July 16, 2008

All About Movies

A quick look at some movies I bothered to watch.

The Eye (2008)

I don't know exactly why I watch American versions of Asian horror films that I liked the first time around. Maybe it's because I like to see the re-interpretation, and how the creepiness translates. I know that, in some cases, I have liked American versions better (notably, The Ring). So it's not a complete waste of time.

In the case of The Eye, I needn't have bothered. Critical review was lousy. I guess critics don't like a story about a woman who receives a corneal transplant and then can suddenly see... and hear and feel and be hurt by spirits. It was actually better than the Tomatometer promised (a lousy 22% - "rotten"). I recommend people just see the original, alone in a darkened room with the volume up high enough to hear all the creepy sounds.

The Eye 3 (2005)

Want to be confused? In China, where this film was made, it was called Gin gwai 10. No, the Chinese translation for "3" is not "10." And this is not the tenth film in a series of "The Eye" films. It's the third film. When they released it here, I was hoping they were going to keep the name similar, and call it "The Eye 10." But I guess they figure the American horror market isn't as smart as the Hong Kong audience.

If you liked "Gin gwai" (that's the first "The Eye") you will probably not like this film, which is a cross between "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Airplane!" but without Freddy Krueger or Leslie Neilsen.

Perhaps the Pang brothers, directors of the Eye series, thought Horror-comedy was the new thing, following on the success of Shawn of the Dead. But this film may be a candidate for Chuck's bad movie collection. How do you explain what is ostensibly a horror movie in which a person possessed by a haunted basketball suddenly finds himself in an on-the-spot street dance competition? On reflection, that does sound pretty damn funny, doesn't it? It is; it's the comedy high point of the film. The problem is that I thought this was supposed to be a horror movie!

I appreciate creativity, but this film is third in a series. A horror series. What if they had made Godfather III a zombie flick? On second thought, that would have been awesome.

The Signal (2007)

Speaking of creativity, The Signal is quite a creative horror film. They broke it into three sections (or "transmissions") directed by three different fellows. Despite that, it holds together well. The plot asks the question "what would happen if everyone who watched TV went batshit crazy and voted in a completely incompetent president for 8 years." Uh. Wait -- that was real life. The film is actually about what would happen if the whole country went batshit crazy and everyone started attacking each other. Wait! That was real life again, but in Iraq.

This film is about what would happen if a mysterious TV signal made everyone crazy enough that they started believing they had good reason to attack the people around them. It's like violent imagination in overdrive; where people actually believe the excuses they come up with. But without sending Colin Powell to talk to the United Nations in a type of propaganda campaign for the cameras back home.

Okay, I'm sorry folks. This particular review seems to have gone off the rails. Short version: I liked this film, but didn't love it. If you like gory zombie films, but would like to see a completely different take, The Signal is a refreshing, creative detour. NEXT!

Hancock (2008)

In this movie, Will Smith is Hancock, a super-powered reject from society. Despite some bad reviews, I decided to see this film because everyone I knew who saw it told me it was better than the reviews said. And they were right; it is better than the bad reviews implied. It was very enjoyable.

Reviewers point out that the film takes a detour about halfway through and never recovers what makes the first half of the film wonderful. So what? Half a wonderful film is better than none, which is what I get with most movies these days! Bad reviewers!

Without spoilers: Jason Bateman is great as the PR guy who wants to clean up Hancock's super-powered image. Will Smith is convincing as the superhero who has lost his way. And the movie is fun for those reasons alone.

BUT - once that movie is over, you get a bonus film that isn't so great, but has a lot of the same characters in it. It has over-the-top effects, unlike the first (part of the) film. It has a different main character, and they don't tell you the movie has changed. The only purpose of the second movie is to clear up the mysteries that were behind the first movie. These are mysteries you probably didn't care much about, because you were having fun seeing Will Smith awkwardly save people with cool special effects, and Jason Bateman trying to re-awaken Hancock's sense of self respect with a charming naivete. I still think you'll enjoy it, if the original premise of Hancock sounded good to you at all.

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Posted by James at July 16, 2008 10:12 AM
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I can think of a few movies that started out interesting and then morphed into something dull halfway through. (I don't have much patience for certain kinds of action movies, which often follow this pattern. Cool origin story suddenly becomes a montage of punching and explosions.)

I don't know if there are movies that are dull for the first hour and then become awesome. I still sometimes wonder if "Bank Shot" got better some time after we quit watching it. But somehow I doubt it.

Posted by: Julie at July 16, 2008 12:19 PM

You've probably identified why this movie went astray. There were likely strong forces to make it into a film just like a thousand other action movies that follow the pattern you describe.

Posted by: James at July 16, 2008 12:29 PM

My father used to tell me, when writing, "show, don't tell." The second half of Hancock was "tell," with far too much action thrown in because I think they realized people want to be shown. If they had shown something different, not to supplement the telling but rather to do the telling, then the second (half of the) movie would have been much better. It still would've been a different movie, but it could've been two good movies instead of a good movie and a so-so movie.

Posted by: Maggie at July 16, 2008 6:10 PM

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