Monday, March 14, 2005

Movies Weekend of 3/11-3/13/2005

In an attempt to bring the name of the blog into the nature of the blog, I will be posting very brief opinions about the movies I see as I see them. So, without further ado...

Friday 3/11/2005

Thirteen Ghosts (1960) William Castle directed this film in which a family inherits a haunted house. The common theme of ghosts needing the way they were wronged avenged is brought up in this fun film. I watched the film in "Illusion-O" with a makeshift "ghost viewer." Typical of Castle films, this movie is more entertaining if you play along with the gimmick. In this case, if you look through the red lens you can see the ghosts, if you look through the blue you can't. So get a pair of 3-D glasses, or red and blue gels, to jimmy your own ghost viewer. Make sure you don't look through both sides at the same time, you get no effect that way just irritated eyes.

Two and a half fun stars.

Saturday 3/12/2005

Be Cool (2005) F. Gary Gray spent more money, but lacks the style of Barry Sonnenfeld in this sequel to 1995s Get Shorty. This time Chili Palmer moves from the film industry to the music industry. The director of The Italian Job (2003) and A Man Apart (2003) makes many of the same mistakes he made in A Man Apart and fails to give this film the right style and pace. A lot has been said about the acting of John Travolta in this film, to the negative, but I think the majority of the flaws are directoral and scriptoral not performance based. The scenes don't pop. Think about Swingers or the preceding film Get Shorty. Both of these films felt slightly larger than life and the scenes popped like Dean Martin snapping. They were cool. Be Cool isn't cool, but that doesn't mean it was bad. Vince Vaughn and the Rock are very entertaining in this film, but it could have been better.

Two and a half stars to what should have been a three star film.

Hostage (2005) Florent Siri directs a very pretty adaptation of Robert Crais novel of the same name. While Siri captures the narrative arc, he fails to finish the character arc of the film. Bruce Willis has been doing a lot of films focusing on relationships between men and boys lately. From The Kid to The Sixth Sense Willis' films have focused on an adult male figure protecting a child male figure. Often this trope is combined with the "family in crisis" trope, like in Unbreakable, and that is the case here as well. I don't point this out to be critical of Willis, quite the opposite, but while Hostage sets up the man/boy relationship with the family in crisis scenario, it doesn't resolve them. We know, as an audience, these issues will be resolve, but they aren't in the film. In the end a well shot, well edited, well directed, well performed, film which shows that you can't run away from your past and that good police work starts with enforcing the little things.

Three stars that leave you wanting a little more from the characters.

I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) Micheal Powell directs this heartwarming romance set in the Hebrides. Wendy Hiller is delightful as the thoroughly modern woman who has planned out her life and how she will advance it, only to discover love and mother nature can get in the way. The cinematography is exceptional and includes a magnificent sequence featuring a natural whirlpool preventing a journey between islands.

Four wonderful stars.

Sunday 3/13/2005

Phantoms (1998) Joe Chappelle directs this adaptation of a Dean Koontz novel of the same name and teaches us two of the central lessons of film appreciation. First, tentacles are scary when you read about them (particularly in H.P. Lovecraft), but usually look kind of goofy when put on the screen. Second, Liev Schreiber is a much better actor than Ben Affleck (in this and Sum of All Fears). Once you get past those few things, and set aside any concept of being critical, this is a moderately fun film. The film only made about 5 million dollars domestic, this is a shame because it is much better than Tomb Raider, which has no relation other than being an exploitation film to Phantoms, is worse, and made 250 million.

Phantoms has no ghosts, but it does have an "ancient enemy" who seeks to merge with all living beings, simultaneously making everything immortal and solving the world's oil crisis.

Two stars to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

F/X (1986) Robert Mandel, director of the very good School Ties, directs this hit and miss semi-cult favorite story of murder,the mob,revenge, and special effects. Bryan Brown (whatever happened to Bryan Brown?) plays a special effects artist named Rollie Tyler who is hired to fake a mob hit for corrupt FBI agents in the Witness Protection Program. Things go very bad, and Rollie must rely on his special effects superpowers to get revenge on those corrupt bastiches. Nothing particularly exceptional about the craft behind the film, but Brown brings charisma and the special effects bring fun.

Two and a half stars worth staying up late when you want a little fun.
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