Friday, May 26, 2006

“Poseidon” (or “Is it Really Different Upside Down?”)

I love the original “Poseidon Adventure.” I love Gene Hackman as the priest who leads the survivors to safety, I love the girl and her brother who are accidentally swept to salvation, I love the Shelley Winters valiantly doing her part to aid their little group. It’s a loaded cast… and a fun disaster movie.

The other thing I love about the original is the attention to detail of the filmmakers. They made a film about a boat that was upside down. Being upside down is an important part of the story. It’s hard to walk up the ceiling of a staircase. Its’ hard to figure out where you are when everything is upside down. The world is different and that, itself, is part of the adventure.

I realized what I loved about the original when I saw the new one!

“Poseidon” tries to load the cast with Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas (who is my new superstar crush next to Johnny), and Richard Dreyfuss. When you get a cast that can act, you have to give them good stuff to work with. Josh Lucas is a gambler who wants to get out… he doesn’t care about anyone else. He’s a pitiful replacement for Gene, and you wonder why he doesn’t just run away from his rag tag group.

Kurt Russell is an overprotective father who does have to find his daughter… his motivation for leaving the ball room. The others? NO good reason to hang out with Josh. And Josh doesn’t want them. Dreyfuss has the hardest role. He plays a older, gay man (is that a stretch for him?) whose lover has left him. He’s on deck, climbing over the railing to jump overboard when he sees the wall of water coming toward the ship. Evidently dying in a big wave is scarier than throwing yourself overboard, so he runs into the ballroom to tell people, and then spends the rest of the movie struggling to stay alive. Is he suicidal or not? Dunno.

And, there’s the whole upside-down and boat-on-fire thing. In the original, you see the characters struggling with the stairwells, and the upside down issues. I was always scared when they had to walk through the engine room and everything was so hot that one little stumble would result in life-threatening burns. Excellent.

The new one doesn’t make the obstacles as interesting. I kept forgetting that they were upside down because they move so easily through the ship. Of course Josh “knows ships” and that explains it. The explosions and fires don't make it too hot to do what they need to do. Kurt is a retired fireman (Josh is ex-Navy), so they've equipped characters with all the skills to make it “easy.”I liked the priest, the geek, the old people, and the girl and her brother all without skills and still trying. It’s dramatic.

So… not my favorite movie.

Having said all that, I watched the “Making of…” on HBO last night and realized a few things:

1. I would have liked this movie more if I hadn’t compared it to the old one. And, while some of that is my fault, I’m also blaming the screen writer who made the plot close enough that comparisons are inevitable. If he’d copied a bit less, I would have let go of my old notions.

2. The actors in the movie did almost all of their own stunts, and there isn’t a lot of CGI stuff. And THAT is cool. When I saw some of the scenes, I was pretty impressed with the enormity of the physical set and the way they actually flooded the ballroom with 100,000 gallons of water and stuff like that. So, it would be wrong to review it and not mention that it gets an A for technical merit and stunt stuff.

3. The director was conscious of the upside down stuff and actually talks about it. So, it wasn’t something they missed. Now, I think they wanted so many obstacles (and always bigger and better ones) around each corner that they overdid it. The characters should have struggled a bit more with each one. But there would have been less time for more obstacles. They move so fast that you don’t worry about the water behind them…

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Francine's Review - Mission Impossible: 3

I miss the days when I loved Tom Cruise. I really loved how cute and buff he was in MI2. Now, he’s just a bobble-headed caricature of himself. And, he’s really wound up… both on Oprah and in this film.

MI:3 has all the good stuff that you love about the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). They break into the Vatican, rescue the girl, speak any language they need to, have all the right costumes and gadgets (oh the gadgets!!). It’s everything you love when the music comes on “Dum, dum, dum-dum…Dum dum dummmdum.” The special effects are really good and they fit the movie perfectly. And there’s Phillip... and Kerri... and Ving.

Unfortunately, they all get a little bit of screen time and the rest is all Tom. It is, after all a “Cruise/somebody” production. It’s Tom looking tired, Tom all stressed out, Tom looking too short… Tom running gimpily, then running fast, then running REALLY fast and looking stressed out at the same time.

As a little aside, why do you think they cast Ving Rhames to work with Tom Cruise? They can never actually stand in the same scene together or Tom looks like one of the munchkins from OZ. I looked it up and, if IMDB is right, Ving is 6 feet (and not a little boy). Cruise is 5’7”. 5 inches on camera means that Tom looks at Ving’s clavicle, right??

That wasn’t as much of an aside as I thought, because Tom just seems smaller in this film. There are no fabulous buff shots. In one scene I actually thought “Tom runs like he’s getting old” and he’s too busy being frenetic to be charming. He doesn’t smile much. And when he does, you remember why you ever liked him. But, he smiles only a couple of times in the entire film and it made me stop and think, “He should smile more often.”

But, it is a movie, right? And not just a Tom fest (go with me on this one). So.. let's talk about the movie. The plot is a bit weak, you don’t really know why Ethan is getting all involved in the mess until they threaten his lady love, and then he’s (yup, you got it) all stressed out and running REALLY fast.

The twist is completely predictable. You know, where they point you to the double-crossing bad guy but it ends up being the guy next to him? Yup, Laurence Fishburne is our decoy (I forgot to mention him earlier) and he’s totally flat and unbelievable in his little bit of screen time. When the real bad guy pops up… I’m not the least bit surprised.

They were trying to add some relationship drama into the plot and I applaud that. Ethan is driven by his need to protect the woman he loves from the bad guys and from the loss of innocence that “knowing” about IMF will bring her. He’s trying to keep a bit of his world safe from IMF. He’s trying to have a life. It’s all in there. It's all really slow and boring. And at the end, the bad guys do get the girl for a while, she ends up shooting people to save herself, and Ethan has to tell her all about IMF. It’s a happy ending. Oh wait… he’s failed at ALL his goals. Hmmm… well, just believe me that it’s a happy ending. And when they do the relationship thing, remember Fred Savage and say, “skip the kissing.”

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Elemental List Friday

Here's a little game I used to play with my friends in college. You list the top three elements that a perfect (in your mind) movie needs.

For example, if your perfect movie includes Morgan Freeman, Zombies and a soundtrack written by Yanni, well, then you list, Freeman, Zombies, Yanni. It's that easy! Or you could say: Jane Austen novel, Steven Seagal and Cameron Diaz. And, boy, what a perfect movie that would be.

So, to reiterate, today's Friday slacktastic task is:

List three elements that would make up a perfect movie. It can be anything, a landscape, a soundtrack, a director, actor, novel, cartoon character, plot mechanism, anything.

It's fun!

Friday, May 05, 2006

List Friday!!! Countdown to Summer Movie Season

Today marks the early start to the 2006 summer movie season, with the release of MI3. I thought it would be fun if we all counted down to the #1 most personally anticipated movie coming this summer. I'll post mine here - as an example ... (I've only used a countdown from 6, but if you have more ... use a higher starting number!)

#6) Click
This one looks promising. Adam Sandler as a guy who discovers a universal remote that will actually fast forward life's boring (or preferably avoidable) tedium, turn down the volume on his wife's ranting, etc. I can't wait to see if Sandler has matured ... I've heard he has, but I hope not too much!

# 5) The DaVinci Code
As someone who never saw Far and Away, I can honestly say that I've never been disappointed by a Ron Howard movie. I'm really looking forward to this adaptation.

#4) The Break-Up
I know I am not the only person in the world who really wants Jennifer Aniston to have a successful film career. I am looking forward to seeing this movie because of the Vaughniston aspect, but also because I love Rachel ... err, Jennifer, and Vince, and well, I just really want to see a GOOD romantic comedy.

#3) Poseidon!
I'm really psyched for this one ... probably because I missed seeing Titanic in the theaters. Every time I see the movie trailer with the giant wave approaching the still-right-side-up ship, I get a tiny dose of adrenaline!

#2) Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest
Oh, please, please, PLEASE deliver one heck of an awesome sequel! Johnny, please don't phone it in! I'm so in love with the first one that I am nervous about this one living up to my expectations. Can't believe I have to wait until JULY to see it. *hmmph!*

and, my number one personally anticipated movie of the summer ....!!!!!

Nachooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Libre!
Molly, hope I didn't steal your thunder for this one, but the more I think about it, the more excited I am to see this movie!

Ok other posters and lurkers ... Which movies are you counting down the minutes to see this summer? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? heh heh heh.