May 10, 2005

Shorter Movie Reviews and Gratuitous Snark

In case you were dying to know (ha!) what I've been seeing at the theaters, renting at the video store, or watching on cable, here goes. There have been more, but these were the more memorable, if only in certain cases because of how very bad they were.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The best of Adams' writing was relegated to the guide entries, and the writers fell pretty flat when they diverged significantly from the book. Arthur was great, Ford wasn't amoral enough, Trillian was too soft, and Zaphod couldn't cut the delicate walk between manic impulse and hoopy frood. But if you're a fan, you pretty much have to go, and will enjoy seeing it the once.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Only because I saw this for free am I not angry at the senseless waste, even though I will never get those hours back. Thandie Newton probably regrets having this on her resume, because they saved up the very most tired and tedious lines for her Dame Vaako character, and I'd feel for her if it weren't almost certain that she made enough to live on for a year or more by delivering them. As saving graces, there were plenty of well-executed fight scenes that weren't trying to be Matrix I, Vin Diesel is a more talented actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also, Eomer was in it.

Love Actually: For anyone wanting to know how the British really feel about Blair, and their government in general, this movie would have been a good start. They seem to believe that a British prime minister would only ever stand up to America in the unlikely event that the US president tried to make time with the girl of their dreams. The cream of British acting packed the plotlines of this romantic comedy, and no sacred cow was left unskewered. Favorite line -- 'Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give you them for free.'

Underworld: Pretty gothic eye candy and a nominally interesting premise, if you like creature features, blended together to make an overly stylized soft core porno. You will enjoy it every bit as much, whether that's a lot or a little, if you watch it with the sound off. Most lasting impression - Muscly goth packs striding forth purposefully along hallways.

Garden State: If you've reached a point in your life where descriptions of your serious concerns and causes of angst no longer automatically begin with the phrase "My parents/mom/dad ..." (unless referring explicitly to health concerns,) you just might be bored out of your mind by this movie. The acting and script were fine, the soundtrack was all that, the pace was mellow enough to be suitable viewing for artificially slowed states of mind.

The Butterfly Effect: Surprisingly interesting, not nearly as fluffy as I'd assumed it would be. It's an exploration of the effect of environment and circumstance on how people turn out, with a moderately cool within-your-own-lifespan time travel premise, and is probably intrinsically offensive to conservatives suffering from the delusion that outcomes are innate to the individual.

In Good Company: As a person whacked upside the job by the bursting of the internet bubble, I thoroughly appreciated this movie. It's somewhat of an antidote to the pop culture fantasy that the world is run by hotties of both genders who fall between the ages of 25 and 35, and came a little closer to the real world, which is mostly run by people over 50 who don't have time to go to the gym as much as they'd like. A little farther below the surface, it savages another popular myth, the one suggesting that being clever and fresh can substitute without harm for the wisdom of experience. I like new, but not for it's own sake, nor without a proper understanding and appreciation of what went before.

Closer: Are you anxious or depressed about anything? Having a hard time focusing on the good in life? Then stay the heck away from this movie. It's elegantly done and believable, keeps you guessing, and does a good job of reminding viewers of past relationship masochism and selfish impulses. Moral -- If you can't be content with a good thing, you'll wind up more lonely and pathetic than when you started, and haven't we all been there at least once.

A few more points:

Bill Nighy (Slartibartfast in HGTTG, Billy Mack in Love Actually, Viktor in Underworld) is a god.

Whoever started the use of movie cliche variations of being at or by someone's side in a mix of romantic relationship/shared wielding of some type of power needs to be hunted down, tied to a chair, and forced to watch Underworld until their eyes bleed.

Universes are big. Not even many hundreds of years into our scientifically advanced future will humans (supposing we survive that long, and that young earth creationists don't get to chair too many science divisions) ever speak in person to another being who's spent time halfway across one. Unless we figure out how to control tesseracts or wormholes, and I have my doubts.

Planets are also big, even if not so much. I've come to believe that my fellow citizens' difficulty with comprehending what a bitch it would be to control a country the size of Iraq with 140,000 people is due in part to movie images of whole planets being conquered, and then the invading leader instigating a full surrender during an intimate discussion with as many random citizens as could fit in your typical small church. Chris Rock noted that you couldn't take over Baltimore with the troops we sent to Iraq, but entire planets? Not as much hassle as you'd think, apparently.

Polar ice packs and very high mountaintops are cold. If a movie's characters wander around in such environments dressed like they're going for an easy hike in Yosemite in November, I can't help but fantasize about watching their exposed skin succumb to frostbite and then slowly freeze solid as the underdressed hero presses on in the face of chilling winds.

Living beings have to eat. From the crop-free plains of Rohan and Gondor, to futuristic dystopias with insufficient lighting and planets whose entire surfaces seem paved over, or even enormous spaceships consisting entirely of gleaming metal and plastic responsible for transporting whole civilizations hither and yon over long periods of time without setting down on a planet, it boggles me where the alleged denizens of these places are supposed to get their chow from. I'm a city dweller who's never been involved in the production of food, so it isn't like I feel personally snubbed by this consistent omission. I'm just saying that it would be nice to see more of a nod in the realm of fiction to the fact that food doesn't magically grow itself at the market.

Lastly, I grow weary of the word 'dark' as used in any sentence where it doesn't refer to the color of a physical object in relation to the color of other physical objects, the cutting off of an electromagnetic signal, or the actual absence of light due to planetary rotation, the turning off of a light switch, or the act of extinguishing a fire. Used in most other contexts, it means frak all. Indeed, it brings on a dark mood in which I'd like to perform dark deeds upon the literary dim bulbs working the dark arts of script writing in their poorly lit rooms.

Did I mention that Bill Nighy is a god?

Posted by natasha at May 10, 2005 03:27 AM | Entertainment | Technorati links |

Go see Crash: Highly recommended.

Posted by: Daniel K at May 10, 2005 05:00 PM

The food is all pizza delivery. They don't want you to see that in the movies.

Posted by: Scott at May 11, 2005 05:38 AM

I liked Garden State and "reviewed" (well realy I just blogged it) here: I think Zach Braff is the real deal; I even bothered to watch TV just to see his series "Scrubs" this year.

Good reviews overall. Thanks.


Posted by: tres_arboles at May 11, 2005 12:41 PM