Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Movies In Brief-ish

I knew that the new Bond, Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Munich) was going to do an amazing job; I was more worried about the movie itself.  Fortunately, it's the most natural, most real-feeling Bond film in quite a while.

Personally, I prefer the Bond movies that are grounded in some degree of plausibility.  It's more in the style of For Your Eyes Only, which had been the gritty, earthy response to the ridiculousness of Moonraker; likewise, Casino Royale is the response to the icebound satellite-laser madness of Die Another Day.  Even the wacky enemies like Oddjob or Jaws have at least some modicum of believability.  They're ridiculous, no doubt, but not so much that they inspire disbelief.  Lasers being shot out of the sky at a guy driving a BMW across a glacier, or even the notorious opening scene from GoldenEye where Bond defies gravity to catch up with his plane... those inspire nothing but disbelief.  There was only one moment in Casino Royale that required so much as a minor suspension of disbelief, and it really wasn't that big a deal.  Well done.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that Daniel Craig will be a household name after this film.  He's easily the most talented Bond yet, the most tailor-made for post-Bond stardom.

Love, love, love this movie.  Thoughtful, observant, cynical, subversive, anarchic, beautiful, unflinching, disturbing, and outrageously funny.  Just see it.  I imagine being high would augment your experience, though it might kinda run counter to the point of the film.

There's pluses and minuses to the animated look of the film.  This is definitely less of a "gimmick" movie than was Waking Life.  Whereas that was an experiment, this was an artistically necessary use of rotoscoping technology, given certain critical plot elements (the scramble suits, Freck's "bug infestation") that would have looked preposterous any other way.  The imagery that results from the rotoscope animation process is tough to connect with in any emotional way.  It kinda trivializes the story... disconnects the audience from it.  But in another way, the dreamlike quality of the animation is really unsettling, which is highly appropriate for a drug-paranoia/what-is-reality-anyway movie.  Also... and this is no small point... it's cool as hell.

Of special note is the ingenious performance of Robert Downey, Jr.  He was just classic, from beginning to end.  You are constitutionally incapable of not shutting the fuck up!!!

I was underwhelmed.  Not by the fighting, though... the fighting and stunts were jaw-dropping.  And Tony Jaa is the real deal.  He kicks some serious ass in this movie.

But everything else was just brutal.  Most martial arts movies have the decency to entertain you when the star isn't doing anything... this time, Totally devoid of any appeal.  The story might have filled a seven-minute Magilla Gorilla cartoon if you stretched out certain parts, and yet they made an 80-minute feature film.  It wasn't funny, the characters weren't even remotely memorable, and the story was totally pointless... even by martial arts standards.  It makes Home Alone look like Chinatown.

What hurts the most is that it's a matter of filmmaking competence.  The director and writer have none.  They set up a premise, and then just completely abandon it for like twenty or thirty minutes.  Nothing whatsoever happens on the premise front... just some fighting and chasing that has nothing to do with the premise.  And when I say the fighting is irrelevant, I mean by the standards of action movies... which means it's really irrelevant.  There is no way even the most brilliant philosopher could cobble together a connection between the fighting and the plot.  No matter how crappy the movie, you still have to make at least a nominal effort to fit the action to the story.  Ong-Bak has none.  Whoever made this movie has absolutely no idea how to tell a story.  Heck, given the instant-replay effect that was used on literally every stunt, I'm not even sure they know how to shoot action.

Basically, this movie's purpose was to put us on notice that Tony Jaa is coming to beat our faces into a bloody pulp, in better movies, in the years to come.  Fine by me.

I was worried that they wouldn't slap together enough material to make a whole movie.  I was wrong.  I had a great time and laughed my ass off.  They cut it awfully close, but they still made it, just by the skin of their scrotes.  It's right up there with High Fidelity and School of Rock as definitive Jack Black showcases.  JB had me at "A long-ass fuckin' time ago / In a town called Kickapoo," and I was with him all the way after that.  I'll spare you the anecdotes, since cult movies don't translate so well to "I liked the part where he ________."  The fact that I enjoyed myself immensely will have to suffice.

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