Monthly Archives: June 2003

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

A Film Review of “Finding Nemo”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This is probably the best Father’s Day movie I’ve seen since Field of Dreams. It is the simple story of a father who has lost his son and risks everything to get him back. It’s not perfect but it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in theatres this year, so far.

Other than this being a Pixar and Disney film I had no desire to see this flick. I’m a big Disney fan and I feel that new Disney animated features are events and are special. Pixar always delivers superior product. They have defined computer animation and do it flawlessly. However I have to say the thought of a movie about about fish just didn’t thrill me as much as previous films whose concepts did.

Suffice to say Finding Nemo was a surprise. It’s well written, the animation is amazing and it’s equally entertaining for both adults and children. Speaking of children there might be some dark bits in the beginning that are a bit too scary or intense for younger kids. It is rated G although I’m sure the rating board just saw it was Disney and stamped it G without watching it. It’s no scarier than anything in Bambi or Snow White.

Usually Albert Brooks is infinitely annoying, My First Mister being the only exception I can think of and that’s probably because of the brilliant script and the performance of Lee Lee Sobrieski. Here I don’t mind him probably because I don’t have to look at him while he whines. Ellen DeGeneres, another of my favorites (not), is just as good as Brooks in Finding Nemo. Perhaps they have wonderful futures if they stick to animation. Willem Dafoe is terrific as well and the fish even looks like him.

Stay through the credits to catch Monsters Inc.’s Mike Wazowski making a cameo. And take your dad to this one. It’s a great Father’s Day flick.

YES HE CAN ACT

A Video Review of “Six Degrees of Separation”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

When Will Smith does crap like Bad Boys 2 and the big screen remake of The Wild Wild West it’s really hard to remember he is actually quite an accomplished actor. It’s just that he shows this skill so rarely.

We see a bit of it in The Legend of Bagger Vance and he shines in Ali although no one really saw these films. Will Smith first showed this spark of genius in Six Degrees of Separation. One can only guess that he made a conscious decision to be an action hero rather than an Oscar winner.

Six Degrees of Separation has a wonderful story structure that leads the viewer through a minor mystery in a unique way. Based on the concept that everyone on earth is only six people away from everyone else on earth it turns out everyone knows someone victimized by Will Smith’s con artist character.

Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing turn in brilliant performances as a couple who take a liking to him and try to seek him out when Smith vanishes from their home. Will himself is a marvel in this part playing the rich folks for suckers and advancing a mythical thesis on “Catcher in the Rye” which actually makes a twisted sort of sense.

Look for an early glimpse of a brunette Heather Graham and yet another quirky role for the adult Anthony Michael Hall.

This is a modern classic, don’t miss it.

KILLING A ROLL

A Video Review of “Under the Cherry Moon”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Under the Cherry Moon is horrible. Keep in mind that I love Prince. I have all his albums and have seen him in concert a few times. He is the sugar. But he made a horrible second film.

It’s about a gigolo played by the purple one trying to romance a woman in France who wants nothing to do with him. Prince is surrounded by his usual entourage including his back-up band the Revolution. While the music is superior and the non-soundtrack (he released an album at the same time that included songs from Under the Cherry Moon) that accompanied the film is dazzling the flick itself is abominable.

The one thing that stands out above all other terrors in this mess is, to borrow a phrase from Prince’s protoges The Time, what time is it? When does this film take place? It appears to be turn of the century France but includes rock and roll and other modern references. It stinks of Moulin Rouge but somehow isn’t quite that bad.

In 1984 Prince was on a roll. He had a hit movie and a hit album with Purple Rain and its soundtrack. The purple one was riding high and perhaps he didn’t like it. You could blame it on him being a misunderstood artistic genius but I think it goes deeper. I think he was subconsciously afraid of success, especially mainstream success. If you know any tortured artist types you know exactly what I’m talking about. They will do anything to avoid mainstream success even if it means sabotaging their career.

Witness Under the Cherry Moon. How do you end a roll? Here’s a quick guide, courtesy of Prince. Believe that you know what the public wants and what is good for it. Make an art film. Use black and white film. Fill it so full of your own personal philosophy that everyone else will choke on it. Call it Under the Cherry Moon.

Yep, that will kill a roll. Hell, it might just kill a movie career. Good move, Prince, nice knowing you.

BILL PAXTON MAKES A HORROR MOVIE

A Video Review of “Frailty”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Bill Paxton makes a horror movie. To me this was an interesting proposition. In almost every movie he’s been in Bill Paxton has been the would-be hero or the could-be hero… what the heck is he doing making horror movies, especially one that’s been hyped as one of the best? We’ll see.

Paxton’s direction is quite good considering it’s fairly obvious it’s all a lot of clever shots and angles he’s probably learned watching folks who’ve directed him in the past. His very able skills do save this fairly weak script by Brent Hanley though which is more like a 1960s Corman flick than a 21st century horror film with major distribution. The film moves slowly through a mish mosh of flashbacks and sometimes interesting special effects but comes across at most as monotonous.

Is it creepy? Yep. Is it disturbing? Yep. Surprise ending? Oh yeah. Is it a good horror movie? Not really, might’ve been a good William Castle flick in his day but this is nothing to write home about. The only frailty about Frailty is its inability to live up to its hype. Maybe Bill Paxton will direct something else soon, hopefully with a better script.

THE UNSINKABLE SANDRA BULLOCK

A Video Review of “Murder by Numbers”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Sandra Bullock is a very interesting actress. She really only has one mode, one act, one technique and yet she makes you watch her. You must follow her wherever she goes because of this quirky charisma. The camera loves this cute girl next door gig even when she’s doing the complete opposite. This works even when she’s in a crappy film. You always believe her even when you shouldn’t. One wonders how she would fare in a villain part. I think she would be marvelous, on an Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector scale.

In Murder by Numbers Sandra plays a homicide detective matching wits with a pair of high school versions of Leopold and Loeb. Bullock does wonders with this hardcore version of America’s sweetheart crossed liberally with “Profiler.”

Barbet Shroeder does above average work and yet not up to previous potential. I was kind of disappointed actually. Ben Chaplin may as well have been a store mannequin for all the passion he put into his part. Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt do their best James Dean and Trent Reznor imitations while keeping with the Leopold and Loeb murder geniuses roles.

The story on the other hand ranges somewhere between a good 1970s “Columbo” and Seven, it tries really hard and succeeds. There are slow parts, mostly due to a lack of background music. I could have done without Bullock’s backstory and the red-assed monkey but for the most part it is an excellent film. Nice detective works make you think and Murder by Numbers hits the bullseye.

Murder by Numbers is an excellent thriller and I can’t wait to see what Sandra Bullock has next up her sleeve. She has the makings of a new Jodie Foster both on screen and behind it.

VICIOUS STEREOTYPE

A Video Review of “Gods and Monsters”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Having seen this a few years later than most people I was quite surprised. Gods and Monsters received a lot of critical praise. It was good but that wasn’t what surprised me. It was the stereotypical portrayal of James Whale as a lecherous homosexual only interested in seducing young men that surprised me.

Brendan Fraser is quite good, almost Oscar material; it’s just a shame that none of his good scenes are with Ian McKellan who always turns in an Oscar performance even when he’s in ‘dreadful’ genre crap like X-Men or Lord of the Rings. And I would have liked to have seen more of Lolita Davidovich.

It is a good film with skillful use of flashback and a nice ride down nostalgia lane to the olden days of Hollywood notably the 1930s and the 1960s. The story of director James Whale’s last days as told by him before his apparent suicide makes me wonder how this is all known considering those involved either are dead or don’t want to be identified. I guess this falls in among the numerous Hollywood tales of ‘true events’ to base movies on.

Still the portrayal of Whale as this lecherous creature made me wonder why there wasn’t more outcry about such a stereotype, no matter how true or not, on the screen. Don’t enough misguided people already have malignant views of the homosexual community?

Interesting that the things James Whale is most widely known for; his death and his films Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Showboat; only his death is played up. His death being an unknown quantity at that. It might have been fun to see more insight behind Whale’s choices of film and his directorial skills.

A CAUTIONARY TALE

A Video Review of “The Sex Monster”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Amusing and horrific at the same time. A man wants what most men want – a threesome. Or more accurately a man wants a threesome with two other women. This usually never works out usually ending in jealousy and heartbreak. In The Sex Monster it ends with a more comedic nightmare.

The wife played deftly by Mariel Hemmingway tentatively accepts her husband’s wishes to bring a sexy woman from his office into their bed. She finds that she enjoys the company of women much more than that of her husband going from despondent housewife to lesbian nymphomaniac.

What follows are the funniest and most brutal scenes of the movie as the husband, played by Mike Binder who also wrote and directed, at first watches, then has snacks, then snoozes in another room as his wife and friend noisily go at it for hours on end – without him.

Chaos ensues as the wife can’t quite ‘keep it in her pants’ and begins to pursue all of the couple’s female friends much to her husband’s dismay. The Sex Monster is very funny, well written and well worth watching.

It comes off like a madcap Cary Grant farce with modern sensibilities. The Sex Monster is very entertaining for everyone, everyone that is except for couples looking to open up their relationship possibilities.

LACKING IN RETROSPECT NOT

A Video Review of “The Silence of the Lambs”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

When this film was first released my wife (then girlfriend) and I saw it as a sneak preview. The theatre management was very concerned with the graphic violence and other content of the movie. They not only demanded all the children under seventeen leave the auditorium to see another feature of their choice for free but also offered this option to all the other patrons as well. They were really worried about The Silence of the Lambs.

My, how times have changed! The film went on to break box office records and garnered several Oscar nominations. It won for Best Picture of 1992 among other things, the only horror film to win for that category. It resuscitated careers for actors whose careers seemed done with at the time like Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins who has since made millions as the villain Hannibal Lector in successive films.

The Silence of the Lambs became so popular and so satired and parodied that watching it now seems cliched. When Joe Dirt features a take off you know the film is embedded in the media consciousness and will never leave.

This stuff is old hat but it should be pointed out – it did it first. It’s very much like the silent French movie serial Les Vampires. At first glance it is filled with every action adventure cliffhanger cliché imaginable until you consider they did it first. By that consideration it makes John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer look like amateurs.

In viewing the film again I am impressed how drawn in I become even though I know the story, know the details, know every twist and turn of plot. The tension of Agent Starling’s and Hannibal Lector’s encounters, the intensive search for Buffalo Bill and the sheer terror of Bill himself all stand up to current scrutiny.

Jodie Foster proves her acting superiority as she has again and again. She is truly a professional. Anthony Hopkins in the role that rejuvenated his career is perfectly frightening. Strangely he is more scary imprisoned or bound than he is free and loose, a detail makers of sequels might note. There is power in being in control even when trapped – this is what Hannibal Lector is about.

This is a strong film, scary, menacing, enough to cause nightmares. Maybe I should have taken the free other movie all those years ago. I know I’m gonna have nightmares tonight.

CRISIS IN INFINITE MEDIA

A Video Review of “The One”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

The multiverse. Parallel universes. That’s the crux of The One. Maybe I shouldn’t be reviewing this flick for a comic book review site. After all DC Comics created the Crisis on Infinite Earths because the multiverse was just too hard a concept for its readers to understand. Contrary to what they might think, I understood the multiverse at five and all my friends and fellow readers comprehended it at early ages as well. I maintain it was the idiot editors at DC who had trouble with the concept. Morons.

Anyway that’s what The One is about. Jet Li has to face off against his other universe counterpart who has killed off all his other counterparts. There is an energy that flows through them all, when one dies the energy is divided among the remaining counterparts, making Jet Li and his evil twin very very powerful (stronger, faster, you get the picture).

The cast is superior for an action flick, Delroy Lindo is his usual great self. Jason Statham, who was also in John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, is memorable as well. Look for him in the future, I see great things for this Aussie action hero. And Jet Li, well, no one else in the movies can kick butt like he can, Jet Li is the man. The action, The Matrix meets Superman, is non-stop and phenomenal.

Former Yes-man Trevor Rabin provides the soundtrack which is also peppered with some hard driving rock tunes. It gives the action flick the right flavor that you just don’t get with your average Schwarzenegger.

This is a great flick and I recommend it for everyone, even DC Comics editors, maybe they’ll get some ideas.

Previously published in a slightly different form at

Comic Widows

http://www.comicwidows.com

ALL TALK LITTLE ACTION

A Video Review of “Our Lady of the Assassins”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

There has been a lot said about this movie. Definitely its reputation precedes but unfortunately sometimes it appears talk is just that, talk.

The first thing that strikes you when watching Our Lady of the Assassins is that it is on videotape rather than film. This is a risky endeavor for an independent film, especially a foreign language one. Perhaps backlash or an affection for The Blair Witch Project?

A homosexual writer returns to a dangerous part of Colombia where he grew up and takes up with a young gang member. The two take endless walks through the city while contemptfully commenting on how things used to be and how things are now.

Our Lady of the Assassins is endless talking while walking, while eating, while cuddling even while witnessing random acts of violence. It’s like an hour of My Dinner with Andre interspersed with five second blips of Pulp Fiction.

The film gets tiresome after a while. The relationship between the man and the boy is well done but the rest is all talk talk. And anyone who found the violence shocking hasn’t seen many movies in the last decade or two. Yawn.