Sunday, October 31, 2004

So Many Movies...

Here is one of the blog entries that I postponed because of my jury duty:

I've seen so many movies recently...

-Saved! is a hilarious dark comedy that makes fun of the hypocrisy sometimes present in the Christian youth culture. It makes fun of those who use Christ and their faith to justify things that are un-Christianlike. The cast is great and the performances are very good. Mandy Moore especially stands out as Hilary Faye, the Christian equivalent to Regina George in Mean Girls. Macaulay Culkin also puts in a good performance as Hilary Faye's rebellious, wheelchair-bound brother. This is a good rental for fans of teen comedies (although it's a little deeper than your average teen comedy) and those who aren't offended by humor that deals with religion openly.

-There is nothing like a bad movie to make you realize how good an okay movie was. You might remember that my review of Shark Tale said that it had good parts but it was only okay. After seeing Kaena: The Prophecy, I have to move Shark Tale up a couple of notches. This movie was easily one of the worst CG animated films I've seen, right with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It's a shame too, because the voice cast is pretty decent and feautures Kirsten Dunst, the late Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston and the great Keith David. The animation isn't the greatest, but it at least looks different from anything else I've seen. Although at times, it looked a little too dark and murky. However, the story was severely lacking. It had one cliche after another from science fiction and anime. By the time I got to the end of the film, where Kaena leads her people into a world unknown to them, I knew why this film didn't get all that wide of a release. Hell, Sony didn't even really try with the DVD. One of the extras on the DVD is a virtual interview with Kaena, the main character. However, the entire interview is in French. The movie is a French-Canadian co-production. Could it have killed Sony to include the French audio track for the movie? Then again, maybe they figured that it just wasn't worth it.

-Sometimes, movies can be exactly what you expect them to be yet they still can be very creative and unique. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind is one of those movies. It was written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I had seen both of those films before, so I knew to expect certain things. For one thing, this movie was going to be strange and it would keep getting stranger even as you thought it couldn't. It was going to require me to figure some things out along the way. The actors in the film would look very unglamorous. It was also going to be done in a low-key way that gives the strangeness an almost realistic quality. Maybe it was because I sorta knew what I was getting into that I ended up enjoying the film. The cast was top-notch. Jim Carrey played a decided un-Jim Carreylike role. His character is boring, dry, and pathetic and his performance gives him humanity and you end up rooting for him throughout the movie. Kate Winslet also does a great job as Jim's girlfriend, a hard-partying free-spirit that's his opposite. Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood also turn in very good performances. I also really enjoyed Michel Gondry's direction. I've been a big fan of his music videos for a while and while I haven't seen his last film, Human Nature (also scripted by Charlie Kaufman), I felt he did a great job with this film. I loved how he visually represented Jim Carrey losing his memories (stuff starts to disappear subtly in the background during scenes, for example) and he finds the right tone between surrealism and wackiness. That being said, I can't wait for the next film Charlie Kaufman writes. Now, they all can't be good ones (Confessions of A Dangerous Mind, which Charlie adapted, sucked big time) but, if anything, his films are inventive. I wonder, though, if the next film he does will defy expectations. After all, with three truly unusual comedies under his belt, how do you surprise your audience? I guess this will prove how creative he actually is.

-Morgan Spurlock is crazy. I mean, how else could you describe a man who ate McDonald's food three times a day for a whole month? However, the results are striking in the wonderful film Super Size Me. This movie is arguably one of the most entertaining documentaries not made by Michael Moore. It's informative, funny, and well made. Spurlock wisely decided to make his McDonald's diet only one part of a larger film about food and the obesity crisis. There are a lot of interesting scenes in this film. I cracked up at the scene when he is at a middle school in Naperville, IL. The woman from the school is clearly in denial as the kids basically buy junk food to eat for lunch. Spurlock's own gradual transformation from healthy, active guy, to a more lethargic, fattening guy is compelling. Yes, the experiment isn't really scientific, but in a film like this, it doesn't need to be. One extra that has to be seen on the DVD is called "The Smoking Fry." Spurlock puts various fast food items in jars and lets them decompose over time. However, it's amazing what happens (or doesn't happen) to the McDonald's fries. If you don't believe what you see in this featurette, think about if you've ever randomly found a McDonald's fry under a piece of furniture...and what it looked like. So, did this movie sour me on McDonald's food? Not really. In our house, we normally only eat out at fast food places once or twice a week at most. Unless it's a special occasion like Hamburger/Cheeseburger day, we don't go to McDonald's anymore than once or twice a month. I don't eat fast food daily and lately, I eat less from there than I used to. When I went to McDonald's for lunch during jury duty, I couldn't finish the medium fry that came with my Chicken McNugget meal. So, that movie didn't really change anything for me...but it's still a very entertaining documentary that should be seen.

-I think that the concept behind the movie Big will become one of those archetypal stories that are done lots of lots of times. We all know the stories: Romeo & Juliet, body-switching, Pygmalion, and so on. With movies that use these stories, they have to be somewhat creative...otherwise, they'll suck. I say all this because 13 Going On 30 is basically a girl's version of Big. While it's not as good as the original (and there are some notable differences), it's fun fluff. Jennifer Garner does a good job in her first starring movie role. It's very different from her role on Alias and it shows that she can do comedy pretty well. One thing that kind of bugged me about this movie is the underlying theme that you "can't do things over again" or that you "shouldn't have any regrets." Unlike Big, when Jennifer Garner's 13-year-old self wakes up as a 30-year-old, time has actually passed. What bugged me about the underlying theme is that it ran counter to what we all knew had to happen at the end of the film (anyone who has seen Big knows what happens). Not one character says anything like "if I had the chance, I'd do things differently." I wonder if the original script and the actual movie share the same ending. Still, that's kind of a nitpicky thing in a light movie such as this. It's not great, but at least it's fun.

-After seeing The Day After Tomorrow, I believe that I've figured out how some movies are unintentionally funny. It's all about the gap between the way the movie views itself versus the way we view the movie. The Day After Tomorrow takes itself seriously. It doesn't really have any "wink-wink" moments in it. However, I couldn't take that movie seriously at all. Thus, I couldn't help but laugh at it. That doesn't mean the movie actually sucks. The special effects are great. There are some wonderful action scenes. However, it's just incredibly ridiculous at times. I mean...why was it that the main threat to Jake Gyllenhaal and his friends when they are on a ship was a pack of wolves? Then, there was the scene when people were literally trying to outrun the act of freezing. That reminded me a whole lot of that unintentionally funny action scene in The Mummy Returns when Brendan Fraser is trying to outrun a sunrise. I also laughed at the President and Vice-President who were thinly veiled versions of Bush and Cheney. When the President asked the VP what he should do, I cracked up. Ultimately, The Day After Tomorrow is an unintentionally hilarious and campy big-budget disaster flick. The science and logic in the film is questionable. The people are either immensely smart or immensely dumb. And a tornado conveniently destroys the Hollywood sign. How could the filmmakers take this seriously?

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