Friday, October 28, 2005

Elizabethtown--another of worst of 2005

This was a flaming disaster. Has writer/director Cameron Crowe drank some kind of dangerous elixir that is causing him to make completely awful and shite movies all of a sudden?

Vanilla Sky was horrible from start to finish and now Crowe delivers Elizabethtown, which is even worse. I guess with Crowe and company I expect the film to be much, much better than what I witnessed, but after these two recent duds, maybe I should rethink that?

Elizabethtown isn’t funny, it’s not emotionally engaging, not a single character has any depth—it’s basically one of the most artificial and phony films I’ve sat through in a long while.

A big problem is the male lead, Orlando Bloom. The man is an awful actor. I don’t care how pretty he is or how he can make the cheeks blush when you look at him—the man has absolutely no screen chemistry as a leading man. After seeing Kingdom of Heaven earlier in the year and now Elizabethtown I’m convinced that Bloom will only do a movie no harm if he is in “elfin” mode ala Lord of the Rings. The funniest scene in the entire movie is when Bloom attempts to cry. Now that was comedy!

Crowe’s script is a hodgepodge of story directions—does he know what kind of story he wants to tell here? There is way too much bland narration from Bloom that comes of as smug and adds nothing to the film (as most narration does—it’s lazy screenwriting the vast majority of the time). The film is too long as well but that goes into the nest that Crowe was unsure what kind of story he wanted to tell.

And let me address the use of music in the film. Crowe pumps Elizabethtown full of so many musical background moments it’s as if he can only reveal his characters by finding some obscure/classic song from his or his wife Nancy Wilson’s record collection. Jeez, man, if you want to make videos go make videos, I was hoping to watch a movie here.

I’m not even going into Kirsten Dunst and the "there one sentence, gone the next" Kentucky accent of hers. Why even try to do a Southern accent, any accent, if you aren’t going to stick with it for the FULL movie? Plus, the completely ridiculous scene with Susan Sarandon at a funeral eulogy. I mean, tap dancing for God’s sake?! I think Crowe has lost his mind with that bit of nonsense.

I did like seeing Tulsan Gailard Sartain, the Round Barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma and My Morning Jacket showing up as “Ruckus” to do “Freebird” at the earlier mentioned memorial service. But that’s not enough to save this disaster of a film.

Elizabethtown might be the worst film of the year, considering the people involved, its high profile release and the amount of sheer train wreck quality it maintains throughout.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Flightplan--possible worst of 2005

So this is what Jodie Foster has become? Foster, the Academy Award winner, who was once thought of as one of the best actresses working in Hollywood, is now officially making movies for C-A-S-H-O-L-A.

Maybe she had dinner with Robert De Niro as he’s completely gone the same route with sludge like the woeful Hide and Seek. It’s a sad day when De Niro gives one of his best recent performances on a bleeping American Express commercial!

It’s not that Flightplan is poorly made technically or just flat out bad, it’s just dull, uninteresting and lifeless. Often that’s the biggest sin and timewaster of all a movie can have.

With Flightplan’s predictability and the absurd twists that are pure screenwriter 101 invention, Foster has fallen to unseen depths. I’m sure there is a willing sponsor to see her act in a commercial extolling the virtues of beer, credit cards or financial investment that she can fall back on. Mr. De Niro’s agent has those numbers for you Jodie whenever you are ready for them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Originals better despite age

Screened a sometime scratchy print of Alien at Circle Cinema for the midnight series and I really enjoyed it after having not seeing it in well over a decade. On Friday night, a young woman who works there came out after 20 minutes saying it looked “too ‘80s” for her taste.

The next night I watched it and loved the colorful, yet low-tech view of the future as conceived by Ridley Scott in 1979. The movie is a claustrophobic, tense journey into the unknown that combines horror and psychological thriller in ways often duplicated since.

I’ve heard this kind of complaint a lot from younger people and classic older horror/thriller films. They will claim the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre was awesome but the deranged 1974 version was boring or unprofessional. During the re-release of The Exorcist a few years ago teenagers were laughing during certain scenes, yet, I hear their peers say how scared the middling knock off The Exorcism of Emily Rose made them as we exit the theatre. When I hear these kinds of statements, I just want to shake some common sense and taste into the lot of them!

What makes Alien better than Alien Resurrection or Halloween better than Halloween 9 (the list goes on and on) is that the early films have an originality in story, attitude and execution that the following sequels can’t even sniff, despite the new ones having all the advantages of komputers to aid their graphics.

It’s not all about graphics and high-powered komputers young movie watchers.

The early films have a subtlety and nuance to them that the remakes/sequels do not. The later films tend to go the blunt, in your face route as they feel they have to be so “full on” they have to top the originals. This doesn’t make them better movies; it just makes them noisier.

The early “classic” films often realize it’s the quiet moments that are the most terrifying. It’s in these quiet moments during Alien when “Ripley” is battling these alien beings alone in some empty part of a deep, black, silent space, when we let our imagination take over. The imagination is more terrifying than any amount of noisy, komputer generated effect can ever dream of producing.

So, as I sat in the tiny, darkened Circle Cinema and watched the low-budget effects/set design I found comfort, tension and fear in its well-aged flicker from the projector.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Slow-motion overdose

I finally got to see 2046. Watching a Wong Kar Wai movie, 2046 particularly, is kind of like visiting a foreign country where you do not speak the language. There is a period of adjustment to become settled in while in this place--watching 2046 is the exact same thing. The first 30 minutes were a mess as I was trying to get my bearings in the story as it flew all over the place. After that, I settled in and the images started to cascade to the screen and 2046 became enjoyable.

2046 is loosely connected with In the Mood For Love (loosely is appropriate as you do not have to see the first one to watch 2046). The story really isn't a story--driving narrative force is not a strength of Wong Kar Wai--as we see a man and his loves in 1968 Hong Kong. The man also exists as an alter-ego and character in a pulp novel in the future while riding a superfuturistc train filled with beautiful "love" androids. I liked the sci-fi aspect of the film and wish it would have had more of that in there rather than the 1968 stuff. The light train just looked flat out cool.

People walked out of 2046 left and right as I guess it's not for everyone with its aimlessness and jumping around. I never thought I'd say this about a Wong movie but he used slow motion too much! Like always, incredible cinematography by Christopher Doyle and others. Loved seeing Faye Wong in something again as I have a big crush on her.

While I don't like this as much as In the Mood For Love, 2046 is still an interesting, puzzling, hyper-romantic, slow-motion drenched tale that leaves a lot to the viewer to decipher.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Serenity is a movie that should never have been made. In 2002 it was a doomed television show called Firefly that was allowed to make only 12 episodes before getting the axe. Never mind it had a rabid following, critics loved it, or Joss Whedon, the man behind the popular shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, created it.

In a way, Serenity is a landmark kind of movie because fans of Firefly were so fanatical about the show—they wanted justice. They wanted the story to continue whether on another channel or the big screen. They called themselves “Brownshirts” and immobilized themselves on the Internet. Three years later Serenity arrives in theatres everywhere. Can it please the already on board Brownshirts and new people as well? The answer is a resounding yes.

I was a fan of Firefly but had my doubts regarding the movie. I was worried it was going to be a rehashing of the series plot just ramped up to “movie” size for people who hadn’t seen the show. Early on in the film, these concerns were gone and I got to just enjoy the story and the characters I wasn’t expecting to see again.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, that’s kind of a space western” or something similar? Serenity is that space western. Even though it’s set hundreds of years in the future—this is a western. Serenity has that same pluck and spirit of westerns of yore and use slang, speech mannerisms, technology and weapons that have a direct connection to the old west.

The story concerns a rag-tag group of individuals who scrape along by doing petty robbery and illegal freight running to isolated outposts at the edge of a planetary system’s frontier. Their ship (named Serenity after a defeat in a war that several of the crew were involved in and are still haunted by) is a bit dodgy and rundown. Their survival depends on the success of their next job—legal or otherwise.

They bring along passengers from time to time and they happen to have a doozy with them in a young, damaged girl named River. River can read minds. River is also a killing machine who the ruling planetary government wants to get rid of. A ruthless assassin is dispatched to slaughter the crew and anyone who stands in the way of getting to River.

That’s the gist of the story but Serenity is so much more. Serenity deserves to be seen. It’s leap years better than the over-hyped mess that has become of the Star Wars franchise and other middle of the road science fiction releases.

Serenity is interesting, funny, smart, surprising and exciting science fiction and should please anyone whether you want lots of action and space explosions or if you want great characters. It’s just a great story that was a great television show and now it’s a great movie. Thanks Brownshirts, I owe you one for letting us see more of the crew of the Serenity.