Friday, July 15, 2005

Review – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I won’t bother comparing this to the original. Standing on its own, this is an exceptionally uneven production. The story works, but many of its elements do not. For example, the children’s characters (except Charlie, of course) were underdeveloped, while far too much time was spent on Willie Wonka. The premise of the tale is that Wonka is a magical creature, sort of an Eyrine for bad little kids and their even-worse parents. Such a figure doesn’t require an extended back story. The flashbacks to Wonka’s youth destroy the mystery that helps make him interesting, not to mention disrupting the flow of the picture. And Burton or Depp or whoever made the decision to play Wonka as Michael Jackson made a bad call, because it served only to make the character creepy – even somewhat disgusting – and drove a wedge between him and the audience who should probably sympathize with him at least a little. On the other hand, the movie had a lot of entertaining highlights as well. I was especially fond of Veruca falling victim to angry squirrels. As a concluding aside, I should note that somehow or another I let myself get talked into going to see this on opening night at the cramped, stuffy, and otherwise generally uncomfortable Southwind theaters in Lawrence, possibly the most unpleasant place and the worst possible time to see this or any other movie. I don’t think the awful surroundings hampered my appreciation of the movie, but viewing conditions didn’t exactly help either. Mildly amusing

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Review – Dark Star

Here we have John Carpenter’s directorial debut, an odd low-budget effort from the late hippie days of 1974. I’ve been told by a couple of Navy vets that being shut up for a long time in the company of men actually is more than a little like this. That largely serves to make me grateful that I never had the experience myself. The atmosphere is good stuff, sort of a bridge between the clean technology of 2001 (which this picture at least in part parodies) and the grubby realms of future sci fi efforts crafted by Dan O’Bannon and Ron Cobb. The story, on the other hand, is uneven. Some of it is clever in a quirky sort of way. But most of it is more silly than anything else, such as the sequence in which O’Bannon spends 15 minutes battling a beach ball with feet. Overall this stirs up some nostalgia for sci fi con screenings back in the early 80s, but beyond that this is probably fairly missable. Mildly amusing

Review – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

I thought going into this that Spencer Tracy was an odd choice for the bifurcated antihero of this classic tale. But to his credit he does a solid job, only occasionally dipping into the ham on the Hyde side. Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman do their parts to back him up as the good doctor’s intended and the brute’s lady-of-the-night victim respectively. But my favorite element of this production is the years-before-its-time portrayal of the psycho-sexual aspects of the warring personalities. Of particular note are the hallucination sequences that accompany Jekyll’s early transformations. Tracy frantically whipping two chariot-pulling horses that turn into bare (from shoulders up at least) Turner and Bergman … wow. Mildly amusing