Friday, January 14, 2005

Movies opening this week

Elektra (Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, dir. Rob Bowman)
Not as bad as I expected after reading some pretty brutal reviews, but not exactly good either. I love Jennifer Garner on Alias, but I kind of think this was the wrong choice for her, because all it does is cement her typecasting as an action badass. Far better for her to do stuff like 13 Going on 30, which I didn't see but got some good reviews, most of which praised her charming performance even if they didn't love the movie. At least that sort of thing is branching out, while this finds Garner doing a lot of the same Sydney Bristow mannerisms that show up every week on Alias (for free).

As a movie, it's kind of inert, not particularly exciting or engrossing; the kid Elektra is supposed to protect comes off as annoying rather than endearing, and the action just looks like Bowman watched some Zhang Yimou movies and tried to copy them on about half the budget. The biggest problem, though, is that mediocre or just plain bad comic book movies like this one continuously dilute the value of comics in the eyes of Hollywood and mainstream movie-goers, and while in reality there is little to no correlation between the quality of an Elektra movie and the quality of an Elektra comic book, that's not how people who aren't familiar with comics will see it. I've got a whole essay on this topic brewing; it'll probably end up in Las Vegas Weekly when Constantine and Son of the Mask are both released in Februrary. Wide release

House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, dir. Zhang Yimou)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I'm beginning to come around to some of the criticism of Zhang for making pretty movies that lack substance, but I think the point of this film and of Hero is looking pretty, and that other concerns are secondary to enjoying the films, and that's not a bad thing. Not that the stories are worthless; just that the beauty of the action and the scenery is an end in and of itself, a pure sort of expression of joy in human movement, like watching a dance piece. The meaning is in the imagery as much as in the story, and that's still something of value. Opened limited Dec. 3; in Las Vegas this week

In Good Company (Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson, dir. Paul Weitz)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was kinder to this film in my review than I felt after first coming out of the theater, and people I know who've seen it have generally enjoyed it. It's genial and harmless, sure, but it's also toothless when it keeps coming close to saying something substantive. While I'm all for well-crafted feel-good entertainment, I just can't help but think that there was a much more interesting and insightful movie in here somewhere. Opened limited Dec. 29; wide release this week

The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, dir. Nicole Kassell)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Although I am a rabid consumer of movie news and reviews, sometimes I wish I could go into a movie knowing nothing about it, and this was one of those times. Every article and review about this film mentions what the protagonist did to land him in jail, but the film's first 25 minutes, before he himself reveals that information, do a wonderful job of building a character that we can care about without knowing what he did, and it's a shame that almost no one is going to come to the movie not already knowing. It seems almost futile to avoid saying what the crime was here, but I'm doing it anyway in hopes that someone might end up with the unspoiled viewing experience that I would have liked. Opened limited Dec. 24; in Las Vegas this week

No comments: