The Hess Report

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Movies I've Seen Recently, and What I Thought About Them, Like You Care

So, do you really care what I think of some movies that I've seen in the last couple of months? Probably not. In fact, I'd say almost definitely not. So skip this, chalk it up to the diary function, and wait for me to write something funny next time.

The Return of the King: Great. If you know me at all, you probably could have guessed this one. Joy was bored her second time through it. I found myself wondering where the cuts were made and anticipating what the super-extended version will be like. Although it gets an insanely high rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's not for everyone. Favorite part: the cavalry charge through the enemy lines. I've always read how cavalry was much feared in medials days, and how a hundred mounted men with spears could scatter a force ten times their size. Hard to picture. Not anymore. I think I could watch that scene all day and not get bored.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico: Terrible. Who gave Robert Rodriguez the money to make this movie and why? Oh that's right - he buds with the other overrated hack Quentin Tarrentino. The shots and directing are amateurish, like something a twelve year old kid would come up with. The action scenes were horrible – no suspense, no sense of threat from the enemy, not nearly enough irony in the ineptitude of the stormtroopers and the incredibility of the hero. Maybe that played so many years ago in Desperado, but these days it's just lame. Johnny Depp with the fake arm, Mexican v. Mexican't, and Mikey Rourke hiding his chihuahua made me laugh, but that was it. Was this supposed to be a “wild ride” kind of movie? Crap.

Lost in Translation: WTF? Maybe if you've never suffered through an Ivy League round table workshop with young fiction writers this movie will seem like something new and interesting to you. That in mind, I've seen it something like forty different times. Thin drek, often referred to as a mood piece (i.e. no plot to speak of), showing nothing more than the author's current fascination with a particular chic item of the day, which in this case is fish-out-of-water Americans submerged in Japanese pop culture. Maybe it's because I hate Japan and Japanese pop culture, or maybe it's because I hate pretentious people who think their mildest musings pass for high art, but I hated this movie. Even if I think a movie sucks (See OUATIM, above) I'll watch the whole thing before I pass judgment. But Joy and I were heckling this movie by the halfway point. Just terrible.

School of Rock: Yeah, baby! This movie was interesting, because Jack Black's character, which seems to be pretty much just Jack Black, is really despicable, and the things he does and the reasons he does them are almost too painful to watch. Maybe it's because I'm a parent and have kids in school. A couple of times in the first 2/3, I actually considered not watching anymore. But the movie pays off, big time. I hate kids in movies. I wasn't even a big fan of the kid in About a Boy, which was good, and everyone else loved him. But these kids are just incredible. Especially the guitar-playing kid. If Jack's not your thing, this movie will drive you insane. But me, Joy and a bottle of Columbia Crest Merlot-Cab, it was great.

The Lion King 1 1/2: If you've watched the Lion King with your kids as many times as we have, this movie is absolutely hilarious. It really is. It's a Disney-produced direct to DVD second sequel, and that should condemn it to some dust bin in Hell. I don't know how many of the gags/references the little ones got, but there were plenty of fart jokes to keep them happy. At one point, Timone and Pumba start singing “Sunrise/Sunset” as Simba grows up. It's funny for them to throw it in there, but then, just when think it's going to end, a Disney chorus picks it up, with full orchestral backing, and you're wondering just how insane the writers of this movie are.

Peter Pan: I'm heavy on the kid's movies, aren't I? I took Maddie to see this, despite warnings that Hook was really a rat bastard and (on screen) shoots a couple of his lackeys. She loved it, and I thought it was great, too. P.J. Hogan wrote and directed this adaptation of the stage play, with much reference to the original book, and it shows. All the themes are there, and even earned it some criticism from certain sources about displaying verge-of-adolescence sexuality. Whatever to those losers, as they were probably born and raised in a monastery.

I found this movie actually affected me. Seeing a bunch of kids chanting “Old, Alone and Done For!” to diminish Hook's flying abilities until he basically commits suicide by giving up whilst hovering above the giant croc – it was scary. Obviously, Hook is the stand-in for the worst things about adulthood, and he bites it big-time, and even at 33, you can see that ending if things don't go right for you. The ending got me, too. I'm not familiar with the story. I didn't know if Pan was going to stay in the real world with the Darling family or head back to the now-deserted Neverland. I was rooting for him to stay. Later, Maddie told me she was glad he went back. It caught me off guard, and I found it effectively sad. Call it a tribute to the original text and the skill of the screenplay adaptation in translating the very pertinent themes about adulthood v. childhood. I'm not sure how this would have played for me without a kid in the room, so your mileage may vary.

That's it, and even though I haven't watched it in a while, Finding Nemo is a work of genius on just about every level. I don't think there's a second I would change in that movie, from the big things like the script, directing, casting, animation, and effects to the touches like the one-second flashback at the end that's so smooth and fast you don't even really notice it until after it's gone and you're wondering why silly animated fish have you feeling it as much as you are. It's absolute genius. As big of a fan as I am of ROTK, I would have to say that Finding Nemo should have taken best picture at the Academy Awards this year. Oh well. They'll both be watched for years to come, unlike Lost in Translation, which should really have been titled Crap instead.

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