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Monday, October 03, 2005

3 Movies: Reviewed

Today is all about movie reviews. Spending too much time at the movie theater is wonderful way to while away the weekend, and now I can inform y'all about three films you may be considering for your own entertainment needs. Reviewed briefly, and in the order seen, I present:

BowWow, all growed up and sans the "Li'l", stars in the near-perfect Roll Bounce. The film plays out masterfully: set up with teeny bopper stars, goofball humor and slick dance scenes, then it knocked me over with surprising depth and character development. I expected to laugh, and I did (especially at the two garbage men... Dingo pointed them out as the blaxploitation equivalents of Shakespeare's gravediggers.) And then I cried... Since that heartless bastard intent on curmudgeoning my experience, BummerMan, stayed home.

The film's lingering resonance is that of a "black movie" that addresses the "what it is to be a man" question without all the ghetto trappings of Boyz 'n the Hood or Do The Right Thing. This is an oddly innocent, lower-middle-class film. No one gets shot. No one even gets shot at (with anything more dangerous than a waterballoon.) Even the principle villain, Sweetness, proves himself a softy. Some critics may see this as pandering to family audiences or dumbing down... but the opposite is actually true. How many of you, if a movie was to be made about your lives, would need to cast a true villain? Are our lives actually filled with evil and hate and fear, or is that more a manipulation of the media and our storytellers? I think the greater challenge is to produce a work of beauty and significance without falling back on the dramatic technique of pitting good against evil. This film (mostly) succeeds admirably in what it attempts and balances levity and drama deftly. 4 big stars on this crowd-pleaser. I don't know why it didn't come out during the height of summer fun films; it could have been the hit of the season (since the competition was weak!)


I hear Sir Anthony had to change his last name to Hopkyns in order to get cast in this crap-fest. I've heard that the play was better and I believe it. Paltrow is a capable actor, and handles her extended closeups well; emotions and hidden thoughts play across her face enticingly. BUT... Gyllenhaal and Paltrow have zero chemistry together. Paltrow is the only character with any depth, and the mysteries of her character just aren't that interesting. And there's one more big problem: the film is supposed to be about math nerds... but oddly enough, they all talk like lit majors. They don't struggle with expressing themselves. They don't act like people that live mostly in their own minds. They don't stumble around confused by basic human emotion. Maybe I should focus on criticizing the movie for what it is, rather than what it isn't, but I would have liked watching a film where the math geek angle is played up rather than understated. Though difficult to write well, it would have made a delightfully complicated mess for us to sift through if the characters showed any believable level of geekdom (or if Paltrow better conveyed the nascent tendrills of mental illness that are supposed to be consuming her.)

I was teetering between 2 and 3 stars for this film until BummerMan reached out and slapped me. Two stars it is!

Lastly, the cast and crew of Joss Whedon's truncated television trial Firefly are back for a feature length finale. Firefly was better than crack for sci-fi starved Generation X'ers. It featured writing better than anything Star Trek was doing, a character set much more human and believable than Andromeda Strain or Babylon 5, and a universe crackling with political intrigue WITHOUT any stupid looking aliens running around. In fact, there are no aliens at all. What is sci-fi without aliens you ask? It's brilliant.

Serenity is the best blockbuster movie I've seen this year. The special effects are understated (by sci-fi standards) but perfect. The humor is laugh out loud funny. The themes of leadership, life after the war, and the creation of "found family" are strongly developed. The ongoing story arcs from the television series are given plenty of space here to develop (ala the X-Files movie) and, in some cases, to climax. Unfortunately, letting a few central characters shine also means moving several favorites (like Inara and Shepherd Book) into the background. And a few things are glossed over too easily. Book's fate, for one, needed stronger writing and one less theme-building platitude. And there's one big plot hole that is annoying: Just how is it that the savage space cannibals (the Reavers) are able to maintain a cooperative society while living in a state of constant bloodlust frenzy? But these problems don't outweigh the gunslinging, quit-witted party that is Serenity. BummerMan may have tried to encroach on my enjoyment but this time I shackled him to a bedpost. Given all that could have gone wrong in the making of this, I was overjoyed at how good it was. Maybe it's only a party that fanboys and fangirls of the original series can really enjoy. In that case you should probably go rent the 16 hours worth of original episodes now in order to enjoy Serenity in the theaters! It's worth it. And, if you already have developed some love for these characters, bring your hanky to this one too.
Another 4 out of 5 rating. _Cinema



At 10/03/2005 09:41:00 PM, Blogger diane said...

You tapped into my series weakness/addiction by suggesting one "should probably go rent the 16 hours worth of original episodes". I think I've hit upon the viewing theme for my next school break: fill the holes in my cable TV series watching (season 5 of "Oz", season 2 of "Sex and the City", the middle seasons of "6 Feet Under", season 1 of "Deadwood",and all the "Firefly" episodes.

At 10/04/2005 08:33:00 PM, Blogger plokmatic said...

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