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Film: Recent Movies

The last time I did this was more than a month ago, so there are a lot of films in here (spanning twenty years of releases) and the thoughts will probably be briefer. I’ll put them in order of preference, with the worst film getting the most commentary because it was bad in a way that leaves me with lots to say about it:

The Host

Click the image for a link to the source.

The Host (2006)

Summary: A mysterious monster snatches a young girl and she is believed to be dead by everybody except her family, who set out to try and save her.

Thoughts: This was very good. I went into it expecting something like the The Ring or The Grudge, something dark and psychological, which was a little silly of me as the only real connection between them was that they’re all Asian films (but not even the same country, with The Host being Korean and the other two Japanese) and have a similar title structure.

The Host has a lot more in common with monster movies, with the monster being created by pollution, publicly terrifying the region and picking off those who go after it.  It mixes humour, horror and more touching moments to great effect and the initial reveal scene for the monster is very impressive and lengthy with some good CGI work.

Road to Perdition

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Road to Perdition (2002)

Summary: A gangster takes his son on the road after they run afoul of the mobster he works for, trying to stay alive and work on their revenge.

Thoughts: I’ve seen this a couple of times before (though not recently) and still think it’s very good, even if it’s no American Beauty. Hanks does very well with a role that doesn’t seem to fit his general nice guy role history, and most of the cast are great in general. I don’t really have anything more to say about it than that.

Jackie Brown

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Jackie Brown (1997)

Summary: Stewardess Jackie Brown is caught transporting drugs and tries to pit the police against the drug dealer she worked for to try and come out on top.

Thoughts: This was one of the gaps I had in my Tarantino viewing, though I had friends who had seen it, liked it and heavily quoted Samuel Jackson’s (NSFW) AK-47 line to the point that I think of it whenever I come across the weapon in a game:

It’s a good film as well. I was never quite sure how it was all going to play out until it ended, which meant the times when Jackie was trying to pull everything off were very tense.

Red Eye

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Red Eye (2005)

Summary: A hotel manager takes a late flight home and is caught up in an assassination plot that threatens her and her family.

Thoughts: The film’s quite short which helps keep it tense, wasting little time going from build-up to the establishment of the threat to the climax. Rachel McAdams’ character is surprisingly resourceful and Cillian Murphy is always creepy (even before he reveals himself to be a bad guy). Even if it resolves itself pretty much how you’d expect there are some surprises along the way and it’s a good film.

Starchaser

Click the source for a link to the image. No, wait, that's not right...

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)

Summary: Blatant Star Wars rip-off about a young boy who finds an energy sword, falls in with a smuggler and a governor’s daughter and together they try to save the galaxy from the evil Zygon.

Thoughts: I watched this for the 30 Movies in 30 Days project, so you can read my thoughts on it here.

Kingpin

Image the source for a click to the link. Nope, still wrong..

Kingpin (1996)

Summary: A washed-up former bowling champion discovers an Amish bowling prodigy and gets him to enter a huge competition with a big cash prize.

Thoughts: The plot for this was surprisingly predictable when there was no reason for it to be, going the route of pretty much every other film where one essentially good-natured but ambitious person takes advantage of another’s good nature. Being from the same directing team as There’s Something About Mary there’s a lot of dumb and gross-out humour in it, but some good performances (especially from the always excellent Bill Murray) make it enjoyable.

Goya's Ghosts

Click to see the image source, which is hosted on the blog as the original was found on a piracy site.

Goya’s Ghosts (2006)

Summary: Set around Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and spanning many years, mostly focused around an Inquisition priest, a falsely accused girl and an artist who painted both of them.

Thoughts: This was an odd film but it was an okay one, propped up by the performances of Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård. It did something with the Inquisition that I thought was pretty neat and have thought about before, really giving the whole “God will give the innocent the strength to keep from confessing” attitude the treatment it deserves.

Deep Impact

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Deep Impact (1998)

Summary: An asteroid is discovered heading for Earth that is big enough to be an extinction level event. A mission is sent out to stop it while people on Earth go through relationship drama and prepare for what may be the end of the world.

Thoughts: When I first watched this I thought it was slow and dull and that Armageddon (which released very close to Deep Impact) was the far superior comet disaster film, but this second viewing has convinced me they’re both fairly mediocre. It would probably be a better film if it scrapped the Elijah Wood and Téa Leoni storylines and spent more time on the astronauts, because spending all that time focused on the teenager and his wife or the reporter and her problems with her father is far too small-scale for an Extinction Level Event. Making it more global, showing nations preparing for the end, getting to know the astronauts better and making their troubles more meaningful would have helped a lot, in my opinion.

Candy

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Candy (2006)

Summary: A heroin addict falls in love with an art student and seduces her into his life of heroin, turning her into an addict and a prostitute. They go through a lot of rough times and repeatedly try to get clean.

Thoughts: This wasn’t a bad film but seemed to go through a fairly standard arc for a film about addicts despite being based on a true story. Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish were great but watching Ledger play a man whose life is destroyed by drugs is a little iffy, seeing as this came out just a year and a half before his death from drugs.

The Eye

Click the image for a link to the source.

The Eye (2002)

Summary: A blind woman has an eye transplant that is a little too successful, allowing her to see the dead, and sets out to find out more about the donor and hopefully bring an end to the problem.

Thoughts: I don’t really have much to say about this one. It’s not a bad film but didn’t hook me overly and I wasn’t keen on the conclusion. It has two sequels and a US remake starring Jessica Alba but I’m not really fussed about seeing any of them.

2046

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2046 (2004)

Summary: A writer stays in a hotel and has several relationships while writing a sci-fi story.

Thoughts: The description for this said it was about people travelling through time to find love, which it really isn’t, with that element being the novel the main character is working on. I don’t know if that major disconnect between expectation and reality harmed my enjoyment of the film (it didn’t for The Host above) but I didn’t think much of it. It was okay, nothing more. Wikipedia says it’s part of a larger continuity, and being familiar with that might also have helped.

Lady in the Water

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Lady in the Water (2006)

Summary: A maintenance man discovers a strange girl in his swimming pool and discovers she’s much more than she seems, roping in the entire apartment complex to help her.

Thoughts: This was wonderfully awful. None of the characters are sceptical about any of the ridiculous events and simply go along with everything Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard tell them to do, which is given the barest of explanations by having them be people who were subconsciously drawn to live at the location due to being naturally receptive to what they’re needed for.

It borrows a major element from another M. Night Shyamalan film, Signs, where people have unique skills or character quirks that turn out to be exactly what they need to save the day, except it does it without any of that film’s subtlety (and Signs wasn’t even that subtle with it) and exaggerates the quirks to ridiculous proportion. At one point one of the characters (a film critic, the kind of person who would be part of the group criticising Shyamalan’s later films) points out his role in the movie for no real reason, only to have things play out differently. Playing against conventions can be a nice surprise but that’s not what the film does, simply stating one thing will happen and then doing something different, neither clever or funny. What’s worse is that it’s obvious what’s going to happen even before it does that, so it achieves nothing.

The crowning bit of awfulness is that Shyamalan actually cast himself in the film as a writer whose work is so important it will change the world, which makes it all the funnier that this was the film that really made people think he was a terrible writer and director (after most of his other films hinted at it). The best thing I can say about the film is that it wasn’t boring, as finding out what new bit of ridiculousness was coming kept me interested all the way through. I also quite like the central idea of the film and I think there’s potential in there, but they’re put together so poorly that there’s nothing about the film to recommend.

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