It’s a cardinal rule of movies: if you lock n characters in a room, n – (x+1) characters will walk out. Whether that “room” is at the bottom of the sea (The Abyss), the deepest, darkest South American jungle (Predator), or the farthest reaches of Antarctica (The Thing), the success of movies of this genre depend on a couple things. First, whether you enjoy being trapped in that room with the characters that inhabit it, and second, whether the buildup, if not the payoff, is sufficiently enthralling. As to the second part, you could call this the “Jack in the Box” genre, because the interesting part isn’t when the box pops open, but the suspense that builds with every turn of the crank. In Sunshine (2007), director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) shows that he’s pretty good at cranking one out. (more…)
Archive for October, 2009
There are few filmmakers that can create a movie that is both a shameful mess and a shameless triumph at the same time, sometimes in the same scene. Woody Allen is one of those filmmakers, but he’s not one that makes it look effortless. You always get the feeling it’s just by the skin of his teeth, that he’s one misstep away from the whole house of cards tumbling down. I’ve come to realize that that’s one of the reasons I enjoy his work so much: the anticipation. With any of his movies, it’s like you’re watching a fat man in a figure skating competition. Win or lose, you’re probably going to see something spectacular. (more…)
I don’t generally like “scary” movies for the same reason I don’t generally like comedies. Fear, like humor, is not a universal constant, and what’s scary for one man isn’t for the next. Hitchcock, for instance, was reputed to have said that Psycho was the funniest movie he ever made (which may prove or disprove my point, I’m not sure which). Regardless of how many reviews I may read for an example of either genre, I still feel it’s a shot in the dark as to whether I’ll like it. Because just as a movie like Porky’s isn’t universally renowned among comedies, neither is Knowing acclaimed among suspense films. The difference is that Knowing deserves more credit than it gets, while Porky’s is, let’s face it, still Porky’s.
The near-universal adoration of Quentin Tarantino has always somewhat perplexed me. While I still consider Pulp Fiction one of the 4 or 5 best movies of the 1990s, it’s the only one of his, either as director or writer, that I have any real love for. True, at times the dialog in Reservoir Dogs allows it to escape the monotonous and grueling death march of its overworked and underdone plot. And while I do have an abiding and inflexible love for True Romance, it’s almost entirely because of my near-obsession with The Brothers Scott and their bodies of work. The remainder of his oeuvre (that I’ve seen) is rife with sloppy, flabby messes, each bearing the overlong, under-edited mark of someone who was lauded as a genius too soon, and believed it. His current offering, Inglourious Basterds, proves that, while it’s too much to expect an old dog to learn new tricks, the older the dog, the more satisfied you are when they only urinate on the linoleum. (more…)
I usually follow the same pattern after having watched a DVD that I liked. I’ll check out the DVD extras, I’ll finish up any notes I took while watching, and I’ll scan the web for any info I can find on the movie. In the case of Red River, however, I just sat and stared at the screen. Not since the 2008 Cubs’ season has drama been so expertly prepared, suspense so masterfully built, only to have it all come tumbling down in a disastrous final act. It was as if Ali and Foreman met to determine the heavyweight championship with a tickle fight. (more…)