Friday, February 29, 2008
ZOOM: ACADEMY FOR SUPERHEROES is a bitter, cynical movie by and about bitter, cynical people.
It stars Tim Allen as a bitter, cynical former superhero who is kidnapped by bitter, cynical U.S. government operatives and forced to train four unlikeable white kids with superpowers. Do Allen and the kids bond, learn to harness their powers, and both show up the gov’t and overcome the world-threatening villain? C’mon – was this movie made by bitter, cynical people? Of course they do. That’s the formula.
That’s not to say that formulae are bad, as long as they’re executed well. ZOOM is not executed well. Its jokes are lame. Its villains are lame. Its heroes are super lame. Even its special effects, which should be a no-brainer with a major studio film, are lame. This is the movie that gets wrong everything that SKY HIGH got right. Don’t even bother.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
GODZILLA VS. GIGAN is one of the weaker entries in the late '60s - early '70s Godzilla ouvre (Yes, I just used the word ouvre in a review of a Godzilla movie. Sue me.). The monster costumes look worn, the story is boring, and even King Ghidorah can't bring a sense of fun or adventure to the proceedings.
How weak is it? I repeatedly checked my watch during the climactic battle, which seemed like it went on forever. If there's one thing a Godzilla movie is supposed to be about, it's the climactic battle. If a picture can't even sell this one crucial element, it is well and truly lost.
What's the story? I saw this picture a couple of days ago, and already I can barely remember it. Something about aliens taking over the world using Gigan and King Ghidorah, and Godzilla getting in there and saving the day. But the movie just doesn't sell it. The acting is ghastly, the production values low, and the whole thing a general embarrassment.
If you're a Godzilla completist, go ahead and knock yourself out with GODZILLA VS. GIGAN. Otherwise, steer well clear. This thing is a monstrous failure.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I just plain adored STARDUST.
It's a Maguffin chase / coming of age story in the world of faerie, but with a twist. The Maguffin is a fallen star; but in this world, fallen stars walk, talk, and look an awful lot like Claire Danes. Where do I sign? The comer of age is a young man (Charlie Cox), who crosses into Faerie to retrieve said star as a token of his love for one Sienna Miller, the prettiest girl in town. But he's not the only one who wants her. There's Michelle Pfeiffer as a refreshingly old-school, ruthless witch who wants to cut out her heart and eat it. And there's Mark Strong as a son of the king: he wants to cut out Claire's heart [i]and[/i] steal her jewelry. And what about the pirate with the familiar-looking mole on his cheek? What's he up to, anyway?
So here's a movie that gives us a number of different threads, managing lightly to skip among them without getting tangled in them. Its villains are menacing without being terrifying, its love interests are well and truly lovable, and it manages to gain and maintain and sweet, lighthearted, wonderful tone from beginning to end.
It's no secret that I'm a sucker for writer Neil Gaiman's artistic viewpoint, and he doesn't disappoint with STARDUST. In a week in which I've been hammered with two dreary movies masquerading as adventures, what a delight to find an adventure as joyful, as imaginative, as lovely as STARDUST. What a winner.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (POTC 3, henceforth) isn't very good. It wants to be an exciting, family-friendly adventure, but it begins with the hanging of a child. Now, I now that to somebody in Studio City, nothing says "entertainment" like the twitching feet of a dying juvenile. But I hate to break it to you, buddy: you hamstrung yourself very early on. The stakes are too high here, the villains too villainous, the deaths too real for POTC 3 to be fun. Yet this is a POTC movie, not NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, so it's not like you were going to sell it as a drama.
Early pall aside, POTC 3 makes no sense. It would have us believe that Pax Brittania was a bad thing, that the world is much better off with pirates disrupting the global economy than with trading vessels being able to ply the seas, and that the life of a felon is somehow noble. The earlier POTC movies at least kept the pirates morally ambiguous - here, they're good guys who do a little raping and pillaging in their spare time.
And yet, POTC 3 does have some things to recommend it. The performances are great fun, with Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy chewing the scenery with gusto comparable to Johnny Depp. The special effects are magnificent, and the set design is out of this world.
If only the movie hadn't gone so dark so early, it might have swept me away. Alas.