Nada Mucho

Seen Your Video – DVD Reviews, December 2005

Posted by December 8th, 2005 No Comments »

The humans win.“War of the Worlds”
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins
Director: Steven Spielberg

At times it’s difficult to have an educated (or otherwise) discussion about this movie. Just bring up the well-known H.G. Wells’ title and the response you’ll get from the media-overdosed masses is “Yeah, it was cool, but what the hell is up with Tom Cruise? I think he’s finally cracked.” Or “Did you hear what Tom did on Oprah? Ya know, the couch thing?”

Did I inquire about your feelings on Tom? No, no, I am certain I did not. Let me state here that I am about as interested in Tom Cruise’s love life as I am the whereabouts of Michel Jackson’s real nose or Britney Spears’ legendary virginity.

Now, back to the big screen.

I liked the movie just fine, all things considered.

I can hear my ‘movie-snob’ friends groaning as I say this, but they groan every time I admit I like a mainstream flick (which happens a lot). But don’t worry, my moaning pals, I have plenty of bad things to say about it too. Truly though, does anyone go to a Tom Cruise, high-budget, Hollywood summer film in the hope that they’ll be entering the realm of classic cinema? If you do

The humans win.“War of the Worlds”
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins
Director: Steven Spielberg

At times it’s difficult to have an educated (or otherwise) discussion about this movie. Just bring up the well-known H.G. Wells’ title and the response you’ll get from the media-overdosed masses is “Yeah, it was cool, but what the hell is up with Tom Cruise? I think he’s finally cracked.” Or “Did you hear what Tom did on Oprah? Ya know, the couch thing?”

Did I inquire about your feelings on Tom? No, no, I am certain I did not. Let me state here that I am about as interested in Tom Cruise’s love life as I am the whereabouts of Michel Jackson’s real nose or Britney Spears’ legendary virginity.

Now, back to the big screen.

I liked the movie just fine, all things considered.

I can hear my ‘movie-snob’ friends groaning as I say this, but they groan every time I admit I like a mainstream flick (which happens a lot). But don’t worry, my moaning pals, I have plenty of bad things to say about it too. Truly though, does anyone go to a Tom Cruise, high-budget, Hollywood summer film in the hope that they’ll be entering the realm of classic cinema? If you do, then you deserve what you get.

All in all, it was a fun, special effects, sci-fi summer fest; stereotypical ‘Hollywood’ at its best. This “War of the Worlds” is not all that mentally challenging. It’s too bad, as the story can be, and this would have been a better film if the script had been smarter.

There was the classic book that was years ahead of its time, then there was an Orson Wells radio show that sent people running for the hills. Then in 1953, “War of the Worlds” had its first strike at the big screen where it won an Oscar for its special effects.

2005 and Spielberg now bring us this new and entirely different perspective. This new incarnation is from a far more personal view. The view of Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) and his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin). This is their story. The story of how they as a family work to survive.

Here is where the battle must begin.

The story was rushed, the characters had virtually no time to develop, let alone make you care for their fate and there were just too many near-misses and escapes for the core of the plot to be very believable (even on a sci-fi level). The movie started with a lot of promise, but then you begin to feel a bit like you’re being pushed from behind through every scene, without really having time to look or feel. That is, until you reach the scenes with Tim Robbins. There all of the sudden, the movie feels too long and you’re trapped, lagging, hoping the story will pick up again.

Now in the movie’s defense…one might say all of that is brilliant. You see, you ARE being rushed, just as the characters are being rushed. Rushed, with no time to stop and breathe. Running for their lives. Until at last they escape, breathless, into those Tim Robbins scenes. Cornered in that root cellar. Where eventually, they too would like to run, but they can’t. Trapped, just as their audience is trapped with them and time seems to slow to an agonizing pace.

So, for some, this movie will annoy. Others will find valid reasons to praise it.

For me, the final moment of decision between “great summer sci-fi” and “tragic loss“ came in the last five minutes of the film. Neck and neck these two critiques ran for the finish line, arguing their points all the way. There it was, the much-debated ‘happy ending vs. relatively believable ending’ moment arrived and…well, I would have preferred the other ending option. Dakota Fanning does a fantastic job and Morgan Freeman’s voice is great for the mood of the film. Tom’s character does ok, Tim Robbins’ character was great, but Justin Chatwin left me wanting. – Traci Adams

“Alone in the Dark”
Cast: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff
Director: Uwe Boll

Tragically BAD! I seldom really hate a movie. I can almost always find something good to say, even if it’s only “good effort”.

But here there appears to have been no effort. “Alone in the Dark” feels like it was shot with no planning, no script editing, no budget and no real acting. Okay, I get that it’s based on a video game. I get that it was supposed to be a little campy. But it wasn’t even that.

I fondly remember a time when I saw a real future in acting for Christian Slater (“Heathers”, “Untamed Heart”, “True Romance”, “Very Bad Things”). Now I find myself hoping it’s just that he has a knack for picking bad scripts. Stephen Dorff is so bad I actually began to feel pity for him. And Tara Reid as a “brilliant anthropologist”? Dear God, don’t get me started.

Don’t waste an hour and a half of your life on this one. Go have a tooth pulled. It will leave you feeling less pained and feeling more fulfilled. – TA

”Sin City”
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson

Adaptation, as Charlie Kaufman taught us, is difficult business. When a director takes on material that has already been published, they’re working against the audience’s preconceived notions of how said work should look.

Harder yet is making a film based on a graphic novel, as is the case with Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the Sin City books by Frank Miller, where the director is working against the audience’s notion of how the material DOES look. It’s a steep hill to climb, but Robert Rodriguez has done so with “Sin City”.

Using Miller’s books as a storyboard (and, in several cases, directly replicating Miller’s art), Rodriguez has crafted a visually stunning and inventive film that bucks the concept of “artistic interpretation” and makes a strong case for honoring the original work (Christopher Nolan, take note. The bar for your Batman picture has been raised considerably). The three storylines here are woven together loosely – the occasional characters slipping in and out of the peripheral of one another’s stories, just as in Miller’s books – though the overall themes of the film are consistent: sex, drugs, violence and corruption.

Most of the large and talented cast immerses itself in the look and language of Miller’s work, which is at times clichéd and melodramatic, but such is the case when one is working from a script based on a comic book (and a noir book, at that). However, as convincing and enjoyable as the performances are – Owen’s chief among them – they are consistently outshone by the brilliance of Rodriguez’s style and imagination. The film was shot almost entirely against a green screen, allowing Rodriguez and his visual design team to play to their hearts’ content, and the results are overwhelmingly successful, and will most certainly be the reason this film is remembered.

The film stumbles, only slightly and rarely, when the characters break from the debauchery and attempt to relate to one another. Syrupy, romantic dialogue may work in a Merchant Ivory film or a melodrama, but set against a vibrant background of bludgeoned corpses and scantily-clad women, it doesn’t carry much weight. However, this is a small and insignificant snag in an otherwise excellent film. – Kasey Anderson

“House of D”
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Tea Leoni, David Duchovny, Robin Williams, Erykah Badu, Magali Amadei, Harold Cartier, Mark Margolis, Zelda Williams, Gideon Jacobs
Director: David Duchovny

Holy “X Files” Batman! Who knew Mulder could write, not to mention direct? No, seriously!

I rented this one because I love Robin Williams, I actually knew very little about the movie itself. I was delighted to find this well rounded, well cast, well acted film.

Anton Yelchin impressed the hell out of me (you may remember him as the boy in “Hearts in Atlantis”, another fine performance). For any actor to hold it together, let alone hold their own, opposite Robin Williams is no small feat. Anton does it with ease.

Playing 13 year old Tommy Warshaw in a story of one boy’s traumatic coming of age and the relationships that molded him. Tommy’s mother (a depressed widow played by Tea Leoni), his best friend Pappass (a retarded school janitor, played by Robin Williams) and prison inmate Lady Bernadette (played by Erykah Badu). Duchovny does a fine job as the adult Tom Warshaw. ut where he really shines in this film is behind the camera.

The relationship between Tommy and Pappass is so real and so genuine. You will want to know them. There is a freshness to this story and it’s telling. – TA


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2017 Nada Mucho