Zchill in his natural habitat; animation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three for the Price of One!!!

Okay so I'm trying something new here. I saw 3 movies each with a different style of movie making and I'm going to try to do a compare and contrast, and then probably compare and contrast again as I'm doing 3 movies.

The Contenders: In this corner from famed director of Back to the Future, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Robert Zemeckis brings us the cold dead eyes of Beowolf!
In the second of our weird, three cornered arena (just go with it) veteran director of M*A*S*H (the movie) and Short Cuts (which is like Magnolia, but with 100% less Tom Cruise and 99% more Robert Downey Jr.), Robert Altman brings us his final film: A Prairie Home Companion!
And the in the final corner from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malcovich, and Adaptation, his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York!

Okay weird movies to watch right? Yeah well They were at the library I suppose I don't know, but I didn't want to skip one of them since they all had their merits and they had creative people behind them, let's break it down by the director movie combo shall we?

Beowolf: Robert Zemeckis is really mired in the motion capture technology so much so that he can no longer make quality movies. Seriously no one else is using Mo-Cap to make movies anymore, it's used primarily in video games. That's where this movie fails, it's like a video game cutscene for an hour and a half with a bizarre ending. Robert Zemeckis needs to stop making these types of movies. Nobody really likes to see the uncanny valley when they watch CGI movies ( I erased animated as there was very little actual animation in this movies).
Pros: The movie certainly was polished, and there were camera angles that you can't normally achieve so it was visually interesting.
Cons: Creepy eyes. Spend a couple bucks and make the characters emote with their eyes. Also when there was yelling or emotion it was just sad to see the limitation on the puppets.

A Prairie Home Companion: Robert Altman directed MASH seriously I think he's got a good pedigree. Apparantly I haven't seen a lot of his movies, and he's one of those that was just a legend in hollywood. He really does the ensemble really well and this movie is no exception.
Pros: Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep really have a great midwestern accent and play well together as sisters. Woody Harrelson and John C Reilly are great as comedic cowboys, and Kevin Kline is great as usual. He really is a comedic genius. Great cast in a fun movie.
Cons: Lindsey Lohan is in it. Yeah. She actually bullied her way into it, and I suppose it'll be the last decent movie that she'll be in. She's a crack whore, and will never change. If she gets a major movie again I will be surely surprised. Also the story was just about the radio show and was pretty much as exciting as watching your radio during a broadcast. Not really a page turner.

Synecdoche New York: Almost everyone has seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is a different beast entirely. It's kind of like inception reversed, which is to say that dream logic exists in this man's reality and he goes deeper and deeper inside the rabbit hole. He literally builds a city in a stage within a stage within a stage within a city. kind of like a dream within a dream.
Pros: Philip Seymour Hoffman does a great job getting progressively older and more pathetic. He is a man wracked with regret. The story resonates in a weird way that I can't really put my finger on. It was sad and depressing, but it has a positive spin on it.
Cons: This is anti-escapism. Nothing about this movie is about forgetting your troubles, and if that is not your movie style steer clear. Even if you like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this movie just shares the weird concept, but delves deeper and makes you more depressed.

Which one to watch? Skip Beowolf and watch Lord of the Rings, it has a better story and better acting, and is not directed in a gimmicky way. If you want to watch a more disappointing version of Lord of the Rings, or you want feel that video games are way too interactive for you watch this. If you're a fan of Meryl Streep, Lilly Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, or Kevin Kline, A Prairie Home Companion is worth it. If you don't want to watch a movie about the radio Robert Altman has made a lot of ensemble pieces that are worth checking out. I don't have anything in particular. Synecdoche New York is a more depressed version of Eternal Sunshine, thematically speaking of course. If movies are only about escapism don't watch this, watch Hamlet 2, it's like if this movie were done as a comedy.

So who won the battle here? I guess it's a draw really. Just three creative people trying to tell different stories. And I got to write about them all in one blog! So it looks like you won too!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Selling Out

Nicolas Cage is pretty good at acting. He's even better at selling out. I tried to defend him a few weeks ago, but that never really worked. I think his winning an Oscar was merely step one on the road to selling out. Why am I so harsh on him? Well, I saw The Weather Man recently and was kind of impressed again at his acting. Which happens, I really did like him in Leaving Las Vegas, and Adaptation was great in its own quirky way. But his career isn't defined by those handful of movies in which he acts: it's in the National Treasures and Ghost Riders... you know the movies he sells out in. Let's go...

What I liked: It wasn't a badly told story. But then again, it wasn't great. The director is kind of mired in mediocrity. Who directed this, you ask? Pirates of the Caribbean's Gore Verbinski. Yeah. I had fun with those movies for the most part, though I had to turn off large sections of my brain to do it. Johnny Depp is kind of the only reason to watch them. Right, tangent over! So, this movie was decently told about an awkward weather man! (That's crazy right? How can a weather man be awkward, they're so friendly!) Honestly, there wasn't a lot to like about this. It was a standard story with Nick Cage acting against type (by acting), just reminding us that he can act but he chooses not to act. This is like a big middle finger to moviegoers: "I'd rather sell out and name my first born son Kal-El!" Crazy.

What I didn't like: Well, the movie was riddled with product placements. This isn't really that big of a deal, as most of it is seen negatively, but the products are mentioned by name, repeatedly. Just when it seems like Nicholas Cage is actually going to act after being a squinting action star, he surprises no one by making sure the movie would get him paid. He has completely sold out, folks. When he turns 50 and is more gray and can no longer be an action hero anymore, maybe he'll try to regain some prestige. As it stands, this year's The Sorcerer's Apprentice (live action Fantasia spin-off? WTF?) was kind of a bomb. I guess we'll see.

Watch this if you like Michael Caine enough to see him in a supporting role. He's good in it, and this movie isn't terrible, it's just forgettable. Also, if you doubt that Nick Cage can act, but don't want to go back further than five years to prove it, this is for you.

Watch this instead: I don't know, this is like if Napoleon Dynamite were a drama. Also, this movie reminded me of Falling Down--which is weird, as I haven't even seen it. Really, there is no point to this movie. It's a bunch of things that happen to a decently likable guy. I've got it! Watch A Serious Man. It's directed by the Coen Brothers, so there is some talent behind the movie. It has the same themes and the same kind of non-story, but is presented in a much better context. Trust me. I knew I saw a movie that was similar to this, I just couldn't place it.

Okay, no one really impressed me in this movie.

Nick Cage: is not an action star.

Michael Caine: is Alfred in the Batman movies.

Product Placement: has appeared in a number of movies. Check out The Italian Job (remake), it's got a huge billboard of a drink that they no longer make. True story.

Bottom line: this is a ho-hum movie.

Also, I've been away for a bit as my interests have shifted and I'm more focused on school at the moment. But I've found a balance, and I like writing about movies, so I'm going to continue.

Because this is the internet I'm ending with a meme: