Sunday, June 29, 2008

Minute with Abe: New Episode!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Film Review: Sex and the City

Note: This continues my series of backtracking through the movies I have seen in the past two months and haven’t had time to review. I’ll be catching up on several more reviews over the next few weeks.

Sex and the City
Directed by Michael Patrick King
Released May 30, 2008
Seen June 1, 2008

This movie isn’t for me. I’m sure that I’m not a member of the target audience, and I doubt that anyone expected me to like this movie. I didn’t even expect to like it. I tried to go in with as open a mind as possible. Reflecting on it afterwards, which I have been doing since I saw it a few weeks ago, I can’t seem to pinpoint what it is I didn’t like about it. I’m not even sure there’s much I didn’t like. I just really could not get into it at all. That doesn’t surprise me. Much like “Serenity”, which I recently reviewed, this film requires a certain knowledge of the show for it to be fully enjoyable. I suspect, however, that isn’t nearly as true for “Sex and the City” as it is for “Firefly” and “Serenity”. I can’t understand what’s so great about Mr. Big, and I presume that I would have a fuller understanding of why he’s so darn amazing if I watched the show. Putting the show aside, this film is a comedy with more than a hint of romance and an occasional venture into drama, but mostly it’s a movie for anyone who likes fashion and watching these women go around and spend money on meaningless things just because they can. That’s not to say that the audiences who go see this movie are shallow people who just want to be rich. It’s an experience that allows a glimpse into a fantasy world where there really is little to be concerned about other than, well, sex and the city (and probably clothes too). The women play their roles well. It’s just not my cup of tea.

C

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Midnight Screening: Serenity

Preface: start at the beginning with my review of the TV show “Firefly”. The review below contains minor spoilers about the movie.

This past Saturday night marked my second ever midnight screening (the first was “Indiana Jones” only a few weeks ago), and my first ever cult movie screening. People were dressed up in costumes like the garb worn by Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the other crew of Serenity. Those who sported home-made replicas of the classic Jayne hat were rewarded with special prizes by the event runners who walked up and down the line repeatedly during the hour and a half or so before the screening began. Those same people shouted trivia questions and asked everyone to sing happy birthday to series creator and film director Joss Whedon on camera. Everyone in line sang along to the song “The Hero of Canton”, save for me, of course, and only because I don’t know all the words. The gentlemen behind me was there for the second night in a row, since they hold this screening Friday and Saturday night. We entered the theatre and they polled the audience about having a screening in Providence next year in addition to Boston. They gave away raffle prizes, one of which was a costume worn by the most minor of minor characters who barely even appears on screen for a split second in the film. That’s the amount of excitement these people had for this movie. And I was the person who got to see a cult movie for the first time with diehard fans who had seen it millions of times. As the saying goes, it’s a nice place to visit but I don’t think I’d want to live there. All this before the movie – a worthwhile experience already, I’d say. Right before the Universal logo appeared on screen, an attendee dressed as Mal ran up the aisle shouting “No power in the verse can stop us!” Indeed.

The film doesn’t lend itself to mass screenings as much as others in the sense that there are few applause-appropriate moments, but this audience did an impressive job and was much tamer than I had expected. Their reactions were spot-on, and I think I only missed a brief back-and-forth between characters due to loud laughing from the whole crowd. The movie had a nice action-packed start to it, even if some minor readjusting of the plot was necessary to make it readable for viewers who hadn’t seen the show. I enjoy flashbacks to childhood, especially when they’re linked with the recovery of memory. The device was very well used in this film. The film’s villain is quickly and efficiently introduced, and the movie’s start feels in media res, which is perfect when it serves as a continuation to the series.

The movie plays out just like a special two-part episode might. It is akin to the first “X-Files” movie, which takes what might be a season-long storyline and compresses it into two hours, fueling the film with action and resolving plotlines within its timeframe. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wasn’t expecting such a serious movie. It’s not that the film lost any of the amusing, comical elements of the show; rather the film takes on a much more serious central plot. The Reavers are freaky creatures, and I was far more scared than I had expected. I had to put my popcorn down when it started to border on the kind of undead/zombie horror fare that I avidly try to avoid. Luckily, I’ve learned not to immediately equate something I don’t find altogether pleasing with bad quality. The movie was an intense thrill ride, and while I might have nightmares at some point soon, it was probably worth it.

As far as fulfilling the hopes of diehard “Firefly” fans goes, I think the movie does a pretty impressive job. The film provides a nice reunion chapter for the gang. Without giving too much away, it was not nearly as happy-ending-oriented as I had expected. It was a nice reunion for the gang, and however unlikely they may be, future chapters could easily be made chronicling the adventures of the Serenity crew in between the show and the movie or even after the events of the film. I’m pretty sure that any “Firefly” fan would always love to see more from this ’verse, but I think the problem is that it’s hard for new people to get into the movie. It strikes me as near impossible that the film could have been successful because any new viewers hadn’t seen the show and therefore might be confused or uninterested, or both. In order to get into it, you have to sit down and watch the whole thing like I did last week. A co-worker of mine saw the film without having even heard of the show and unsurprisingly turned it off before it ended. It’s certainly a worthwhile film all by itself, but you can’t have an experience which satisfies fans and serves as a continuation/conclusion without continually referencing the source material. You just can’t have it both ways. I’ll be happy to take the references, though, and concur that this was a great movie. I’d still recommend to anyone eager to see it that they take a stab at watching “Firefly” first. It will be a much more fulfilling experience.

B+

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Film Review: The Incredible Hulk

Note: Because I haven’t posted in a LONG time, I’m going to put up reviews of movies starting with the most recent and working my way back. Check back soon for more.

The Incredible Hulk
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Released June 13, 2008

Ang Lee’s 2003 film “Hulk” (no “the”) was a disaster. I’m not quite sure why it was so bad, but there was just nothing about it that was good. Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, even Nick Nolte – not a bad cast by any stretch of the imagination. Ang Lee – a terrific, innovative director with a real creative vision (see any one of his other films). Regardless, it was terrible. And it wasn’t just me bashing it – the critics generally agreed. This new installment has to better – there’s no way it could be worse. While I was watching the movie, that’s what I kept thinking. But then the movie ended, and I realized that this was in fact just as bad as the first one. The main problem was that there was really no substance to it. Very little actually happened, which is especially regrettable given that this is not an “origin” story and therefore requires little exposition, which of course the movie does away with by the end of the opening credits. Worse still, the characters seem altogether unprepared for the things they come up against: William Hurt leads a platoon of soldiers to capture Bruce Banner and then is somewhat surprised and entirely unprepared when he turns into the Hulk. Shouldn’t he have seen that coming? I know I did.

Perhaps I got my expectations up too high after the remarkable “Iron Man” (review coming soon, I promise), but casting good actors in a superhero movie sometimes pays off. In fact, it’s usually the best thing about sub-par superhero flicks, like Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in all three “Spider-Man” movies. I cite Edward Norton as my favorite actor on every occasion, and while I wasn’t expecting this to be his best performance, I had hoped he might at least have more screen time. He’s barely in the movie, which is really too bad. What he is given to work with is rather sloppy and mostly involves running, panting, and getting ready to “hulk out”. No consideration is taken to try to play to his great talent for really molding characters (“Primal Fear”, “American History X”, “The Score”, and many more). I know that’s not what a Hulk movie is supposed to be about – great acting – but if you’re going to use such an excellent actor, try to use him well (“Terminator” people take note – Christian Bale should be given excellent material in the upcoming film!). Liv Tyler is more of a waste of space than usual, and I’m continually unimpressed with William Hurt, whose career is taking the same route as that of Jon Voight, though somehow he manages not to get penalized by critics and is even rewarded with an Oscar nomination for a pathetic cameo (“A History of Violence”). To be fair, Nick Nolte wasn’t much better in 2003.

The story here is pretty lame and lacking. There’s a lot of evil grinning by Tim Roth and dorky snickering by Tim Blake Nelson, and quite honestly, there’s little more memorable. The effects aren’t terrific but they’re not bad either. This rendering of “Hulk smash!” really doesn’t work, and further proves the point that nostalgia isn’t always a good reason to do something (how about that recent Harrison Ford film?). I brought my camera to the theatre with plans to record a second “Minute with Abe” immediately following the film, but realized that I hardly had anything to say. I’ve managed to drag out my thoughts into a few paragraphs here, but really there’s not much to say about the movie, other than, to put it crudely, it sucks. There’s really no reason to see it. I wish I had more to say, positive or negative, but it just doesn’t leave a good impression. In fact, it doesn’t really leave any impression at all. At least I got to see the trailer for “Clone Wars”. That I can get excited about.

F

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sparse Summer

I don't really see as many movies during the summer as the rest of the year, especially the fall. I plan on posting reviews on the next few weeks for "My Blueberry Nights", "The Visitor", "Iron Man", and "Sex and the City", so check back for those soon. Come fall, I'll be posting several times a week with reviews of the latest popular and independent films. Also - Emmy predictions over at TV with Abe soon.