Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I've Been Watching, Text Edition

We're going to burn through some brief thoughts on some movies I've been watching in the past week or so. It's too late at night for me to bust out the video camera, so you'll have to put up with a text update this time.

Kingdom of Heaven
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons

This movie was very impressive, but underwhelming at the same time. There are very few people that can direct huge action set period pieces like Ridley Scott, and he handles the material with the typical grit and flair. Orlando Bloom plays the same character as he does in the Pirates franchise - a blacksmith torn out of his element and thrust into the action. Liam Neeson plays the same character he does in Batman Begins - an older man tasked with training the young hero in swordplay and dropping sage one-liners. The production design was incredible, reminding me (even though this movie came first) of the excellent video game Assassin's Creed. This is about the closest video-game-to-movie comparison that I've seen since the fantastic Speed Racer/Mario Kart Double Dash similarities from 2008. If you're a huge fan of Assassin's Creed and want to inhabit that world again before the sequel to the game comes out, then I think this is your best option. [I heard the director's cut was a masterpiece, so I decided to watch it. That was a bad call on my part since it was over three hours long. The Blu-ray looked incredible, though.]

The Mechanic
Director: Michael Winner
Starring: Charles Bronson

Like I said on my Facebook review, these types of 1970's action movies are a dime a dozen. You can honestly interchange the protagonist actors between Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and, in this case, Charles Bronson. There are excessive uses of snap zooms, and very little else as far as utilizing the technology of cinema. But as far as the storyline goes, it's pretty standard "assassin teaches student, and the two subsequently battle" material. Is this worth watching? Nope. Sure, there are some decent explosions and a not-meant-to-be-funny-but-kinda-hilarious shootout toward the end, but that absolutely does not mean it's worth two hours of your life. Also, comparing this film's pace to a snail's would be an insult to the speed of the snail. (Does that work? I think that works. I'm trying to say the pacing was slow.) Bonus Note: They're remaking this one with Jason Statham in the lead role.

Garden State
Writer/Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman

I wish I could articulate my feelings on Garden State in a full review, but I'm not going to take on that challenge right now. For now, I'll say that Zach Braff captures a raw feeling, an essence of human spirit, and an overall appreciation for film that I only feel once or twice a year (if I'm lucky). These reactions are surely not the same for everyone, but Garden State speaks to me on a personal level and the movies that can do that are the ones I find truly special. Films like Wristcutters: A Love Story and Slumdog Millionaire capture similar feelings using different stylistic methods, but Garden State combines a traditional love story with a great examination of growing up, questioning the notion of "home," all while dealing with some other very heavy issues (death of family members, etc). Needless to say, this film is a spectacular achievement for first-time director Braff, who seems to know exactly where to put his camera at all times. There is not a single shot that seems out of place in the entire movie. Consider me a huge fan.

That's it for now. I'll be back with some legit reviews in the near future. The Hurt Locker and (500) Days of Summer will be out soon, and they have both been getting solid hype around them so far. Until next time...


Alan Trehern said...

"Raise your hands if you just saw some tits..."

Jacob L said...

I have heard a lot of criticism of Kingdom of Heaven for various reasons. Some accuse Orlando Bloom of being unable to carry such an epic picture. Others comparing the film to Braveheart or Gladiator felt cheated, I suspect, of a more pulsating movie. It is somewhat more reserved, I guess. Correct me here if I am wrong because my memory is fuzzy. But I actually liked the movie a lot. I felt like it had a lot of unique moments, like the scene where the leprosy-infected king dies. Bloom probably isn't one's first choice for carrying a "big" movie, but sometimes casting against type can give us a worthwhile movie that stands apart from the status quo, and I think Kingdom of Heaven does that rather well.

Ashley said...

so glad you liked Garden State! I LOVE that movie- and the soundtrack too! :D

Ashley said...

so glad you liked Garden State! I LOVE that movie- and the soundtrack too! :D