Monday, August 07, 2006

Movie Mon. - A Lover of Man and Beast Alike

Couple of weeks worth of movie reviewage here, so let's not dilly dally with introductory ramblings.

Ask the Dust: Period piece about the relationship between a struggling writer (Colin Farrell) and a tempestuous waitress (Salma Hayek) in 1930s Los Angeles. A well done, if occasionally frustrating, film. Farrell's character alternates between charmingly funny "lover of man and beast alike" and mean-spirited ass . . . much as I imagine Farrell himself. The movie veers from a chronicle of an oddly captivating dysfunctional duo in the first two acts into a maudlin, star-crossed love story in the final act which lessens the impact of the film; not surprisingly, it turns out that the first part of the film follows the plot of the novel which inspired the film fairly closely, while the sappy third act is a complete departure. Strong performances from Farrell, Hayek, and Idina Menzel (as a crazy admirer of Farrell) still make this worth a viewing, although passionate fans of the novel might disagree.

Benchwarmers: Lowbrow comedy starring David Spade in a typical loser role, Jon Heder in a role that makes it look like Napoleon Dynamite may have been a bit of a comedic fluke, and Rob Schneider in that rarest of roles for him, a quick-witted, confident, commanding lead man. Will wonders never cease? As for the film itself, well, it wasn't as bad as I had feared it was going to be. It's at its best when it's at its most absurd and surreal; for me, the breakout character was the agoraphobic Howie, played by comedian (and co-writer) Nick Swardson, although the paranoid little person with his peanut butter pterodactyl sculpture is a close second. It's when the movie held to well-worn clichés that it lost me. Still, it never caused me physical pain, which is always a plus, and had enough amusing moments for me to feel like it wasn't a total waste of my time.

Final Destination 3: Latest installment in the franchise where death is the antagonist slaps the formula onto a roller coaster accident, this time playing up the "clues" angle with the help of a series of digital photos. Like many franchise films, the quality of the third installment is a bit below that of the previous one, which in turn was less than the original. That being said, if you enjoyed the first two, you'll probably enjoy this one as well. The cast is likable, the dialogue is often amusing (intentionally, even), and the deaths, though over-the-top, are generally inventive. The DVD has a "Choose Their Fates" feature which gives you the option of slightly altering the path of the film, but I'd have to say that from my experience it wasn't really worth the time and effort as most changes were minor and inconsequential..

Clean: Drama about a former junkie (Maggie Cheung) trying to get her life back on track so she can take back custody of her son from her in-laws. The biggest surprise for me in this film (other than the fact that half of it takes place in France and is therefore subtitled) was that the relationship between Cheung and her father-in-law (Nick Nolte) was not adversarial at all; it's not all sturm-und-drang, "You'll never see your son again, you junkie whore!" melodrama like the synopsis implies. Instead, we see a grandfather who is pulling for his daughter-in-law to pull herself together, and a mother who willingly relinquishes custody until she's able to pull her life together and provide for her son. A bit slow at times, but overall a well-done film.

Severed: Forest of the Dead
: Low budget horror film about a group of loggers and environmental activists who are besieged by a band of zed-words. The film showed some promise with an interesting setting and several recognizable faces to fans of the Sci-Fi Channel (notably the late Presidential aide Billy from Battlestar Gallactica and the late Tok'ra Martouf from Stargate: SG-1), but it suffered from too many logical inconsistencies and a sub-plot involving further zombie outbreaks which went absolutely nowhere.

Ice Station Zebra
: Thriller from the late 60s about a submarine crew (captained by Rock Hudson) sent on an Arctic rescue mission which is actually a cover for some Cold War espionage. The movie didn't really grab my interest until the crew actually reaches the titular Arctic base; unfortunately, it's well over 90 minutes into the film before that happens. But even as the action ramped up and my interest was maintained, I still felt a bit of a disconnect from it for one reason: the horrible, horrible Arctic set, whose ice and snow are so incredibly fake that it kept distracting me from everything else. Seriously, it was like something from the original Star Trek series. Was fun just to see Patrick McGoohan play spy, though.

Chasing Sleep: Psychological thriller about an English professor (Jeff Daniels) whose worry and lack of sleep after he reports his wife missing cause him to fall into an ever increasing spiral of paranoia and delusion. Strong performance from Daniels, but the film itself moves at a glacial pace, a glacier constructed totally out of symbolism. Honestly, you could choke a camel on the overt imagery in this one. By the end of the film it's a bit difficult to know exactly what's real and what's in his head, which would normally bother me, but somehow in this one, it works. I'm still curious about what the screenwriter and/or director intended with the whole "everyone around him is on medication" motif.

V for Vendetta: As I was watching the DVD it dawned on me that I never did do that in-depth review I had promised many moons ago, which is too bad, since I don't really remember what all I had planned on saying that first time. In lieu of in-depth analysis, I will instead include one of my favorite snippets of dialogue from the film:

Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.

I will say that I enjoyed it just as much the second time, perhaps even a little bit more, since the departures from the graphic novel didn't take me by surprise this time, and that Hugo Weaving does an excellent job as the perpetually masked man. Highly recommended.

Pressure: Thriller starring Kerr Smith and Lochlyn Munro as a couple of med students who stop off at a small town bar and wind up becoming fugitives from the law thanks to a corrupt sheriff (Donnelly Rhodes, who you might know as the doctor on Battlestar Gallactica but who will always be Dutch from Soap to me) and his psychotic son. For a straight to DVD movie that I'd never heard of before, this was surprisingly entertaining, thanks to a funny script and likeable actors.

Hide and Creep: Another low-budget zed-word film, this one falling into the redneck zed-word horror-comedy category. The acting was often sub-par, and it won't win any awards for its FX, but the script was actually pretty danged funny. The ending was a bit of a let-down, but The Anti-Cap'n and I still felt it was worth our time. Plus, I've got to give a thumbs up to any movie which includes a diatribe about how "Is Pepsi okay?" is not a valid response to someone ordering a Coke at a restaurant.

Subject Two
: Low key horror film about a disgruntled medical student who volunteers to help out with an experiment in resurrection technology, not realizing that he's going to be the subject. An interesting film which focuses almost exclusively on the experimenter and his subject; a bit slow at times, but its undercurrent of dark humor and imaginative take on the Frankenstein motif made it one I'd feel good recommending to other horror aficionados.

Acacia: Japanese horror film about a creepy young orphan with a creepy link to the creepy acacia tree in his adoptive parents' back yard. This one was really nothing to write home about.


Mrs. E said...

Get a new phone and call your parents some time. Love Mom