Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movie Review Quickies, Part II

Part II offers a diverse batch of reviews: Beowulf, Clerks II, The Good German, Michael Clayton, Eastern Promises, WALL-E, Kung Fu Hustle, To Live and Die in L.A., and C.H.U.D. I could've been stingy, but I want to make amends for two weeks of silence. Anyway, if you're reading this, you deserve pleasant surprises. Enjoy.

"Vulfie," for short.

Many folks clamor to treat animation the same as "real movies." This holds up best with Pixar's work; their dedication to story and character is unrivaled. "Beowulf" was supposed to kick off the same possibilities for pure CGI. Since the studios bet on a violent classic, audiences got an almost-live-action-cartoon. Presumably this would capitalize off that great overlap in moviegoer demographics: 11 year old boys and Comp. Lit. students.

Actually, they were banking off the success of that lousy almost-live-action-cartoon, "300." This story has survived for a long time because it is thrilling and creepy and classic (in every sense); it is of a piece with any mythological tale you can recall. In practice, it was fairly easy to ignore because the emotional content matched the average episode of "GI Joe."

The effects work was amazing - I can understand Angelina Jolie's slight embarrassment, 'cause it looks like her body was directly scanned into a computer. But some nice post-modern writing (thanks for doing what you could, Neil Gaiman) can't give this experience enough depth or emotion.

Screw Rosario Dawson on a prep station? Disgusting! You do it up against the fridge...

Clerks II
A little good, but mostly bad. I think my radar is pretty keen at detecting intended awfulness. Sadly, I don't think that's what Kevin Smith was aiming for - at least, not for the overall film.

The dance sequence stands out as a particularly ill-conceived part of the picture. I may have a seizure the next time I see a guy tweak his nipples because that's supposed to be funny. And, for my money, I didn't like the early salvo which has our three leads discussing the do's and don'ts of a certain unusual sex act.

Other parts of Smith's humor worked as usual. Setting the story at a fast-food joint from "Dogma" was excellent - but I loved the satire behind "Mooby the Cow." The call-back jokes were generally good, and I was not too annoyed/distracted by the way that this sequel adhered to the form of the original "Clerks." And yet...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Peter Jackson's early glories part 1: "Heavenly Creatures"

Peter Jackson is amazing. Yes, "The Frighteners" was a bit of a mess, and I didn't bother watching "King Kong." However, his earliest films were all glorious - "Bad Taste," (a wackjob funfest), "Meet the Feebles" (Muppets go hardcore & porn-y), and "Braindead" ("Evil Dead 2" in New Zealand)... For those who can't appreciate demented movies, the real sign of this man's raw artistry came with his first "serious" piece - 1994's "Heavenly Creatures."

"HC" is the true story of two 1950's teenage girls, Pauline and Juliet, in New Zealand. They were good friends to an unhealthy degree. Their parents, disturbed by their dependence (and horrified they might be gay), decided to separate the two. This resulted in an awful crime. Sorry for the spoiler.

Jackson directed this film perfectly. True stories - especially the ones with real emotions and a body count - are often woefully overplayed by cinema. They take the "Pearl Harbor" route and render their subject worthlessly banal. Or they take the "Cinderella Man" and "Monster" path, villifying historic victims to make the protagonists more sympathetic.

But Peter Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh wrote something that neither disrespected reality nor glamorized their subjects. They wrote (and he directed) something worthy and beautiful. The dialogue and acting are first-rate. The camera operates with the sort of mastery you can see in all of Jackson's work (yes, this includes the three films above).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To my non-eternal shame

2 weeks with a great film on my table, unwatched. I've been busy, and would need arms like Kali to work fast enough. Also, the time hasn't been right. I've been a bit restless after these long days. To anyone reading: have you felt neither "bad" nor "good," but known that it'll be hard to get in the mood for something? Even something you want to do? That's me recently. I'm great at ditching that vibe when I go out - movies at home are different... As a nice aside, Netflix should be making free money off of me - and isn't. The renewal period hit, and they need new info from me. =) So I guess coincidence is working in my favor (again, finally). Honestly, I want to spoil the hell out of this movie. Even if I don't discuss it in depth, there's a lot to point out. This clashes with my desire to lead people to things they haven't seen before. And I want this to be so new for you! In closing, sorry for the unexpected break. I'll be better about this in the future, and that review will be up within two (2) days.