Monday, March 17, 2003



A Film Review of Chicago

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

So how much for the film rights to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Chess? Or how about his Aspects of Love? Because judging by the critical success of Chicago, bad musicals is what Hollywood wants and I want some of that free cash too.

I'm not saying Chicago is a bad movie, it's not, by no stretch of the imagination - I just want to know how it has swept the Oscar nominations this year. Now I'm not going to argue with the supporting actor and actress noms. John C. Reilly is damned good here and Queen Latifah is always amazing - she's deserved the Oscar back in 1998 for Living Out Loud. It's the nominations for Gere, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones I have issues with.

Yeah, ooh, ahh, they can sing and dance, big deal. Back in the olden days of Hollywood there was prerequisite to acting ability. And acting ability is what the coveted Oscar is all about. These three walk through these roles and they are capable of much more. If we're giving out Academy Awards for bodies of work rather than an individual film then these nominations are fine. To me, they just don't deserve it for Chicago.

The film does deserve acclaim. It's a good old fashioned musical as opposed to new wave rock versions like Josie and the Pussycats and Hedwig and the Angry Inch which were just as good but unfortunately failed miserably critically. As a matter of fact the only thing that removes Chicago from the ranks of classics like Singin' in the Rain and West Side Story is the dizzying cut and run MTV camera angles and shifts. Not good in an old fashioned musical.

My other complaint is that the songs are a bit too telegraphed even for a musical, you can almost know when to look at your watch and say time for a song. I suppose that may be unavoidable but it doesn't seem that obvious to me in other classics of the genre.

The rest of the cast are standouts especially Lucy Liu and Mya and best of all, Christine Baranski is marvelous as Mary Sunshine - her performance here almost makes up for her being in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Almost. I don't forgive easily.

Now don't let me talk anyone out of seeing Chicago, it's excellent. There is a rule about movies about expectation. If a film is better than you expected when you went in - it's a good movie. The hype for this one killed it for me. The critics and the Oscar nominations had me expecting a masterpiece. Just goes to show you what critics know. :-)

Shallow Hal


A Video Review of "Shallow Hal"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

The Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, are responsible for such films as Dumb and Dumber, Me, Myself and Irene, Say It Isn't So, There's Something About Mary and this classic Shallow Hal. Believe it or not I think they are fabulously talented filmmakers - I just think they might be a little embarrassed about it. Maybe they come up with great ideas and are unsure so slip in some toilet humor so it works. Or maybe they're just lazy.

Howard Stern suffers from the same malady. He is one of America's most talented and professional broadcasters. Yes, that's what I said. The paradox is why should he bother working at it when it's easier to fart and make dick jokes? Exactly. That's the problem with the Farrelly brothers as well. Toilet humor is easy.

There's a touching story at the heart of Shallow Hal just like most of their films. It's just so entrenched in disgusting vile putrid content it's hard to find. A subconscious suggestion makes Hal (played by the ever amazing Jack Black) see women as they are inside rather than superficially outside. He eventually falls for Gwyneth Paltrow, an overweight girl he would have never previously even considered talking to. Like I said, it's a touching story, but it seems like after they got the plot the brothers sat down and made a list of every fat joke they could think of and injected them into the script.

Maybe eventually they'll get the confidence to come out of the water closet and make a real film and surprise us - but not this time.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

The Hidden Fortress


A Video Review of The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Kakushi toride No San Akunin or The Hidden Fortress, as it is known in the United States, has long been touted as the inspiration for Star Wars. Having recently seen it I gotta say I have my doubts. To paraphrase that annoying old pitch woman for Wendy's - "Where's the Force?"

This samurai tale of a war hero trying to save his princess by using two farmers going home after being enslaved as a cover is pretty standard fair for the Japanese cinema at the time and only elevated by the direction of the master Akira Kurosawa and the always superior performance of Toshiro Mifume but Star Wars it ain't.

There are similarities storywise, two bumblers, a rogue and a rescued princess but it ends there. The Hidden Fortress lacks a Luke Skywalker character who George Lucas freely admits is a product of 'the hero's journey' postulated by Joseph Campbell I still find it hard to believe Lucas outfitted the rest of his cast from this film. While the relationship of the two farmers bears a slight resemblance to the antics of R2-D2 and C3PO so do Laurel and Hardy from most of their work.

The Hidden Fortress is an enjoyable two hours plus of vintage samurai cinema but Star Wars it ain't.