Saturday, August 28, 2004

Review – Dawn of the Mummy

This might have been a better movie if it had been made 20 years later. Well okay, it probably still would have been cheap horror exploitation garbage, but at least the folks who made it would have had more liberty to include the sex and gore they seem so desperately to want but were probably prohibited by 1981 mores from including in their production. The story starts off as a standard mummy tale, with fashion models added into the cadre of crass English-speakers disturbing the mummy’s tomb. But by the end this has disintegrated into a cheap rip of the zombie movies implied by the syntax of the title. See if desperate

Friday, August 27, 2004

Review – The Bourne Supremacy

They must have heard me griping last time that the plot was too much of a cookie-cutter spy yarn. Now the pendulum swings to the other extreme, and the second one barely has a plot at all. Needless to say, that’s even more fatal to an espionage thriller than the formulaic route. Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, dragged out of amnesiac retirement when the j-random forces of darkness kill his significant other and frame him for a hit on a couple of CIA agents. While this might seem like the set-up for an old-fashioned, linear revenge tale, instead it becomes a meandering game of cat-and-mouse in which Bourne and his former taskmasters swap the feline and rodent roles back and forth. A good revenge flick should leave audiences with the word “dude!” on their lips, but this one merely left me with a “huh? so that’s the end?” Oh, and this thing has a car chase that went on so long that the audience was actually laughing by the end of it. See if desperate

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Review – The Day of the Jackal

Ah, whatever happened to the days when they made international thrillers like this? The production isn’t especially slick by later standards; indeed, the extensive use of hand-held cameras give it an almost documentary feel in places. But the plot is tight and the story keeps moving. The most striking thing about the story is that – particularly by the end – it’s hard to know whom to cheer for: the assassin whose exploits we’ve been following for a couple of hours or the police official who’s trying to prevent him from killing Charles de Gaulle. Though this isn’t precisely a Cold War drama, it still has that intriguing 70’s era look and feel to it. Genre fans shouldn’t miss this one. Worth seeing

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Review – Death Bed

For years I’ve been slamming Full Moon in general and Stuart Gordon in particular for producing movies that are little more than flimsy excuses for tons of tit shots and cheap gore. So I expect I’ll sound like a complete hypocrite for griping that this movie didn’t have anywhere near enough stage guts or exploitative sex. But when the premise is that an old bed in a couple’s new loft is haunted by kinky bondage ghosts, one expects the producers’ usual bag of tricks. I concede the possibility that I somehow ended up with an edited-for-squeamish-video-stores version, and there were some oddly-cut sequences that supported that theory. But sex and sexism aside, this would have been a stinker no matter what elements were included or left out. The acting was bad as usual (including a supporting role by Joe Estevez, whom I assume is related somehow to Martin Sheen), the script was bad as usual, but the real killer was the pacing. The production had an almost soap-opera-esque ability to structure drama so that the plot advances as little as possible. That might work for shows that have to eke out five hours a week, but for a simple 80-minute movie it alternated between just plain annoying and so annoying that it actually became sort of funny. Wish I’d skipped it

Review – Cold Mountain

For a Civil War movie – not to mention yet another rehash of The Odyssey – this wasn’t half bad. Clearly this one cost a lot to produce, but the expense shows up on the screen in the form of quality acting, excellent cinematography, and a fairly good script. Sure it gets a little maudlin in parts, but that’s part of the point of any marketing blend of action for the guys and romance for the gals. Overall this is a fine piece of Hollywood entertainment that would have gotten a slightly higher rating if it had been a little easier on the animals. Mildly amusing

Review – Club Dread

It should say something that I went into this movie figuring that it would roughly approximate the stupidity of Broken Lizard’s earlier work on Super Troopers and came away feeling that they didn’t even live up to that relatively meager standard. Instead this plays like an extra dumb slasher movie. Some of the snide references to Jimmy Buffett are kinda cute, but the rest of it is a thoroughly un-entertaning hack-and-slash with just enough racism and pointless boob shots to keep it nice and offensive. See if desperate

Friday, August 20, 2004

Review – Exorcist: The Beginning

I read in an entertainment magazine somewhere that the studio brought in Renny Harlin to basically reshoot the whole movie after the first director (Paul Schrader) created something that wasn’t scary enough. And it shows. To an extent this is an interesting prequel to the original, making a conscious and reasonably skillful effort to tie forward to some of the action in Friedkin’s production – particularly the Iraq sequence at the beginning, which was always my favorite part of the movie. But grafted on to the archaeological horror I love so much were a ton of booga-booga shots, elaborate gore and other trademark Harlin sensationalism. This leads me to suspect that the first version of the movie would have been something I would have loved, while the eventual theatrical release was just another fright flick. This weakness shows up especially strongly in the scattering of plot points that go nowhere and seem to bear little relationship to the overall structure. And I don’t expect there’s even any point in getting into the gender politics of the series at this late stage in the game. So suffice it to say that this one lurks somewhere between the heights of numbers one and three and the depths of number two. Mildly amusing

Review – Alien vs. Predator

How the mighty art fallen. Both of the series merged here got off to solid starts, but by this point in history they’ve joined in a descent into the realm of goofy horror-action mix. I should have known going into it that any movie that couldn’t at least eke out an R rating was going to aim for cartoonish action rather than taking advantage of its sources’ horror roots. A team of scientists led by an aging millionaire heads off to Antarctica to check out a buried pyramid that turns out to be infested with Aliens and the Predators who show up to hunt them. If nothing else, this left me wondering why the Predators would set up a game preserve in Antarctica when the first two movies in their own series made it clear that the hunt-monsters prefer things extra hot. So now Predator takes on Jason in the finals, right? The DVD promises an alternate beginning not seen in theaters, but it doesn’t amount to much (and what there is of it is sort of poor quality video). Mildly amusing

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Review – e-Dreams

Just climb on board with a dotcom startup and let the cameras roll for the whole roller-coaster ride! This documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Kosmo.com, a company that promised to deliver books, videos, food and the like via bike messenger within an hour of an order being placed on the Internet. In its favor, this was at least a better idea than a lot of its contemporaries, web-based businesses that didn’t seem to be selling anything or have any way of making money aside from sucking down venture capital. But when the vapor-companies crashed heavy in 2000, they took a lot of businesses like Kosmo with them. One also gets the sense from watching the exuberance of the early days contrasted with the deep depression of the company’s last few months that the whole thing stopped being fun once the participants had to stop riding the initial success wave and actually sit down and try to work for a living. Though this is too much of a fish-in-a-barrel experience to count as ground-breaking film-making, it’s still an interesting picture. Mildly amusing

Review – Catwoman

The sexual politics of this plot – meek woman empowers herself by getting in touch with her inner strength helped by a hefty dose of cat magic – might have been really radical 30 years ago, but now it’s not exactly enough to sustain an hour and half worth of movie, not even an empty-headed action flick. The script and acting help, particularly Halle Berry in the title role. Unfortunately, the direction undoes the goodwill everyone else in the production works so hard to drum up. It’s like the director watched MTV for years without managing to learn anything useful from it. As a result, just about every time the show starts getting interesting it dissolves into a spattering of spastic jump cuts that more often than not get in the way of the stunt work, special effects, even the acting. Though it’s a given that there’s a bit of a difference between Bob Kane and Citizen Kane, this still could have been a better production than it turned out to be. Mildly amusing