Tuesday, September 11, 2007

3:10 to yuma

I was moderately excited about seeing this movie. I like a good western, and given the rave reviews, I was expecting a nice little treat. Ah expectations.

Not that this movie is bad by any stretch. It might even be decent to good. But not great it really adds little to the genre, and I wonder what it might have even added to the original. Perhaps Deadwood has ruined me, but 3:10 also has little on Unforgiven. Even Kevin Costner's Open Range was more interesting storywise, and beautifully shot to boot.

Ultimately, its casting Crowe as Ben Wade (oddly the credits, show Ben Wade in place of Russell Crowe when listing drivers and such, as if he was so deep into method acting he forgot who he was) which I think robbed the movie of promise. Not that Crowe is a bad actor to watch, but unlike Bale, his characters' character rarely differs that much. Crowe's just too darn likeable as a person. And we know from the get go that Ben Wade the character is good at heart -- because he's a sketch artist, and the woman he seduces in the bar was clearly treated right. He brutally kills several men, but they are men who we are set up to dislike, who in some measure deserved it. If you don't know how he will act in the end, then I'm not sure you were watching the movie. In other words, he was no Al Swearengen.

It needed a touch more darkness to it to make it a more than just a rehashed Western.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book vs Movie

I just finished reading P.D. James' Children of Men, and I find myself liking the movie more than the book. This is a rare thing. I can count the number on one hand of movies I've liked more than the books.


One obvious difference is that P.D. James is just a dense writer. The psychology of her character is more important than the plot in many ways, and her books are measured meditations on humanity. To mix some metaphors, a movie could only ever hope to sketch the kind of depths she tends to plumb.

I was surprised however, to find, that the movie was only loosely based on the book. If you haven't seen it, the movie is a quick descent into hell, moderated by occassional moments of purgatory and a laugh or two. The movie's plotline seems more like a second story set in the same world, with the same setup, but with completely different people (it so happens some of whom happen to share names and one shares the same occupation). Its remarkable how little dialog or even the action is shared.

The writers of the movie have clearly been informed by the events since 911, and the increasing pressures of globalization Immigrants are mentioned in the book, but we never see any, there is no trip to a refugee camp, no "'fugees". The character pregnant in the book is an older white woman. The movie feels much more realistic for it.

But at the heart of why I like it better is because the characters are much more sympathetic. The book's main character is an aloof arrogant professor once very closely tied to the government, in the movie, he's one of us, being used really, and stumbling into a situation he has little control over. His great old friend in the movie, is an awful old oxford don. It was hard to find any character that was particularly likeable in the book.

For the movie, you could almost find yourself in anyone's shoes. There's no particularly evil people, even the person you hate the most is acting out of a kind of love, almost everyone is acting in what they see as their own best self interest. The movie shows perhaps where that can lead: to much evil that is certain, but also to some good.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


Transformers - I heard from a lot of people that this was worth seeing. Only just. If it is at all enjoyable to watch it is because the plot is thin, the action fast and furious, with enough decent comedy thrown in to keep it light.

Sadly it is weighted down by the ponderous and ridiculous statements of Optimus Prime, and the equally ridiculous performance of John Turturro (sp?). As if, the director/writers couldn't quite make up their mind to write a Men in Black style parody, or a Armageddon style science fiction movie.

The movie certainly has all the qualities of a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. They might have well just used the same soundtrack as the Rock or Armageddon, and the paeons

Granted I was not a Transformer fan as a kid, so perhaps it is mostly a nostalgia trip? Why do I continue to go see movies that are translations of things I did not care about to being with. That's the real question!


Saturday, May 12, 2007

spiderman 3 (spoilers)

Spiderman had, up until this point, been one of the few superhero movie series that I've liked. At this moment, I can't actually muster up any intelligent reasons as to why. The X-men series I've generally liked because it has had fine acting: aka the whole Captain Picard versus Gandalf thing; and at least a modicum of complicated personalities and motivations. Spiderman has had at least some of the latter, Peter Parker wrestling with his abilites and his powers, trying to best decide how to use them.

Spiderman 3, with its 4 main storylines: Peter's relationship with MJ, Peter's relationship with his former friend Harry, the escape and super empowerement of Peter's Uncle killer, and the alien carrying meteorite... oh wait, make that five, because there is also a rival to Peter's photography job at the Bugle.

Now, I like complications and convoluted plots. But there is nothing particularly tangled nor complicated about Spiderman 3. It starts all happy, and you know that it will not last. The plot is driven by a series of coincidences: alien on meteorite crashes next to peter unnoticed and climbs on his scooter; Spidey saves a model from a industrial accident who happens to be the police chiefs daughter, his school lab partner, and the object of desire of peter's rival photographer; the uncle's killer stumbles into a science expirement on the run from the coppers and becomes the sandman; The rival photographer happens to be in the church that Spidey is in when he removes the alien from himself, happens to see Spidey is Peter from several stories away.

Any complication is further reduced by some gross foreshadowing: Harry in a addled state says he will die for his friends, Peter's teacher warns about the dangers of the symbiotic alien, Aunt May asks Peter if he is ready to live for his wife.

There are certainly unexplained things: what are the Sandmans motives for trying to trap Spiderman. He may have been mad at him for Spidey's brutal attack, but it seems like something he would have been keen to avoid. Not too mention how did the alien/photographer even find him (and why didn't it attack Peter just after he removed the suit when he was in a weakened state). How did the alien even get in Peter's room to begin with (it would have been easier for it to crawl on MJ -- which I think would have been a much more interesting story line).

There were things that I wanted to like about the movie -- the scenes where Peter is being inhabited by the alien, being a womanizing, finger snapping tought guy were amusing. But they seemed out of place with the rest of the movie. Had the rest of the movie been as irreverent, the whole thing would have been elevated.

Alas, we are left with a rather dull story of redemption: Harry dies for his friends, Spidey forgives his enemies and himself, MJ screams a few times, and we presume he will listen to her from now on. The audience settles back into the sunset over Harry's dead body, as a young woman in front of me says, "that was the worst movie I have ever seen." (I've seen worse, but many that are far better).