Archive for February, 2008

“There Will Be Blood”: Jack Torrence is “Shining” Through

February 19, 2008

There Will Be Blood Oil

While “There Will Be Blood” hasn’t been a box office stud it’s being called a movie that will never be forgotten, which it may become, whether anyone has seen it or not.

The ShiningThe people that do never see it will think that it has something to do with milkshakes and bowling pins. Of course those that never saw The Shining will always remember that movie being something about an axe and Johnny Carson. It’s no surprise to me that Blood has entered into the public consciousness as The Shining did, as through my eyes I can confidently say that the former has influenced the latter exponentially.

Aside from quotable lines some of the other similarities include a larger than life performance by a highly regarded actor; performances that while the films were still fresh people complained they were perhaps too exaggerated. Then there’s the unsettling Bowling Pinwide shots and long takes with drawn out silences and the post modern music that heightens the tension; some incidental moments are even by the same composer. When P.T. Anderson claimed his movie was more like a horror film in last week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly it’s obvious he wasn’t lying.

It’s one of the things I love about Blood. Its willingness to really let loose and unhinge itself from anything human. These character’s represent the worst of their kinds.

Over at Jim Emerson’s Scanners (“Biggest Acting, Best and Worst; Over the Top, Ma!”) there’s talk about over acting and when it’s applicable and when it isn’t. (He also makes comparisons to The Shining.) I responded to the article with this: “If there’s a level of truth in the performance, and when I say truth, I mean emotional truth, then as far as I’m concerned the actor can be as over the top as he wants.” In some instances it’s left up to the viewer to find that truth. It doesn’t help if the creator of the films cheats…will come back to this. Being truthful and unlikable are two different things. Truth can sometimes be even more poignant when the character isn’t likable in the least.

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“Jumper”

February 16, 2008

Jumper

The studios have given Doug Liman another franchise to get started off on the right foot. After The Bourne Identity why wouldn’t you? It’s unfortunate that Jumper has a hard time getting up the energy or nerve to even begin lift off. The first strange thing you see is that this comic book movie was based on a book and not a comic book.

It doesn’t begin badly, following a young David Rice as he attempts to woo his childhood sweetheart Millie (any character without a last name you know isn’t going to be developed well) and ends up falling into an icy lake. It’s a frightening moment. The only one in the film, and the only one that we care about what happens to our hero. Luckily this is when he discovers his special powers. Teleportation. What a cool power. He runs away from a horrible home, run by a horrible father (the always wonderful Michael Rooker) and traipses around the world, pulling off the cleverest of bank heists, ones in which he doesn’t have to open the doors to the vaults.

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“Untraceable”

February 16, 2008

Untraceable

Untraceable is a movie built on toothpicks and glued together with thin ideas. It begins smart and then contradicts its own message then contradicts that it contradicts its own message.

Diane Lane plays FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (who inexplicably has her own imdb character page.) Ms. Marsh isn’t a field agent, instead she sits around a computer terminal and tracks down the fraudulents that litter our world wide internet searching for helpless victims. It’s a big world to be searching through, with it’s own intangible language of numbers and codes and mirrors and walls, but she’s an expert alright. She can glean a lot about a person just by knowing what kind of merchandise they’re buying. Then she runs into a stumper. Someone is running an untraceable website in which victims are put into torture devices, just as clever but not as gory as the ones used in the Saw films, and the quicker viewer ship escalates the quicker the victims die. It’s the Nielson ratings system from hell.

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“Cassandra’s Dream”

February 5, 2008

Cassandra’s Dream

It’s been a week since I’ve seen Woody Allen’s new effort Cassandra’s Dream and I still remember the two main character’s names, Terry (Colin Farrell) and Ian (Ewan McGregor). Not because these brothers are really that memorable, it’s because they say each other’s names so many times there’s no possible way you could forget. It’s “Terry this”, “Terry that”, “What are you doing Terry?”, “Terry you’re not thinking Terry.” And a lot of this comes in one conversation. 

Obviously a little exaggerated, but at a certain point it starts to feel unnatural. You begin to feel that these aren’t two human beings you’re watching, but constructs. A way for Allen to deal with the things he finds to be most interesting; goddless world, murder, death, sex, obsession, ambition, love…and how all of these things can corrupt or at least become rationalizations for corruption. And there’s some decent rationalizing done. 

There’s a lot of repetition used as filler. We get certain things that we’re still hearing about two scenes later.  Then sudddenly you’re cuaght up in what’s happening. It’s back and forth, in and out. Unrewarding then thrilling. And I have a feeling that Allen knows this. There are pieces of dialogue that point directly to him knowing this. It’s fine that he wants to be clever about it, but that doesn’t mean it works entirely. So much of it comes down to, how much do we like these characters?

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“Rambo”; There’s a Little Bit of Him in Everyone

February 2, 2008
Rambo
When I told my friend I thought Rambo was blissfully unaware he shot back that it was consciously oblivious. They are both accurate. Sylvester Stallone’s new chapter in the “let’s revisit everything that made me famous part of my life” has brought him back to his second most visited character John Rambo. And he’s surlier than ever. Unhappy at work (must not have great health care options for snake catchers in Thailand) he’s given the opportunity to boat a bunch of so single minded it hurts missionaries into Burma so they can help the innocent people who are being slaughtered.
“Do you have guns?” Rambo asks. When Sarah (Julie Benz) the missionary who won’t give up on Rambo says no, Rambo replies “Then you’re not helping anyone.” Why can’t people just leave this man alone!? Eventually she talks him into it. The missionaries get trapped in Burma and Rambo has to come to the rescue, but not alone this time. He has to play second to a group of rowdy mercenaries for a bit. That’s the story.
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