Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Crimson Tide

Since I am trying to watch and appreciate more Tony Scott films of late, I figured it was about time I tried Crimson Tide. Despite it having been script-doctored by Quentin Tarantino, I've simply never got around to seeing it before.

Well, long story short: I wish I hadn't bothered. The story was dumb; the acting (with one or two exceptions) mostly unconvincing; the tension non-existent; and the dialogue awful. And those bits that one might assume are Tarantino's contribution (i.e., those that dwell on comic books and movie stars) just stick out like a big ol' sore thumb.

This was a bad movie. I wish I hadn't bothered. I am fast going off Tony Scott...

Acting: 12
Story: 5
Direction: 12
Enjoyment: 8
Involvement: 5
Total: 42

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The 6th Day

I knew I was on to a loser when I opted to watch The 6th Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and, um, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I mean how much bad acting can one movie stand?! And the scenes where he "acts" with himself are so very bad that I almost couldn't look. It was like some sort of anti-masterclass in acting and screen presence

This. Movie. Was. Bad.

Sure, some of the basic, slightly Philip K Dick-type ideas were quite good, but overall it was a rambling, derivative mess. It's one of those "two hours I'll never get back" films.

I'd advise you to avoid this pile of stinking horse shit at all costs.

Acting: What acting?! 6
Story: 10
Direction: 8
Enjoyment: 8
Involvement: 8
Total: 40

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review #100: Mulholland Dr.

It will come as no surprise to my regular readers to know that I liked Mulholland Dr. a lot. I am writing this review after having watched it for the third time, twice in as many months. People love David Lynch or hate him. There seems not to be much middle ground. I love him, and I've loved him for about 15 years, so I consider myself a relative newcomer.

And despite watching Lynch works for 15 years, half the time he can still leave me completely flummoxed. When I first saw this film five years or so ago at the cinema, I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I was fucking terrified. The other thing I knew was that I was surprised at how the critics were raving about the movie. Not because it was bad, but because they had crucified Lynch for Lost Highway just a few years earlier, and I felt much of the ground covered in the two movies was similar. How could professional critics hate LH and love MD, which, arguably, was in some ways derivative of that earlier work? (Indeed, such was the acclaim that Lynch was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for this film.)

No matter. Fuck the critics. I liked what I saw. But could it hold my interest a second time on DVD? Would I be able to watch it alone at night with the lights down?

Second time around, Mulholland Dr. is a little less twisty, but not much -- perhaps that was due to a gap of five years between viewings, though. And this time around I had taken the list of David Lynch's "clues to unlocking the film's secrets". While they didn't necessarily help as much as some people might have expected, they did at least help focus the mind at certain points in the film. They helped give a sense of exactly who was whom, and when, as well as starting to create a sense of chronology out of the mayhem.

For the third viewing, I had committed as much of this stuff to memory as possible before starting the film. And what's really fascinating is that the whole film seemed to take on a subtly different feel. The dark, Lynchian terror is still there, of course, but I felt more open to the humour than before. (Humour has always been present in much of Lynch's work, but the more tense you are as a viewer, the more hidden the humour is, if that makes sense.)

But not only that. I also felt that despite "knowing" the secrets of the film and "knowing" the movie's chronology, it still had many rich, as-yet-unrevealed layers to work through. The dream-like feel becomes even more so. The cuts to new scenes seem even more obviously cuts to different timelines, which sometimes they are and sometimes they're not, I guess. Just because you "know" the film, there is still so much you don't really know...

Naomi Watts plays her role to perfection. On first viewing I thought the acting was quite poor. That's not wholly unusual in Lynch work, but I'm beginning to see it as a stylistic choice, as strange as that sounds. This is more apparent here, in Watts's performance, than in any previous Lynch movie. The way she moves from quirky, ditzy, small-town wannabe actress to protective detective to actress extraordinaire (in her audition) is faultless. And what is fascinating here is the way in which Lynch seems to be saying: "Look how fake people look when they act "normal", and how "real" they look when they are clearly faking." Just excellent!

Laura Harring also makes a strong impression as the car-crash victim with amnesia -- the catalyst for the whole movie. Again, it's one of those "is thais bad acting or good acting" performances that just might not appeal to you. No such questions can be asked of Justin Theroux, however, who puts in a great showing as the director of the film-within-a-film. He's a real standout.

And the Spanish-language version of Roy Orbison's "Crying", performed by Rebekah Del Rio, is simply phenomenal.

When it comes to films that make you doubt everything you see, this must surely be the zenith. It's a twisty-turny thing of beauty that must be seen to be (dis)believed. While not currently my favourite David Lynch movie, Mulholland Dr. is making great strides in the right direction, currently sitting in fourth place, after Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me (91 points), Blue Velvet (88), and just one point behind Lost Highway (84) at the time of this review.

Acting: 14
Story: 16
Direction: 18
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 18
Total: 83

Note: Check out Candy Minx's post here for 10 clues to unlocking Mulholland Dr., and this page of IMDb for notes on the movie's timeline.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I expected great things of Brick. I enjoyed the trailers, and it received pretty good reviews. So I bought the DVD without having seen it.

It's a story of drugs, murder, and a murder investigation. There's a drug lord, his hired muscle, a detective, his loyal sidekick, and a femme fatale. It's a film noir. And it's set in a modern-day American high school. Yes, they've taken those two staples of US cinema and mixed them together into one great concept.

So, does it work?

Well, on a certain level it does. It's surprising just how well, in fact. But there are some incongruities. The scene in the assistant vice-principal's office didn't play out for me. It just seemed too forced.

And the age of the actors also hindered my viewing pleasure. Fans of gritty cop show The Shield will recognize Brian White, who played Tavon in season 3. White was born in 1973. What the fuck is he doing playing a high-school student in 2005, age 32?! The lead role of Brendan is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, age 24; and Laura is played by Heroes star Laura Zehetner, also 24 years old. Come on, let's get real and cast some people who look like they could actually be schoolkids!

What could have been a great and original film turned into an interesting but flawed experiment in mixing genres. And the tale got so convoluted that it was even necessary to have Brendan tell the viewers exactly what the fuck happened! A shame...

Acting: 13
Story: 13
Direction: 14
Enjoyment: 14
Involvement: 15
Total: 69

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle (aka The Rundown)

Knowing how much Red loves The Rock, it was inevitable that we should watch Welcome to the Jungle when it came to TV. It's actually so long since I saw it now, that I don't remember much about it other than the following:
1. It wasn't really that good;
2. There was a good joke about how in Brazil they call Brazil nuts just "nuts";
3. There was an insane but cool fight scene;
4. Monkeys.

The Rock, though, was his usual sweet self, and it was he who made the film bearable for more than just a few minutes.

Edit: Of course, so did Chris Walken, even though I forgot to mention him when I originally wrote this review! He lights up everything he's in, though...

Acting: 11
Story: 8
Direction: 11
Enjoyment: 13
Involvement: 12
Total: 55

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Saturday, March 10, 2007


I had mixed feeling in advance of watching Tony Scott's kind-of-based-on-a-
true-story film Domino. I have a love/hate relationship with Scott's work, although I'm coming to the conclusion there's actually very little love in it. In fact, most of what I see by Scott is average at best, and Domino is the same.

The tale told is that of the daughter of British '60s screen legend Laurence Harvey, who was in the original version of The Manchurian Candidate, among other things. She, as a young woman, becomes a bounty hunter... as you do. So far, so barely credible. But it's a "true" story, so you hang in there.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a preconceived idea of what the average bounty hunter looks like, and Keira Knightley doesn't figure in it.* Not that I think Knightley is particularly attractive. Indeed, I think she's kind of weird looking, with that jaw-jut, bucket-lip thing she's got going on and that way-too-skinny-for-my-
tastes body (if you can call it that). But, y'know, whatever floats yer boat. It's more that she weighs about 6lb wet and is as scrawny as fuck. There's no meat on her; there's no logical reason for us as viewers to suspend our disbelief. She. Just. Don't. Fit.

I think bounty hunters, male or female, should look more like Mickey Rourke: butt-ugly, tough-looking motherfuckers who you know have had to work hard at staying alive in their chosen profession. I'm not a mad Mickey fan, but he does an okay job here. Not as rockin' as in Sin City, but a close second.

Anyway... yada yada yada, another Mexican stand-off, yada yada yada, this time with helicopters. I mean, this is the Mexican stand-off to end 'em all. But too ridiculous.

This film, by and large, bored me. And I thought the direction was among Scott's worst. The repetitious style he used throughout was appalling. For my money, there was very little to recommend. Of course, you're welcome to seek a second opinion, so why not read this or this from two of my blogmates.

* And it seems I was right about this. The real Domino makes a brief cameo at the very end (if you last that long). She looks cool enough, but she ain't movie-star pretty, y'know. C'mon, Tony: keep it real, motherfucker!

Acting: 11
Story: 13
Direction: 8
Enjoyment: 8
Involvement: 8
Total: 48

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Libertine

I didn't know much about The Libertine when going into it, other than it being about the life of bawdy poet The Earl of Rochester and that it starred Johnny Depp, who is one of my favourite actors. The tale that unravels is a sorry affair, both in its tragic content and its tragic telling.

Let's start with the positive: the story is fascinating. The lighting choices are interesting. And Johnny Depp puts in a great performance, unrecognizable at times through his later disfigurement.

But there's very little else I can say that is good. The other actors are by and large bad. The scenes in which Depp plays with some of the minor British actors are cut together in such a way that one suspects he was never in the same room with them. And the direction is leaden and amateurish.

One last thing, and it's almost unheard of for me to say this: the most interesting thing about the tale was the love story between Rochester and his wife -- or rather, her love that is undying, despite the odds against it -- and this is woefully undertold.

I would say avoid at all costs, but the story and Depp are big draws. Just be warned...

Acting: 8
Story: 11
Direction: 4
Enjoyment: 10
Involvement: 8
Total: 41

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Monday, March 05, 2007

A Cock and Bull Story

I like Michael Winterbottom and the various types of pies in which he has his film-making fingers. You never know quite what he's going to do next, and that's great. A Cock and Bull Story is a fictional behind-the-scenes look at the making of a film version of the classic 18th-century Laurence Sterne novel The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and it stars British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

It's a battle of wills, with each of the comic actors trying to upstage one another. It's an amusing look at the film-making process. It's the attempt to film an "unfilmable" book. It's all of these things and more.

I'm not a Steve Coogan fan. Nor am I a fan of Rob Brydon. Indeed, there are very few actors in this film that I particularly like usually. But the film is bigger than any one of its parts.

Would I buy this film on DVD? Probably not, unless I found it at a real bargain price, but it is definitely worth the cost of a rental fee and an hour an a half of your time. Sure, it's no Living In Oblivion, but what is?

Acting: 13
Story: 12
Direction: 15
Enjoyment: 14
Involvement: 14
Total: 68

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