Saturday, May 31, 2003

Review – The Cruel Sea

In the mood for a two-fisted tale of men and ships during the Battle of the Atlantic? Then boy are you in the right place. The movie remains true to the Nicholas Monsarrat novel, which I finished reading just a week or so before I saw the film version. Thus I liked the latter if for no other reason than having the chance to actually see some of the ships described in the former. Though history buffs may get more out of this than fans of things like character and plot, if you come in looking for an almost documentary feel and adopt a tolerance for the manly-man baggage attached to the core drama, you shouldn’t walk away disappointed. Mildly amusing

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Review – The Demon Within

It’s hard to say exactly where the blame for this one lies. Perhaps the production was doomed from the start by a decision early in the process to squash a serial killer, a demon, and around a dozen other horror movie clich├ęs into the same movie. Then they made the decision to emphasize sex in some of the most spectacularly un-sexy ways imaginable. Then they hired Jeff Fahey, who’s clearly seen better days, to play the demon-possessed, schizophrenic ex-priest, ex-actor serial killer. And so it went from there. If nothing else, they might at least have re-thought the decision to make the whole show pointless and boring. Wish I’d skipped it

Friday, May 23, 2003

Review – Darkwolf

I suppose that if the box said “Dullwolf” they’d have trouble renting it even to suckers like me. I like a good werewolf story, but this is so far from good that even I can’t find much charity in my heart for it. The plot is some stupid mish-mash about a hyper-werewolf – a thing that spends half its time as a blow-fish biker and the other half as a big rubber dog – who needs to mate with … oh, never mind. The plot’s not important. All you need to know is that if you like characters and themes more appropriate to a vampire role-playing game, this one may be for you. Or if you like computer animation effects that wouldn’t pass muster in a Playstation update of Altered Beast, this one may be for you. Or even if you’re just too young to rent real pornography, this one may be for you. Otherwise probably not. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Review – Django Unchained

This might have been a much better movie with a different director at the helm. As ultra-violent action movies go, I’ve seen a lot worse. This even manages – or at least attempts – to make some points about racism here and there. The trouble is that Quentin Tarantino gets so caught up trying to make a loving tribute to 70s era exploitation movies that he sometimes seems to forget to tell a story in the process. Mildly amusing

Review – Dragonfly

Sit back, relax, and get ready for some serious dead spouse action. Kevin Costner plays a doctor whose beautiful, brilliant, do-gooding wife is killed in a mudslide while doing good in South America. Soon after her death he begins to get indications that she’s trying to contact him from The Other Side. Or is it just his grief-stricken mind playing tricks on him? The answer’s nowhere near as interesting as it might have been. For all the money they spent on actors and production values, seems like the film-makers might have spared a buck or two on a script with more compelling characters and interesting (or at least plausible) plot twists. Mildly amusing

Review – Belphegor: The Phantom of the Louvre

Though this isn’t a terrible movie, the quality doesn’t quite justify the effort required to read subtitles. Instead it comes across as a strange middle ground between French comedy and SyFy horror. Though normally I don’t like to criticize movies by claiming I could have done better, in this case I genuinely believe that if I’d gotten permission to shoot in the Louvre after hours that I would have conjured something better than this. Mildly amusing

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Review – Enigma

Caveat at the outset: if you’re not as instantly enthralled by codebreaking or World War Two sub stuff as I am, there’s a good chance you won’t get as big a kick as I got out of this movie. To be sure, a lot of screen time is taken up by a not-entirely-necessary soap opera romance somewhat interconnected with Bletchley Park’s efforts to crack the “Shark” Enigma code system and a mole’s attempts to inform the Germans about such efforts. Thus it practically goes without saying that this isn’t the sort of movie you can just turn on and watch out of the corner of your eye while you’re doing something else. Further, you get something pretty close to what you’d expect when Michael Apted directs and Tom Stoppard writes. Such relatively minor drawbacks aside, this is a fine piece of polished film-making. Worth seeing

Review – Catch Me If You Can

The whole time I was watching this movie I couldn’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been a better production in the hands of a talented indie rather than being helmed by the ever-grandiose Steven Spielberg. Of course Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hanks didn’t help matters much; the former ran out of the boyish charm required for his role several years back, and the latter keeps trying a Boston accent that sounds more like the unwelcome resurgence of Forrest Gump. The story itself is entertaining in a when’s-the-con-man-protagonist-finally-going-to-get-caught sort of way, but the plot twists only sustain the production for roughly half its total running time. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Review – Auto Focus

Here’s the sad life and strange death of Bob Crane turned into Hollywood entertainment. Overall this comes across as a cautionary tale about the perils of an unhealthy obsession with sex, though one suspects that most “sex addicts” don’t end up murdered by their bisexual partners in crime. Greg Kinnear does a solid job as Crane, and Willem Dafoe actually does too good a job as video technician John Carpenter, the most likely suspect in Crane’s murder (though he was never convicted). If nothing else, this movie deserves the Caligula prize for taking an unflinching look at an unseemly subject. Well okay, there was one flinch where a blow job shot was blurred out. But otherwise this is an instant classic of the too-much-of-a-good-thing genre. Mildly amusing

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Review – Caligula

What an interesting society we live in, where it takes an exploitation-meister like Bob Guccione to make an unflinching movie version of the brief, tyrannical reign of Rome’s most infamous emperor. Of course, if you’re watching the R-rated version, the movie’s a good deal less unflinching than the story really calls for. For some strange reason when the hard-core sex got cut out a lot of the violence (pretty tame stuff by later standards) and even some of the harmless plot points got tossed as well. But then on the other hand if you’re watching the unrated version then you get to see a bunch of extra sex that was cut in to help the movie play in the porn market after it failed to make it into major mainstream distribution. Somewhere between the two is probably the movie that should have been made, though you’ll have to use your remote with one cut or your imagination with the other in order to see it that way. In either event, you’re in for the uncomfortable experience of watching a talented cast struggle with awful dialogue and a version of history that’s been cranked around to dwell on the kinky elements (particularly Caligula’s not-exactly-brotherly love for his sister Druscilla). See if desperate

Friday, May 2, 2003

Review – Darkness Falls

As ghost stories go, this one’s not too bad. Of course, I’m not the world’s biggest ghost story fan, so take it for what it’s worth. The premise is a little thin: a disfigured woman murdered by townspeople a century earlier is still exacting her ghostly revenge upon the town’s children by assuming the role of an evil killer Tooth Fairy. The ghost herself is sort of cool, and the trick of defeating her by staying out of the darkness makes for some engaging plot twists (despite the fact that the plot device itself is more than a little “borrowed”). So by all means come for the spooky stuff, but don’t feel like you have to stay put during the story or character development scenes. They never amount to much. The deleted scenes on the DVD are a bit odd in that big chunks of them appear to have ended up in the movie itself. The disc also features a fakeumentary about the “real” legend that supposedly inspired the movie. Mildly amusing