Sunday, October 26, 2003

Review – The Eye

This is one of those movies that makes me wish I knew a little more about the folk traditions in the land from whence it came – in this case China – because they seem to play at least some role in the visuals. And truly the visual horror elements are the strongest part of this otherwise run-of-the-mill offering from Hong Kong. The plot’s standard stuff about a transplant recipient who ends up with the power to see ghosts after getting eyes from a psychic woman who died a violent death. The art direction has a lot in common with the better-known Japanese offering, Ringu. But at least some of the ghostly doings are more than a little on the creepy side, including at least one booga-booga shot that really works. Mildly amusing

Review – Amen.

After Mad City I just about gave up on Costa-Gavras, but I’m glad I decided to give him another try. This tale of the Catholic church’s complicity in the Holocaust is a lot closer to the director’s traditional stomping grounds. The plot follows two idealistic young men – an SS officer with a crisis of conscience and a priest in whom he confides – as they learn some hard lessons about international diplomacy and the Pope’s unwillingness to speak out against the mass slaughter of Jewish people. The story remains intriguing throughout, depressing and unflinching enough to do justice to its subject matter. Worth seeing

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Review – Dreamchild

Mix the innocent childhood magic of Alice in Wonderland with the considerably less-than-innocent real life of the Reverend Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll). Throw in some creepy Muppets and this is what you get. The main plot follows a journey to America undertaken by the little girl who inspired the Alice tales now grown to doddering old age. A handful of other silly subplots intrude, but the really compelling stuff here are the flashbacks done as a combination of Alice’s traumatic childhood memories and scenes from Carrol’s work. Unfortunately in the end the movie does away with its own apparent point. Hooray for happy endings and all, but it’s rough to see even true love prevail when that love takes the form of the bond between a ten-year-old girl and a dirty old man. Mildly amusing

Monday, October 20, 2003

Review – The Core

I’ll let you all invent your own “rotten to the” jokes for this one. I guess I should be grateful that at least this time the trauma threatening to destroy the entire earth isn’t a meteor. But somehow the notion that the planet is doomed because the fluids in the core stopped spinning because of some stupid government plot actually makes the meteor thing seem downright plausible. Certainly by the time you’ve crammed a group of mavericks and misfits into a giant vibrator that can somehow resist the heat and pressure of the mantle (let alone the core itself) … well, let’s just say that it’s hard to maintain much interest in the virtually endless parade of implausible plot twists and sophomoric character development. See if desperate

Review – Corpses Are Forever

I wonder if they’re going to try to make it all the way through the panoply of Bond titles. Though I’m sure I would have loved to have seen “Corpsefinger,” “The Man with the Golden Corpse” or “Octocorpsey,” my guess is that we’ve seen the last of whatever series this might have turned into. If nothing else, this one wins the Mark Borchardt prize for the actor/writer/director who turns out to be equally inept at all his various jobs. Though the choices were legion, I think my favorite part was when – in a post-apocalyptic world supposedly inhabited almost exclusively by zombies – cars kept driving past the backdrop. I suppose they might have been going for so-stupid-it’s-funny, but they only managed the first half. The final icing was the sad, withered husk of what was once Linnea Quigley still valiantly trying to act. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Review – The Cucumber Incident

Here’s a bargain basement video documentary about a rather outré subject: three women who took a dislike to a guy. Of course by “guy” I mean “spouse of one of the women.” Oh, and throw in “convicted child molester supposedly rehabbed yet apparently still French kissing the girl he previously molested.” But wait, it gets better. By “took a dislike” I actually mean “tied him up, shaved him above and below, rubbed Icy Hot on his man area, and then sodomized him with a cucumber.” The working class dramatis personae alone make this a worthwhile investment of an hour or so. And that’s fortunate, because the production values aren’t too whippy, especially the dreadful and frequently intrusive soundtrack music. Mildly amusing

Monday, October 13, 2003

Review – Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey

Though clearly intended to be more of the same from the successful original, this first (and no doubt only, considering Keanu Reeves’ lack of incentive to do another) sequel somehow lacks the charm of the “Excellent Adventure.” Maybe it’s that what works for history doesn’t work for theology. Maybe it’s that the humor here is even more juvenile than before (if such a thing can be imagined). Maybe it’s just that the joke’s worn a little thin. In any event, the picture features a few sincerely funny moments (most of which center around the Grim Reaper). But overall if you’ve seen the original you’ve clearly seen the best of the two. Mildly amusing

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Review – Down with Love

Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellwegger have both been in more charmless movies, but that’s at least in part because he did Star Wars Episode 2 and she did Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. This movie has a number of things going for it. The cast is solid, or at the very least capable of keeping up with the sitcom plot. The art direction is likewise good, creating a 1962 that never existed outside home décor catalogs. The dialogue isn’t even all that bad; indeed, it manages to be charming in a silly sort of way. The problem turns up when the film-makers try to graft 21st century sensibilities onto a 60s-era battle of the sexes. By the second or third false ending it should be apparent to all just how hard they’re working to get the two incompatible outlooks to mesh somehow. Moral of the story: screwball comedies don’t need to be morally uplifting. In fact, they may actually be better when they aren’t. Mildly amusing

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Review – Dreamcatcher

If you liked the novel, you’ll probably like the movie (aside from the fact that the ending’s a bit different). Funny, though, how dialogue that doesn’t distract in the book sounds really false when actors actually have to deliver it. Some of the plot devices that worked well in print failed to make the jump to the silver screen. That notwithstanding, this isn’t the worst alien attack movie I’ve ever seen (hey, there’s always Signs). Of course that’s at least in part because it “borrows” copiously from several more successful predecessors. Overall the acting and production values are at two-star level, so that’s the rating I’ll end up giving it. However, the picture came dangerously close to a lower rating because of genuinely excessive animal suffering (particularly the prolonged torment of a dog toward the end). Mildly amusing