Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Review – Elf

This was the best two thirds of a Christmas movie I’ve seen in quite awhile. I’m not the biggest fan Will Ferrell ever had, and the premise – human raised by Santa’s elves seeks reunion with his biological father – seems more than a little silly. So I came into this expecting to hate it. But it swiftly won me over. The script was good, filled with quite a stock of amusing moments. Ferrell was his usual self, but even that kinda worked within the context of the movie. However, in the third act the production massively loses direction. It seemed like it ran out of wit and tried to skate through the final half hour on many of the same Christmas movie clich├ęs that had been gently mocked up to that point. That’s really too bad, because if this show had just managed a stronger finish it would have been worth watching. Mildly amusing

Review – The Alamo

Two hours and they never once went down to the basement to check for Pee wee’s bike. Instead we get a western-mythologized production of the famous battle, a version unlikely to win any accuracy prizes or sell many tickets in Mexican theaters. But if that’s what you’re in the mood for, this is a solid example thereof. I was especially impressed by the battle scenes. They’re not the most realistic depictions of violence I’ve ever seen, but it’s hard not to admire the elaborate choreography and expensive effects. Acting, script and direction are all in keeping with what might expect from a production of this caliber. See if desperate

Monday, November 15, 2004

Review – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Normally a romance wouldn’t draw too much attention from me. But throw in some brain erasing and a certain indie charm, and I actually ended up liking this production. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett are having relationship trouble, so she decides to go to a strange new service that erases all memory of him from her mind. Understandably upset when he finds out, he follows suit. But midway through the procedure he changes his mind and begins a battle within his own memories to preserve her. Some of the effects used to create the disintegrating memories were sort of fun, pleasantly understated for the most part. I was a bit bemused by the Kirsten Dunst sub-plot while it unfolded, but in the end it turned out to have more of a point than it looked like it was going to have. And yeah, in spots it works the whole “quirky” thing a little too hard. But overall this is an enjoyable if moody little tale about the prevalence of love. Worth seeing

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Review – The Day After Tomorrow

Gosh darn that global warming! All of a sudden the whole face of the earth ends up covered by giant super-storms, sort of tornado-tsunami-hurricane-sudden-freezing all wrapped up into one. Some of the effects are kinda cool, making it fun to watch LA ravaged by tornados or New York buried under walls of water and then sheets of ice. The twin troubles here are that the massive destruction sequences are front-loaded, leaving little for the back half of the movie. And beyond the flashy graphics there just isn’t that much to this production. The premise is shaky, the script poor, motivations often murky at best, the performances mostly mailed in. So keep your finger on the fast forward, and buzz past any part where nothing’s being destroyed. See if desperate

Review – Deathwatch

Boy was I ever set up to love this movie. I guess they probably had me at the premise: something evil lurks in an abandoned trench during World War One, and a squad of British soldiers stumbles into it. That’s enough like the “Weird War” comics I thrived on as a child to get my attention here. One by one the soldiers are driven mad and/or killed by the dark force that never really takes physical form anywhere in the movie (though it does do some cool stuff with barbed wire in a couple of places). Thus we get the subtlety of a non-effects-intensive horror flick but still retain enough of the visceral to keep things interesting. It also shares an advantage with The Thing: an all-male cast limits the misogyny endemic to the genre. My only gripe – and it’s a comparatively minor one – is that the story seems to run out of tricks somewhere in the middle and then start to do variations on a theme to keep the movie going until the players are whittled away. Oh, and with trench mud all over everyone half the time, the actors were sometimes a little hard to tell apart. Otherwise this one was a keeper. Worth seeing

Review – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

I have to admit that the first time I saw this I didn’t exactly go into it with “oh boy, a movie about drag queens” on my mind. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when the picture turned out to be genuinely entertaining, charming in a not-too-cutesy sort of way. The casting was certainly an interesting bit of business, with one of the three lead queens a veteran of one of the Superman flicks and the other two destined to go on to make action movies of their own. But for now all do a great job with the sarcastic humor and occasionally-excessive sentiment. If nothing else, the ping pong ball sequence alone makes this worth seeing. And much of the rest of the movie keeps up the same quirky tone. Worth seeing

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Review – The Eyes of Tammy Faye

I honestly feel sorry for this woman. Watching Tammy Fay interact with a camera is like watching your alcoholic cousin – the one who just got out of rehab for the fifth or sixth time – at a family reunion, sitting in the corner and slowly nursing a beer. She’s been bit by stardom several times, and she just knows she ought to leave it alone. But she just can’t. I thought the early footage of the Jim and Tammy Show – especially the puppets – was fascinating stuff. But once the story gets to the scandal that toppled the Bakker empire, it’s mostly old news. However, it was nice that at least the production was reasonably sympathetic to this simplistic woman and her apparent need for attention. Mildly amusing