Friday, March 04, 2005

Movies opening this week

Be Cool (John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Christina Milian, dir. F. Gary Gray)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Not so much a disappointment because I already expected so little from the previews, but nevertheless a total waste of time. I'd really like to think that if you get all these (mostly) talented actors together, and adapt a novel by Elmore Leonard, and use a semi-competent director, you can make a good movie. But no. Horribly cynical, derivative, full of product placement, not funny; I probably should have given it a lower rating. (BTW, the review was hacked in half at the last minute by my editor, so that's why it reads choppy.) Wide release

Inside Deep Throat (documentary, dir. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
A wholly entertaining film, but rather empty on reflection. Bailey and Barbato trot out a cavalcade of cultural pundits who ultimately say very little about the real meaning or significance of Deep Throat in a broader cultural sense. You do get some interesting info on the lives of the film's principal participants, but it's mostly like watching an E! True Hollywood Story with better production values (which, incidentally, are quite impressive for a documentary). Opened limited Feb. 11; in Las Vegas this week

The Jacket (Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, dir. John Maybury)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
It really takes a lot for one of these "mind-bending psychological thrillers" to impress me these days. All the "shocking" twists have been done to death and most of the time they're put in for the sake of having them rather than to serve the story. The Jacket circumvents that problem by having no twist at all, and instead just petering out. It had the potential to be a good movie, but it's just...not. Wide release

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (Tony Jaa, Petchthai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, dir. Prachya Pinkaew)
This movie has a huge cult following (one of my co-workers got very excited to see the screener show up in the mail) and has gotten a lot of good reviews (including one in Las Vegas Weekly), but I was not impressed. Rather, I was impressed with star Tony Jaa, who's generally the focus of all the praise, but I didn't think it was enough to carry the movie. Jaa is indeed an amazing performer, and his Muay Thai kickboxing style is all the more impressive considering what a stark contrast it is to the stately, graceful, wire-enhanced martial arts of Zhang Yimou's popular epics. This is a gritty, street-level martial arts film in the style of early Jackie Chan, and Jaa's stunts, performed without stuntmen or artificial aids, are a sight to behold. But the movie itself is dreadful, with a barely-there plot, cheesy dialogue, bad acting and incredibly crude direction. Although Jaa's moves are often astounding, the fights themselves are sometimes surprisingly poorly choreographed, with punches clearly landing nowhere near the actual person, and sound effects arriving way before the blows do. You could put together a 30-minute short of just Jaa's stunts, and it'd be great, but a 100-minute movie is really tedious. It's obvious that martial arts fans don't really care, but anyone not obsessed with the genre will likely get bored. Opened limited Feb. 11; in Las Vegas this week


Anonymous said...

I was interested to read your comments about Ong-bak. I frequently go to Bangkok and the Thai press billed it as a Thai boxing film with a little bit of Buddhism. I've been visiting the US now where the film ads stress the Buddhism and a little bit about the Thai boxing. It's just amusing to see how the advertising changes to reflect how they promoters want to sell the film.

Josh said...

Billing it as a film about Buddhism is really misleading. The bad guys steal the head of a Buddha statue that the hero has to recover, but that's the only Buddhist element that I noticed.

Bangkok Hotels, Thailand said...

Tony Jaa is famous thai superstar. He is very good performance.