Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Very late Review: Noise

If a film can be noisy without making noise, this one would be even without the noise it's implying.  And that's what films do these days.  They take a word and play on it.  So noise can be literal or it can be visual or it can be just the acting in general being just over the top.

And, yes, the acting was over the top.  And that's what really hurt this film.

Tim Robbins plays a Manhattan resident who is growing increasingly annoyed by the minute as car alarms disturb his peace.  When conventional methods to silence them doesn't work, he takes to a bat and destroys the offensive cars.

His maniacal antics are the crux of the film, but rather than being funny or amusing, they get just as annoying as the alarms themselves. 

William Hurt can't save this movie from it's lower depths.

Skip it.

Very Belated Review: Last Stop 174

When I go to film screenings, I prefer not to read the premise ahead of time.  I believe that doing so might ruin the surprise.  There have been times I have found myself either losing interest, because too much has been revealed in the synopsis, or I wind up expecting too much.  This doesn't happen often, but it has occurred on occasion, and so since I can't pick and choose what will be shown at a preview screening, I decide to be clueless about what is to unfold in front of my eyes.

Sadly, I can't avoid what the guest host (aka film critic) will say as part of their introduction to the film.  For Last Stop 174, the film critic set it up by telling us that the film was loosely based on a true story about a bus hijacker in Brazil.  We were warned that it was fiction, but the idea that it was about a hijacker, made it seem intriguing.

Sadly, it was anything but.  The hijacking doesn't happen on camera.  The last scene we see is him getting on the bus.  While this would work in a more interesting film, this one was far from it.  The buildup isn't worth the time spent sitting through the movie.  The plot dragged and there was nothing driving it forward.  One could argue that because I knew it was about a hijacker, I expected too much from it, but I disagree.  While I do concede that I would have been disappointed had it been a compelling film that ended the same way, I doubt I would have disliked it as much if it had a better plot.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Belated Review: Eat Pray Love

A friend of mine told me that I shouldn't see the film, but read the book instead.  I decided to watch it anyway, since it was on cable the other night.  It's not a bad film, but I felt something was lacking. 

I've noticed something interesting with films adapted from books.  They either skim the surface, because they assume everyone has read the book, or they skim the surface because they have a deal with the author to entice people to go and read the book after they've finished the movie.

Of course, not all film adaptations fall into this trap.  The Lord of the Rings and the very first Harry Potter film are a few of several who give the audience enough information to comprehend what's going on.  Then there are films like Seabiscuit which told a great story, but glossed over the background, leaving me feeling like they were just playing out highlights from the book.  The second Harry Potter film was much worse.  I couldn't follow it at all and felt lost without reading the novel.  I finally did read it along with two more, but I have yet to revisit the second film and found myself not needing the pre-read for the two follow-ups nor the ones since  (I haven't seen the last two yet, but I don't plan on reading the books beforehand, since I haven't needed to since the second film).

I sometimes feel that films that skim the surface are treating audiences the way a teacher would in a classroom the day after the students were assigned a chapter to read in the textbook.  The teacher would not recite, nor reenact the chapter, but they might give you the highlights or go over it in such a way that's geared to the students who wisely read that chapter the night before.

But a movie shouldn't be the teacher.  Granted, best-sellers adapted for films are more likely to have a knowing audience than not, but to assume that every single audience member has read the book prior to screening is like assuming that everyone thinks alike.  Sorry, but thankfully we don't.

That said, I have found a few recent films that are presented with the belief that everyone watching has read a synopsis about it, so they don't need to give a back-story in the film.  It's as if the producers said, "It's already covered in the synopsis, so why rehash it?  It saves film and devotes more time to the real story."  I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but I have in a few occasions.  Frankly a movie should tell a story and not assume the audience's knowledge of the subject matter, whether it's adapted from a book or summarized on a poster or press release.

So films really should take this into account and be made to stand the test of time.  Don't assume we all know the story before we buy the tickets.

When it comes to adaptations, I prefer to read a book after seeing a film, because I'm sometimes disappointed with the outcome or find myself comparing the book to the film while I'm watching it.  So when I sit through a movie that feels like its missing something, I wonder if that's a marketing ploy to get me to read the book even more now.

With Eat Pray Love it worked, although I had planned to read it at some point anyway.

I like spiritual topics, so I wanted to be motivated and inspired by this film, but I wasn't.  Not that it was horrible.  I found it watchable and the characters entertaining, but it didn't have the spiritual depth I expected.  The wisdom sounded more like platitudes or fortune cookie sayings, rather than anything unique or inspiring.  Her return to Bali was a disappointment.  I didn't see the change in her from India.  There might have been in the book, but I didn't see it in her on screen.

I hope the book provides more enlightenment for me.  Again, the film was entertaining, but seemed to lack the heart I was looking for.

Belated Review: The Ghost Writer

When I first saw the trailer to this film I was intrigued.  I enjoy films with plots involving writers or English teachers, so this one seemed right up my alley, but then I read a few reviews and changed my mind.

While at a film screening for another movie, my screening companions told me they loved The Ghost Writer and that I should see it.  I finally got the chance last weekend during a free preview of Showtime on Demand.  So I sat back on Saturday afternoon and watched the film.

Sadly, I should have listened to the critics.

I found the film to be too slow-moving to make any impact once the truths were revealed.  There were also plenty of questions in relation to the plot holes by the end of it.

Sadly I don't recommend this film to anyone unless you're a big Ewan MacGregor fan.  Pierce Brosnan fans shouldn't bother as he is barely in it and what he does contribute is minimal at best.

The best thing to come out of this film is the posting on the IMDB message board titled "5 Things I learned from The Ghost Writer".  It's so true and hilarious.  Started in April of last year, it's still going strong with users adding more and more to what has become not five, but 37 things learned from watching  the film.  Click here to read it.  I would just add the following to the list:

38.  When tasked with only two weeks to rewrite a large manuscript, don't spend any time doing it despite feeling stressed out about it, but manage to pull it off on time.

39.  When you're handed another person's manuscript in a yellow bag and it's stolen from you in a mugging on the street, don't question the interesting coincidence of the news leak that happens later on, nor the fact that the manuscript was stolen to the person who gave it to you.  In fact, never bring it up again except to your agent after the mugging.

40.  When your politician husband - who relies on you to help him make decisions - is involved in a scandal and is speaking at press conferences, don't bother to go with him and stand by his side.

41.  If you're an ex-Prime Minister who is under scrutiny by the world, sit by a large window of your vacation home with your team so that everyone can see what's going on via helicopter.

42.  Take the time to show off the security system to the film audience, but never use it when it matters.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I had mixed feelings about a Tintin film, since I had seen photographs from a live-action version when I was a child and wasn't impressed with it.  The characters looked like caricatures and not real people and that disappointed me.  However, when Stephen Spielberg explained his motivation for making the film, and when I heard that Peter Jackson was involved and was a huge fan of Tintin, it piqued my interest.

I've been a Tintin fan for over 30 years.  One thing I enjoy about the stories they appeal to people of all ages.  I find myself discovering new things every time I read them, especially since there were things that I didn't comprehend as well as a child.  Among other things, Captain Haddock's exclamations became funnier and funnier as I got older.

One thing that I enjoyed about the Tintin film was the way they depicted the friendship between Haddock and Tintin.  They captured it very well. I'm not sure how those new to Tintin felt about that unlikely friendship, but to me it worked.

Using scenes from Crab with the Golden Claws to introduce the pair was well done, especially given that this was my first introduction to Tintin as a child.  My very first Tintin book was Crab with the Golden Claws, and to this day I think it's a fitting introduction, despite the fact that there are several books that predate that one.  However, this one introduces Haddock.

There's plenty of action in the film, perhaps a bit too much, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment.  I do feel that we could have replaced one or two sequences with more character development, but since they're working on a sequel there will be time for that in the next film.

One thing that didn't add to the film was the 3-D technology.  So much was happening so fast, it was just too much to notice the 3-D effects, except in one or two scenes.  Perhaps it would be better for me to compare it to a 2-D version to understand the difference.  But right now I don't think the film needed to be in 3-D.

Fortunately, while I avoided most spoilers, I did read a couple which helped prevent me from being disappointed as I watched the film.  It helped my expectations.  One  tidbit came through in the trailers (and that Puppy Chow ad) and that was Captain Haddock's Scottish accent.  Most Tintin fans never considered him Scottish, so that was a surprise, but knowing it ahead of time allowed me a chance to accept it before seeing the film.

The other tidbit was that Calculus is not in the film.  I won't get into how they acheived this, but since he'll be the focus of the sequel and since it was important to introduce Tintin, Haddock, Snowy and the Thom/pson Twins, it made sense.

 Overall I liked the film and would like to see it again.  I'll definitely get the DVD.