Thursday, July 31, 2008

DJG / Five Random Films

The Mist * ½
Directed by: Frank Darabont / 2007

Roger Ebert has a book appropriately titled, "Your Movie Sucks!". File "The Mist" with fellow suck fests in Ebert's book. I had heard this Stephen King suspense novella film adaptation was bad. But, I had no idea it was THIS BAD. Had the film not taken itself as serious and perhaps gone the campy vein like Robert Rodriguez's brilliant 2007 zombie gore fest "Planet Terror" (1/2 of the “Grindhouse” duel-feature with Quentin Tarantino), then it could have been something special. Only a handful of King stories are turned into cinema gold, but the majority of movies based on his material equal BAD, yet stupid-awesome at best. "The Mist" certainly doesn't come without some cheap thrills, stupid laughs, terrible dialogue/acting, blood and silly CGI movie monsters that according to my cousin look like “Muppets on steroids”. However, the film exhausts itself within thirty minutes for this watcher instead of mist-ifying (har har). It would be better served up at the camp kooky cutter buffet and with Bruce Campbell behind the leading gun barrel and with an even lower budget. Another thing, "The Mist" boasts one of the worst endings ever...and not in a best-worst way either. And to top it off, it takes 2 hours and ten minutes to get to that horrible end. Still, no matter what, that ending is unforgettable and I bet Stephen King got some good laughs out of it and the entire film. Not to mention that he’s probably laughing all the way to the bank. It’s just two hours and ten minutes that I’m not getting back.


Dark City * * *
Directed by: Alex Proyas / 1998

Every now and again I try to revisit a film that didn't sit well with me the first time. Films are an interesting medium as they are very immediate. Moods, life placement and a variety of lenses can play a part in the impact that a film can have on the viewer. I was behind on "Dark City" the first time I saw it, and I felt then (back in 2002) that I would have enjoyed it more if I had seen it when it first came out back in the late ‘90s. I feel the same way now upon seeing it twice. "Dark City" is beautifully shot, but comes with one too many coats of industrial-goth and so much style that it lacks true substance for me. Which, coincidentally in this movie, the aliens who are controlling their own world of humans to figure us out, find out through their own defeat that it's not our brains that drive us but our hearts and souls. True, you need some brains…but, you get the picture. I feel that "Dark City" seems to lack the “heart and soul” ingredients as I found once again no care in the characters or their motives and was bored with the plot within thirty minutes. Though, big-bang-dang if the characters and their surroundings didn't have some style.


The Happening * * * ½
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan / 2008

It's official, I think it's finally happened. M. Night Shyamalan, you need to take a break from suspense, or directing for at least a little bit. You need to take a break from trying too hard to be mysterious and thought provoking. Maybe try tackling a different genre, as the suspense-horror market that you helped to revive ten years ago has become stale, saturated and manipulative. Though, despite my bites, I'm never completely disappointed with your work. Your “Happening” isn’t a BAD film, but not only does nothing really happen, I feel you are losing some touch behind the typewriter and camera. To some, I’m sure this *** ½ review is very generous, but I give it out only because you still make very enjoyable films that look nice and keep me glued and entertained. I can easily watch your films multiple times and still enjoy them and get something out of them. However, I feel that the only thing I happened to get out of "The Happening" is a dumbed-down M. Night film trying to poke at the current state of the national climate (terrorism / politics / environmental protections) disguised as a little bit smarter "Horor Porn" flick. You know, all those high-budget slasher pictures that keep pushing the ratings board and the box office numbers? I groaned when I saw T.V. advertising that boasted, "The first R-Rated film from M. Night Shyamalan." And I know there are meatier higher-up forces at work in the Hollywood system. But, M. Night, you are smarter than THIS movie shows. Now, I don't think any general director can be a FIVE STAR with each release, but you are depleting in ranks. You had me groaning and saying out loud, "Wow, that was REALLY dumb" during a few moments in "The Happening". Much of this movie could have been handled better and basically done without. There were certainly moments that had your M. Night stamp. But, for the most part it just felt like a good idea that didn't follow through and possibly would have worked better as a short similar to a “Twilight Zone” episode. I know the numbers game is something that must be played and I’m sure you were near the top of the box office because all the kids want to see some blood and chaos on the screen, but come on. Though, I do have to give you some credit as you still made a somewhat decent picture for what it is. Just please come back with something GREAT to reveal to me. I'll still go to the theatre to see your work every time. Just please don't try to dumb ME down.


White Chicks * * *
Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans / 2004

If the Coen Brothers are at the top of the brotherly film ladder, then I'm sure it would be easy to automatically put the Wayans Brothers near the bottom. Both teams boast a healthy pocket of dollars and nonsense, and the Coens certainly take top prize at the art fair. But, we must not be so quick to dismiss the Wayans Brothers talent too, as they take top honors at the (f)art fair, solid GOLD ones at that (Yep, I just said that). The Wayans are no dummies. Their pockets are deep and jingling all the way to the bank and financial backing to future cash cows even if their movies are stupid. I thoroughly enjoyed me some "White Chicks” as it was stupid-awesome. Who would have thought of having two black brothers dolling up in prosthetics as swinging, partying, bratty white chicks to protect their FBI jobs? Oh, the Wayans! CHA-WHITE-CHICKY-CHING! And the Wayans have one-up on the Coens, as I don’t think that Joel and Ethan would act out their fantasies on their own. “White Chicks” is exactly what it is, stupid-awesome fun!


Cowboy Bebop: The Movie * * * *
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe / 2001

Beautifully shot in animation, “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” is like a two hour episode of “Cowboy Bebop” the series. Which is a very enjoyable and short-lived late ‘90s animated show about a rag-tag team of likeable bounty hunters in a somewhat believable future of space and travel. It’s near the equivalent of Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino making creative babies together. It’s great stuff. The movie is too.


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