Saturday, November 06, 2004

Movies opening this week

The Incredibles (Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, dir. Brad Bird)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
There really isn't anything to add to the chorus of praise for this movie. I think the most interesting thing, though, is the way that a project worked on by literally hundreds of crew members can be so clearly the vision of one person (Brad Bird, the writer-director). I think between this and Sky Captain we are moving into an era where CGI is so commonplace and (relatively) affordable that studios are able to trust artists to make CG films rather than relying solely on committees. Even Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express, which is not a good movie (review coming next week), is his own vision. When a big-name director like Zemeckis will take on a CG project, you know it's because he's been afforded creative control. Whether this trend produces high-quality material (like The Incredibles and Sky Captain) or standard Hollywood crap (The Polar Express), I am always in favor of granting more creative control to actual creators. Wide release

Primer (Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, dir. Shane Carruth)
I saw this back in June at CineVegas but it's finally making its way to Vegas in regular release. This was one of the films I was most excited to see at the festival, since it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and is billed as an intelligent, low-budget genre picture. Which it is, I guess, but I was really disappointed with what I saw. I think this is one of those movies that people claim to like even though they don't understand it because they want to seem smart. People talk about its complete incomprehensibility as a virtue, but I don't buy it.

The plot, once you figure it out, is really cool: These two geeky engineers accidentally build a sort of time machine in their garage and start using it to make money on the stock market. That sounds pretty simple, but Carruth is all about obfuscation, spending the first half hour on nothing but techno-babble. Even that I could buy into, though, because eventually you can figure out from context what's going on, and I have no problem with a film that refuses to talk down to its audience. The problem comes later, in the plotting, when doubles of the two main characters are running around all over the place, and some tragic event occurs that needs to be prevented. There are moments that seem like they should be some sort of big reveal but it's never clear what's going on. Honestly, this is just sloppy plotting passed off as sophistication. The rabid fans who claim that you need to see it multiple times to get it are just fooling themselves. I will grant that Carruth has a cool visual style and some good ideas, but he's way too into his own supposed cleverness. Opened limited Oct. 8; in Las Vegas this week

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