Saturday, June 2, 2007

Day Watch - No.

Day Watch or Dnevnoy dorz is the second in an “epic” trilogy.  Day Watch left me spending most of my day looking at my watch. 

I sat through this movie, having not seen Night Watch, completely lost.  I honestly had little idea what was going on.  Here was the best I could get from the movie.  Some guy, Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), has a trainee and a flashlight.  They run around avoiding mosquitoes and try not to slip into another dimension or level of some kind.  He realizes his son is actually a super dark force, his trainee Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina) a super light force and if they ever were to meet, it may be the end of the world.  He tries to obtain the Chalk of Destiny (Why chalk, I do not know) so he can go back in time and make everything right.  The leader of the darkies frames him for murder of another vampire or dark person.  There is something about a trial, a yo-yo and a very big Ferris Wheel. 

There is a recap at the beginning of the movie that is only to remind those people who have already seen the previous movie, not to inform those of us who haven’t.  It whizzes past things in rocket speed with nary an explanation to enlighten us newbies.   I was paying unnaturally close attention because I hadn’t seen the first movie and I was painfully lost from the word go.

Day Watch felt like a two and a quarter hour, cheap knock off of a La Femme Nikita episode, in Russian.  Both have secret agencies whose motives are never clear, background stories that occasionally ooze out, and actors who can’t do anything other than Ben Stein impressions.  La Femme Nikita doesn’t last two and a quarter hours. 

Mariya Poroshina who plays trainee Svetlana looks just like a younger Kim Cattrall.  She is beautiful and never gets dirty.  Beautiful is the best I could say about her.  She is essentially the pretty object in the movie.  She killed, and skinned Cookie Monster and wore him through most of the movie.  We are supposed to believe she is madly in love with Anton but her emotions run as deep as the dry creek in my back pasture.  She couldn’t well up with emotion if her father was set on fire in front of her.  Passionless expression is practically epidemic in Day Watch.

Konstantin Khabensky’s performance is equally uninspired.  When he sees his son or confesses his love for a woman, there are no sparks.  His vacant eyes make him look like he has had his soul sucked out by one of the dark side people in the movie.  By the end of the movie I wanted the vampires to eat him.

This movie is beautiful looking, though.  Director Timur Bekmambetov knew what he was doing when he hired Sergei Trofimov as the cinematographer.  The gritty and dank look gives the audience a nearly hopeless feeling.  The use of lighting in the movie is outstanding to accentuate the point the script is trying to make at the time.  It isn’t until the end that the visuals of the movie were enough to overcome the weaknesses of the plot and give the film a redeemed quality.    It finally becomes a visual splendor, not just an enjoyable watch.  You should shut off the sound and just watch the story unfold, for about ten minutes.   For those ten minutes, it is a wonderful movie.

For a movie that is supposed to tell the story of an epic battle between light and dark, good and evil, it has no feeling of grandeur.   An epic battle doesn’t usually use intra-species law to start a war.  Evil things are evil, so they would just start a war to be evil.  The administrative bull in the plot makes it as scary as DMV administration. 

Day Watch…no thank you.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Mr Brooks Goes Boom

Mr. Brooks could be called a twisted, modern, lesser version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  I call it a disappointment.

Kevin Costner plays Mr. Earl Brooks, a much adored father, husband, business man and philanthropist who is hiding a terrible secret; he the notorious Thumbprint serial killer.  Brooks managed to keep his identity secret until the voice in his head, Marshall (William Hurt,) talks him into another killing.  Soon Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) and Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) are hot on his tail.  Always one step ahead, trying to evade capture, Mr. Brooks does his best to not slip up.

Mr. Brooks won't be winning any awards for best movie but it does have some pleasurable aspects.  Much of the movie is a conversation between Earl Brooks and his split identity Marshall.  He has conversations with him when other people are around; they talk to the audience but the other characters can't hear.  Often the discussions they have are so ridiculous and quirky you can't help but laugh out loud.  There is one scene where they say something like "He wants to kill us," and then both break out into almost synchronous laughter.  Every single time there is this synchronous laughter, I felt a chill go halfway up my spine as I too laughed with the characters.

Kevin Costner and William Hurt have great chemistry.  It isn't just the comical scenes that often work, but also the serious ones.  They have conversations as if they are old friends with no secrets.  Marshall will occasionally have an adult version of a temper tantrum.  He never goes too far as to turn off the audience, but he goes far enough to make it a little disturbing that the character is having a fight with himself.  Kevin Costner never takes Brooks out of his nearly stoic demeanor.  Their conversations were my favorite part of the movie.

Demi Moore's performance is a quality teeter-totter.  Sometimes she is ultra-fun-bad-ass but other times she is blathering boob.  Her character is going through a divorce and her "emotional" scenes feel as forced as a raw potato through a colander.  She also does that masculine walk that is supposed to tell us she is tough.  I would love to see a woman who still walks like a woman and doesn't have to become a man to be a force to be reckoned with.

Bruce Evans makes some cinematic mistakes.  There is a strange use of music and change of style in a few scenes.  There is a gun fight and he uses music and style that seems like it is attempting to make it a gunfight – Hackers style.  Evan's attempts at edgy coolness are misplaced in a movie that up until that plot point, not style driven.  It is more than a little jarring and moderately confusing.

Except for the scenes where the Evans gets caddywhumpus, the movie is pretty straight-forward looking.  The plot moves laterally to the twist ending.  Done just a little better, it may have been a fantastic twist but instead it is about as twisty as elbow macaroni.  I figured out what the twist was going to be about 20 minutes before it happened.

There is relationship between Brooks and Atwood that is severely undeveloped, to the detriment of the story.  I think the writers were attempting a Silence of the Lambs-esque affection for the detective. 

Mr. Brooks is a fantastic example of a movie that does not trust the audience.  Writers Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon took what might have been a B rated movie and made it a D movie by thinking we are too stupid to get it.  The writers walked up to the top of the Empire State Building, opened a window, stuck their head out to see how high it is, and chucked the ending out the window.  At maximum velocity, the script, and consequently the movie, is eviscerated on the cinematic cement.

Mr. Brooks is especially frustrating because it was ok, until the ending went kablooey.

Wednesday Discussion - 12 Angry Men

I'm sorry I missed this wednesday, no good reason, just busy.

Wednesday's Discussion is "Twelve Angry Men"

Twelve Angry Men (1957) is an exceptional film.  If you haven't seen this one, see it for the discussion or because you want to be enriched by a movie going experience. 

1957 NOT 1997!

Abigail Breslin in American Girl Movie

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) will be starring in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery.  The Academy Award nominated actress has already begun filming the first American Girl book series film adaptation.  Breslin will be playing Kit Kittredge, a ten year old girl during The Great Depression in Cincinnati.

Gracie - Not so Graceful

Gracie tries to inspire us not to be limited by the past, through soccer.   Gracie is a beautifully shot movie, packed with only slightly veiled metaphors and full of clich├ęs that don’t resonate emotionally or develop into a film worth seeing. 

After a death in the family, Grace Bowen takes it upon herself to find redemption for the soccer team her loved one played on.  She asks her father to train her, he refuses because she’s a girl and isn’t “Tough Enough.”  Her mother tells her that she should just “take a bite of a shit sandwich.”  Her brothers mock and ridicule her.  Detoured by her family’s emotional slap down, Grace turns to a life of mischief, falling grades and boys.  After coming to the self realization that her life will go nowhere if she continues on this path, she returns to her goal as a varsity soccer player.

Gracie is beautifully shot.  Chris Manly, the cinematographer, has an understanding of light and composition that is obvious during the entire film.  The rain is beautifully drippy.   The dark scenes don’t lose the characters because of lack of light; they are still crisp and clean.  I kept returning to how beautiful the movie was when I was too bored to pay attention to the characters in the movie.

Gracie is not beautifully acted.  Carly Schroeder, who plays Grace, is awkward and unnatural in her skin.  She can emote effectively, but the movie is nearly entirely difficult scenes and Schroeder can’t seem to hit the proper emotional cord.  Watching Schroeder attempt adolescent anger reminds me of listening to a third grade school band attempt to play The Nutcracker Suite.   You can generally grasp which song they are trying to play, but the execution leaves you wanting industrial strength ear plugs.

The supporting cast is equally lackluster.  The usually spot-on Dermot Mulroney‘s portrayal of a lost father, has succumbed to grief and stuck in dated thought, lacks any stabbing or penetrating quality to make the performance enter your psyche.   Grace’s love interest, Kyle, played by Christopher Shand, would be more believable if he were made of ketchup.   He can’t convincingly be sincere, aggressive or affectionate.  Shand looks too old to be in high school. 

The only character that I felt any emotional sincerity from was Elizabeth Shue as Grace’s mother.  Sure, there is one ridiculously written super-speech that is meant to bring tears to our eyes and falls flat, but it doesn’t ruin her overall performance.   She does seem to be emotionally aware that her character is deeply in love with her children and husband.   Lindsey Bowen, Shue’s character, has the widest range of emotion and depth.  Shue performs beautifully as a mother who settled for a life well below her dreams.  Shue was not the cause of the movie’s scab picking quality.

A great deal of the problem with the acting lays at the writers’, Chris Frisina, Karen Janszen and Lisa Petersen’s, feet.  This movie is bulging with half baked lines heard in every B rated movie for the last ten years.  The writers even pepper in a few worn out visuals that make the movie uninteresting to watch, even though it is beautifully shot.   My favorites sounded like they were taken out of the mouth of Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin in a WWE pre-match psyche-out banter; “You’re not tough enough.”  “I am tough enough.”   Then there was the typical, pre-equal opportunity; “A girl?”  Nearly all the important dialogue could have been taken from any book or movie.  The themes of the movie make me reminisce about every story in every story telling medium to which I’ve been exposed.

Gracie tries to be a movie with heart, but as with so many things, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Gracie is a shameful example of acting and writing.  It would be in everyone’s best interest if this movie flopped in the theater as quickly as possible.  We don’t want movies like this to influence the cinematic sphere at all.

Official Site