Monday, February 06, 2006

Movie Mon. - IMDB to the Rescue Again!

Not a bad movie-watching week, covered a wide range of genres with only one really disapointing film; I'm hoping to get another wide range of new releases this week, ranging from drama (Elizabethtown) to animation (Wallace and Grommit) to thriller (Dark Hours) to comedy (Daltry Calhoun) to cheesy video-game movie (Doom!). C'mon, Netflix, don't fail me now!

On to the reviews

Bubble: Slow-moving Soderbergh film with a cast entirely comprised of amateur actors. Despite some interesting visuals sprinkled throughout, I really didn't care for this film. The dialogue was wooden and unengaging; whether this should be laid at the feet of the actors or screenwriter, I really can't say. What I can say that this movie was a struggle for me to get through, and that was even with watching half one night, and half the next, which might not sound all that bad until you realize that the whole film is under 90 minutes long. Unless you're a Soderbergh completist or a hardcore indie fan, I'd avoid this one.

Corpse Bride: Stop-motion animated film from the mind of Tim Burton. Needless to say, it's a bit creepy at times, but for me, that's a plus. I liked the character designs, and thought the animation was, on the whole, very well done; some people have complained that they were able to figure out the "big mystery" too easily, but it's not like they were really trying all that hard to conceal it; it was a folk tale, of course the moral is easy to see coming, it's the journey there that matters. And for me, the journey was very enjoyable; I didn't think that the songs fit well for the most part, except for the one telling the Bride's history. Over all, a well done movie.

Alone in the Dark: Early 80s horror movie that got put in my queue for its great character actor trifecta: Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau, and Jack Palance. How could I pass up a film with Palance and Landau as psycho killers and Pleasance as their not-all-there therapist? Throw in "Howling Mad" Murdock from the A-Team as the heroic therapist and Grossberger from Stir Crazy as the pedophilic murderer (both of which gave me the "Dang, I know I know him, where the heck have I seen him before, this is going to drive me crazy!" feeling, necessitating a trip to IMDB), and you've got yourself an 80s smorgasbord of borderline talent! For a cheap horror movie, this was relatively well done. Yes, there were some cheesy moments, but hey, it was the 80s, what do you expect? Fun fact, also courtesy of IMDB: the scene where The Bleeder puts on the hockey mask is not a Friday the 13th reference, as Alone in the Dark was finished a month or two before Friday the 13th 3-D came out.

My Big Fat Independent Movie: Spoof of various indie films, focusing mainly on Swingers, Amelie, The Good Girl, Memento, Pi, and all things Tarantino. Spoof films are kind of a mixed bag: first of all, they rely heavily on the viewer having seen all of the parodies material, which wasn't much of a problem for me; the only thing that I didn't catch at the time was a brief In the Company of Men reference early on. Secondly, more and more over the years their humor has shifted towards juvenile toilet humor, a little of which goes a long way with me; this one wasn't one of the worst offenders (I'm looking at you, Not Another Teen Movie!), but there were at least a couple of feces and urine related "jokes" that made me go "Was that really necessary?" I think my biggest problem with this film in particular was its tone; a lot of spoofs poke fun at a particular genre or series, but still manage to show a bit of respect (or, at the least, fondness) for the target, but with MBFIM, most of it just came across as petty sniping at much more successful films. A big part of this was just how heavy handed their swipes at these films were; think it all boils down to the "show vs. tell" strategy. If they would have relied on just showing exaggerated versions of the character's actions to spotlight their ludicrous nature, that would have been okay, but all too often they felt the need to basically out-and-out say "here is why we think Tarantino sucks." There were some really funny ideas buried here and there, and some good jobs by the cast, but the overall tone of the film left me cold. Oh, and a plea to directors out there: please stop giving roles to Jason Mewes, who only has one setting: drugged out and profane. Now, that might work in a Kevin Smith film, but just about anywhere else, it falls totally flat. I'd say this one is only for really hard-core spoof fans who have a high indie-IQ; for Tarantino spoofing, I much preferred Plump Fiction for its "Reservoir Nuns" sequence if nothing else: "Why do I gotta be Sister Batril? Why can't I be Sister Sister?"

Thumbsucker: Quirky indie about high school Senior Justin trying to overcome his pathological thumbsucking, and the strange twists his life takes when he turns to hypnosis and medication. Of course, the film isn't really about the thumbsucking; it's about the journey Justin takes trying to figure out his place in the world. Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio both do fantastic jobs as Justin's parents, who are portrayed much more evenly than the parents in most teen-centric movies; yes, they are clueless at times, but never absurdly so, and they come off as three-dimensional, fully-fleshed characters in their own right. Vince Vaughn also does a good job playing against type as the semi-nerdy debate coach. The movie definitely took more twists than I had expected as Justin vaults from slacker to super-successful debater to slacker-outcast to his final state of contentment with himself. My "pick of the week."

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area: Early film by Chan-wook Park, director of the excellent films Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance; this one centers on a military investigation into an altercation between soldiers in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. A well done film, although I never would have guessed it was the handiwork of Park if I hadn't already known; the style is quite different from the other films of his I've seen. First of all, the theme of vengeance is not as central to the plot; instead, the movie revolves around ideas of nationalism, and the societal boundaries separating the north and south. Also, this movie is much less stylized, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but it was that heightened reality of his other films that really drew me in; in many ways, this film is much more grounded in reality (relatively speaking). J.S.A is also a much less violent film; it's not bloodless, but the violence is largely confined to one central inciting incident I have to say, the movie went in directions I had not anticipated, with the central mystery unfolding through a flashback that takes up the middle section of the film and which focuses on the relationship between the guards on either side of the border. Like the other films I've seen by Park, not a lot of people wind up with happy endings here; while I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did those, still a very well done movie I would recommend to fans of foreign films.


RC said...

Alone in the Dark was ranked the 2nd worst film by critics on the movie city news...

I'm out! Definitly not planning on watching it...

today I posted the list and realized I've only seen 1 of the worst 20, and I want to keep it that way.

- RC of

Cap'n Neurotic said...

You're talking about Uwe Boll's cinematic abortion starring (if that term should even be applied to this wreck) Christian Slater and Tara Reid; it is indeed a horrible, horrible film, and one that I have warned as many people away from as possible.

My review was of a 1983 film of the same title; not a great film, but at least it didn't make me want to open my wrists to make the pain go away like Boll's film.