First, a plug for Day Watch, which just got a limited release in ten American cities.
I like cryptic sci-fi. Really thought-provoking stuff, like 2001, or Solaris. These stories most closely resemble science fiction in its written form, raising thoughts and ideas about ourselves by letting human emotions play out; the setting just happens to be fantastic and hyperreal. That subgenre fits The Fountain like a glove.
The subject matter is very similar to Solaris, in that the science fiction elements are just a vessel for saying something elemental about the desire to revive lost love. Is the story a little simplistic, or predictable? Maybe a little bit. But the way the story reaches across time, and the way in which it reaches its three-headed climax, will cover up for a lot of that. And the earnestness with which Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman's characters deal with their predicament really sells it. It's not the message, it's the way it's delivered.
Visually, it's a breathtaking film. Darren Aronofsky and Matthew Libatique are officially 3-for-3. The moments grounded in reality (as opposed to floating in a bubble) are believable, and the fantasy visions are beyond beautiful. Sitting at home, watching on TV, I shouldn't have a shovel-to-the-face "whoa" reaction to a visual. That should be reserved for seeing The Two Towers at the Uptown or something. But they managed to make me say "whoa" anyway. That's masterful. I sorely regret not seeing this in a theater.
Highly recommended. Four and a half cancerous monkeys out of five.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3
The original worked because it was light and fun, and had an all-time great acting performance. The second worked because it still had good ideas, most notably the Kraken, but narrowly escaped being crushed under its own weight. This third one doesn't do much of anything.
It's a big mess, primarily because it doesn't pay off on the second film's cliffhangers in any meaningful way. The resolution of those cliffhangers is lumped in with everything else that gets addressed. Its total indifference to the events of the second film make questionable conclusions like Back To The Future Part III and Matrix Revolutions look masterful by comparison. At least those movies actually continued a story! At World's End is more like a big checklist of things they've been meaning to tell us, delivered just like that: a list. Each character acts only because the story requires resolution, not because they require that act as a participant. Everything that happens is done simply for the sake of having something happen. This was not the case in the first film, and was less the case in the second than the third. Sad.
What really bothers me is that all the expositional busy-work chokes the main characters, to the point where they're devoid of any charm they may have had at first. Jack's fun, but what of everyone else? Even Barbosa could have been put to better use. We don't learn anything new about anyone this time around. They could have made this same exact film without any of the ridiculous story machinations. Why put them (and us) through all the bother?
Worst of all, no more Kraken? It was the best part of the second movie, and they can't give it an encore performance? It appears in the third, but not in any perilous way. That, my friends, is just silly.
Lest we be unfair, At World's End did have some good moments, particularly the brilliant Davey Jones' Locker sequence. And you couldn't make Jack Sparrow unentertaining if you tried.
But that didn't stop the people behind this piece of shit from trying anyway. How do you make the guy who's selling all those tickets an innocent bystander? How can a film about the greatest pirate in history depict zero notable acts of piracy on Jack's behalf? It has more wooden eyeball jokes than acts of piracy. End of story.
This wasn't a surprise, but it was disappointing nonetheless. Two and a half Krakens out of five.
Fun stuff. Almost as good as the original. Lots of fun, though perhaps not quite as much as Eleven. Still, it delivers on the three things you need from the series: wit, insane visual touches, and awesome music.
The dry, snappy dialogue is a given at this point. What's different this time around is that the antagonist (Al Pacino) is the one who gets the majority of the great lines. And that's fine... we know what the Eleven can do. Toss in a little banter for Pitt and Clooney, bust Damon's balls a little, make sure Casey Affleck and Scott Caan get to yell at each other, and you're all done with the good guys. But Pacino's the guy who gets the prime cut. He exposes all the ways in which Andy Garcia's performance in Eleven could have been better.
The visual flair of the series has pretty much peaked here. The color choices were ingenious. My whole spiel in the Best of 2006 post, wherein I applaud A-list directors slumming it to produce pulp masterpieces, is appropriate here as well (if not to the same extent). Does Steven Soderbergh have better things to do? Absolutely. But he seems to be having fun. And Out of Sight, technically, was kinda beneath him too, if you think about it. So I'd just assume let him keep on slumming it.
The music, as always, is brilliant. I'm thoroughly confused as to how Out of Sight and the Ocean's movies haven't made David Holmes more of a household name as a film scorer. Considering how many Hollywood-cool movies come out every year, how few of them use orchestral scoring, and how uniformly brilliant Holmes's work is, I'm surprised that he doesn't get/produce more work than he does. With no proper album work since Bow Down To The Exit Sign, his cinematic work is our primary source of music from him. How many mediocre flicks could be elevated behind a kick-ass Holmes score? Put this man in charge of your crappy movies' soundtracks!
All in all, very good movie. Given that even the disappointing Twelve has grown on me, I expect this one to grow as well. Three and a half episodes of Oprah out of five.