Daily Dork Report for January 27, 2006

Lord of War

Lord of War movie poster

 

I initially dismissed Lord of War when the trailers and posters first appeared. In other words, it got caught in the crude mental filters that routinely handle my first-pass “ignore” of all the crap that flows through my eyes and ears all day every day. But when my regular email newsletter from Amnesty International endorsed the film, it seemed possible this was something more substantial than National Treasure.

And it is. In an impressive marketing slight-of-hand, Lions Gate marketed it as an action comedy. But like Syriana, Lord of War is actually a very strongly-felt topical film loosely based on actual events. It has a more human and darkly comedic tone than Syriana, which often felt like a very consciously-constructed intellectual puzzle. But on the other hand, Syriana’s strict focus is perhaps a virtue; Lord of War’s several dramatic plotlines involving the main character’s marriage and wayward brother don’t always sit very well against the larger themes of entrenched human violence.

For another Nicolas Cage treasure hidden in plain sight, I recommend Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men.

Red Eye

Red Eye movie poster

 

I had heard Red Eye was a refreshingly unpretentious thriller that played on Americans’ changed relationship with air travel in a post 9/11 world. While technically true, it’s actually a very disappointing runaround decidedly lacking in the most routine pleasures that come with thrillers. Where’s the expected third-act twist? Is the twist that there actually isn’t one?

Daily Dork Report for January 25, 2006

King Kong (1976)

King Kong 1976 movie poster

 

About the only saving graces of this piece of gorilla dung are: A) Jessica Lange actually does a pretty good Marilyn Monroe, and B) Seeing the movie now provides some unintentional emotional oomph: Kong is actually drawn into Manhattan by the primal lure of the World Trade Center.

Whose idea was it for Kong to walk upright? Would it have been too much work for the guy in the suit to hunch over and drag his knuckles a little? And he throws like a girl.

The New World

The New World movie poster

 

Why didn’t I know better? Although I stand apart from nearly all (it seems) critics and fellow cineastes, I hated Badlands, Days of Heaven, and Thin Red Line. And The New World is, of course, more of the same. The problem isn’t necessarily the pacing, although it is indeed punishingly slow. It’s partly the storytelling technique of mumbled interior monologues of inarticulate characters grappling with giant issues beyond their comprehension, in voiceover over admittedly gorgeous nature photography.

Sample sequence from Thin Red Line: shot of stream running over eroded boulder. US Grunt: “Why… are… we… KILLIN’… each udder… in duh jungle…?” Shot of pelican. Repeat.

And this was a screening of The New World DIRECTOR’S CUT, with TWENTY additional minutes! Arrrrrgh.

Nine Songs

9 Songs movie poster

 

Explicit in more ways than one: surprisingly, the theme is pretty much spelled out in voiceover in the first sequence. A man reflects on a past relationship in terms of concerts they went to together and the arc of their sexual life. I can only speak for myself, but those are exactly the kinds of mental landmarks that mark my past relationships.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four movie poster

 

Did they learn nothing from Spider-Man 2, clearly the pinnacle of the superhero genre (and I will fight a Marvel Team-Up with anybody that dares disagree with me)? FF is an aggressively stupid series of one missed opportunity after another. It just narrowly escapes one star by making me laugh a handful of times.

And another thing. Jessica Alba does nothing for me. I see hotter women every 10 seconds just walking down the street here in NYC. She just has an uncommonly small waist! But even wearing glasses couldn’t help her pull off a line like “The space cloud has fundamentally altered our DNA!”