Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

BEAUTIFUL KATE (2009)
Another wayward son comes home and is flooded by his past family regrets and secrets story. This is my problem with a lot of Australian movies: "What you're watching is SO MEANINGFUL!" "Yeah, but what does it mean?" "SO MEANINGFUL!" It doesn't generate any interesting emotions and comes across then as cold and functional. Kate is beautiful, though. **

ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
Not really as funny or as scary as it thinks it is, but it's a surprisingly fun, silly-but-genuine movie about an alien invasion in London. It has a firm grasp of who its characters are, and doesn't compromise them as we follow a street gang through Bonfire night as they fend off attacking aliens and, I guess, find a sense of community. It sort of tries to do a Shaun of the Dead (same producers), but this is like Joe Dante to Simon Pegg's Steven Spielberg, back when those comparisons would have been favorable. John Boyega is especially good as the gang leader. Just a solid skiffy action flick. ***1/2 Dig the creatures themselves; they remind me of the Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures in Bone.

FINAL DESTINATION 2 (2003)
Fast-paced and surprisingly short (let's face it) retread of Final Destination. I'll got to bat for Final Destination; I still think it's one of the best horror films of the last 20 years, since it's actually scary and not just idiotic... This one is more of the same, but still with my darling Ali Larter. The deaths in this one are much more...gooey. **1/2

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)
One of the most rivetingly bizarre movies I have ever seen. First off, the title's a puzzler, because it basically has nothing to do with Abel Ferrara's masterpiece Bad Lieutenant. But this movie...this is Herzog at his most strange and intense. Nicolas Cage is dialed up to about a 23 on a scale of 1 to 11 here as a dirty New Orleans cop with a hooker girlfriend who takes a lot of cocaine to relieve his back pain. Drug deals, rape, frame-ups, surprisingly good performance by Xzibit, etc. It doesn't matter. This movie's not, really, about it's plot, but about the way it unfolds that plot. It's not even really a character piece, either, as much as it's just about watching Nicolas Cage, speaking as though he's had a stroke, act his way through a movie that gets more and more intense and crazy. **** just for the conviction of the whole damn enterprise.

JOHN CARTER (2012)
This is exactly the action flick I wanted it to be. It takes ERB's A Princess of Mars, combines some stuff from The Gods of Mars, and creates a romance adventure in the tradition of Star Wars. It has that big, pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue that sounds ridiculous but somehow matches the tone perfectly. There were one or two things I could've liked better (Taylor Kitsch, as Carter, is a fairly limited actor but doesn't pull you out of it), but there was nothing that I didn't like. I'm not even being uncritical here, because frankly, I expected it to be cute or "Well, at least they tried." I didn't expect to love it. Glad to see there's still a pure adventure film out there somewhere. Great casting otherwise (so nice to finally see Lynn Collins get a big lead again; it's been so long since she charmed me in The Merchant of Venice playing a character I tend to despise), and fantastic special effects. I adored Woola, the dog-like calot who follows John Carter everywhere. I have to say, I'm disappointed we'll never get a sequel, and the marketing person needs to be fired, but at least we got one absolutely terrific movie. If I could get one adventure like this every year, I would be utterly happy. ****

JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM (2012)
A little heavy on the cynicism, but otherwise another nice installment of the DC Animated films. I wonder how much of this was handled before the reboot was planned. I know the script is credited to the late Dwayne McDuffie, I'm just curious if the way it sort of forces you to accept Cyborg as a member of the Justice League was a decision made before or after they decided Cyborg would be a founding member in the reboot. That seems to be a major reason for this movie existing. He adds some nice lightness to the movie, though. ***

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