Thursday, July 20, 2006

Movies opening this week

Clerks II (Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, dir. Kevin Smith)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
The theme this week is movies by directors I once loved and continue to hope will be great once again. I saw the original Clerks at age 15 and it was a formative experience for me, and it remains one of my favorite movies. I also loved Smith's Chasing Amy, and for a while it seemed like he was going to develop into a really fascinating director of sensitive, funny films about relationships, a sort of vulgar Woody Allen of New Jersey. But I think at this point he's sort of lost his way, and even though this film is much better than the maudlin Jersey Girl, it still feels like Smith can't quite embrace all the potential richness of his pet subjects, or at least make his humor fit better with his tendencies toward sentimentality. There is a good movie in here somewhere, and I think Smith fans will find much of it funny and at least be relieved that he's bounced back somewhat from Jersey Girl. Part of Smith's charm has always been his connection with his fans, but I have to wonder if he's spending a little too much time excoriating his critics and worrying what other people think, and not enough time figuring out how to tell his next great story. Wide release

Lady in the Water (Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M. Night Shyamalan, Jeffrey Wright, dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
And then there's M. Night Shyamalan, whose massive hit The Sixth Sense took me a little while to really warm up to, but whose 2000 film Unbreakable is another of my all-time favorites. Like Smith, Shyamalan is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that geeky film fans would make if they could, so it's especially disappointing to see him jump so soundly off the deep end. Unlike Smith, who seems a little lost but still knows how to play to his strengths, Shyamalan is so far up his own ass that I wonder if he'll ever find his way out again. I realize it's a little ironic that the same week I wrote an essay praising Smith and Shyamalan's originality, I trashed their movies, but no matter how much I may dislike the films (and I count Lady in the Water as one of the worst movies of the year so far), I still respect their commitment to originality and getting their own stories on the screen. Ross Douthat makes many of the same points in this essay on Slate. And even though I'm highly skeptical, I'll still look forward to Shyamalan's next film, because I think the guy has a lot of talent and maybe, like Smith, he needs a real flop to go back and re-assess what it is he really does best. Wide release

No comments: