Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Fall, Get Smart, Wanted, Wall-E, Hancock, Journey 3D

The Fall, a remake of the 1981 film Yo Ho Ho, was directed by Tarsem (The Cell) from a script he wrote with Dan Gilroy and
Nico Soultanakis. It's about a 1920's stunt rider who is left paralyzed after a fall. During his stay in a California hospital, he's befriended by a young Immigrant girl to whom he tells a story. To say too much more than that would possibly ruin what is a tragic, beautiful, and strangely innocent film which also feels, toward the end, like a tribute to all silent film stunties. But don't let the stunt talk fool you. This movie is so much more than that.
Tarsem's stunning visuals are on full display here in spite of apparently not using computers to augment them. The score was perfect and the little girl, Catinca Untaru, was heartbreakingly fantastic. I really only have two complaints: it was a little hard to understand Untaru sometimes as her accent's thick in places and Justine Waddell isn't very good. Though she's not in very many scenes, it's kind of offputting when she is. I don't remember her being this bad in Dracula 2000, but in this and Thr3e, she was just terrible. Thr3e wasn't a good film anyway so I forgave her.
Anyway, it's a beautiful film and I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the visuals alone.
Get Smart is an updated feature version of the 60s television show of the same name which came from the minds of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It was directed by Peter Segal from a script by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. It's about Maxwell Smart, a tech with American spy agency CONTROL who wants to be an agent, like number 23. When their headquarters is attacked and the identities of nearly all of CONTROL's agents are compromised by their arch-rivals, KAOS, only Max and the newly-renovated Agent 99 can get in there and defeat them.
It's been a looooong time since I saw an episode of Get Smart...since the days of Nick at Nite showing older teevee shows and not Roseanne or The Fresh Prince. While a lot of the humour in the script was of today's type of over-the-top, obvious comedy, there were a few signs of Brooks and Henry in there. The direction was capable and Steve Carell only channelled the late Don Adams once, seeming instead to make Maxwell Smart his own character. Anne Hathaway was pretty good as 99. I still would have cast someone else, but that's just me.
Overall, it was cute and it did make me laugh so that has to count for something, I guess.
Wanted was directed by Timur Bekmambetov from a script by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan. It's based on a graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. The film is about a beaten down young man who learns that his father didn't run away, but was a hard core badass assassin killed a month and a half before the film itself takes place and it's up to him to avenge his death and not die from overexposure to Angelina Jolie.
I love Bekmambetov for Nochnoy and Dnevnoy Dozor. I haven't seen Gladiatrix, and don't plan to. I love his style, I love his direction. It's simply too bad that the "plot" of this film was so lacking that in between the exquisite action scenes, I was bored to tears.
I wanted to smack the everliving daylights out of James McAvoy and did find some pleasure in the Repairman scenes. He was so unbelieveably annoying and I did not once believe Wesley had learned anything of value beyond the power behind a gun, but most of that is a writing issue. Yeah, his job sucked, blah, stand up and change it, yadda. So many other movies have said all of that and more, which isn't so bad, but those movies were ten million times better.
Angelina Jolie wasn't given much to do outside of be hot and be a badass whilst being hot. She poured her heart into it, though, ya gotta give her credit for that. Morgan Freeman was awesome. Can't say more than that.
Overall, I was unimpressed with everything except how pretty it was; however, pretty is nothing without some true depth, which I felt this film lacked.
Wall-E is another masterpiece from those geniuses at Pixar about a lonely robot, the girlbot he falls in love with, and his pursuit of her. Sounds so simple, but it's really not.
I compare Wall-E to The Incredibles as far as Pixar flicks go. No, it's not as good as The Incredibles...that's definitely my favourite of all of Pixar's flicks thus far, but The Incredibles felt like it was an adult film that kids could watch, whereas Finding Nemo (my Pixar two or three) was a kids flick that adults could watch.
Not only was the story beautiful and the film funny, but the animation was amazing. One week, I'll see something like Kung Fu Panda and really enjoy it and love how expressive the characters' faces are, and think "Wow...they're really good!" Then Pixar comes along, as Pixar does, and blows everything Dreamworks or anyone else does right out of the water. Wall-E, the robot, wouldn't be half as expressive as he is now if he were done by another studio. Wall-E, the movie, wouldn't be half as good at another studio period.
I highly, highly recommend it. I also highly, highly recommend seeing it in a digital house, if at all possible. Beautiful.
Hancock was directed by Peter Berg from a script that was written by, among others, Vince Gilligan from The X-Files staff. The movie is about a foul tempered superhero who is taught by a human how to be super. There's a lot more to the story that was short-shrifted in this well-paced, but unimpressive film. I'd like to see the original cut of the film, before the comment cards and greedy studio heads got involved. It's especially disappointing because Vince Gilligan wrote some of my favourite X-Files episodes, like "Pusher," "Bad Blood," and "X-Cops."
The cinematography -- I guess "hand held" is Peter Berg's signature style now -- was uneven with the rest of the film. The first third or so was great, then it really lost steam and seemed to forget what it was there to do.
The performances from all involved were good, so at least that's something positive. As far as recommending it, I'd wait for DVD.
On a side note, Hancock doesn't give me hope for Berg's version of Dune, another one of my favourite movies and books. He seemed to capitulate mighty quickly to studio heads who wanted changes to what really could have been a fantastic take on the superhero mythos. Dune is complicated and complex (and my favourite of all of Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles.) Somehow, David Lynch managed to pack as much complexity as he could into the two hour flick. The Sci-Fi mini-series remake couldn't match half that, even while including such pivotal character building scenes as Paul's fight with Jamis.
I hope I'm wrong and that Peter Berg delivers a Dune that, for me, surpasses Lynch's version. Unfortunately, with digital effects making people kind of lazy, I don't think I will be wrong...
Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D was the first feature film as director for visual effects man Eric Brevig, who'd previously directed some episodes of Xena, apparently. There were four writers on this film (two of them had the same name according to the IMDb)...that's three too many, in my opinion.
Here's the lowdown: the 3D effects were excellent in spite of it all being painfully, obviously CG. The Jurassic Park T-Rex that the late Stan Winston built, and the T-Rex that was CG'd into wide shots, looked far more real than the one in this flick. Still, you'll be flinching and jumping with the best of us because the T-REX DROOL IS GOING TO FALL ON ME OMIGOD!!!  Yeah, the 3-D stuff is gimmicky...not unlike a 3-D show at an amusement park.
Also like at Disney or Universal, the story is pretty bad. The movie is really just a long version of one of those attractions. It's not an adaptation of the Jules Verne book, which might've been cool. Instead, it's about modern people who believe that the story Verne tells is real.
Brendan Fraser's performance was uneven. One minute, he's making me laugh with how badly he "held back tears" and the next, I'm thinking that his trying to break through a wall to save his nephew, and how afraid he was, was fantastic. He's good with the action stuff...not so much with the emotions.
Relative newcomer Anita Briem looked like she'd been acting in green-screen flicks all her life. Josh Hutcherson practically has. They both turned in good performances.
Overall, the only way to watch this flick is in 3-D. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.

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