Monthly Archives: July 2003

GIRL POWER FAILURE

A Film Review of “Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

The first movie was fun. From start to finish it was a fun roller coaster slam-packed with inside jokes and wink winks. It was an action flick that celebrated female empowerment but never took itself seriously while simultaneously making fun of everything from The Matrix and Godzilla to the “Charlie’s Angels” TV show that the movie itself was based on. With the same people involved in the sequel I have to wonder what happened?

First of all I have a real problem with the title. What the hell does “Full Throttle” have to do with this film? The original title was “Charlie’s Angels: Halo.” The term “Halo” at least references a crucial plot point in the story (what little there is).

Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and the always sexy Drew Barrymore seamlessly resume their roles from the first movie. There are lots of bizarre dress up scenes and flawless action scenes but this time they just seem to go on too long. The motocross episode is excruciatingly long. We all know Demi Moore is the villainess of the piece but the one thing Full Throttle does well is present enough other bad guys we forget about Demi Moore. If only we could.

Before attending this film my companion brought up what a good actress he thought Demi Moore was. I wanted desperately to refute but couldn’t think of any bad Demi Moore performances. She had been in bad movies, it’s true but always gave it her best. Ironically enough I had yet to see Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle. She is terrible. I hope she got paid well.

I understand wanting a viable money name to replace Bill Murray when he was unavailable to play Bosley. Bernie Mac is a wonderful choice but they don’t even give him so much as one funny line. He is so wasted here. I hope he got paid well too. Creepy Crispin Glover returns as the even creepier tall man from the first movie in a subplot that goes nowhere. Why? Even cameos from Bruce Willis and Jaclyn Smith couldn’t save this mess.

Speaking of being paid well I think they might have run out of money. There are a lot of bad CGI and blue screen shots. It’s almost as if all the scenes were shot in someone’s garage and then the locations were put in later, and badly I might add.

If there is a third Charlie’s Angels movie I hope it won’t be just because director McG and the girls need a quick check. I certainly won’t be looking forward to it. As far as Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle is concerned use your money to rent or buy the original movie. It’s a hundred times better.

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USE THE SOURCE

A Video Review of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

This is the first movie I’ve seen that is dead on with its source material. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is almost exactly like the book. It is a refreshing change from other successful books made into films where the hacks in Hollywood feel it’s necessary to ‘sanitize’ the material for public consumption. After all if the public could read, they wouldn’t be at the movies, right?

The casting of the three young primaries and the teaching staff and everyone else is perfect. Again, as if the book had simply come to life. Daniel Radcliffe, Herbert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris and especially Robbie Coltrane make this movie what it is; perfectly cast from the book.

The special effects are visually amazing and the story is full of wonder at every corner. And wonderment is what it’s all about. From the first visit to Diagon Alley to the introduction to the Hogwarts School all one can do is marvel in astonishment at the imagination displayed.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is one of the best and the sequels should follow suite. It’s a terrific adventure for the whole family.

THE PLAY’S THE THING

A Video Review of “Nuts”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This Barbra Streisand production of the Tom Topor play is often overlooked as just another Streisand vehicle but it’s actually quite a good film.

Barbra Streisand plays a high price call girl accused of manslaughter and Richard Dreyfuss is her reluctant public defender. The investigation and trial open old wounds and provide much drama. Fairly simple story with amazing acting.

At times it is suffocatingly like a play but it is also at those points that it shines. The chemistry between Richard Dreyfuss and Streisand is magic and powerful performance. Sadly when this piece doesn’t feel like a play it seems forced and badly directed.

Nothing against director Martin Ritt but it should have kept its play presence. The flashbacks are the biggest offender. They tell the story, yes, but are sorely out of place.

Nuts is an astounding study of the difference between anger and madness and should not be missed.

ALL ABOUT AMY

A Video Review of “Tape”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Two high school buddies get together after ten years and confront each other over Amy, a girl they both dated. Simple idea stretched into a David Mamet-ish conflict in a motel room. Great acting and all the good points of My Dinner with Andre without the tedium contrasted by the limits of a play. Tape is based on the Stephen Belber play and it so feels like it. Play is written all over this, sometimes so much so it’s suffocating.

Ethan Hawke who plays the drug dealer is a whirlwind. He’s been behind the camera for quite a few years now and when he does deign to act it is always a juicy part as is the case here. I wish he’d do more in front of the lights. Sean Leonard, although good here as the aspiring filmmaker, is essentially playing the same guy he always plays – a less whiny more intellectual Albert Brooks. When Amy played by Uma Thurman shows up things really get dicey. She’s very good here which is a nice change of pace.

I won’t give away the secret of the title but it is a twist that will keep your rapt attention throughout. At times the camera work is dizzying but you don’t mind because it just increases the intensity of the scenes where it whizzes back and forth. It’s a trademark of director Richard Linklater that actually works here. This is a brilliant film.

FIFTEEN MINUTES MUST MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

A Video Review of “Battle in Outer Space” or “Uchu Dai Senso”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

The Japanese version of this is fifteen minutes longer than the American version. One can only assume those fifteen minutes were all plot.

This 1959 Toho film is the masterwork of director Inoshiro Honda and the special effects of Eiji Tsuburaya who created the kaiju eiga mythos that includes Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra. It is set in the future year of 1965 and concerns an alien invasion of earth.

The special effects aren’t your usual Godzilla suitmation quality. They are actually much better, more of a cross between George Pal and “Thunderbirds” equipment. It is very surprising. The destruction of various monuments like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty are highlights. The flick is worth seeing just for the special effects.

The music is by the master composer Akira Ifukube although some of his work is disappointingly replaced by American stock music. This is a real shame.

Battle in Outer Space is mostly just attack after attack after attack by either us or the aliens. One wonders if those fifteen minutes would have helped.

JUST IMAGINE…

A Film Review of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Seeing as how The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based on a comic book (or graphic novel for you snobs who don’t read comic books) I’ll reference an old comic book ad. “Just Imagine.” It was usually used to promote any comic like World’s Finest or Justice League of America where your favorite superheroes teamed up.

That’s what The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is like. It’s a literary hero team up. Just imagine… Alan Quatermain, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Dracula, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo and Tom Sawyer… all in one film together. These literary legends come together to stop a world war in 1899.

It’s a very dark movie which I don’t usually mind. Some of my favorite flicks are dark like Tim Burton’s Batman and the original The Crow. The problem with LXG is with the few daylight scenes we get are positively breathtaking. One has to wonder why we couldn’t have more.

The violence is excessive but not excessively bloody or gory which is refreshing movies nowadays. The action scenes however are shaky, unclear and annoyingly frenetic. Stephen Norrington gets an “F” for bad direction.

The special effects are impressive – except for the CGI which is mostly the grotesquely muscled Mr. Hyde. I felt his appearance unnecessary and his unnerving transformation even more so. I could have done without.

The performances are all excellent, especially Sean Connery. When has he ever made a bad movie? Even in Zardoz and the Highlander films he’s the best thing in them.

The real highlights are the interactions between the legends which are few and far between. I could have stood this flick being longer if we had gotten more of these moments.

This movie is terrific even though it has gotten some bad reviews from critics. I can only guess they didn’t like it because they don’t read and had no idea who any of these characters are.

High concept, cool idea, great movie. I loved it. See it.

ANOTHER PYG MOVIE

A Video Review of “Miss Congeniality”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Sandra Bullock is so believable as the clumsy macho tomboy cop in the beginning of this flick it becomes completely unbelievable when she is transformed into a beauty queen to go undercover and find out who wants to sabotage the Miss United States beauty pageant.

We get an amusing performance from William Shatner again essentially playing himself as the pageant host. The more I see him do this the more I like it. Candice Bergen shows us an interesting side above and beyond her “Murphy Brown” persona that has been so indelibly etched in the American psyche we tend to forget she can act.

The best of the bunch by far is Michael Caine who when he does comedy he is so subtle it is mastery. He is the lucky guy who gets stuck transforming Sandra from ‘Dirty Harriet’ into Miss New Jersey. This “Pygmalion” transformation is worth the rental alone.

This is an always amusing film, worth watching again and again.

A PRODUCT OF ITS TIME

A Video Review of “Night of the Comet”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Night of the Comet was made in 1984. It is a product of its time. The problem with that is like films like Girls Just Want to Have Fun and The Last American Virgin and unlike films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Valley Girl this one stinks of 1984. The latter two at least have stories and characters that are somewhat timeless. The former two and Night of the Comet are fashion nightmares with the staying power of “Saturday Night Live” catchphrases.

A comet returns to earth after millions of years wiping out most of mankind and turning the rest into cannibalistic zombies. The only survivors being those protected by steel when the comet came through. Two Valley girl sisters and a trucker tough it out along with military folks.

I didn’t once care about these characters or if they lived or died. This could’ve been good like Night of the Living Dead or The Omega Man but it never goes that route. Night of the Comet stays right in 1984 where it should have stayed.

A REALLY GOOD TALKING PIG MOVIE

A Video Review of “Muriel’s Wedding”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I worked in a video store with my good friend Jim. He is a wonderful writer, poet and performance artist – and quite the wordsmith. My favorite quote from him concerns Muriel’s Wedding.

“Three talking pig movies seem like too much for one year.”

The inevitable straight man reply; “Three?”

“Yeah. Babe, Gordy and Muriel’s Wedding.”

It’s a fat joke, and a cruel one. To Jim’s defense he didn’t say it to be offensive, just to be funny. As a matter of fact he is a vehement anti-sizist. It’s nothing against Toni Collette who stars as Muriel who gained 40 pounds for the role. It’s just the scary wardrobe she has. Everything is four sizes too small as if to make her look worse. Sometimes tight clothing equals talking pig.

Muriel’s Wedding is the story of Muriel who runs away from a dysfunctional home life to Sydney to start over where she ends up marrying an Olympic swimmer so he can get his visa and conquers her own self- image problems. All things considered (and clothing aside) it’s a great little movie filmed completely in Australia.

It’s all about empowerment and getting what you want. It is well written and well acted. The only problem I really have with Muriel’s Wedding is the soundtrack. If I ever wanted to hear this much Abba music at one time I’d go see “Mamma Mia!”

Despite all the mean things said above it’s still quite good and worth seeing. After all, Muriel’s Wedding is a really good talking pig movie.

X

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ANIME

A Video Review of X

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Japan has very strange censorship laws. Because of this their pornography is a lot of everything but. They have become quite creative in doing everything but as a matter of fact but that’s not the point here. The point is animation has picked up the slack and more. So when the lead character’s naked mother rips herself open and explodes in the opening of X don’t be surprised.

Now that’s just on the logic front. That makes sense. They can’t have live sex so they have it animated. That makes perfect sense. The violence, the supernatural and the high tech? They are all things that can be better rendered by animation. Anything you can imagine you can draw and thus animate. What I don’t get is why the completely indecipherable plots?

To make any sense of X you need to take notes and keep a scorecard. It’s a god awful mess. But it sure is fun to look at. It’s real pretty eye candy. It makes no damned sense but it’s pretty. It’s got everything you could want in an anime – hot chicks, guys with wings, demons with tentacles and massive city destruction – you can’t lose, except if you want a story. Maybe someday they’ll make some anime with a simple plot, something us dumb Americans can understand.