Saturday, May 06, 2006

Movies opening this week

Hoot (Logan Lerman, Luke Wilson, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, dir. Wil Shriner)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
My mother, father and sister all love Jimmy Buffett, so they've all been pretty excited about this movie, which Buffett produced and wrote new music for and has a small role in (he's a terrible actor). I guess hardcore Jimmy Buffet fans and easily amused kids might like it, but this isn't a very good movie. I've read two of Carl Hiaasen's other novels, and this does nothing to capture his manic prose and breakneck pacing. Yes, it's based on a book for kids, but I don't believe that anything Hiaasen wrote could possibly be this dull. Wide release

L'Enfant (The Child) (Jeremie Renier, Deborah Francois, dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
I've been reading about this movie for about a year now, since its Palme D'Or win at Cannes in 2005, and nearly everything I've read has been about how great it is, so my expectations were very high. I've never seen any of the Dardenne brothers' other movies, so all I had to go on was the praise from other critics, and it's one of those cases where I saw a lot of what people really admire about the film, and yet I remained sort of detached from it. It's very raw and immediate, and subtle in really strong ways, and the acting is very good. I just wasn't able to fully invest myself in the story for one reason or another; I might simply have been distracted while I was watching it. So I'm not ready to proclaim this the best movie of the year, but I did find it interesting and I will check out some of the Dardennes' other films. Opened limited Mar. 24; in Las Vegas this week

Mission: Impossible III (Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames, dir. J.J. Abrams)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I love J.J. Abrams, I really do, and he does a perfectly decent job with this movie, probably as good as you could expect for a massive franchise with a huge star and a gigantic budget. There's not a whole lot of room for creativity and experimentation with a movie like this, and Abrams does what he can. It's a fun popcorn movie, for the most part, and I think it will make plenty of money. I hope it will afford Abrams the chance to make more movies.

But here's the thing, and I've said this before: Given the amount of time and effort that goes into making a movie, I really wish that talented people like Abrams wouldn't spend it on extending franchises based on old TV shows. The stuff that Abrams has done on TV (Alias, Lost, Felicity) is notable for its creativity and originality, and honestly I think his talent is wasted on something like this. I understand the politics of Hollywood, and that these are the kinds of movies that get made, and that it's much harder to get a green light for an original idea, and that if this movie is successful it puts Abrams in a position with more clout to do something original. That's all true, and it probably isn't going to change. But it's also true that Abrams still had to spend all this time and effort making a franchise movie just to get the possibility of making something original, and if I want to check out what J.J. Abrams is doing these days, I've got to see Mission: Impossible III. He's not writing or directing the finale of Alias, because he's busy with this movie. So I will say, yes, that I resent Hollywood for its business model that punishes innovation and rewards ideas based on other, already proven, ideas. But I also sort of resent J.J. Abrams for not working harder to do something original and unique. I know that he probably really wanted to make this movie, but it's a larger point that I think applies to a lot of really talented people in Hollywood. They do remakes, and sequels to other people's movies, and that's just the way it goes. Very few people make the effort necessary to do something really original, and it frustrates me, especially when they made their names on the very originality that they then give up when embraced by the big time Hollywood machine. Wide release

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