Monday, February 2, 2009

two movies

so i was trying to think of something deep and meaningful to write about but, really, this week has seemed to go on for several years and i think i'll shelve the deep and meaningful and go for a couple of minor movie reviews instead.

okay, so we'll start with terminator 3: rise of the machines. personally, i thought doing a third terminator movie was a terrible idea. i avoided it when it came out, ignored reviews, trailers, teasers, posters, etc., and managed to do it so successfully that my prognostication that it had been a bad idea to make it in the first place seemed neatly borne out by how easy it was to avoid. still. now they're making a fourth with christian bale and common and that sounds like it might be quite a fun idea but, just in case, i thought i'd see the third one to fill in the potential gap.

the first faintly startling thing is that the young man playing john connor is nick stahl -- otherwise known as ben hawkins from carnivale and the seriously fucked up senator's kid from sin city, but lets leave city out of it; carnivale is much better and way weirder. it was a little strange to watch because, really, ben and john are the same character approached from two different doors: they're both drifters, deeply disenchanted with and estranged from the society they find themselves in, intelligent, suspicious, disinclined to believe in other people or want to work with anyone else. 

the short version of all this is that mr. stahl is, hands down, the best part of t3. schwarzenegger should've stayed home. it wasn't quite a case of "what used to ripple now wobbles," but what used to ripple no longer ripples as it once did and, really, we didn't need to see it all again 20 years later. claire danes was no linda hamilton although she was a reasonable co-protagonist with stahl and the charisma between them was pretty good. it wasn't her fault she had next to no character development and this relationship with her father we were meant to care deeply about that took up all of, oh, five minutes, say? total screen time. she did have a couple of good one-liners and her ability to roll with the punches was very handy.

the villain of the piece, kristianna loken (i think the double consonants may be misdistributed in that -- there may be more 'k's and fewer 'n's), as the t-x -- presumably to make her powers seem even more potentially exciting and spiffy than the t-1000 from t2 -- was...not great. frankly, the t-1000 was way cooler. no neat little tricks with turning your index finger into some kind of whoopdeneat networking gizmo is going to match the ability to turn yourself into an exact replica of a black-and-white linoleum floor and then ooze up out of it back into human form through this really distressing middle stage where you're human, but you look kind of like you're made out of mercury. and not even a red pleather suit that looks painted on will bridge that gap of essential bad-guy-ness.

it hadn't occurred to me before watching the movie, but, of course, sarah connor (linda hamilton) was nowhere to be seen and that was a serious lack. i hear rumors that she will be present in the next movie, as a voice-over or narrator if nothing else, and i think that might be a good idea. it was very strange to have all the trappings of the terminator canon without the heart of the thing, so to speak.

so the short version is, if you're going to watch it, do so with the full knowledge that nick stahl's the best bit. which is okay with me.

and then inkheart. inkheart -- hm. "i was expecting something...well, more." i read the book over christmas break and i remember thinking, 'gosh, this is going to be a lot of book to cram into a 2 hour movie,' and the basic cuts they made all make sense and i mostly agree with. there were some cute little moments and side things that i think would've looked neat, if nothing else, but that sort of thing goes by the board. okay, fine.

but -- it lacked something and i can't quite figure out what. part of it, i think, was that it lacked a truly convincing bad guy. in the novel, basta and capricorn are terrifying. they're cruel, vicious, callous, and heartless, truly devoted to themselves and what they want. in the movie, they're kind of -- dressed all in black? a bit...thuggy? kind of...bully-like? not so convincing. which is a shame, because andy serkis as capricorn had real potential and he doesn't get nearly enough room to play. 

ditto helen mirren -- i loved eleanor in the book and i was really excited to see mirren in the part; i thought she'd be great and she was but -- there wasn't enough. all of eleanor's best bits got softened and blurred and edited away; she got one good acidic snap in in her first scene and then she was just kind of generic fussy old lady. why bother casting helen mirren and, i imagine, paying for helen mirren if that's all you want?

the only other big thing i can think of that kind of hampered the movie was that it couldn't quite make up its mind who was the main character. it kept darting about between mo and meggie and dustfinger. in the book, that sort of worked -- characters got separate chapters or, at least, it was clear that mo was telling the story and meggie was listening and then eleanor would get to comment and so forth. i suppose that's something that text can just do better than a movie, maybe? or maybe just for this kind of narrative where multiple characters are each telling one strand of a single story.

on the other hand, the movie did have some definite things in its favor: brendan fraser and paul bettany being right at the top of the list. i can see now why i kept seeing bits of publicity for this movie where people were asking paul bettany if he still had his eyebrows; rumour has it that he learned the fire handling tricks himself to do them on camera and, if so, i'm impressed he still has his eyebrows. or any hair at all, really. 

oh, and as the final thought, my advice would be to avoid doomsday. i netflix'd it this week on the principle that i'd have something violent and flashy to watch after preservation and it just turned out to crap. i turned it off after about 45 minutes because the best thing so far had been malcolm mcdowell's voiceover and that's just...pathetic. if you're looking for something post-apocalyptic with an overlay of zombie, go for 28 days later.

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