July 21, 2003

Recent Flick Roundup

Here's a quick go-over of movies I've seen lately (on DVD and whatnot):

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) [imdb] [txreviews]
This was an excellent film. The core of this film is about how people (a family) can be screwed up. In an Edward Gorey kind of way. If that either means nothing to you or doesn't get you interested, then you might not enjoy this film. I can recommend this film highly. Excellent soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh (late of Devo and currently of The Rugrats (not the new film) and a lot of other places).

Gods and Generals (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
I should have read Curtis' review before I rented this, but I suppose it was inevitable, considering that I love Gettysburg. However, I cannot write a decent review of Gods and Generals because I couldn't even make it the whole way through the film. Bleh - it was as boring as watching mold grow. As soon as I saw that they had skipped over the whole beginning of the book (which started to explain why tension was building in the country, leading to secession) I knew there would be trouble. The book itself (written by Jeff Shaara -- author of Gettysburg Michael Shaara's son) was long and a bit tedious. In the film, I could tell they were trying to make room to spend most of the movie on battle scenes. but the battles, frankly, were a lot less interesting to me than the motivations. And the film lacked the driving character portraits of Gettysburg. Oh well.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) [imdb]
The description that first jumped into my mind for this film was "the Chinese version of the Evil Dead series." However, it isn't, really. There is a lot of humor, to be sure. And zombie action. But the humor is a little more in the mold of "bumbling goofiness" rather than just general crazy goofiness. There's a love story, and the distaff end of it is a ghost who happens to work for a really nasty demon-like monster, with a really long tongue. You know, your typical boy-meets-girl. If you are either a fan of goofy horror or goofy Asian films, this film is worth your time. There's even what looks like a music video in the middle. I can't explain why, though.

Finding Nemo (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
I only previously mentioned Finding Nemo in passing. In short, it's the best kids movie we've seen thus far this year. The animation is stunning, and that's getting to be something you don't even notice in Pixar films. The characters were fun and heartwarming. When I first heard about this film, I thought I would hate it, despite liking all of Pixar's other films. The subject sounded boring. Even the trailers didn't raise my expectations much. But the film had a special resonance with me. Nemo's birth defect, his lucky right fin, reminded me of my birth defect -- my right hand. As a parent, I understood his father's neurotic drive to protect Nemo. Pixar is not stupid. They know that to make their films successful. They don't aim them at adults and kids, they aim them at children and parents. And, of course, even if you aren't a parent, you're somebody's child.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) [imdb]
This film was a harmless summer kids flick. Not much to write home about, though. There were enough jokes for the adults to keep me from being completely bored, and the kids certainly had a good time. But 10 minutes out of the theatre and you won't remember much that happened.

Hulk (2003) [imdb]
I won't recommend against your seeing Hulk, but I can't really recommend that you go. Ang Lee is among my favorite directors, by he;s taken the fun out of a comic book film here. Once the Hulk shows up, this film really picks up. However, all the incessant talking before you get there really might get you so frustrated that you mutate into a giant monster and crash your way out of the theatre. Or, put you to sleep.

I can certainly understand wanting to add an element of emotion and depth to Banner's character, but (and I'm serious) the comic books did it better. There are events in banner's past that help to make him who he is as the Hulk (physical events combined with an emotional events). But those are events that no one could really identify with. On the way out of the theatre I was thinking of how the script could have done a better job -- what they could have put in Banner's past so I could better identify with the character. But now I realize that the real problem is that through all the talking, the scriptwriter and director were not working together to make the characters compelling.

Jennifer Connelly valiantly delivers her lines, she's gorgeous and she's supposed to be a character you like. And yet, if I had the chance in real life I would not really want to know this character. How is that possible? How does Ang Lee make Jennifer Connelly undesirable? Even in the horrific, compelling and difficult to watch Requiem for a Dream [imdb] as a drug-addicted young woman, there was still something there. The greatest damage that the Hulk does is to somehow drain the attraction out of Ms. Connelly.

I will give Lee one thing, though. His comic-bookish cinematography was very good. It got a little bit annoying by the end of this long film, but it accomplished the task of conveying a lot of visual information in a short span of time. Unfortunately, this makes the film seem even longer. But it is an accomplishment, nonetheless.

Oh, and the ending didn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me.

If you want to be challenged, rent Requiem instead. Just remember I said "challenged."

The Rugrats Go Wild (2003) [imdb]
If you're familiar with the Rugrats, then you already know what you're in for. This really isn't a "Wild Thornberries" film, though the characters are in it. We're working in the slightly less picky "Rugrats" universe. There are some touching moments, as when Nigel Thornberry is trying to distract the children from the fact that they are most likely going to die from suffocation as the air runs out in their submersible, but other than that it's Rugrats goofiness all the way. The kids loved it, and I survived, so there are no complaints here.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
This movie was worth the wait and the hype. I know I gave it a less than completely enthusiastic review the first time, but there is a lot to think about in here. The action is great, and if you watch the first movie and then see this one, it's fun to speculate about what will be revealed in the third. There are little hidden messages in here, like the number of times "101" appears. I highly recommend repeat viewings of this film if you're interested. The "rave dance" scene isn't as obnoxious the second time around, and you can close your eyes to avoid the nakedness of Keanu Reeves once you know when it happens.

Bad Boys (1995) [imdb]
This could be called a typical Michael Bay film, but I don't like all Michael Bay films. I really hated Armageddon. Luckily, this is quite a bit better than Armageddon. And that is thanks to the interplay between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The movie pivots on a misunderstanding that truly could have been resolved with a few, quick honest words. Because of this, the humor in the film becomes Three's Company meets Lethal Weapon. Despite that, this is your fun-loving action buddy movie, and worth seeing if you missed it. I have no idea whether the sequel will be worth anything. Since The Rock, I just haven't been impressed with Bay's work.


Looking forward to seeing T3, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Pirates of the Carribean. And I am interested in Bad Boys II.That's so many movies, however, that I may not get to them until they are on DVD. We just don't get the chance to see a lot of films anymore. We may be seeing T3 tomorrow night. If so, I'll give you the details on Wed.

Posted by James at July 21, 2003 7:52 PM
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Comments

Have you rewatched Gettysburg? I loved it in the theater when I first saw it (although my bladder didn't) but recently bought the tape used and rewatched it. It was actually quite bad. Jeff Daniels and a few others were great but Martin Sheen was dreadful as Lee and the obviously fake beards really bothered me. I would definately say read the books (the original Michael Shaara book is Killer Angels not Gettysburg. On the books Killer Angels is definately the best. Jeff Shaara is very formulaic and all of his books read very similarly (but are interesting for the history, just realize that it is in fact fiction based on real events not truely history).

For anyone interestd and has a few months to spend reading them I cannot recommend highly enough Shelby Foote's 3 part Civil War history. I have just read parts 1 and 2 for the second time and am about to start the 3rd (had to sneak Harry Potter in there!). Beware they are each around 1000 pages long.

Posted by: Bob at July 22, 2003 10:18 AM

We watch the film about once per year. I read "The Killer Angels" about 10 years ago and finished the last page in the back seat of my father-in-law's station wagon as we pulled into the battlefield at Gettysburg. Moments after reading the end of the book it was an extremely moving experience to step out onto Little Round top -- to stand where Chamberlain stood. To see the battlefield where so many lost their lives in that fateful charge etched the events into my brain indelibly. When you look at that field it is impossible to believe that so many men marched across the open space into the face of enemy artillery and gunfire.

There were many reenactors in the area that day because they were actually filming "Gettysburg" at the time! That's when I first heard about the movie and got excited. An amazing coincidence.

So my hopes were high.

We saw it in the theatre, and even then I thought Lee was far overplayed by Sheen.

We re-watch the film frequently, and fondly poke fun at its deficits, of which there are quite enough. But I find the story of Chamberlain (or, perhaps, the way it evokes my original experience of the book) vivid enough that I come back for more.

I've been meaning to read Foote's history. I wonder if Greg owns it. After my disappointment with Jeff Shaara's books, I'm looking for another Civil War read. Not that I have time, but it would be a nice break from tech manuals.

Posted by: JP at July 22, 2003 10:35 AM

I got the Tenenbaums soundtrack the day after seeing the movie... Mark M. did write all the original material but did not pick any of the other music. Just to clarify. :-)

Posted by: Julie at July 22, 2003 1:34 PM

Thanks for clarifying. I saw the soundtrack at BestBuy today, and saw that original music was credited to him. Cool!

Posted by: JP at July 22, 2003 3:38 PM

Gettysburg rocked.

Thanx for the linx.

Posted by: CDE at August 20, 2003 12:55 PM

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