Saturday, November 26, 2005

War of the Worlds (2005)

Spielberg's. Worst. Movie. Ever.

Actually, I'm really surprised that so many friends told me this was a great movie. There was absolutely no plot. I was glad that they got it started so quickly -- the aliens attack in like the first 20 minutes -- but then you quickly realize there's not much to do after that. This movie wants to be Signs (2002) so badly. In that light, it's frightening that Spielberg, with 30 years experience in this genre, can't even begin to muster the talent that Shyamalan demonstrated in Signs. I just watched Close Encounters on Friday... man, that was such a better movie than this. Stevie, what happened?

First of all, Spielberg has to start by firing Janusz Kaminski. This guy did frickin' amazing work on Schindler's List. That was arguably one of the best shot movies ever. And I'd actually argue that some of his work since then was cool too -- like Saving Private Ryan. But oh my god, can this guy get over the Dior Filter or what!? It's so overused, and it has no place in War of the Worlds. It's obvious he has no original ideas for photography anymore. I seriously hope that Spielberg finds a better DP after this movie -- this movie was partially ruined by his style, I'm not kidding.

Second, the effects here mostly don't work. You know, I've held back on criticizing VFX for many years because I worked in that industry but I gotta let loose on this movie. Sure, there are a few hero shots that are really awesome. They nailed those. But most of the "awesome" effects in the movie had nothing to do with technical capability... they had to do with concept. A big scene of tripods moving around, the freeway getting destroyed, things like that. You go "wow" just because it looks cool, and are willing to ignore the blurry edge glow around the main character. Guys, drop the edge glow and that "mix the background onto the character" idea... seriously, they looks like ass. Also, there seemed to be a ton of mismatched grain on this movie, which is really scary that I can point out watching it on an 8 year old 27" Trinitron.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh. I think it's because I, for one, am very tired of spectacle effects movies. This probably has a lot to do with Hollywood's downfall. How about some kick ass movies with effects that just make the story work for a change? Check out Kung Fu Hustle, which a couple buddies made me watch the other night. Those effects aren't technically great, but you don't care. They're great for the story.

Third, I still don't understand how they ended up defeating the aliens. It's always so obvious in these kinds of movies that they have to defeat the aliens, right? But I watched this movie and still have no idea how they did it. How lame.

Fourth, I made the mistake of buying this DVD before seeing the movie. Last time I'm doing that, my friends. Fifth, I accidentally bought it full screen. So it was a complete waste of money.

Sixth, Tom Cruise. Tom CRUISE. Ugh.

Rating: Bad/Good - Seriously, take my advice, wait until it's on HBO. I'm not sure why I spent $15 on this DVD. I wish I could return it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Batman Begins (2005)

I'm usually a Tim Burton hater (see my forthcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory review), but in the case of the first Batman movie, I really liked it. Maybe I was under the influence of the girl I was at the theater with (Christy), but I did like it. Batman has always had a cheesy aspect because of the Adam West era. The first Batman movie was just a little cheesy and comic, but introduced the noir look to the series (at least beyond the comic itself).

Batman Begins harks back to the days of the first movie, though this time it takes the noir feeling and makes it more serious. Forgetting about the deranged days where Warner Brothers thought hiring Joel Schumacher was a good idea, they hired a far more competent director and writer than Burton in Chris Nolan. This guy seems like he can't lose when it comes to making quality movies.

However, there's something missing from Batman Begins: a desire to see it again. This is the only thing that plagues Nolan's work. Once I saw Memento, I had no need or desire to see it again. For comic book movies, creating this feeling in the audience isn't just desirable, it's necessary. Comic book movies are generally aimed towards a more narrow audience than, say, Titanic, so you've gotta cash in on repeat business. Compare this to the X-Men movies that Bryan Singer put together. After seeing those, I basically wanted to stay for the next showing. WB struck gold by having him direct Superman Returns. In fact, basically every movie Singer has ever done made me want to watch it again, starting with The Usual Suspects, of course.

The casting is decent, not great. For one thing, I just can't take any movie with Michael Caine very seriously anymore. Also, for all of the press Katie Holmes created for herself last summer to publicize this movie, she is almost invisible in Batman Begins. Furthermore, she's 26 and still looks 13. She should be left to doing teenager movies and shows, her acting isn't that great anyway.

And remember how everyone complained about Michael Keaton being Batman? Everyone was like "What's up with that?" Actually, it might have been Burton's most brilliant move. Keaton is a normal looking guy in real life. To think he's Batman is really strange, and that's what's perfect about it. Anyway, considering how many people complained about Keaton, what's up with every actor since him doing exactly the same schtick when playing Batman? Christian Bale is neither better nor worse than Keaton, Clooney or Kilmer, he's just the same.

Rating: Good/Good, rent it (don't buy it) on DVD.