Thursday, June 19, 2003

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY

A Film Review of "Finding Nemo"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This is probably the best Father's Day movie I've seen since Field of Dreams. It is the simple story of a father who has lost his son and risks everything to get him back. It's not perfect but it's probably the best movie I've seen in theatres this year, so far.

Other than this being a Pixar and Disney film I had no desire to see this flick. I'm a big Disney fan and I feel that new Disney animated features are events and are special. Pixar always delivers superior product. They have defined computer animation and do it flawlessly. However I have to say the thought of a movie about about fish just didn't thrill me as much as previous films whose concepts did.

Suffice to say Finding Nemo was a surprise. It's well written, the animation is amazing and it's equally entertaining for both adults and children. Speaking of children there might be some dark bits in the beginning that are a bit too scary or intense for younger kids. It is rated G although I'm sure the rating board just saw it was Disney and stamped it G without watching it. It's no scarier than anything in Bambi or Snow White.

Usually Albert Brooks is infinitely annoying, My First Mister being the only exception I can think of and that's probably because of the brilliant script and the performance of Lee Lee Sobrieski. Here I don't mind him probably because I don't have to look at him while he whines. Ellen DeGeneres, another of my favorites (not), is just as good as Brooks in Finding Nemo. Perhaps they have wonderful futures if they stick to animation. Willem Dafoe is terrific as well and the fish even looks like him.

Stay through the credits to catch Monsters Inc.'s Mike Wazowski making a cameo. And take your dad to this one. It's a great Father's Day flick.


Wednesday, June 18, 2003

YES HE CAN ACT

A Video Review of "Six Degrees of Separation"

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

When Will Smith does crap like Bad Boys 2 and the big screen remake of The Wild Wild West it's really hard to remember he is actually quite an accomplished actor. It's just that he shows this skill so rarely.

We see a bit of it in The Legend of Bagger Vance and he shines in Ali although no one really saw these films. Will Smith first showed this spark of genius in Six Degrees of Separation. One can only guess that he made a conscious decision to be an action hero rather than an Oscar winner.

Six Degrees of Separation has a wonderful story structure that leads the viewer through a minor mystery in a unique way. Based on the concept that everyone on earth is only six people away from everyone else on earth it turns out everyone knows someone victimized by Will Smith's con artist character.

Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing turn in brilliant performances as a couple who take a liking to him and try to seek him out when Smith vanishes from their home. Will himself is a marvel in this part playing the rich folks for suckers and advancing a mythical thesis on "Catcher in the Rye" which actually makes a twisted sort of sense.

Look for an early glimpse of a brunette Heather Graham and yet another quirky role for the adult Anthony Michael Hall.

This is a modern classic, don't miss it.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003

KILLING A ROLL

A Video Review of "Under the Cherry Moon"

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Under the Cherry Moon is horrible. Keep in mind that I love Prince. I have all his albums and have seen him in concert a few times. He is the sugar. But he made a horrible second film.

It's about a gigolo played by the purple one trying to romance a woman in France who wants nothing to do with him. Prince is surrounded by his usual entourage including his back-up band the Revolution. While the music is superior and the non-soundtrack (he released an album at the same time that included songs from Under the Cherry Moon) that accompanied the film is dazzling the flick itself is abominable.

The one thing that stands out above all other terrors in this mess is, to borrow a phrase from Prince's protoges The Time, what time is it? When does this film take place? It appears to be turn of the century France but includes rock and roll and other modern references. It stinks of Moulin Rouge but somehow isn't quite that bad.

In 1984 Prince was on a roll. He had a hit movie and a hit album with Purple Rain and its soundtrack. The purple one was riding high and perhaps he didn't like it. You could blame it on him being a misunderstood artistic genius but I think it goes deeper. I think he was subconsciously afraid of success, especially mainstream success. If you know any tortured artist types you know exactly what I'm talking about. They will do anything to avoid mainstream success even if it means sabotaging their career.

Witness Under the Cherry Moon. How do you end a roll? Here's a quick guide, courtesy of Prince. Believe that you know what the public wants and what is good for it. Make an art film. Use black and white film. Fill it so full of your own personal philosophy that everyone else will choke on it. Call it Under the Cherry Moon.

Yep, that will kill a roll. Hell, it might just kill a movie career. Good move, Prince, nice knowing you.


Monday, June 16, 2003

BILL PAXTON MAKES A HORROR MOVIE

A Video Review of "Frailty"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Bill Paxton makes a horror movie. To me this was an interesting proposition. In almost every movie he's been in Bill Paxton has been the would-be hero or the could-be hero… what the heck is he doing making horror movies, especially one that's been hyped as one of the best? We'll see.

Paxton's direction is quite good considering it's fairly obvious it's all a lot of clever shots and angles he's probably learned watching folks who've directed him in the past. His very able skills do save this fairly weak script by Brent Hanley though which is more like a 1960s Corman flick than a 21st century horror film with major distribution. The film moves slowly through a mish mosh of flashbacks and sometimes interesting special effects but comes across at most as monotonous.

Is it creepy? Yep. Is it disturbing? Yep. Surprise ending? Oh yeah. Is it a good horror movie? Not really, might've been a good William Castle flick in his day but this is nothing to write home about. The only frailty about Frailty is its inability to live up to its hype. Maybe Bill Paxton will direct something else soon, hopefully with a better script.


Sunday, June 15, 2003

THE UNSINKABLE SANDRA BULLOCK

A Video Review of "Murder by Numbers"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Sandra Bullock is a very interesting actress. She really only has one mode, one act, one technique and yet she makes you watch her. You must follow her wherever she goes because of this quirky charisma. The camera loves this cute girl next door gig even when she's doing the complete opposite. This works even when she's in a crappy film. You always believe her even when you shouldn't. One wonders how she would fare in a villain part. I think she would be marvelous, on an Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector scale.

In Murder by Numbers Sandra plays a homicide detective matching wits with a pair of high school versions of Leopold and Loeb. Bullock does wonders with this hardcore version of America's sweetheart crossed liberally with "Profiler."

Barbet Shroeder does above average work and yet not up to previous potential. I was kind of disappointed actually. Ben Chaplin may as well have been a store mannequin for all the passion he put into his part. Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt do their best James Dean and Trent Reznor imitations while keeping with the Leopold and Loeb murder geniuses roles.

The story on the other hand ranges somewhere between a good 1970s "Columbo" and Seven, it tries really hard and succeeds. There are slow parts, mostly due to a lack of background music. I could have done without Bullock's backstory and the red-assed monkey but for the most part it is an excellent film. Nice detective works make you think and Murder by Numbers hits the bullseye.

Murder by Numbers is an excellent thriller and I can't wait to see what Sandra Bullock has next up her sleeve. She has the makings of a new Jodie Foster both on screen and behind it.


Saturday, June 14, 2003

VICIOUS STEREOTYPE

A Video Review of "Gods and Monsters"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Having seen this a few years later than most people I was quite surprised. Gods and Monsters received a lot of critical praise. It was good but that wasn't what surprised me. It was the stereotypical portrayal of James Whale as a lecherous homosexual only interested in seducing young men that surprised me.

Brendan Fraser is quite good, almost Oscar material; it's just a shame that none of his good scenes are with Ian McKellan who always turns in an Oscar performance even when he's in 'dreadful' genre crap like X-Men or Lord of the Rings. And I would have liked to have seen more of Lolita Davidovich.

It is a good film with skillful use of flashback and a nice ride down nostalgia lane to the olden days of Hollywood notably the 1930s and the 1960s. The story of director James Whale's last days as told by him before his apparent suicide makes me wonder how this is all known considering those involved either are dead or don't want to be identified. I guess this falls in among the numerous Hollywood tales of 'true events' to base movies on.

Still the portrayal of Whale as this lecherous creature made me wonder why there wasn't more outcry about such a stereotype, no matter how true or not, on the screen. Don't enough misguided people already have malignant views of the homosexual community?

Interesting that the things James Whale is most widely known for; his death and his films Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Showboat; only his death is played up. His death being an unknown quantity at that. It might have been fun to see more insight behind Whale's choices of film and his directorial skills.




Friday, June 13, 2003

A CAUTIONARY TALE

A Video Review of "The Sex Monster"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Amusing and horrific at the same time. A man wants what most men want - a threesome. Or more accurately a man wants a threesome with two other women. This usually never works out usually ending in jealousy and heartbreak. In The Sex Monster it ends with a more comedic nightmare.

The wife played deftly by Mariel Hemmingway tentatively accepts her husband's wishes to bring a sexy woman from his office into their bed. She finds that she enjoys the company of women much more than that of her husband going from despondent housewife to lesbian nymphomaniac.

What follows are the funniest and most brutal scenes of the movie as the husband, played by Mike Binder who also wrote and directed, at first watches, then has snacks, then snoozes in another room as his wife and friend noisily go at it for hours on end - without him.

Chaos ensues as the wife can't quite 'keep it in her pants' and begins to pursue all of the couple's female friends much to her husband's dismay. The Sex Monster is very funny, well written and well worth watching.

It comes off like a madcap Cary Grant farce with modern sensibilities. The Sex Monster is very entertaining for everyone, everyone that is except for couples looking to open up their relationship possibilities.


Thursday, June 12, 2003


LACKING IN RETROSPECT NOT

A Video Review of "The Silence of the Lambs"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

When this film was first released my wife (then girlfriend) and I saw it as a sneak preview. The theatre management was very concerned with the graphic violence and other content of the movie. They not only demanded all the children under seventeen leave the auditorium to see another feature of their choice for free but also offered this option to all the other patrons as well. They were really worried about The Silence of the Lambs.

My, how times have changed! The film went on to break box office records and garnered several Oscar nominations. It won for Best Picture of 1992 among other things, the only horror film to win for that category. It resuscitated careers for actors whose careers seemed done with at the time like Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins who has since made millions as the villain Hannibal Lector in successive films.

The Silence of the Lambs became so popular and so satired and parodied that watching it now seems cliched. When Joe Dirt features a take off you know the film is embedded in the media consciousness and will never leave.

This stuff is old hat but it should be pointed out - it did it first. It's very much like the silent French movie serial Les Vampires. At first glance it is filled with every action adventure cliffhanger cliché imaginable until you consider they did it first. By that consideration it makes John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer look like amateurs.

In viewing the film again I am impressed how drawn in I become even though I know the story, know the details, know every twist and turn of plot. The tension of Agent Starling's and Hannibal Lector's encounters, the intensive search for Buffalo Bill and the sheer terror of Bill himself all stand up to current scrutiny.

Jodie Foster proves her acting superiority as she has again and again. She is truly a professional. Anthony Hopkins in the role that rejuvenated his career is perfectly frightening. Strangely he is more scary imprisoned or bound than he is free and loose, a detail makers of sequels might note. There is power in being in control even when trapped - this is what Hannibal Lector is about.

This is a strong film, scary, menacing, enough to cause nightmares. Maybe I should have taken the free other movie all those years ago. I know I'm gonna have nightmares tonight.


Wednesday, June 11, 2003

CRISIS IN INFINITE MEDIA

A Video Review of "The One"

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

The multiverse. Parallel universes. That's the crux of The One. Maybe I shouldn't be reviewing this flick for a comic book review site. After all DC Comics created the Crisis on Infinite Earths because the multiverse was just too hard a concept for its readers to understand. Contrary to what they might think, I understood the multiverse at five and all my friends and fellow readers comprehended it at early ages as well. I maintain it was the idiot editors at DC who had trouble with the concept. Morons.

Anyway that's what The One is about. Jet Li has to face off against his other universe counterpart who has killed off all his other counterparts. There is an energy that flows through them all, when one dies the energy is divided among the remaining counterparts, making Jet Li and his evil twin very very powerful (stronger, faster, you get the picture).

The cast is superior for an action flick, Delroy Lindo is his usual great self. Jason Statham, who was also in John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, is memorable as well. Look for him in the future, I see great things for this Aussie action hero. And Jet Li, well, no one else in the movies can kick butt like he can, Jet Li is the man. The action, The Matrix meets Superman, is non-stop and phenomenal.

Former Yes-man Trevor Rabin provides the soundtrack which is also peppered with some hard driving rock tunes. It gives the action flick the right flavor that you just don't get with your average Schwarzenegger.

This is a great flick and I recommend it for everyone, even DC Comics editors, maybe they'll get some ideas.

Previously published in a slightly different form at
Comic Widows
http://www.comicwidows.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


ALL TALK LITTLE ACTION

A Video Review of "Our Lady of the Assassins"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

There has been a lot said about this movie. Definitely its reputation precedes but unfortunately sometimes it appears talk is just that, talk.

The first thing that strikes you when watching Our Lady of the Assassins is that it is on videotape rather than film. This is a risky endeavor for an independent film, especially a foreign language one. Perhaps backlash or an affection for The Blair Witch Project?

A homosexual writer returns to a dangerous part of Colombia where he grew up and takes up with a young gang member. The two take endless walks through the city while contemptfully commenting on how things used to be and how things are now.

Our Lady of the Assassins is endless talking while walking, while eating, while cuddling even while witnessing random acts of violence. It's like an hour of My Dinner with Andre interspersed with five second blips of Pulp Fiction.

The film gets tiresome after a while. The relationship between the man and the boy is well done but the rest is all talk talk. And anyone who found the violence shocking hasn't seen many movies in the last decade or two. Yawn.


Monday, June 09, 2003



PUNK FICTION

A Video Review of "Tank Girl"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

In the United States superheroes were modeled after the heroes of the pulp magazines and the radio serials like Doc Savage and the Shadow. In England their superheroes who came much later were modeled after the punk movement. Stuff like "Judge Dredd," "Hellblazer" and "Sandman" were all the rage. In1995 one of the Brits’ greatest comic achievements was immortalized on the big screen with Tank Girl.

The queen of the riotgrrls rocks. Tank Girl is the creation of art school mates Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett and gained popularity worldwide with the comic strip. Hewlett is also the animator behind the techno band Gorillaz and has directed several music videos since.

In the comics and the film Tank Girl’s out to party and she’s out to break the bad guys but only on her terms — that goes double for the director Rachel Talalay who had previously worked with John Waters. She went way over the top as far as mixing in animation, music videos, instantaneous wardrobe changes, staged musical numbers and it’s all a good thing. There’s so much jammed into this one flick you find yourself wondering when the kitchen sink will fly by. Truly amazing.

Madonna had originally wanted the title role here but I’m glad it went to Lori Petty instead. Had Ms. M gotten the part there would have been more fuss concentrated on the Madonna factor and less on Tank Girl herself. Lori Petty is priceless and perfect; a sarcastic action heroine with tongue planted firmly in cheek; all this and sexy too. On a side note most of the Spice Girls also auditioned for the title role, as a matter of fact, it’s where they met for the first time.

Malcolm McDowell is the ever-diabolic villain, a role he’s made his trademark in recent years. The outrageous nature of Tank Girl makes his usual over the top maniacism fit like a glove. We also see Ice-T playing Ice-T as a killer kangaroo, a concept so funny words can not properly describe. Naomi Watts has never been better as shy sidekick Jet Girl. Also look for terrific cameos by Iggy Pop as Ratface and Ann Cusack as Sub Girl.

If you don’t get the comic you’re probably not going to get the movie. So the Tank Girl fans will probably be pissed. Look at it this way, punk is all about attitude and the movie Tank Girl has the perfect quirky unconventional attitude. The comic doesn’t follow the rules and neither does the movie. Just turn off your continuity-tuned mind and sit back and enjoy this one, it’s all good.

And the Cole Porter "Let’s Do It" production number by far the highlight of the film is not to be missed.

This review was previously published in a slightly different form at
Project Popcorn
http://www.whitevioletpictures.com/popcorn
and Comic Widows
http://www.comicwidows.com

Sunday, June 08, 2003


CULTURE CLASH

A Video Review of "Dead End"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This 1937 classic directed by William Wyler and starring Humphrey Bogart, Sylvia Sidney and the Dead End Kids is a timeless story of culture clash. The lush high-rises of the rich look down on the tenements of the poor over the scenic East River in new York causing an interesting mix of folks good and evil.

You get one of everything here. An college studied architect reduced to painting signs, a seamstress on strike and her brother in a street gang, a wanted gangster come home to see his ma and his girl, a rich kid terrorized by the street gang, a society girl in love with the secretive architect – all circling in an endless cycle, eventually sucked into the bottomless toilet of the East River.

It’s almost like film noir without the detective. It is film noir, everyone is a loser in a struggle. The losers with hopes and dreams and a chance for survival you grow to love and root for. Like I said it’s a different film noir, one with hope.

For a time this was a lost film and I’m glad it was finally found. The actors are in top form and Bogart cuts his teeth here with the gangster role that would catapult him to the heights. Don’t miss this classic.


Saturday, June 07, 2003


IMPROVING ON A KNOCK OFF

Video Reviews of "Yongary Monster from the Deep" and "Reptilian"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Much to my dismay as a Godzilla fan when the Sony American version of the big G was released a new wave in Godzilla popularity began. Oh well, as Madonna is fond of saying, "There’s no such thing as bad publicity." Because of a terrible remake that had little to do with its legendary source material, Godzilla was back.

Once upon a time in the 1960s Godzilla and other Japanese kaiju eiga movies were cool and at the peak of their popularity. Then as now, everyone wanted a piece of the action, witness the Fox Network production of "Gargantua" that aired the week of Sony’s Godzilla release. Among the big G’s imitators in the 1960s were the super turtle Gamera, the monster family Gappa, the British Gorgo, the Dutch Reptilicus and, of course, South Korea’s Yongary.

The South Koreans shamelessly ripped the Japanese off in 1969 with their version Yongary Monster from the Deep a not bad carbon copy. It was adequate in every way. Simple story (cliches abound as might be expected) with special effects on par with the Japanese sci-fi of the day like "Ultra Man" but no better. Good monster suit and laughable fire breath, again, typical and good enough for the time.

It was a good attempt at creating a national kaiju eiga for South Korea. Yongary is fondly remembered by fans of the genre. Ironically North Korea would wait a few decades before trying their hand with Pulgasari which actually has more in common with Reptilian than Yongary.

With the recent return of the big G less fertile minds went to work resurrecting old Yongary as the feature monster in Reptilian. Having not seen the original cut of this sequel I can’t really say if it’s any good or not but the American dub has the obvious stink of over-editing and additional scenes.

It has long been the theory that American audiences just can’t identify with Asian actors and storylines which is why we had to suffer through Raymond Burr in the original Godzilla King of the Monsters. Reptilian follows suite with I’d say about twenty to thirty minutes of new American footage. Who knows what the original plot was but here aliens use Yongary’s resurrected corpse as a weapon in their invasion. We barely hear the name ‘Yongary’ except in passing and there seems to be no reference to the original movie.

While the CGI effects are impressive you never get the feeling the monster is doing anything other than cavorting in front of a blue screen. By American SPX standards this is poor and about on par with, believe it or not, what passes for "Ultra Man" today. It is however light years beyond the original flick. Bad attempt, stay away, rent a real Godzilla movie instead.


Friday, June 06, 2003



COMIC BOOK EVOLUTION

A Video Review of "Judge Dredd"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Judge Dredd is a superhero for a new generation. Created in the British punk movement that created other such superheroes as Miracleman and Tank Girl he is police, jury and executioner for a world mad with crime and mayhem that needs to be tamed by like violence. He is an ultraviolent hero in an ultraviolent cyberpunk world – this ain’t your parents’ Superman or Batman.

The special effects are amazing, on par with most top of the line SPX flicks of the time. Had more people seen this gem in the theatres more people would have raved. The visuals are superior. From the matte paintings of Mega-City One to the details of the Judge uniforms great care has been executed to bring the world of Judge Dredd to life.

Casting however could have used more thought. While Stallone is indisputedly Judge Dredd, Rob Schneider is his usual annoying self, Armand Assante is unforgivably over the top and Barbara Hersey and Max Von Sydow walk through their roles.

Judge Dredd does something I’ve always loved about the old movie serials but hated about recent superhero movies. After a couple paragraphs of introduction the movie starts. Here’s the world situation, here’s the hero, let’s go. No long rehashing of the origin and motivation just let’s start the story. I love this. More action, less backstory.

The first twenty minutes of this film are pure Dredd straight out of the 2000 A.D. comic book he was created for, it’s perfect and no true fanboy can complain. Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal as an unfeeling invincible justice machine who gets the job done at any cost is dead on. I could watch these twenty minutes over and over again. Absolutely perfect.

After the perfect opening however the story veers into new territory, exploring aspects of the character never before revealed, basically deconstructing Dredd for the new viewer. It’s sometimes horrid for the faithful fan but a necessary evil for a major motion picture. Fans will just have to overlook things like Dredd’s first name and seeing him without his helmet. This deconstruction tactic is also correct though. Here is everything we know, here is the status quo, but now to show you what a real hero we have here… we break everything and make the hero survive, struggle to get what he once was back.

The movie Judge Dredd is all about evolution is this sense. Dredd goes on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. It’s beautiful to see him broken and win his Judgeship and reputation back. This proves him a hero. The tougher the villain and more impossible the predicament – the more heroic the superhero.

Some portions of this review have been published previously at
Comic Widows
http://www.comicwidows.com
and Project: Popcorn
http://www.whitevioletpictures.com/popcorn

Thursday, June 05, 2003

STYLE VS. SUBSTANCE

Video Reviews of "The Last Man on Earth" and "The Omega Man"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Both movies are based on Richard Matheson’s brilliant "I Am Legend." The Last Man on Earth is from 1964 and stars Vincent Price in one of his better performances. The Omega Man is painfully from groovy 1971 with Charlton Heston who in hindsight appears to have walked through the movie. One wonders how Arnold Schwartzeneggar will handle the role if he ever makes his take; he has acquired the rights.

It is the story of a man alone in a world full of vampires (or victims of a disease similar to vampirism) who want him dead. They stalk him by night and he thwarts them by day. Same story but the movies are miles apart in execution.

There are striking differences that hit you right away. The black and white Vincent Price entry has a more horror movie feel and the enemy is presented immediately as vampires who are reminiscent of the zombies from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead due to the lack of color. Price spends his days cleaning up after and prepping for battle with his nocturnal enemies while Heston cruises the city in a convertible, seeing free movies and general just chillin’ out looking cool.

The Last Man on Earth spends quite a bit more time exploring Price’s character. His narration guides us through his world. We learn the whys and wherefors through his memories and flashbacks, a technique that would have lent more to its remake had they used it. The Last Man on Earth is the superior of the two and is a must-see for sci-fi and horror fans alike.

As for The Omega Man, Heston made a number of these slick sci-fi flicks with bizarre soundtracks and beware-the-future themes for the Woodstock generation including the classics Soylent Green and the original Planet of the Apes. They don’t hold up well today because of the injection of flower power sensitivities. The excellent performance of Rosalind Cash doing her Pam Grier best is a prime example of this approach. It’s a shame, they could have been good as the simple true approach of The Last Man on Earth from only a few years earlier proves that.

The title role in The Omega Man could have been played by any action hero of the era. David Jannsen, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, heck, even O.J. Simpson could have done it. Heston strides through this one with no frills or skills whatsoever save his machismo. He’s one of the few guys who can do this and he looks cool doing it.

Your turn, Arnold.


Wednesday, June 04, 2003

THE THREE IN ONE

A Video Review of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

I don’t know how it happened but it did. This is three completely different movies with a very tenuous thread of continuity.

A.I. was to be Stanley Kubrick’s next film but he sadly passed away before it went into production. Steven Spielberg stepped in to complete the project. It is the story of well, unfortunately, Pinocchio, to cut it to the bone. It could have been much more complicated and sophisticated than that but fate, in the person of Steven Spielberg, intervened.

Part one deals with a robot boy trying to fit in with his new family. It feels very Kubrick, almost as if Spielberg had storyboards and direction notes to work from. The deft hand that made The Shining, 2001 A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut so creepy and disturbing is apparent in abundance here. The emotional motivation of all the characters involved is superiorly portrayed.

Part two is a mistake. The robot boy, now on a mission to become a real boy (a concept shown to him by the book "Pinocchio") enters the not-so-pedestrian cyberpunk world that surrounds the domesticity of family life he knew previously. This harsh environment is awkward and unnatural in Spielberg’s hands. Perhaps he doesn’t have the proper evil streak to understand or portray this type of future evil. His work on Minority Report after this proves he has learned little since. Who knows what Kubrick may have had in mind for this sequence. The mind boggles.

Part three descends into a conclusion that makes one suspect perhaps Kubrick had no ending. Spielberg goes for the obvious, the Pinocchio connection, directly for the obvious. The boy looks for the Blue Fairy herself who changes Pinocchio into a real boy. The silliness of this conclusion enraged me no end. The flick begins as Kubrick genius falls into typical uninspired cyberpunk and then into lame fairy tale madness.

What can I really say about the cast? With exception everyone does an adequate job. When acting robotic one has to wonder if talent or un-talent is involved. Being robotic or ‘wooden’ is a bad thing when it comes to stage skill. Had I not seen Haley Joel Osment in other roles I would have to wonder he is so good here. Jude Law however is truly robotic to the point where it is not a good thing. He can do so much better.

The film is pretty and the special effects are amazing. It’s a good rent, especially if you have your finger on the fast forward button. Don’t expect a story or the usual genius one might get from Kubrick or Spielberg, a true disappointment from men of their caliber.


Tuesday, June 03, 2003

A JESTER’S TALE

A Video Review of "Black Knight"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Martin Lawrence is one part Three Stooges, one part Richard Pryor and one part Steppin Fetchit. He’s an idiot, a fool and a caricature of himself most of the time. He is the master of self-race-deprecating humor. One wonders how funny he might actually be if he wasn’t preying on his racial past and culture for his source material.

It is perhaps this tact that fuels the humor in Black Knight, yet another variation on the Mark Twain tale "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court." Martin is a streetwise brother who gets bopped on the head and journeys to the 14th century, the time of knights and ladies. The historically inaccurate 14th century one might add but then again who needs accuracy, especially in a Martin Lawrence comedy?

Once there he is mistaken for an expected messenger from a foreign nation and the whole "Stranger in a Strange Land" party begins as Martin’s hip-hop sensibilities clash with the ways of the day. One highlight not to be missed is when he teaches the court musicians to play Sly and the Family Stone's’ "Dance to the Music."

When the culture clash is getting old he begins to get involuntarily involved in the court politics and helps in a revolution and learns a lesson in standing up for what he believes in. Wow, from idiocy to decency, that Martin Lawrence is something else.

It’s a relatively harmless but entertaining film, not bad for ninety minutes if you’ve got nothing else to do. One wonders though what kind of parts await Mr. Lawrence in the future… butler? tap dancer? Perhaps a biopic of Steppin Fetchit?


Monday, June 02, 2003

NOT QUITE THE GODFATHER OR GOODFELLAS

A Video Review of "Casino"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

It’s got all the elements. Mob, violence, gambling, DeNiro, Pesci, what more do you need? Casino is good, real good, but it’s no The Godfather or Goodfellas.

Martin Scorsese is a brilliant director and perhaps one of the most learned film experts who ever lived. I have infinite respect for the man. This why I am so conflicted over Casino.

Casino is an interesting experiment. It is an entire story; a history of two men and the management of a mob-run casino in the 1970s; as told through the narration of the two men. It is almost exclusively narration and only a few times falls into the normal convention of filmmaking. This alone, let alone for two plus hours, is impressive enough for me.

The principals involved; Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone; all give Oscar calibur performances and even James Woods in a throwaway Christopher Walken wannabe pimp role is good. The problem for me is that even with all this going for it, Casino really isn’t that good. It’s an okay film. It has great actors, great performances and a great concept. It’s long and you never notice. I heartily recommend it but it could be so much better.


Sunday, June 01, 2003

IT’S NO TWELVE MONKEYS

A Video Review of "La Jette"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This twenty minute long black and white compilation of slides with voiceover from France is supposedly the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s brilliant Twelve Monkeys. If this is true it only verifies the genius of Gilliam to turn this dreck into a great sci-fi movie.

The stillframes at times seem random as if not even taken for this ‘movie’ and at best the story is a bad "Outer Limits" episode. Good twist, bad followthrough, bad production. The premise is a French prisoner after World War III subjected to time travel experiments where he travels to the past in his dreams.

The long breaks of silence, French dialogue that is untranslated and sleepy time music will only make what is a poor presentation more intolerable. By the time you get the gist and the twist you no longer care. If you’re still awake, that is. Quite an undertaking for a twenty minute film.