Friday, July 30, 2004

Lock At The Movies (sort of)

Lock At The Movies (sort of)

I'm back in the movie seeing business. After taking a hiatus of a couple of years, I'm watching movies left and right now. I was one of the original Netflix members, an online DVD rental place, and after 2 year subscription to the service, I cancelled it because simply put, I watched everything in their library that I wanted to see.

So I took a break from the movie rental hobby, let a bunch of movies pass me by since I wasn't going to the theater either, and now am taking the opportunity to get caught back up.

I didn't sign up for Netflix, but instead went with Wal-Mart's DVD rental business. It was the cheapest of the three (Netflix, Wal-Mart and Blockbuster). They are very quick with getting the movies out and I'm quick getting them back, much to their chagrin I imagine. They're also very quick about processing the returns and getting the next one on my list sent out. I'm impressed with the service so far.

I've had the account for only one week but have watched seven movies so far. Here is my quick review of the seven:

Solaris - 6/10. Entertaining but the movie is just simply there. Nothing very exciting, it's just a love story with a supernatural deal. It looked great, the sets looked great, the acting was good but it was just a storyline that started at point A and finished at point B then the The End. At moments, I was reminded of 2001 (great movie) and the set looked like they borrowed it from Cameron's Aliens. Entertaining is my way of saying it's a good watch when viewed for the first time, but there's no reason to see it again.

Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World - 7/10. Neat to watch. The swashbuckling adventures of these 18th century British naval soldiers tells a few good stories. The portrayal seemed like it would be accurate, a good representation of what 18th century naval warfare was like so the set looked great. The characters are rushed though, not much time to invest emotionally in each one or remember who is who, but it pulls it off on a select few: the captain of course, the ship's doctor and maybe a couple of the adolescent officers. Good flow, not much of a climax though. The movie builds towards something and then when it gets to it, it just lets the air out of the balloon and let it unfold in an nonexciting way. Also, it's very strange to see Russell Crowe be so polite and chivalrous given his notorious personality in real life. I know, Gladiator but even in that, his job was to be barbaric. In Commander, he's almost pompous - ah, but that part is accurate.

Paycheck - 5/10. It's typical Woo, only he's doing scifi. He has a style that I can't seem to ever get into. He is master of action, but I just get the feeling he's using antiquated methods still, like having cars blow up for little reason. It's a good story. The story it's based on is a short story written by Philip K. Dick. The book is excellent and the movie tries to stay on target with that theme but has to stray in many areas to keep the movie together. Affleck may not have been the right guy for this role but he did a decent job. Uma's character was unnecessary for the whole thing, she was there just to add a touch of romance to the story. For a biologist though, Woo had her kicking butt. For brief flashes I thought someone had put in Kill Bill. This movie is entertaining so you know what that means.

Mystic River - 7/10. Good flick, good story. Sean Penn is Godfather in Boston. I'm not sure he deserved the Oscar, but he did a great job. Character development was very good in this. We see three friends as kids, each with their own personality, then many years later when they're grown up (middle aged) with families, you recognize who they are based on what you witnessed during their childhood actions. It's a good story too about how a close-knit neighborhood takes care of its own, which gives it the Godfather feel. The movie turns into a mystery and the outcome was a little disappointing but it was probably decided that it was necessary to elevate a dramatic effect for one of the characters, but for me it kind of stole from it. Not your typical Hollywood drama though, especially the ending. You won't know who to feel for when it's over.

Lost In Translation - 8/10. Excellent. Story of two strangers staying in Tokyo for personal reasons, Murray is doing an acting job and Johannsen is visiting family. They both dread being in Tokyo for the time they've planned to stay but end up meeting each other (in the hotel where they're staying) and actually find a way to have a good time while they're there. (Plutonically people! Get your mind out of the gutter!) The pairing up of Murray who is a middle aged married man with kids and Johanssen who is a newlywed barely 20 something is an odd one as far as society might be concerned, so good thing they're not in America. The chemistry between the two really works and you're happy to see they're making the best of a bad/boring situation and see them establish an emotional friendship that is beneficial to each of them and you want to see it work.

Seabiscuit - 7/10. There really is nothing wrong with this film as a film. It does everything right but the problem is that I'm just not into horseracing. This movie made me a little bit interested which speaks for its quality, but it was doomed from the start. Having said that, I still have it a 7 out of 10. It's like trying to get into an excellent film about grease trap cleaning. Seabiscuit is an excellent story (for a horseracing story), the characters are great and identifiable, the acting is great, the set is great, the horse is great. It's all great. It's a perfect formula for an excellent film, except for the subject matter. If you like horses or gambling or rags to riches or even period pieces, you'll enjoy this film.

Monster - 8/10. Obviously a low budget movie, but it didn't need any glamour. This was about a down on her luck, unlucky woman who finds something good in her life for once and does everything possible (read: illegal) to protect it. If you didn't think it was possible for a movie to force you to identify with a serial killer, this one will make a very valid attempt to garner your sympathy for a person who killed seven people. You see a series of events unfold that might make you say, 'Yeah, I can see why she had to whack those guys. I might do the same.' Anyway, good film, great acting on Theron's attempt. Ricci is ok as miniature version of Theron (desperate for happiness but doesn't need to kill to get it). It's a very good story that was well executed in film. Theron gets mighty ugly for the part too, a testimony to the makeup artists involved. She definintely deserved the Oscar.