17 November 2003

Evil Aliens...and Britons

Alien - The Director's Cut: 4 Stars. Sure, I've got it at home on DVD, but I decided to see this bad boy at the Arclight Cinerama Dome . Dead center, perfect distance from the 91-foot screen (diagonal length), so my entire glasses-framed vision was filled with Ridley Scott's greatest film. I still jumped, more than once, when the acid-blooded beast tore through Tom Skeritt and his crew. This is a horror movie, pure, pristine, and terrifying. It's sequel, Aliens, was more of an action-adventure flick, and one of the best of all time, but it isn't one-tenth as scary, especially on the big screen.

Love Actually: 2.75 Stars. I've loved the work that this producer/director crew has put together before: Bridget Jones' Diary and Notting Hill to name two, but this one wasn't up to their standards. They've got great characters, a veritable who's who of British cinema, and great dialogue, but just too much was going on in this film. I read somewhere that there were 22 "main" characters in this film, all with love stories (every sort of love, really...husband-wife, father-son, friend-friend, etc), some of them interwoven. The problem was that the most interesting ones (Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon, Martin Freeman and Joanna Page) had to share time with the likes of Laura Linney and Andrew Lincoln. It was just too much, and the film suffered as a result. Still, though, when it was good, it was very good. I wish they'd make another movie just with Grant and McCutcheon, perhaps intersplicing all of the footage from this movie into it. It'd be a pretty cool gimmick, n'est-ce pas? Special kudos to showing boobs in this flick...it's not done enough anymore. Also, great cameos.

14 November 2003

Once more...making up for lost time

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life: 2 Stars. This was better than the first, but not by much. They need to tone down the supernatural and Indiana Jonesize this series for it to have any chance of generating a decent film. Djimon Hounsou was as good, and underused, as always. I'm looking forward to seeing him in In America.

Shattered Glass: 3.5 Stars. Most of the buzz I'd heard regarding this tale of disgraced "journalist" Stephen Glass was pretty positive and, as it turns out, accurate. Pretty much beginning-to-end this was a compelling tale of a talented, but compulsive, liar. Hayden Christianson played the titular character spectacularly well, indicating that his wooden Anakin Skywalker is more the fault of the screenplay and direction than of any lack of talent. The movie pulled no punches. Glass was a charmer, a singularly good talespinner, and, for some reason, decided to start making up stories rather than actually go get 'em. His fall is both tragic and generates no sympathy, not that he deserves any. Special kudos for the bookends framing this tale....utter perfection.

The Singing Detective: 3.5 Stars. I wasn't sure quite what to expect when I sat down to see this film, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. Basically it's a detective story, but what's being sought here are the causes of Dan Dark's (Robert Downey, Jr.) shattered psyche. Pretty much everyone's good here, from Mel Gibson's psychiatrist to Robin Wright-Penn's (is it just me, or is she just getting more and more beautiful as she ages?) devoted wife. The story's a little weird, and takes a bit of getting used to, but when the final credits roll, it's been a wholly satisfying journey.

Runaway Jury: 3 Stars. I admit it, I'm a John Grisham fan. I've read all of his books, most in less than 4 hours. He's pure popcorn and candy for a devotee of deeper literature, but there's a place for junk food in everyone's life. I thought this was one of his better books, and with the cast lined up for this movie (Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Gene Hackman, and Rachel Weisz), I figured it may exceed my favorite Grisham movie, The Rainmaker. It didn't, but there's no shame there. In the book, it was the tobacco industry on trial; in the movie, it's the gun industry. The change had to be made for the story to fit in 2003, but I'd rather they just dated the story back to 1998 or so....it would've been more compelling. Regardless, it was a good time for all. Everyone of the stars got to show their chops, and even the lesser-known cast members (Bruce McGill, Jeremy Piven) were given chances to shine. My only real complaint is that there's no surprise ending. The book did a much better job of making Cusack's Nick Easter seem ambiguous in his goals. Nonesuch in this film, but I still liked it.

The Matrix Revolutions: 2.5 Stars. All the stars in this movie are for effects. This flick has the greatest punch I've ever seen on celluloid. It also has several awesome fight scenes. Unfortunately, the story not only stinks, it's confusing. From beginning to end, I had no idea what was going on, and why. There are long, deep-sounding soliloquies on life in the Matrix that make no sense. There's good guys and bad guys doing things in the silliest possible manner. In the words of Johnnie Cochrane: It just does not make sense. Fin.