Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fallen (1998)

This movie's actually a little better than I remembered. When I saw it the first time, I think I saw it for free. But when you have a bad memory of a movie you saw for free, it must be truly terrible, and "Fallen" is still mostly that.

I can tell you exactly why I didn't like it that first time I saw it:
  • Too much chasing around.
  • Has one of those "set up for the sequel" endings. Trust me, there won't be one.
And these are still annoying to me today. Denzel movies are usually pretty good (which is why I gave this a second chance) -- and I really like a few scenes in this movie that I had forgotten about. When Denzel has to tell a kid about the death of his father, it's a very effective scene. I also like the scenes where he's researching the religious mysticism of the situation at hand.

Rating: Bad, Bad, though a few scenes are actually pretty good. See the Exorcist if you're in the mood for a possession movie.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hide and Seek (2005)

Once again, we find ourselves watching Robert DeNiro in a low budget horror movie. How many times have we seen this in the last year or two? Probably too many times to count. Is he searching to be involved in the next Sixth Sense? As part of that strategy, ya think he gets back end money on these movies? No question.

For about 75 of this movie's 100 minutes, it's actually pretty good. And then... and then... it takes a turn for the cliche. The result of this movie is one of the oldest horror movie cliches in the book. The characters end up being a parody of a horror movie parody.

Now, let me take a second here to ask "What's up with Dakota Fanning"? This girl was 10 when the made this movie, but she seems like she's about 65. Her character is pretty freaky and effective, but frankly, I don't think it's that hard to help kids seem like they can act. If you want to make them spooky, have them whisper. If you want to make them seem intelligent, have them keep quiet. Shyamalan's direction of Haley Joel Osment is perfected evidence of these concepts -- whereas A.I., which required normal non-whispering speech, revealed Osment to be just another kid actor.

One of the most redeeming things in the movie is the location. Upstate New York in the late fall/early winter is one of the most beautiful locations -- I admit I have bias here. I spent a lot of time in that area and I have a lot of nostalgia for it. Anyway, they try to use this location to make the movie more creepy, which I don't think works very well.

Other Highlights: Elisabeth Shue and Famke Janssen
Rating: It's a mediocre Good, Bad(tm) movie -- only because of the first 75% of the movie. If you like the genre, it's worth watching on cable. I watched it on PPV and would want at least some of my $4 back.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Aviator

This was the movie that people thought should have won best picture?

I haven't seen Million Dollar Baby, but I'm ready to place bets that it's better than this movie. On the other hand, the Oscars are filled with movies that are completely forgettable. Can you tell me who won best picture 3 years ago? (I had to look it up... it was Chicago, which was so bad I couldn't even watch it on an airplane).

The Aviator was nominated for exactly two reasons:
  • Scorsese has been repeatedly left in the cold by Oscar and once again they wanted to build him up and knock him down.
  • ANY, I repeat, any movie that further glamorizes Hollywood, tells Hollywood lore, or is somehow Hollywood insider junk will end up being nominated.
I think I've written this before here, but the Oscars were created by Douglas Fairbanks to try to legitimatize movies compared to the theater. That's one reason that any movie that makes Hollywood seem dignified must get nominated. To perpetrate the illusion that movies are meaningful, Oscar must be granted on widely known movies that seem to separate Hollywood from its typical cesspool fare. As we all know, movies are a hand waving magic trick compared to the saw-the-lady-in-half type of tricks that theater productions have to go through in producing hours of continuous entertainment. Not that I don't find the theater extraordinarily boring and painful to my knees since the chairs are too small.

The Aviator turns out to be almost three hours of DiCaprio acting a bit nuts. The problem with this movie, as it is with most docu-dramas, is that you don't know where reality ends and fiction begins. I find a lot of the scenes unbelievable. How could someone so detatched be so successful in life? The only scene that had any redeeming qualities to it was the Senatorial Inquisition that Hughes faced in the late 40s. Almost everything else seemed to be explaining his life to us.

Example: Pan Am's Juan Trippe (played by Alec Baldwin), comes to Hughes in an effort to acquire TWA. In the lengthy dialogue spoken through a door (effective, though boring), Trippe basically lays out all of the reasons Hughes must sell. He goes through the entire situation of the shareholders, the share prices of the two companies, loans, etc..

Now, do you really think this is what was spoken between Trippe and Hughes? Of course not. This is a fabricated replica of a private conversation, mostly structured to let the audience know what the hell is going on. Imagine 2-3 hours of that and you basically have The Aviator.

Again, like many docu-dramas, you come out thinking a History Channel documentary would have been far more interesting than something this fictional with big-name actors. Their acting was pretty good, considering they had very little to work with, and Scorsese pretty much mailed this one in.

By the way, this is a perfect example to demonstrate my rating system. There are four types of movies.
  • Good, good - the producers intended to make an excellent movie and it turned out good as well. Most movies are intended to be excellent so most good movies fit in here. Examples include Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Diner, Schindler's List, Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Bad, Good - the producers intended to make an A-list movie and it turned out really sappy, cheesy and bad, yet is widely thought to be good. The king of all examples for this type is Forrest Gump.
  • Good, Bad - the producers intended to make a "B" movie and it turned out really awesome. Cult classics are in this category: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Evil Dead 2, John Carpenter's The Thing.
  • Bad, Bad - The worst of the worst usually end up here: Nothing But Trouble (possibly the worst movie of all time), White Noise, Police Academy 5, Skyscraper (starring Anna Nicole Smith).
My rating for Aviator: Bad, Good and wait until it's on cable, if at all.