Back on Track
This weekend was more like it...3 more to the database:
Punch-Drunk Love: 3.5 Stars. There's not many actors that could've pulled off the role Adam Sandler played in this film. Fortunately, the role was written explicitly for him, and his "quiet, repressed" character that he's managed to cultivate in most of his comedies clearly is the template for this one. This is by all accounts a weird film, and at times overstylized (the visuals from ILM were particularly unnecessary), but this tale of troubled souls finding happiness is one of the surprises of the year. Further, it's evidence that Paul Thomas Anderson is honing his craft, much like Wes Anderson (no relation), and much unlike M. Night Shyamalan. Bonus points to Emily Watson for managing to be, well, just absolutely wonderful.
Red Dragon: 2.5 Stars. With a four-star cast like the one assembled for this film, it's a crime that I can only give it 2.5 stars. I can only lay the blame here on the screenwriter and the director (Brett Ratner, of Rush Hour fame). Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes, and Anthony Heald (a personal favorite) were their usual talented selves. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a bit of a disappointment, considering how good he was in Punch Drunk Love, but he didn't have much to work with. Basically, the story wasn't very compelling, wasn't very suspenseful, and was overly formulaeic (especially the end). If the source material wasn't up to snuff, it should've been over-tweaked by the screenwriter. If it was, the director should've done more with it, as Jonathan Demme did in The Silence of the Lambs. It'll make a fortune, but that doesn't make it good.
Spirited Away: 2.5 Stars. There's something about Japanese animation that lends itself to bad stories. Most of the heralded pinnacles of Anime have plot holes you could drive a Hummer through. It seems that they think that impressive visuals will cover for the shockingly incoherent directions that the tale takes. Spirited Away is no exception. At times it is visually amazing. At times the story is compelling. At times it's incoherent. At times it makes you start checking your watch. Overall I thought it was okay....it wasn't a waste of 2 hours. But it could've been so much better.