without a definite route

film flam: winter vacation edition

on January 16, 2008

i’ve been kind of watching a lot of movies lately. not pre-emmit level, but at least regularly, mostly on dvd. my hope is to keep these mini-reviews especially mini since i’m dangerously behind. but we all know i’m chatty so that might not happen.

reign of fire: not a good movie by any means, but terribly entertaining… laughably enjoyable even. lots of dragons! lots of fire! stuff gets blown up! might be that it takes itself a touch seriously and would benefit from even more camp. christian bale works his serious method-magic while matthew mcconaughey tries admirably to fill the camp void with one of the most over-the-top performances i’ve ever seen. guilty pleasure movie, for sure.

rescue dawn: another christian bale movie. i do get on my sexy actor kicks, don’t i? i’m kind of torn here. i don’t know a lot about the director, werner herzog, except that he comes from a documentary background, which informs this movie completely. very little embellishment on the story, which is mostly pretty good. it feels real. excellent performances from bale and steve zahn, who i would love to see get some attention from this. the movie is often great with rare missteps. the scenes in the pow camp are quiet and suffocating; the actual rescue is desperate and painful; the last 10-minutes were annoying and didn’t seem to fit the tone of the rest of the thing. there’s maybe a lack of depth to bale’s character that becomes apparent at the end.

hairspray: 1st of all, i would pay lots and lots of money to see christopher walken singing and dancing so i was sold right away. 2nd of all, john travolta is no divine, but he didn’t quite annoy me either. he almost played it too straight, like he was a woman rather than the wink wink way that divine played the same role in the original john waters’ version. other than the excellent casting, the movie is enjoyable enough…bright, bouncy, goofy…just the right amount of fluffy escapism.

curse of the golden flower: where to start with this gorgeous mess? i didn’t not like it, being a sucker for the opulence of zhang yimou films (hero, house of flying daggers), but wow! the muddle of the plot almost overwhelmed the technical brilliance of the production design. and the lack of emotional center succeeds at overcoming the wildly charismatic gong li and chow yun fat. hollow, but lovely looking. oh! very excited to learn that zhang has been hired to direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 beijing olympics.

last king of scotland: blah blah blah…i don’t want to talk about forrest whitaker, who well deserved the oscar he won. his performance was really really quite a revelation of complexity – a study on human nature rather than an indictment, but it kind of is the only thing holding this movie together. james mcavoy is also very good, but i kind of hated that our point of view is through the eyes of a pretty unsympathetic spoiled everyman white guy. as if a story about africa can’t be told without a white colonial perspective (see also: blood diamond). part biopic, part history lesson, part thriller, part too many things that never meld together.

starter for 10: what i wanted was an amiable romantic comedy and to have something to compare james mcavoy’s last king of scotland performance with (in addition to becoming jane and, more recently, atonement). what i got was moments of sweetness, but nothing new. mcavoy did not disappoint me. he has a charm to him that seems to grow as he gets bigger and better roles. the 80’s new wavey music was fun to hear, but ultimately, the movie was just too formulaic to hold my attention.


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