Sunday, July 21, 2002

Time to play catch up again:

Men in Black II (Barry Sonnenfeld 2002) - You know it's going to be trouble when Sonnenfeld doesn't even bother to parody the opening TV show but instead just creates some pseudo-Plan 9 never-world episode. Even worse it just shovels out backstory. Then the whole thing gets worse. I'm wondering now if what we thought was Sonnenfeld's subtle talent was merely luck.

Company Man (Peter Askin & Douglas McGrath 2000) - It's probably politically repugnant to place the Bay of Pigs invasion as a comic misunderstanding rather than the deliberate choice of power-hungry men but this is a pretty amiable satire which if it does lack much real bite is at least, uh, amiable. And actually funny more than it should be.

Stiff Upper Lips (Gary Sinyor 1998) - A comedy made by people with no sense of humor. Oh, a couple of the actors appear to have tongues roving in cheek but probably the combined behind-camera talent couldn't come up with a single gag for a Leno monologue if they tried. And try they didn't: Their idea of a joke is a railroad station sign reading "Ivory's End." Why couldn't the folks from Minority Report prevent these kinds of crimes?

Reign of Fire (Rob Bowman 2002) - Very nearly a genuinely great film but in the end it settles for being a quite good one. It's also one I wished was a novel because the accumlated detail of the changed culture and personality reactions would be well worth exploring. But we'll settle for a bleak drama with unhinged characters, great sfx and a top-notch helicopter-dragon-parachutist battle.

The General (John Boorman 1998) - Tedious, very tedious. Worse, it appears that the source material had real potential. (I watched the B&W version, not the desaturated color one.)

From Russia With Love (Terence Young 1963) - Since I've never seen most of the early Bond films--probably being not a Bond fan of any kind has something to do with that--a couple of years ago I got the idea of watching them all in order. I found a letterboxed tape of Dr. No but the film was so bad and the difficulty of tramping out to the one store with letterboxed tapes didn't appeal much so the idea was dropped. Now I can rent them all on DVD easily so the idea is back in swing. From Russia is a bit more interesting than the first film (I particularly like that it doesn't seem to have occured to the filmmakers that Bond comes across as a tossed-around doofus with little control of his actions) but it's still about 20 minutes too long. The DVD has a decent making-of documentary.

Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan 2000) - If I'd read a description beforehand I'd mark this down as pointless art but the film turns out to be far better, more like an actual art film disguised as a genre rethinking. (In fact it's not really a rethinking: compare to Alan Moore, Brian Bendis, Keith Giffen, Greg Rucka, etc to see why not.) Almost perfectly controlled, Unbreakable resonates in unexpected ways.