Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Reader’s Choice’ Category

Four Rooms is … an interesting experience.

Four Rooms is not for everyone.    Made up of four segments directed by four different directors, there’s no major story other than following a bellboy, Ted, as he works his first night at a rundown hotel.   Each segment has a different flavor, a different style but it also makes an uneven viewing experience.

The Missing Ingredient is the first and the weakest of the segments.   A coven of witches camps in the honeymoon suite and they are desperate to resurrect their goddess.   One of them has forgotten a much-needed ingredient that she can get from Ted.   You’d think a piece about a coven of witches would be interesting but The Missing Ingredient can’t even be awful, just boring.   It has a bit of inspired stunt casting in Madonna, but she’s not any good here either.

The Wrong Man centers on a man and a woman in one of the rooms who may be either playing at some sort of sexual role-playing game or…not, and Ted’s not really sure which is which and what is what.   All he can tell is that the man’s got a gun and is pointing it at him.   Most of this one relies on Tim Roth and Jennifer Beals using some precision timing and while it has a few laughs, the short wears out its welcome quickly.

Robert Rodriguez’s The Misbehavers is easily the best of all of them.   A husband and wife pay Ted $500 to watch their children while they’re gone for the night.  The kids turn out to be pint-sized, foul-mouthed tyrants who give Ted no end of grief.   By the time their parents return, they have managed to set the room on fire, discover a dead hooker in the bed, stab Ted with a syringe, smoke, drink and generally destroy all manner of property and drive Ted nearly to the brink of insanity.   It’s as though Rodriguez melded his Spy Kids sensibilities with the same sick humor in Planet Terror … just before all that.

The Man From Hollywood is directed by Tarantino and it’s got an awful lot of Tarantino trademarks in it.   What sinks The Man From Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino casting himself.   His character is Jimmie Dimmick from Pulp Fiction dialed up to eleven.   Tarantino’s fine in small doses (a la Desperado) but here it’s insufferable, obnoxious and asks way too much of the viewer to be patient as Tarantino manically bumbles along.   The Man From Hollywood is about a bet that really doesn’t end well and it feels longer than it actually is.

So what’s the guilty pleasure in Four Rooms?  Tim Roth, hands down.   Roth combines silly, well-timed comedy with slapstick and comes out with a neurotic bellboy who’s over the top but still believable.  This is a guy poorly equipped to handle the night at this hotel and reacts badly to most of the insane situations in which he ends up.

Roth is the connection between the four pieces, and even when Four Rooms is bad you hope you can still keep watching for Tim Roth and what he might do next.   I suspect The Missing Ingredient was placed first solely because it’s just not that good, and Roth’s performance is the one good thing about it.   Four Rooms would have been atrocious without him, primarily because it runs as a movie without any real sense of direction.  In fact, Four Rooms feels like four people got together on a lark to have some fun, not present stories and characters they had any investment in, so Roth has to bear a heavy weight in making things work.   He does, as best he can, and he’s the best part of it all.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Real Genius begins with Mitch Taylor, a high school whiz kid interested in lasers, being recruited to the prestigious Pacific Tech by a Professor Holloway.  Holloway is secretly interested in using Taylor to develop a laser that the CIA can use to incinerate people from space.   Weak, right?   (This was the stuff of Reagan’s nightmares, right?)   Taylor’s thrilled just to be at Pacific Tech, but he hits the books hard much to the displeasure of his roommate Chris (played by Val Kilmer).    Chris plays Obi-Wan to Mitch’s Luke, teaching him that life isn’t all about solving problems, while Holloway puts the heat on the two to finish the laser.

When they finally figure out what Holloway has planned for their little experiment, the two recruit other students to help them sink the laser before it can do any real damage.

William Atherton plays the slimy professor keeping the students in the dark.   He also played Richard Peck, the jackass EPA agent in Ghostbusters and the jerk reporter willing to sell out anyone for a scoop in Die Hard.   Thus, Atherton seems to have a propensity for playing assholes we love to hate.  (I bet he gets stopped a lot with comments from people:  “You’re the asshole from Ghostbusters!”   “You’re the asshole from Die Hard!”  I wonder if people ever bring this one up.)  He doesn’t disappoint with Real Genius, as he plays the smarmy professor playing all the angles just right.

Kilmer’s funny enough as Chris Knight, and while the movie isn’t great, it has a sort of “real life meets a touch of wishful thinking” kind of sweetness ordinarily found in John Hughes movies.   … Or I could’ve just been mistaken by looking at all the ’80’s-tastic fashion.  Some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but Real Genius makes the whole experience fun.    The ending in particular is worth the price of admission.   Unrealistic?   Slightly zany?   It’s hilarious and the kind of thing that can only happen in the movies – and I mean that in the very best way.

Read Full Post »

Based on a true story, y’all.

Star runner Derrice Bannock is a hero in Jamaica, but his hopes of running in the Olympics are dashed when he and a fellow runner who goes by the name of Yul Brenner no less are tripped by another competitor named Junior on accident.    Derrice refuses to give up his Olympic dream.   He recalls that a bobsled coach attempted to court his father, who was also a Jamaican runner, into starting the first Jamaican bobsled team.  With help from his friend Sanka, Yul and Junior join up and they manage to go all the way to the Olympics.  But can four guys from Jamaica actually compete in winter sports?

Oh, the drama!  The suspense!   The tension!

Not really.   This is a feel-good Disney flick, so it’s chock full of cliches and great life lessons:  never give up, always finish, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote the real Yul Brynner).    Somehow the film avoids preaching, which is great and the cast makes it actually a real joy to watch, cliches and all.

Cool Runnings is frivolous fun, one of those movies I watched when I was a kid to pass the time that as an adult I find amusing without being tiring.  It’s a sweet film mainly carried through the interactions of the four bobsledders and I imagine partly on my childhood nostalgia to be frank.

What I did not expect was to turn off the movie and feel an odd wistfulness for John Candy, who died quite a while ago and who I realize I miss greatly in films.   Candy was a big part of my childhood in the sense that I watched more than a few of his movies, but his salty, cranky sled coach in this movie is a gem.   It’s sad that Candy’s no longer around; he was skillfully funny, I now realize, in a way a lot of comedic actors never are.   He could also cut it as a “real actor”.

The movie’s a fun piece of feel-good cinema, if you’re into that sort of thing and if you’re not, then you won’t like it in the slightest, I don’t think.

Read Full Post »

Let’s leave the bitching about the deviation from source material aside, shall we?

That sounds odd coming from me given my untempered rage at X-Men Origins: Wolverine and my deep longing for Deadpool to be as close to the comics as possible, but let’s face it:   Hellblazer (the comic series that Constantine was based on) was going to be changed, like it or not,  given the religious subject matter and John Constantine’s actual behavior in the comics.

Constantine begins with the suicide of Isabel, a troubled young woman who believes she can see angels and demons.   Her twin sister Angela is a detective who is convinced her devoutly Catholic sister could never contemplate an act that would sentence Isabel to a lifetime in hell.   Angela tracks down a reluctant John Constantine, a bitter exorcist who loathes the hand that life dealt him.   It’s only when Constantine gets an inkling of what’s really at stake that he jumps into action.

I don’t find Constantine to be guilty at all; I really enjoy it, for what it’s worth.   (I went to see it in the theater by myself, which is a rare happening given that I hate seeing movies by myself.)   My annoying and not at all charming bias for Keanu Reeves may be showing, but he didn’t do a half-bad job at playing a world-weary, cancer-stricken jerk with a capacity for redemption.    Rachel Weisz does a fairly good job given the fact save for a scene where she comes back from a short jaunt to hell, but who’s counting?    And Shia LaBeouf pops up as an annoying assistant to Constantine, pre-Transformers.   Shit, Gavin Rossdale – Mr. Stefani and frontman of Bush, who I was fond of in my junior high days – makes an appearance as a villain.   Who would have thought, huh?

Constantine does ascribe a very Catholic view of things to its universe.   The special effects aren’t wonderful, but they’re not terrible either; the story’s fairly bland at times but hey, you get Peter Stormare as the Devil!  (It’s worth it to watch just for Stormare’s appearance.  No lie.)

If we’re chalking it up to guilty pleasures, I’d say that Keanu Reeves’ performance is enjoyable in an unironic way, which makes it difficult for some people to admit.    I’d say that it’s fun while being ridiculous; that Tilda Swinton is made of awesome and was perfect casting as an androgynous angel is a good pleasure point, if you will.   The twisty-looking plot isn’t all that twisty; if you sat through a couple of Catholic masses and a few episodes of Murder, She Wrote you’ll see the ending coming but the cast makes it fun while you’re waiting for the climax.

All in all, a nice escapist movie for a rainy weekend, I think.

Read Full Post »

Gerard Butler’s choice to play the Phantom like Gerard Butler was going out on a Friday night for some stalkage may have been … unwise.

Christine Daae is the orphaned daughter of  a Swedish violinist.   Before he died, he promised her he would send an ‘angel of music’ to watch over her.   Christine is taken in by Madame Giry and her daughter at the famous Opera house in France, where no one actually has a French accent except for Madame Giry.    Christine loves to sing but has been too grief stricken to sing properly; until, that is, she hears a voice behind a mirror helping her.

Now begins the parade of idiocy that runs through this movie.  Most of the general populace, however brain damaged, stupid or downright idiotic would hear a voice behind a mirror and do two things:  1) run or 2) grab something sharp and pointy.   No, Christine believes her angel of music has finally arrived.

Madame Giry knows the truth, since she’s totally BFF with the infamous Phantom of the Opera, who’s really a sideshow freak that she let live in the sewer bottom of the Opera.    Sadly, it does not have a charming view but Gerard Butler’s Phantom seems well stocked on candles.   He seems to have nigh on two million; perhaps he is a candle collector?

The Phantom schemes to get Christine in and Carlotta, the diva who can’t really sing, out of the Opera’s shows.    The whole time he’s trying to seduce Christine, taking her on fun boat rides to his Sewer Palace and wooing her with his dark and mysterious pipe organ.   Uh … yeah.

The problem here is that while Gerard Butler may look hungover, in need of a shave and a shower and possibly not all there sometimes, he is not bad looking.   In fact, I’d wager that it’s hard to ugly up Gerard Butler (although The Ugly Truth did a good job of making him seem vile) and sticking a bit of molded plastic on his face doesn’t make him look like a monster who has to chat up a girl by kidnapping her to his Sewer Palace with his candle collection; it makes him look like a guy with a serious brain malfunction.   Oh yeah, and a creepy, perverted one at that.

Competing for Christine’s affections is Raoul, the Vicomte with a heart of gold and nothing upstairs.    If one were to crack open Raoul’s cranial cavity, it would probably contain bits of cardboard and dryer fluff, with  a few starving moths flying around.    He’s obnoxiously bent on Christine-directed chivalry.

Needless to say the Phantom doesn’t like this.   And he doesn’t like that the new Opera owners won’t pay him his extortion money.   … And he really doesn’t like that Carlotta lady.   Yeah, so some people die.

The main problem with Phantom is the cast.  Emmy Rossum is convincingly dim, but her eyes are so … dead.    Not to be mean, but everything I’ve seen her in she’s got the same look that salmon has at the fish counter.   And Gerard Butler can eke out the Phantom’s songs, he looks like he shops at L’Abercrombie & Fitch in his spare time.    He’s not menacing or scary or even remotely creepy; he’s just Gerard Butler, running around an opera and doing his best sexy-eyes at Christine.   The guy that plays Raoul is no better, and Minnie Driver as the divalicious Carlotta is just exhausting.

The real guilty pleasure in all this is the amount of detail lavished on the sets and costumes.   The Opera is stunning, the costumes magnificent and everything seems to be locked down to the minutiae.   Lloyd-Webber’s music is cool, if you view it through the lens of when it was popular on Broadway (the ’80’s) and very bombastic.

Overall, it’s not … good but it is a guilty pleasure, if only to laugh at the idiocy of the main characters and gaze upon some awesome sets and costumes.   … And to see Gerard Butler attempt to act as a conflicted, disfigured person with lots of emo rage.

I suggest you all run off and read Cleolinda’s Movies In Fifteen Minutes Recap of Phantom of the Opera, which is far more hilarious and much more in depth than I could write — you can find it HERE.

 

Read Full Post »

Nick Cannon, please don’t take yourself so seriously.

drumline2

Drumline isn’t actually half bad.   And speaking as a former band nerd, the marching bands are pretty spot on.

Nick Cannon plays Devon, a drummer who goes to an Atlanta college and joins the marching band.   He’s the worst kind of cocky as he’s so arrogant he can barely take criticism.   Devon chafes under the rules of a squad leader and the director of the band, Dr. Lee.    A moral crisis as well as a revelation regarding Devon’s musical knowledge (spoiler:  he can’t read music) lead Devon to grow up and become a better musician.

The thing about Drumline is that the marching bands are as much a character as Devon.   I grew up in football crazy Texas, where marching band is part and parcel of the Texan obsession with all things pigskin related.  (Halftime entertainment is taken very seriously.)   Drumline does convey a lot of the work and sheer grind of being in a marching band, as well as the strange customs and habits a lot of bands have.    Devon’s storyline can be downright exhausting, not to mention irritating.   His attitude problems wear thin after a while.

The bit players are often the most entertaining.    And Drumline features some interesting marching shows even if the plot, especially when it comes to the love story, is worn so thin holes are beginning to show.     It is still surprising that they made a successful movie out of marching band, given that I understand a lot of folks don’t really get the appeal of marching bands, but the director, writer and producers pulled it through.    The bands are fun and the band members aren’t geeks, something too often trotted through any movie since it’s such a simplistic, well-traveled joke.

That’s not to say Drumline doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, which makes it at points really laughable.  The story line between Nick Cannon’s character and his squad leader is alpha male macho bullshit in such a hilarious way, you have to wonder if they played it up for laughs.   It’s clear that Nick Cannon is ultra-serious about his role as Devon to the point of taking it too far at times, which makes his part feel less conflicted, overcompensating young man and more egotistical jerk, like that one person everyone knows who’s so into themselves everyone around them is aware of how silly they really are.

Overall, Drumline‘s not a bad movie but not a great one either; I would suspect it’s the kind of movie that’s fun to watch with friends and giggle at when you need something light-hearted and refreshing (after this spate of horror flicks, I certainly needed that).    Good, clean fun, as the grown-ups would say.

Read Full Post »

Uh… it’s like candy coated vampire lore?

Dracula

Visually speaking, Dracula is a feast.   It’s beautifully lit and bathed in an aura of Victorian sensibilities drenched in crimson and black.    It has some stunning old-school sequences like in the beginning, where a beautiful opening montage explains how Dracula came to be a vampire.   The costumes are gorgeous; the sets are immaculate.

It’s too bad someone didn’t foist the same care upon the story.   What starts out as a feast becomes some sort of sugary confection, like eating a really long-lasting Starburst or something.

For all its pretty trappings, Dracula is threadbare as a movie.   We’re all familiar with the plot so I won’t rehash it here, but Dracula rests on Gary Oldman’s shoulders.   He does a remarkable job of injecting some measure of humanity and sympathy into a devilish beast, so snaps for you, Gary.    Anthony Hopkins shows up as Van Helsing to basically do a crazy old man jig all the way through the movie – watch Dracula and tell me he doesn’t look half-drunk.   No, it’s the appalling mix of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder that finally does the movie in.   Bless him, Keanu’s out of his depth in this one.   I’m pretty sure everyone knew it too; I don’t get the sense he’s helped any by direction or editing in the slightest.    A cringe-inducing attempt at an English accent sinks his already abysmal performance.   I adore Keanu, as we’ve previously established, but to watch Keanu try and play a naive man addled and terrified by Dracula is to feel embarrassment for him.

Winona Ryder has small moments of clarity, but Mina Harker is so braindead I’m not sure what Ryder could do except stand around and look pretty and/or horrified.   Since Mina is supposed to be the reincarnation of Dracula’s long dead wife, you have to wonder if Dracula loves her in spite of the fact that she’s a dim bulb or because of it.   Either way, my God, she gets tiresome quickly.

Much like in life, pretty can only carry you so far.    While Dracula starts out entertaining and moving, it loses steam in such a rapid fashion it leaves the viewer sucking on sugar for the next interminable hours.

Yea, verily, it’s like the cinematic equivalent of a damn Everlasting Gobstopper:   it feels like it’s never going to end.   And when it does, blessedly, you’re struck with the feeling that such a visually inspiring piece of film should at least have an equally moving story to match.

As they say:  no dice here.   … And it’s a shame.   But I enjoy watching it if only for all the neat visuals and beautiful sets.

A guilty pleasure?   Oh, sure.   Not one of Coppola’s finest cinematic achievements, though.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »