Thursday, August 14, 2003
Off to see Pirates. That review will be brought to you as I return to school and thus the internet. Scroll down for Seabiscuit and others. Have a good weekend, everyone.
Review by Jon Waterman
Have you ever watched birds fly overhead and dream of joining them? Have you ever just wanted to know where they were going? Even if the answer is “No,” then have I ever got the movie for you.
“Winged Migration” follows thousands of birds as they fly thousands of miles towards artic or tropical locations (depending on the species). We’re given subtitles telling us which kind of bird we’re looking at and where they are going. Ten seconds later, we forget all of that information. None of it really matters, though. All you have to do is sit back and watch the pretty pictures.
Looking is just about all anyone can do during this film. Narration by Jacque Perrin (who also co-wrote and co-directed) comes in just long enough to keep you awake and then goes away for a long, long stretch. Of course, there are other noises in the film. For instance, it seems that every bird that comes across the screen must make some sort of noise. I know these must have been added in later, because sound equipment couldn’t have been used on every shot. So, knowing this, I must ask “Why?” It got a little annoying sometimes, because there were hundreds of birds on screen sometimes. There were moments were it felt I was looking at a noisy Magic Eye illusion or Where’s Waldo? drawing.
At least the pictures are actually pretty. You won’t find more consistently breathtaking images this year. Using various forms of aerial transportation and some boat work, the many different cameramen capture close-ups of these birds doing things that no human would normally get to see. I found myself letting out small laughs of amazement, trying to figure out how they could ever get some of the incredible shots.
The film is basically a feature length National Geographic show. It’s a 100-minute Discovery Channel special with less talking and no commercials. Honestly, I would not have complained if there were commercial breaks. As amazing as the movie was, it was extremely repetitive and the lack of explanation started to take a toll on me. Breaking it up with something different would have helped a lot.
I doubt the film is good enough or rather informational enough to be shown in schools, but it’s still worth seeing if you’re at all interested in nature or birds or just great cinematography. I don’t know if I’d watch it again, but I’m fascinated by the process involved and could see myself watching a documentary on the film over and over.
Here it is. Winged Migration will be up later tonight. After that, I'm done until I'm back at school and have an internet connection again.
Review by Jon Waterman
Ok, we got a smaller than average horse, a taller than average jockey (with a blind eye), a trainer that’s practically laughed at by every professional stable, an owner that shunned horses because he sold cars until he bought this short animal to race, and an overly long movie to put it all in. Who’s ready for over-hyped drama?
In order to further drag the movie along, the first act is accompanied by PBS style narration (by documentary narrator David McCullough). Honestly, I didn’t mind it all that much. The narration, accompanied by pictures from the depression-era (when the film takes place), places the film in a greater context. To truly understand the people and events that follow, you must first know about the time period in which they live. It makes the story more amazing. However, once the documentary style is gone, it does not make the story any more interesting to watch.
Seabiscuit’s actual life story may be quite involved and rather lengthy, but the film story does not have to translate every single moment to the screen. I’d say the movie runs a couple extra furlongs. For instance, when the Seabiscuit crew tries to lure War Admiral into a one-on-one race, I felt the whole back and forth of it all could have been reduced significantly. Some of the sequences that took ten minutes could just as easily have been conveyed through with as little as a montage. This is what can happen when the director also writes (Gary Ross “Pleasantville,” based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand). Sometimes one becomes so enamored with the story that they sacrifice better storytelling in order to keep certain scenes intact. One problem I had with the visuals of the movie involves the blind eye of the jockey. In order to show us that he has a blind eye, the view is blocked on one side of the screen. I’m not blind, but I don’t think that vision works that way. Why not do a “Wayne’s World” type of trick and show him opening and closing each eye. That would be much easier and more believable. The direction and storytelling all work pretty well, but I expected a faster pace, especially when the film involves racing.
There’s a lot of talent in the cast to keep your interest anyway: Jeff Bridges as the owner, Charles Howard; Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard, the jockey; and Gary Hacker doing the horse vocals. Bridges’ character has a wife, but you’d hardly know it because she rarely talks. She’s in practically every scene, yet hardly opens her mouth. Alright…do whatever. Anyways, the real people to watch are William H. Macy as the hilarious radio announcer, Tick Tock McGlaughlin and Chris Cooper who really earns his Oscar here as the trainer, Tom Smith. Also worth mention is Randy Newman’s score. It moves with a grace and quickness that the film should have adopted.
Most people will love this movie. It’s heartwarming, inspiring, and ultra sappy. I was at a show with only a few people and a couple of them clapped on two separate occasions. Bigger crowds would most likely carry more energy. I, however, found it to be a little bit too over-the-top (there were too many parallels between Red and his horse – whether they were all true or not), slightly boring and would have preferred to see a documentary rather than a fictional film.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Third review in two days. Just two more to go and I'm caught up. Expect to see the whole backlog up by the end of thursday night. I may even get another one finished tonight. Stay tuned and scroll down for the latest.
Bend It Like Beckham
Review by Jon Waterman
An Indian girl loves nothing more than playing soccer with her friends. One day, she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when a girl offers her a position on the all-girls team. However, she must keep her organized sporting activities secret, because it goes against her traditional parents’ wishes. She now must balance a double life without getting caught.
My main problem with the film is not that she does get caught. It’s that she gets caught so often and with no new elements added. The movie becomes just as repetitive and pointless as a soccer match that ends in a tie. The title “Bend It Like Beckham” obviously does not refer to any unforeseen plot twists. She lies to her parents. She gets caught and has to stop playing. She finds a new lie and plays again. She gets caught and has to stop playing. Repeat for nearly two hours. The stakes are never raised. The worst thing that could happen to her for lying is that she’ll get yelled at again. I felt like all the obstacles that get in the way were created merely to add length to the film. It would have been much better as a half-hour short. The pace was ridiculously slow at times, but maybe it only felt that way because I was watching the same sequence of events for the third or fourth time.
The soccer games weren’t very exciting, either. Instead of seeing how the game was played out, we are shown a series of close-ups that are pieced together to create some action. Supposedly, the girls were trained for the film, but you could never really guess it, because we never get to see any substantial moves from either of the two main roles. Why not show off that training by treating us to full body shots of people kicking the ball to each other and into the net. I don’t want to see a close up of the ball getting kicked, and then have the camera take the place of the ball as it goes into the goal. That’s just cheap.
To the film’s credit, though, the acting is not bad. None of them truly stand out and amaze, but you can’t expect award quality performances out of a family film. Instead, I’m happy to report that even the supporting characters act naturally. Anyone familiar with this type of movie knows that the smaller roles tend to be over-exaggerated and can be unbearable to watch. There is only one time when I was cringing at the acting. At the very beginning, the mother hams it up, but to the film’s defense, it was part of a dream sequence and thus could be over-played to emphasize that fact. It’s just a shame the worst bit of acting comes at the start, when people are most judgmental.
Some people like soccer. Some don’t. Some people will like this movie. Others won’t. I can tell you right now, it’s not funny. It’s not even really that cute. It’s a typical family film with above average acting. The kids might like it, but the parents will probably be bored to tears.
Alright. Starting to roll with the reviews here. Scroll for 28 Days Later.... I'll be back later with more words of wisdom and discouragement towards films, so check back often, will ya.
Review by Jon Waterman
It’s the third installment of the “American Pie” series, as I’m sure you’re well aware. In this episode, Jim whatshisface and Melissa blahbleebo are getting married. What kind of wacky antics will ensue when they make the arrangements? Or what about when the bachelor party is planned? Or when Jim meets the girl’s parents? Or when Stifler speaks? Uggghhh.
Is it just me, or is Stifler way stupider in this one? Did they neglect to tell us that he got a few concussions in between films or something? I hardly remember seeing part 2 and the first one is a hazy memory at this point as well. Yet, I doubt he was this dumb. Like Homer Simpson, Stifler gets more moronic as time goes on. Unlike Homer Simpson, Stifler gets less funny as time goes on. I can’t believe I just devoted a paragraph to Stifler. That’s almost lower than Stifler enjoying oral pleasure from a dog. Don’t ask…and don’t watch for that matter.
The actors that chose not to do this movie made a very wise decision. Congrats to them all for having sense. The film doesn’t try to explain their absence, either. Instead they focus on making the worst film they possibly can with the characters that are desperate for money and/or attention.
Normally a Hollywood film of comedic nature includes a lot of romantic interest stuff. A lot of lovey-dovey crap that’s thrown in to give the characters what we in the biz call “arc.” Most of that is foregone, which is surprising considering the title of the picture. I, however, would have greatly preferred more gushy, sappy, love stuff out of this movie. That would mean they would have given less screen time to the inane outrageous events that take place. I’d much rather hear the couple recite their vows or have Jim explain to Melissa’s parents why he wants to marry their daughter than see Kevin tied up by a hooker and thrown in a closet or see pubic hair fly to wherever.
Not only are the situations not funny in the least, but they are also telegraphed too far in advance. Humor lies in the element of surprise. I bet I’ve said that before, but I’ll say it as many times as necessary until Hollywood learns. I don’t care how funny it would have been to see Jim’s dad walking in as Jim was receiving pleasure from his soon-to-be fiancée from under the table. It won’t be funny if you basically tell us that is what we’re going to see for the ten minutes leading up to that joke. The same pattern continues throughout. I don’t know. I guess I also just don’t appreciate gross out humor as much as I used to. Maybe it just isn’t well done anymore. In either case this movie eats crap…literally.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Ok, it's been a few days, but not 28. I'm back with a review for the movie I just used for that horrible pun! Later, along with American Wedding, Bend It Like Beckham and Seabiscuit, you can expect to see a review of Winged Migration. I also may just get out to see Pirates of the Caribbean at some point this week, too. No promises, though. I am a busy man, after all. Ok, enjoy my brief glimpse into the infected eye of...
28 Days Later…
Review by Jon Waterman
No, it’s not the sequel to that Sandra Bullock film. Instead, activists release a monkey infected with “Rage”. When the monkey bites a human, they get infected almost instantaneously. They become bloodthirsty killing machines. Even if blood from an infected creature gets into your system, you will turn into a monster, too. A lone man wakes up in a hospital 28 days after the monkey claims its first victim only to find all of London empty. He must join up with the few clean humans remaining and find someway to escape the evil beings and restart civilization.
The movie is shot almost entirely in digital video. Director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (veteran of three Dogme films) used lower end digital cameras to create a specific effect. Most films using DV do so to lower costs and not to make a statement. The look and feel of “28 Days Later…” is deliberate and specific and effective. People associate this picture quality to that of consumer camcorders. As such, we watch the film as if we are watching a home movie account of the end of the world: as if some random person picked up a camera and started shooting. However, with the professionalism of Mantle and Boyle in charge, any “Blair Witch”-y camera work is left behind. It’s not meant to be a documentary, but the cameras used give that same voyeuristic feel. By no means should anyone mistake the lesser picture quality as a sign of an amateurish production. The lighting, set design, make-up, acting, etc. will all prove otherwise. The story also provides a big push.
The movie doesn’t try to be a pure horror movie. It takes the situation and goes about it rationally. What would you do if you were abandoned in the city? Where would you go to escape? It doesn’t look for unmotivated chances to startle anyone. There are no fake scares. If you think something bad is going to happen, it will. The goal is not to terrify, but to make you afraid and these are two separate things. It works harder at creating a subconscious fear rather than an overtly obvious assault of the senses.
The film probably won’t scare you. It most likely won’t even gross you out. Along the same vein as “Dog Soldiers,” yet not as hidden to North American audiences, “28 Days Later…” provides an interesting narrative and a much welcome break from the sugary, über-dumb summer blockbusters.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Want new reviews? well...ask and ye shall receive. Scroll down a little bit there to see all the movie reviews still to come your way in the upcoming days. You won't want to miss it.
Review by Jon Waterman
The position of chief is passed down to the first-born son of the direct descendants of the Whale Rider, the man that brought his people to New Zealand so many years ago. The current chief has two children: A stillborn son and a daughter. Fast-forward to a few years later and this little girl, Paikea (named after the Whale Rider), must prove to her grandfather that she is not someone to be tossed aside, even if she is not a man.
We’ve all seen a story like this before. A female character has to overcome diversity to prove she is just as capable as any male. Thousands of years of tradition and a stubborn grandfather are against Pai. Any talent or skill that could be perceived as manly must be repressed and ignored. I probably shouldn’t fault the movie for picking such tried and true subject matter. Just because the film is set in an unfamiliar culture does not mean it’s a new story.
Overall, though, the film held my attention. The script dragged in several places. Niki Caro (writer/director) balanced the shortcomings of the pace with the strength of the words spoken. I only have one main complaint: too much time was spent with the little boy, Jake. All of the time was relevant towards progressing the story, but nothing paid off for that particular character, so why invest the time. Jake and the others in the film all developed into believable characters. All were well rounded and brought a little something extra that you wouldn’t expect. The majority of the cast has worked on very little or nothing else, but everyone has true ability.
The stand out of the piece is Keisha Castle-Hughes (Pai). In “Whale Rider,” her first film, this young girl displays a talent twice of most big name Hollywood actors. Her range and emotional capabilities are purely astounding. It’s rare to find even a decent child actor most of the time. Children tend to be over-the-top and play everything up. Keisha tones it all down and lets the camera, and the audience, pick up the subtlety rather than giving an exaggerated, stagy performance. It will be interesting to see where her career goes and what she does next.
Whale Rider is a great, magical family film and an inspirational story. It may be too clichéd for a few to handle. Go into the theatre expecting a well-acted, intelligent variation of familiar subject matter with a little bit of mysticism mixed in, and you’ll be fine.
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Hey all. Sorry about the absense. Paying jobs come first. I'm still more productive than Meyer, though. Anyways...here's the review I promised 2 weeks ago. Also coming soon: Whale Rider, 28 Days Later, American Wedding, Bend It Like Beckham and Seabiscuit. I've been busy, so you can keep busy reading and watching the good stuff. Enjoy. Check back often.
The Shape of Things
Review by Jon Waterman
A nerdy college guy gets the nerve to ask out a hip, artsy, beautiful woman and she says yes. They start a relationship that changes everything about his life. Now he must deal with the reactions of his friends while still maintaining the interest of this dream girl.
Alright. This story takes place in college. That means we are supposed to believe that the people we are watching are of college age. Our actors are 30 years old and up. Great casting, Neil!
On a serious note, though: Great casting, Neil! Even though they should be younger, I couldn’t imagine too many college age actors pulling off these performances. Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz are just magnificent. The words they say aren’t necessarily as important as the body language. The film becomes about reading faces and hands and posture rather than reading lips.
And so, many “props” should be given to director Neil LaBute for directing them so well. However, I must take away said “props” to my homey Neil (*note: not actually my homey) for writing the script. The dialogue is trite and pretentious and dull. A slight bit of life comes about with every mention of “PDA,” but on the whole is DOA. I’ve never considered LaBute’s work to be overtly comedic, but when a film makes so many attempts and falls flat on its modified nose, points must be deducted for lack of grace. Also, if the film is making itself out to be such a mystery, try not to flaunt the ending so quickly. The surprise turn can be thought of about fifteen minutes in (assuming you haven’t seen the trailer, then you already know it). And when the ending arrives and the secret is revealed, we are expected to wade through the explanation of it. All the while supposedly saying, “Ooooohhhhh, ok,” when really we’re saying “credits, credits, credits, credits….”
The movie is all about keeping up appearances. Everyone is hiding something. The film pretends to be a lot of things it isn’t as well. It pretends to be making some type of statement on being your own person. It pretends that the depth of the characters somehow justifies the time spent with them. It pretends to be a work of art when really it’s just a bold neon sign epileptically flickering the point of the piece into your head. It pretends to be better than it is, just like the characters themselves.