Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Movies opening this week

Déjà Vu (Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Val Kilmer, dir. Tony Scott)
It seems odd to say this about any movie, but thank goodness for Jerry Bruckheimer. Tony Scott made his name directing Bruckheimer productions - Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State - that had plenty of flaws, but were at least energetic, easy-to-watch action thrillers, for the most part. But Scott's last two films - Man on Fire and Domino - found him working without Bruckheimer and pushing a new visual style that relied on sensory overload, cutting relentlessly every other second and shooting from every possible angle except straight on, changing film stock repeatedly, throwing random words onto the screen and just in general killing the viewer with meaningless visual barrages. Man on Fire made a lot of money, but Domino was a flop, and in general Scott's new style is not exactly appealing or accessible for the average action-movie fan. So I'm certain it's no coincidence that Scott's return to working with the aggressively mainstream Bruckheimer also marks a decided scaling back of his manic style, and for that Bruckheimer deserves the audience's gratitude.

But, of course, this movie still pretty much sucks, and just because Scott scales back the stylistic excess doesn't mean that he does away with it altogether, and the pivotal (ridiculous) plot device of the all-seeing doohickey that views four days into the past allows him to indulge in all sorts of dizzying camera movements within the context of characters searching for clues to the central mystery. That mystery starts out somewhat interesting while the movie is just a standard crime thriller, but once the sci-fi stuff comes in, it's like it's a completely different movie, and the silly twists mount until finally the whole thing is completely untenable. I will give Scott credit for his inventive twist on the car chase, though, with Washington's character driving around chasing a car from four days in the past that he can see with his time-travel helmet. It's as exactly as stupid as it sounds, but at least it's novel. Wide release

The Fountain (Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, dir. Darren Aronofsky)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really wanted to like this movie, and I tried really hard for at least the first half to believe that there was something amazing and profound right around the corner, but it just doesn't work. Aronofsky creates some beautiful images and has huge ambitions, and he deserves credit for never giving up on his vision even after numerous setbacks, but this is just ponderous navel-gazing without any real substance to its plot or characters. It's the kind of thing that's meant to make you think really deep thoughts, but afterward you realize that you didn't really care about what happened to the characters, or even remember specifically what they were trying to accomplish. Wide release

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (Jack Black, Kyle Gass, dir. Liam Lynch)
I've never found Tenacious D funny, but even my friend who went to this screening with me and is a big fan of theirs found the movie seriously lacking. It just seems a little regressive at this point to revisit something that had its little cult that peaked five years ago, and this movie obviously suffers from the standard narrative thinness of sketches turned into features. And the D's bit, their ridiculous self-importance in the face of their obvious mediocrity, gets old really quickly. Despite the fact that this movie was years in the making, it looks and feels cheap and tossed-off, like something Black came back and did out of obligation now that he's a big movie star. The characters don't make sense as people when they have to exist consistently for 90 minutes, the plot is nonexistent and the jokes aren't funny. Longtime fans will probably get some enjoyment out of the familiarity, but I really expect (and hope) that this puts the lid on the whole Tenacious D thing for good, which has long since run its course. Wide release


tampafilmfan said...

I liked Deja Vu. I thought it was a unique spin on the whole time-travel stuff, although Denzel Washington's falling in love with the murder victim was predictable (and a little creepy).

I just stumbled across your blog. I love it! I'm looking forward to reading your past posts.

Josh said...

Thanks, I'm glad you like the blog.

I might have liked Deja Vu if it actually took the time to explore some of the implications of its twist on time travel, but it seemed to use it just as a convenient plot device for the characters to spy on the past. The car chase was at least innovative, but at no time was the movie either thinking or inspiring the audience to think about time travel in a new or interesting way, or at all. It was just blowing shit up.