Category Archives: Films – 2 stars
The Black Dahlia
Confusing at best.
Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny
I do occasionally like a bit of Jack Black, but Tenacious D is too much of a rampant ego project to be particularly funny. Sure, it has its moments (such as Ben Stiller as the music store owner), but they happen despite him, not because of him.
Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is flying home with her daughter to bury her recently deceased husband. She falls asleep in her seat, and when she wakes up, her daughter is gone. She talks to the crew, but they can’t find her. Not only that, but they can’t even find any record of her being on board at all. Is she delusional, or is there something else going on?
I felt ambiguous about this film from the moment I first saw the trailer. I like Jodie Foster, but the hideous memory of The Forgotten still lingers, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to deal with another “children who never actually existed” plot. Curiosity and my admiration of Foster won out in the end. Oh well.
What’s good: it’s not an alien abduction scenario, and the ending doesn’t rely on magical pixie dust.
What’s bad: the actual explanation for the situation is still ludicrously far-fetched. As Mr Scott once said, “the more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” Likewise, the crazier a plot is, the easier it is to find holes in it, and that’s what I found myself doing for the last half hour. (The first hour is spent setting up doubts about Pratt’s sanity.) And seeing as I didn’t go into the film with a terribly positive mindset, this kind of blew the whole thing for me.
Boog is a domesticated grizzly bear who leads a pampered life in a small mountain town. One day, crazy hunter Shaw brings a wounded deer called Elliot to town strapped to his car, and Boog makes the mistake of freeing him. Elliot is a madcap runt of a deer who has been ejected from his herd for being annoying. He proceeds to annoy Boog to the point where he goes rampant, and the townspeople decide that he’s too dangerous to stay there any more. So his keeper Giselle takes him high up in the mountains, and lets him loose in the wild.
Cue mismatched buddy antics as Boog and Elliot try to make their way back to town while avoiding Shaw, trees full of aggressive squirrels, and other madcap diversions.
The trouble is that Elliot really is annoying, which doesn’t translate into a whole heap of funny, and the other characters don’t have enough interest to compensate for him.
Despite this, I think we’re in the middle of a new Golden Age of animation. The quality of the visuals are excellent (although the animators are a bit too much in love with Boog’s fur). Now if only the filmmakers would start spending some of their budgets on better scripts…
I know I’ll incur the wrath of Superman and Bryan Singer fans everywhere who loved this, but I’m afraid that Superman Returns didn’t do anything for me. (WARNING: significant spoilers ahead.)
Throughout the movie, I just didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. I couldn’t find its emotional centre. Was it Clark Kent’s/Superman’s struggle to pick up the pieces of his life after being away for five years? Was it Lois Lane’s struggle to figure out if she is still in love with the Man of Steel? Is it the stress inflicted on Lane’s marriage by the introduction of an impossibly perfect third man? Is it the discovery of a new father-son relationship? Is it the tension of the battle with Lex Luthor?
In an effort to turn Superman Returns into a complex superhero story for grown-ups (the holy grail of a Superhero Date Movie), director Singer seems to have lost sight of the fact that Superman is the ultimate comic book superhero. Personally, I’ve never found him particularly interesting because he is too powerful and too infallible. Clark Kent’s bumbling secret identity has always felt like a gratuitous affectation to counterbalance Superman’s extraordinariness: there is super-strong and there is super-weak, but the ambiguous middle levels are left for other comic books to handle.
However, taking the film on its own terms–as an attempt to create an emotionally rich and deep Superman story–there are two things that stood out for me as particular failures. The first is Lex Luthor. When he first appears, he is dripping with menace, a character of ruthless planning and selfish intent. By the time the credits roll, he has been reduced to a Scooby-Doo-style incompetent villain, a figure of mere ridicule. And yet, as the Bad Guy, he has to be capable of coming close to defeating Superman. His (dubious) comedic presence distracts from the film’s attempts to be serious.
The second failure is the screenplay’s refusal to treat the Superman-Lois Lane-Richard White (the man Lois married in Superman’s absence) love triangle seriously enough. In the “classic” version of such a tangled relationship, Lois Lane would have married the Wrong Guy. Richard White would have been handsome, rich, glib, and a total rotter under the hood. He would make his son call him “sir”, and he would be out womanizing in clubs and bars while Lois stayed home to take care of her child. Superman would return, Lois would realize that White was a bastard, and would walk out on him with a cutting farewell speech that highlighted all his failings as a human being.
But this Richard White isn’t that character. He is portrayed as a handsome, rich, ambitious, and rather decent guy. He loves his wife and son, even though he realizes that Lois once loved Superman and may still be in love with him. He is thoroughly human, but he still ends up saving Superman’s life. What kind of anguish is he going through?
In writing classes, writers are often suggested to ask the question: “where’s the pain?” Pain and suffering lie at the heart of emotionally significant stories, and the person I see as being hurt most by this love triangle is Richard.
Okay, so the film is Superman Returns, not Lois Lane’s Husband’s Heartache, but the fact that Richard White is developed to this extent, yet deprived of any opportunity to show his side of the story, emphasizes again the film’s lack of credibility as a “serious” piece.
So does it work as a crash-bang superhero flick, then? No. There was only one set piece I found genuinely thrilling, and that was the airplane sequence. The hair on my neck stood up when Clark Kent ran out of the bar and revealed the suit beneath his clothes, and the rescue he pulls off is amazing. But measured by that moment of brilliance, the disaster scenes at the end felt mundane, and the final continent-hauling came across as implausible.
The final indictment I have is that the closing scene, where Superman pours out his heart to his sleeping son, brought neither a tear to my eye nor a lump to my throat. Since becoming a father, even the slightest cinematic display of father-child tenderness makes me blubber. But here? Nothing. A film that leaves me cold in the face of such an apparently significant emotional outpouring is a poorly constructed one indeed.
While on a fashion photo shoot in remote Alaska, photographer Bob (Alec Baldwin), billionaire Charles (Anthony Hopkins), and Bear Food (Harold Perrineae) find themselves stranded in the wilderness after their plane crashes. Charles suspects Bob of coveting his fashion model wife, and Bob suspects Charles of being a rich asshole. They’re both right, but they must work together to survive or die. There are bears, and Bear Food (odd name, but an appropriate one) gets eaten. There is hunting. There is rivalry and shouting. There is male bonding and betrayal. It’s massively contrived, and fails the suspension of disbelief test. Hopkins’ stuffy and reserved gentleman shows a decent transformation into Man Of The Wild, but Baldwin’s performance is hammy enough to be served by the slice. Everyone involved can do so much better.
Well, that wasn’t offensively bad. Just lacking any kind of internal logic. And a sense of direction. And some idea of what the hell is going on with Marcus, and what Selene is “becoming”, and, oh, sod it. It’s a bit crap. It takes ages to warm up (although I suspect it would work better if viewed immediately after Underworld), the action sequences lack a sense of danger, and the whole thing is really dark. (I know it all takes place at night and in gloomy locations, but surely they could have added a bit of sparkle.)
Still, Kate Beckinsale looks nice, so the time wasn’t entirely wasted.
Star Trek: Nemesis
Tired and dull. The entire Star Trek franchise needs to take a break for a decade or two and let some other SF series refresh the genre. Maybe then they can come back and approach the same universe with a different slant.
A man (Val Kilmer) is shot in the head, but survives–barely. When he wakes up from his coma, he finds himself in a backwater New Mexico town with no memory of who he is, or what he was doing there. He does, however, have the strong feeling that something bad is going to happen–something involving the President of the USA. The film follows him as he tries to piece the fragments together, aided by the town sheriff and his fiancée. Nothing, of course, is what it seems, though.
I saw the trailer for this on the Bubba Ho-Tep DVD, and it looked good. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t match up to expectations. Val Kilmer is quite engaging as the amnesiac Frank, but the plot wastes too much time noodling around in blind alleyways (like the story line involving the deputy sheriff and the people-smuggling). The climax is confusing (who is on which side?), and the final scenes are hopelessly clichéd.