Sunday, March 04, 2007

Couple of new movies on DVD I've seen of late

I love watching great movies, but I seldom have a satisfying film experience. I've taken to buying old Hitchcock and Polanski films of late -- many I've never seen or it has been a while. I rent a fair share of movies as well, and bail on a lot of them, but I seldom go to the theater, not out of cheapness so much, but just that they are so mediocre -- even worse in Saipan with only one theater catering to teenage tastes. Home theater and a family make the cinema far less attractive than it used to be.

In the older movies, directors had to rely on plot and characters more than spectacle and special effects, and I'll take plot and characters over dynamic explosions any day. Directors can now include so many fantastic things visually that it ceases to "Wow." The lack of imagination in most movies is staggering to me. Writers can make a fortune with a good script, yet so many movies seem to be remakes, celluloid versions of bad, antiquated television shows or sequels to originals that sucked.

Having said that, I saw one I liked a lot in "The Illusionist." This one required perhaps a bit too much suspension of disbelief in the actual illusions, but it was dramatic, romantic, visually compelling, different, well acted (Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton) and had a few nice twists.

I was very happy with "Borat" as well. It mixes high and lowbrow humor in a way seldom seen, and raises points about all kinds of boobs nationwide. I was afraid it would be overrated. Sacha Baron Cohen, a well scrubbed British comedian in real life, plays a zany character named Borat, who is off documenting the "real America," the one that makes me want to be European, and plays off many racial and ethnic stereotypes to great effect as he interviews politicians, USC frat boys (like the ones I knew all too well at the University of South Carolina), gun dealers, feminists, gangstas and others, and gets them to reveal their real thoughts about things. Overall, it was very funny and very different. It mixes adult and adolescent humor nicely. While at a Virginia rodeo, his character tells the crowd about how his country supports the U.S.'s "War of Terror," and proceeds to raise the stakes to hoping that George Bush drinks the blood of all the Iraqis, as the crowd cheers. The world's richest country contains quite a freakshow.

I saw another that was wildly overrated, but ok in "Babel." There are four separate stories here that are midly related ala "Crash." Most are fairly unique, but drag in certain parts, and the constant shift between stories makes the viewer lose track and interest. Cate Blachett's character is fairly unsympathetic, so I was half hoping she'd die after being shot kind of accidently by some kids as she was traveling Morocco for reasons not really explained other than the couple is getting over the death of a child. It certainly doesn't look like a place to relax --- more like Afghanistan. This isn't a garden variety movie, and I suppose the acclaim it got is related to this fact, but none of the four stories are that intriguing, though there are times they are interesting, the relationships between them largely tenuous, and the overall impact is somewhat limited. I'm not sure what the fuss is about this one.

"Flags of Our Fathers" deals with the Battle of Iwo Jima, and has footage redolent of "Saving Private Ryan" that is amazing too see. It shifts time periods so often as to lose, and sometimes bore, the viewer as it hones in on the story of that famous Iwo photo and the true story of the people in and around it and the propaganda aspects it served. This is highly watchable, but not stellar.

Compared to the last several months, these four were an improvement on a lot of the other crap that was offered.

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