Sunday, October 15, 2006

Movie roundup - from the last couple of weeks...

Jurassic Park (1993)
I loved this movie to death when it first came out, and all these years later... I still do! It's gained a few detractors over the years, but they're wrong. Jurassic Park is a classic adventure film - spectacular, tense, littered with bursts of excitement. All these years later the special effects still more than hold their own against the current state of the art, and in many respects are less rough around the edges than todays mass produced CGI. The dinos are the star attraction, but a strong cast makes the humans memorable as well. I still can't figure out where that mysterious cliff in the T-Rex paddock materializes from though...

American Graffiti (1973)
Once upon a time, George Lucas made films with characters, and this is one of them. Taking place during one night in a small town in the 60s, it follows a group of teenagers at crossroads in their lives. Doesn't sound like anything special, but it's got some fine performances and is heartfelt and funny. And there's no trace of bad bluescreen or cheesy CGI cartoon characters anywhere!

The Deer Hunter (1978)
A war film that opts to focus less on battle and more on a small group of men who go off to war and the community they hail from. It examines various relationships and how they change as a result of the participation of three men in the Vietnam War. It's layered and deliberately paced, and builds up to a tragic finale... Fantastic performances from everyone involved - the Russian roulette scenes are unforgettable. I'm not a big fan of war / drama films in general, but there's no arguing the quality of this one...

A History of Violence (2005)
After Sauron's defeat, Aragorn moves to a small American town and starts a family. Jokes aside, Viggo Mortensen is fantastic in this excellent Cronenberg film. After killing (defensively) a couple of sociopathic crooks who try to make trouble in his smalltown diner, Tom Stall becomes a hero. This attracts the attention of a bunch of mafia men who claim that Tom is actually a gangster like them. A lot of violence does indeed take place, some of it quite brutal, but the film is really a character piece about the viral nature of violence and the inherently violent nature of people. Well worth watching...

King of New York (1990)
Christopher Walken is brilliant in the aforementioned "The Deer Hunter", and he's pretty good in this as well... but I'd be hard pressed to recommend it. Walken plays a drug lord who, upon his release from prison, tries to do some good in the city by funding community projects with his drug business, while concurrently eliminating his gangster opponents. A bunch of cops try to bring him down. Featuring a lot of violence and gratuitous nudity and no characters to root for, the film continually stretches plausability and is ultimately underwhelming.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Despite all the hype, this didn't turn out to be the hit some people were expecting. The title really does say it all - the film is all about snakes. On a plane. And Samuel L. Jackson is the man who has to deal with them at 30,000 feet. It's ridiculous to be sure, and occasionally seems to take itself more seriously than it should, but it's still a load of fun (especially with a crowd). Not one I'll deliberately watch again, but I can easily see myself catching this playing on TV while channel surfing and watching it through to the end. I'm not sure if that's a recommendation or not - you probably get the idea.

V for Vendetta (2005)
And finally, the one I'd recommend the most out of this bunch. I went in expecting good things, and it didn't disappoint. The trailers made it look like an action film, which is far from the truth - what little action there is actually constitutes the weakest parts of the film. In truth it's very dialogue heavy, and I'd describe it more as a thriller / drama. Set in a dystopian future England where freedoms have been traded away to a fascist government in the name of security, the story revolves around an enigmatic, masked terrorist named V who plans to incite a revolution. A young woman named Evey gets caught up in his activities and is forced to decide if she should get involved in his plot. Some have said the dystopian world is too extreme, and this may be true, but so what? The same could be said of 1984, which is widely hailed as a classic. Regardless of its ideology, the film is exceptionally well made, thought provoking, funny, and entertaining - a rare combination.


sanity index said...

Only 2 out of your list I watched in the theatre, and only those 2 can I remember and recommend - A History of Violence and V for Vendetta. I abhor violence and gore but cannot deny that the former is an excellent movie, and am glad to see that Viggo showed naysayers that he can act. William Hurt was just a tad unbelievable as a gangster, though.

The latter is one of my favorite movies. Not just the fact it's from the Wachowski brothers, who have the talent of mixing genres so gracefully, but also because it is germane to the current political climate here. I have a new-found respect for Hugo Weaving, too, for being a genius at emoting with his voice and subtle movements.

American Graffiti is on my to-watch list, though I could've told you to avoid Snakes On A Plane. :)

Antimatter said...

You must be one of a handful of people who DIDN'T see Jurassic Park at a cinema! :D

A History of Violence was indeed excellent... I didn't realize Viggo had naysayers - of course the man can act! There was that little arthouse jewelry flick he did for that New Zealander, which everyone saw and in which he gave a great performance! Not to mention pretty much every other film he's been in (I've been a fan since his portrayal of Lucifer). I always thought the question was if he was leading man material, which he isn't in the conventional sense - as with all great character actors. (e.g. William H Macy, Robert Downey Jr. David Morse, Tom Cruise, etc...)

I loved V for Vendetta as well... these two are among the best films I've seen lately (alongside Das Boot and the brilliant Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which you must see). I think it's relevant to the political climate everywhere these days - 'terrorism' seems to be the buzzword that gives those in power a free pass to do just about anything. Hugo's always had an amazing voice (Agent Smith, anyone?), but I concur with your assessment of his performance - genius is the correct word. :) Not to mention Natalie Portman, who finally has a performance that lives up to her amazing debut in Leon.

sanity index said...

I'm sorry, I just noticed that you had put Tom Cruise in the same list as Viggo and William H. Macy. Tom Cruise?!

Natalie wasn't bad in V For Vendetta - admittedly I haven't seen Leon - but her accent bothered me. Just a little.

Antimatter said...

Hey, it takes skill to conjure that toothy grin! :D It was a bad attempt at humour...

Once you've heard the range of accents that I've heard in real life, faltering movie accents are no longer that jarring!