Sunday, June 30, 2002

Review – A Beautiful Mind

Actor Russell Crowe and director Ron Howard make a transparent run for the Academy Awards with this lengthy drama about schizophrenic genius John Nash. Hey, it paid off for Howard. Nash’s life makes for interesting cinema, starting with his days as a grad student at Princeton and following him through his career as a professor, his descent into madness, and his eventual rehabilitation (assisted of course by his beautiful wife, played by Jennifer Connolly in another successful Oscar bid). Though Crowe’s performance does a good job of demonstrating his range as an actor, somewhere around the middle of the movie it acquires the distinct flavor of Dustin Hoffman’s appearance in Rain Man (or other similar portrayals of the mentally differently abled). It’s a slick production. It’s a touching tale. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 28, 2002

Review – The Creature Walks Among Us

Jeez, what a bummer of a movie. The first half or so of this picture is a so-so follow-up to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. As in the original, this part features some impressive (well, impressive for black and white) underwater cinematography, not to mention a really fun monster. Some of the pacing is off, though that was true of the first one as well. But then around 40 minutes or so in, the whole movie falls apart in almost every imaginable way. The captured creature requires a tracheotomy, which somehow manages to activate his latent human traits (inside every monster must be an American trying to get out). The change transforms him into a lumpy, Frankenstein’s-monster-esque hulk, which the “scientists” take ashore and pen up in a corral full of goats. In the meantime, the fully-human characters have gotten caught up in a ridiculous soap opera surrounding a … oh, who cares? If the point here is that the long-suffering monster emerges as the best example of the flattery we treat ourselves to when we use the word “human,” then at least that’s a valid argument. But it swiftly gets swamped in dull melodrama. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Review – Blood Moon

When you’re looking at a straight-to-video horror movie starring Tim Curry, Grace Jones and Leslie Ann Warren, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to be some cheap, exploitative crap. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when – in addition to the cheap, exploitative crap – the flick also featured a plot, characters and – wonder of wonders – a point. Sure, the theme here is familiar: the denizens of a traveling freak show square off against the “normals” (Todd Browning, anyone?). But there’s more to it than that. The protagonist’s genes have left her fur-covered, and thus she headlines the show as the Wolf Girl. Tormented by some of the locals who come to see the show, she befriends a loner from town who just happens to have an experimental depilatory drug he’d like to test. Trouble is, the more our heroine looks like everyone else, the more savage she becomes. Stir that in with the show’s exploration of sexual deviance and the plot’s eventual uncovering of the normals’ secret freakishness, and this tale’s a lot more thought-provoking than it appeared at first blush. I could have done without the animal research subplot (particularly the scene where the test rabbit gnaws itself to death), but the rest of it’s as entertaining as your average low-budget horror movie while at the same time going a lot farther toward keeping things interesting. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 21, 2002

Review – The Bourne Identity

Ever wonder what an espionage intrigue movie would be like if they didn’t use the same old formula to churn it out? Well, don’t expect to have that particular curiosity satisfied by this outing. This is standard fare from beginning to end, complete with everything from exotic European locales to expensive car chases right down to cliché dialogue like “we’ve got a black ops agent off the reservation.” Matt Damon is a little too aw-shucks goofy to play an assassin, even one who’s got amnesia and can’t remember who he is or what he’s done. But the production quality is good, the action sequences are entertaining (except for the extended car chase, which is as boring and predictable as most car chases), and the plot keeps moving. And that’s the real beauty of formula-based film-making: you know what you’re getting, and generally you get what you pay for. Mildly amusing