Friday, October 27, 2006

Movies opening this week

Catch a Fire (Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, Bonnie Henna, dir. Phillip Noyce)
I suppose it's admirable that, after years of helming slick Hollywood thrillers, Noyce has returned to his roots and is making socially conscious, politically oriented films. But I thought Rabbit Proof Fence was one of the most boring movies I'd ever seen, and this is only slightly more exciting. At least Noyce puts his thriller experience to use here, and there are a few tense and exciting moments, but this is mostly connect-the-dots filmmaking with a political message that's rather obvious. Kudos to Noyce for letting Robbins inject a little sympathy into his ruthless South African terrorist-hunter character, but other than that there's very little sense of who these characters are as people beyond mouthpieces for ideas we've heard many times before. Wide release

The Queen (Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, dir. Stephen Frears)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Despite the positive reviews and raves about Mirren's performance, I expected a rather dry drawing-room drama from this film, and it turned out to be fascinating and complex, taking off from a seemingly mundane sticking point (the conflict between Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II over her response to Princess Diana's death) to tell a story about the meaning of the monarchy in England and the people who embody it. A really worthwhile film, and one you should check out even if you think it looks boring. Opened limited Oct. 6; in Las Vegas this week

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Ken Takakura, Lin Qiu, Li Jiamin, dir. Zhang Yimou)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I haven't seen Zhang's acclaimed earlier films, dramas like Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, so I know him only from his martial-arts movies (Hero, House of Flying Daggers). This movie has a certain visual poetry to it as well, although much more understated, but it's rather slight and overly sentimental. I should probably go back and see those older movies for a better perspective, but I have a feeling that they're probably more effective and affecting than this one is. Opened limited Sept. 1; in Las Vegas this week

Saw III (Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFadyen, Bahar Soomekh, dir. Darren Lynn Bousman)
I think the thing that annoys me most about the Saw franchise is how self-righteous Jigsaw (the killer) is. He's not just some crazy dude who wants to kill people, like Jason or Michael Myers. He's not gleefully sadistic and cracking jokes like Freddy Krueger or Chucky. No, Jigsaw is teaching people lessons. He's basically like some elitist prick activist who looks down on people who don't donate enough money to charity, enacting his superior condescension via gruesome death traps. I mean, yes, this is a bad movie that substitutes increased grossness for actual scares, completely forgets to include any sort of interesting mystery (something that at least the first two movies had) and features some really bad acting, but to me that is almost secondary to the ever-increasing importance of Jigsaw (he really only appeared at the very end of the first movie, since his existence was the big twist) and his smug moralizing. And you know that an important element of any horror movie is sympathizing with the villain, and I think these movies are more and more making a statement that maybe people who aren't following some high-minded, prudish moral code deserve to be creatively eviscerated. Or who knows, maybe I'm reading too much into it. Wide release

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