[NOTE: This post was actually written by Alex Stroup.]
I’ve unexpectedly been on the road a lot the last couple weeks so I haven’t been saying much. In the vein of Brian’s Quick Takes here is what I’ve seen recently.
The Hills Have Eyes – I’m not really a fan of gore films and I have never seen the original 1977 version, but I had a couple hours to kill between meetings and this fit into the time slot so I figured I’d give it a try. It actually does a decent job of building and maintaining the tension but I still don’t really understand the appeal of a movie that seems to have goal other than filling the screen with gore.
Pollyanna (1960) - I hadn’t seen this Disney saccharine classic since I was maybe 10 years old. I remember rolling my eyes at it back then but I was surprised to find that up until the super-sweet ending it’s actually a decent family film. Watching it highlights the regrettable fact that much of “family entertainment” made these days is done ironically and I don’t know that this is so good for the kids watching it.
Inside Man – Spike Lee is a mixed bag for me. Some films are brilliant (Do the Right Thing (1989), Clockers (1995)) while others are just a mess (Jungle Fever (1991), Summer of Sam (1999)). But I am very interested in seeing what Lee will do with such an overtly commercial film. I think it was Ebert who noted that the tangents are more interesting than the substance of the film and I would have to agree with that. The heist itself is tight and only once resorts to the “Omniscient Villain” copout that I so despise. But it was also obvious and with insufficient payoff for having sat through two-hours of movie. Also, Jodie Foster’s presence in the film was pointless other than to pad the time. Overall I liked it though.
A History of Violence – This one has been sitting with me and I’m still trying to decide what I think of it. Before I’ll be able to decide for sure I need to come to terms with what I think was going on with the Maria Bello character after she learns the truth. I suspect that the other 90 minutes of the movie is merely the vehicle for delivering to us those 6 minutes of film. I enjoyed the movie while watching and am intrigued by what I’ll find in her and myself in thinking about it further.
Good Luck, and Good Night – My bachelor’s degree is in American History and while my main focus was the antebellum period from Andrew Jackson to the Civil War I also spent a lot of time on the anti-communism immediately following World War II (Russia had only recently fallen and very interesting primary source documentation was starting to come out of there). So perhaps I have too much of an understanding of the events of that time period to place as much importance on Edward R. Murrow’s McCarthian defiance. It was important but it was much more an imprimatur on an existing defiance than the movie depicts. Still very tightly made by Clooney and I love the decision to go black-and-white and use actual McCarthy footage. Also, I think the film mostly sticks to the important lesson of the period. McCarthy was actually right in his general accusations more than the left likes to admit, but that is completely irrelevant since he was wrong in his methods every time. The movie, by focusing on the latter does well.
Thank You For Smoking – I’ve read the book on which this is based and while the satire in that was biting, I felt that it simply tried to carry the joke too long (like a bad SNL skit) and began to fray by the end. I was hopeful that the more time limited nature of a film would help with this but apparently it just made it worse as I felt the joke was played out about halfway through the movie. And worse, the satire, even while it was going strong, wasn’t as sharp as in the book. I try not to review movies in comparison to the source material but in this case I’m failing and was just left disappointed by the movie.
Slither – I saw this one solely because my wife wanted to. And she wanted to see it solely because it stars Nathan Fillion (of Serenity and Firefly) and also because the TV commercial compared it to Tremors (1990), a movie she loves. The comparison to tremors is actually a pretty good one and if you liked that movie you have a fair chance of liking this one (even with more of a focus on the gross-out). On a scale of one to ten, where ten equals Tremors and one equals Eight Legged Freaks (2002), I’d call Slither an 8.