Archive for December 21st, 2007

December 21, 2007

>The Last Four Movies I Saw

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Beowulf (2007) – This movie was supposed to be a 3-D live show for those who got the chance to see it with the 3-D glasses and everything, but in a “normal” movie experience, I don’t really see what’s the point of transforming real actors in digital ones. In Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, the audience we’ll sure have the chance to see how computer generated effects have advanced in the motion-captured live-action performances technique, but besides all this superficiality there’s not much substance. Substance? Isn’t it supposed to be just an entertainment flick? Yes, but that’s where it lacks substance, in more specific words, emotions. Many characters in the story (especially the supporting cast) look like unexpressive zombies uncapable of making a simple eye blink seem true. The story was adapted from an old epic poem and this film focus on the legend of Beowulf, a warrior who arrives in an scandinavian village willing to destroy the monster that terrifies its population. The action scenes envolving the main character are actually entertaining in a funny way, as he swims in the open sea for days without dying of hypothermia and constantly fights naked. Ah, and there’s also Angelina Jolie who plays a seductive creature who basically sleeps with men to later give birth to bipolar-disordered monsters. Besides all that, she has a tail and an incredible computer generated figure. Technology is great when it serves for a better storytelling, but that’s not the case here.

We Own the Night (2007) – Laurence Olivier once said: “What is acting but lying and what is good lying but convincing lying?” The question applies perfectly to Joaquin Phoenix‘s performance in this film. The dramatic personality transformation his character suffers, going from one extreme to the other was hard to believe in storytelling terms, but he’s so willing to convince us, he is such a great actor, that I kind of feel bad for saying I didn’t believe how he could go from family black sheep to… Well, I can’t spoil it to you. Apart from this disbelief, I actually liked this film, that takes place in NY City in the 1980s. Phoenix plays Bobby Green, he belongs to a family of cops but he decided to live in his own terms, adopting a different second name (his real name is Grusinsky) and managing a night club. The fact the club belongs to the russian maphia doesn’t seem to bother Green, who is only interested in enjoying the night together with his beautiful girfriend, played by Eva Mendes in her best performance by far. But things will change when Bobby’s brother and father organize an operation in order to arrest the local drug dealer. Detail: None of the russians, including the maphia’s leader have a clue about Bobby’s family.

The Golden Compass (2007) – I particularly adore fantasy-like films, and for more that I feel happy with the explosion of this genre of films in today’s Hollywood, I also feel disappointed for the fact that some of these films are only made because there was once Lord of the Rings, that made a lot of money at the box office, though there are certainly more producers out there willing for making money, money, money than creative genious like Peter Jackson, passionately willing to make a fantastic film. In short: not all books should become films for the wrong reasons, and in this case, a book which was dramatically compressed to turn into a less than two hours film. No, I haven’t read the book, but I can only guess and, of course, suspect. I had a hard time following the small bits of the story due to the rush of its actions. Everything happens so fast and out of place that the audience is not given enough time to connect to the story. After saving her uncle from poison, the curious Lyra Belacqua (the newcomer Dakota Blue Richards) goes on a trip to the north with the glamorous Mrs. Coulter (a very icy Nicole Kidman, who could have played the White Witch in another fantasy film). In her dark and magic adventure along with a golden compass that can tell the truth for the one who can read it (and she can) , Lyra will search for a kidnapped friend, and along the way she will have the help of flying witches, a balloon pilot and a former whiskey drunker polar bear, among others. I should also mention that in Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, who happens to be a sort of visible and audible spirit of the person, who follows them everywhere they go. The creatures change its forms in many ways and in Lyra’s case, it can be a ferret, a mouse, a cat… Watching The Golden Compass didn’t feel like a true escapism, but it was sure a nice visual experience. I quite enjoyed the polar bears moments, though.

Paranoid Park (2007) – This film is Gus van Sant‘s adaptation of a Blake Nelson novel, that basically vagues about the existencial dilemma of a teenage boy envolved in an accidental, but not less guilty death. I haven’t read the book, and the film didn’t persuade me to do so, not even in a late future. Van Sant “alternative” cinema worked positively in Elephant, but here all the camera endless close-ups, walks in the school corridor and slow motion scenes keep as superficial as they can get, without adding substance to the story, in short: there’s nothing going on beneath the artful surface. The lead character (casted on a MySpace page) is a high school kid who never separates himself from his skateboard. The day he and his friend agree on skating at the presumably rough and dangerous Paranoid Park, he gets envolved in an accident. The fragments of that day will be revealed slowly through flash-backs, that should make us comprehend the boy’s actions, but not his constant apathy. The newcomer Gabe Nevins is more apathic than his character was supposed to be, and there’s not a single scene he would look or sound any different, which makes it quite hard to believe in his drama. In the rare scenes the kid is talking to her mom, we never get to see her face, or she’s placed very distantly from him while having a regular talk, therefore, we should assume the kid has distant parents. He has sex with her virgin cheerleader girlfriend, and he’s not a bit excited about it during the act, therefore, we should assume he’s really facing something serious in his life. And then the most obvious scene of all, we get to see what he saw in the day of the accident. The characters are not developed enough as everything else in this experimental project that wastes the work of cinematographer Christopher Doyle (In The Mood for Love, Lady in the Water) in 90 minutes of dullness. One thing else, the teenage female characters in this film, told from an obvious and limited male point of view make me say Thank God for Sofia Coppola.

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