Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"What I Watched" Wed: Movie Time

The Prestige: Intricate thriller about two rival stage magicians (Christian "Batman" Bale and Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman) whose feud leads to much death and dismemberment. I don't want to say too much about this right now, since this is one of those films which is enhanced by surprise, but I will say that I loved it. Bale is compelling as usual, and Jackman does a fine job as the obsessive rival. I did figure out one of the big twists pretty early on, but there was another which kind of took me by surprise at the end. Definitely one I want to see again. Highly recommended to those who don't mind having to pay attention when they watch a film.

Pizza: Odd Indie about Cara-Ethyl, a social outcast who, bereft of any friends, attaches herself to a pizza delivery guy (Ethan Embry) on her 18th birthday. This was a strange one, but I liked it. The character of Cara-Ethyl was not your typical teen outcast; she wasn't just one hairstyle change away from being popular. No, it would have taken a complete personality makeover, which is part of the reason I enjoyed this.

Nacho Libre: "Comedy" (I use that word with great hesitation) about a Mexican friar who pursues his dream of being a luchador, or masked wrestler. You know, once upon a time, I thought that Jack Black could make anything funny. Then I saw Envy, and my confidence was shaken. Now, it's been completely shattered. Were there funny moments in this? Sure, a couple here and there. But on the whole, the film ranged from the dull (any scenes between him and the pretty nun) to the bizarre (the fat lady crawling through holes in her house) to the "who thought that was funny?" (too many to count). Painful, painful movie.

American Dreamz: Satire about an American Idol style show focusing on two contestants: a self-absorbed, fame-hungry manipulator, and a reluctant terrorist who is forced into competing in order to make an assassination attempt on the President, who just happens to be a guest judge on the finals. Sound far-fetched? It is, but somehow, it works. Hugh Grant is delightfully smarmy as usual as the show's host; Dennis Quaid is entertainingly dim as the Dubya-analogue; and Mandy Moore is convincingly shallow as the girl who uses her boyfriend's military history as a sure-fire way to get to the finals. My only real complaint with the film is how little time was spent on the American Dreamz show itself; the bulk of the movie is spent setting it up, but then they just zip past the progress of the show in a montage. Sure, putting more time into the show within the film might have broken the flow of the story, but I can't help feeling that I was cheated out of something. Still a good movie; just could have been better.

Monster House: Surprisingly entertaining animated film about a group of kids who discover that the house across the street is actually alive, and hungry for humans. Well-written movie with good voice work from a pretty impressive cast, including Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Kathleen Turner. The animation was pretty good on the whole, except when it came to character facial expressions, which were a bit lifeless. But, even with distracting character animation, the film sucked me in and made me laugh quite a few times, so I'll be giving it a thumbs up.

American Haunting: A "based on true events" horror movie which marketed itself as being an account of the only haunting in American history which had resulted in a death. Slow-moving film which harbors a little bit of creepiness, but mostly just left me bored. I will give them this: I did not see the reasoning behind the haunting coming, at least not fully . . . of course, that's partly because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Don't think there's enough here to warrant a recommendation.

Mini's First Time: Very dark comedy about a manipulative and rebellious girl who seduces her step-father (Alec Baldwin) and then conspires with him to drive her mom (Carrie Ann Moss) crazy. Fairly well done film, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Sociopathic Mini is a bit too smug in her Machiavellian maneuverings fro me to be able to identify with her. Some pretty funny parts here and there, especially the scenes where her mom begins to lose it, but in the end, I just didn't care for this all that much.