen.

Pretty Persuasion: Y'know, towards the end of the TV series Once and Again, I had been afraid that Evan Rachel Wood would get typecast as the go-to girl for anorexic roles; clearly, my fears were misplaced, as she has now proven to be the go-to girl for "incredibly self-destructive and quite possibly evil teenager" roles, first with Seventeen, and now with this odd little film. In the former, she did an excellent job portraying the reality of the troubled teenager; in the latter, she does an excellent job portraying a much more stylized character, a highly intelligent, yet probably sociopathic, 15 year old who stages an elaborate revenge plan centering around accusing a teacher of sexual harassment and molestation; yes, that's right, it's a comedy! A dark, dark comedy; not everyone gets out alive. I was very impressed with her performance, moreso than I was with the movie; I'm not sure exactly what that final sequence of hers was supposed to be about, but man, did she keep me glued to the screen trying to figure it out. Only big complaint was the total idiocy of the law teacher and his stupid "I'm going to throw a glass at you" defense: pointless. I also thought a lot of James Woods' scenes were a bit much, but they seemed to fit the tone of the movie more than the other did. Some great moments sprinkled throughout, but definitely not for everyone.

The Baxter: Writer/director/star Michael Showalter (former cast member of MTV's The State, current cast member of Comedy Central's Stella) gives us an interesting premise: telling a romantic comedy from the P.O.V. of not the two who are destined to be together, but the poor third wheel in the love triangle who gets left at the altar, the sort of guy known as "a Baxter"; one of my favorite parts of the movie is Showalter recounting all of the girlfriends he's lost over the years to the guy making the grand gesture. A lot of the reviews for this film skewered it for its predictable ending and, yes, you know how it's all going to turn out within the first five minutes: how is that different from any other romantic comedy out there? Plot predictability doesn't bother me as long as there are enough unpredictable moments along the way. People also complained about the fact that the main character was kind of bland and uncharismatic, which I could understand and accept, if these selfsame reviews hadn't seemed to miss the fact that that was kind of the point of the character. Now, if they had complained that his bland and uncharismatic character was an interesting choice, but not one that engaged them, I could accept it; I don't agree with it, but I could accept it. One thing that almost everyone seems to agree on, however, is that the true standout of the film is Michele Williams, best known as everyone's favorite slutty girl next door Jen on Dawson's Creek. Williams plays Cecil Mills, the quirky intellectual girl who is obviously who the main character is really supposed to end up with; the movie is worth a viewing for her offbeat performance, if nothing else. Great art? Hardly. But, all in all, a sweet movie which, if seldom laugh-out-loud funny, is consistently amusing. Although, I did almost have to stop it during the scene where they go out to the burger joint and the lead character insists on lying about being there before: why? Why?!? WHY?!?!?!?!?!!?

Okay, I feel better now.

Before signing off, just wanted to mention a few new DVD releases you might want to keep an eye out for tomorrow. First off, three potentially creepy horror films: Creep, Cry Wolf, andThe Exorcism of Emily Rose. I'm anxious to see Creep, a British slasher film starring the eponymous lead in Run Lola Run, and less so the other two. Also coming out is the thriller November starring Courtney Cox and James LeGros. And let's see, it seems like there's something else coming out . . . I want to say that it's some sort of Sci Fi film that was, I dunno, based on a brilliant but short lived TV series . . . I'm tempted to say that this film (whatever it may be) was rumored to have rocked. To have rocked hard. What could it be . . .