Planet of the Apes (2001) - review

Tim Burton must have gotten a real kick out of getting the president of the NRA to give a speech on the evil of guns. Charlton Heston, star of the original 1968 movie, has a cameo in this remake in which he does exactly that. Planet of the Apes has less story and more visual effects than the original, which is why both the heroes and their ape sympathizers have been reduced to one each. That said, the movie has a less belligerent attitude than the original, and suggests that even humans and apes can live together in peace and harmony. Hugely annoying was Marky Mark's human love interest, a sultry blonde with silicon-injected lips and heaving breasts, who really did nothing but stand around looking gorgeous. Wahlberg's character is only too justified in preferring Helena Bonham Carter, ape or no ape. What's truly amazing about this movie is the make-up. The faces of the apes are beautifully expressive and individual.
Finally, some remarks about the movie's ending. I don't think I'm surprising anyone by telling that in the original movie, Heston discovers that the Planet of the Apes is actually (drum roll please)... the Earth. But in the remake, I don't think this is the case. Wahlberg finds his crew's spaceship rather than the Statue of Liberty, and when he leaves the planet, it doesn't look like Earth. The final scene in my opinion is great. Apart from subtly referring to American slavery (which is a constant reference throughout the movie) in the form of the Lincoln Monument, it also leaves the viewer puzzled and ready for a sequel. I know I am.

Posted by cronopio at 01:52 AM, September 30, 2001

The Blair Witch Project - review

Now that the hype is over, I can sit down and watch this movie for the first time, out of its marketing context. Is the movie good? Yes it is. We, the audience, are now conditioned to distinguish reality from fiction on TV by checking the granularity of the film, the flow of the camera, and the predictability of the dialogue. So, our brain's continuing reaction to Blair Witch is: this is real. This can easily be dismissed as a cheap and easy trick, caused by the 16mm/crappy video look of the film. But we shouldn't forget that the three people in this film do a tremendous job convincing us of the story's veracity, improvisation or no improvisation. What's more, the film doesn't attempt to explain anything, and it creates its own mythology, which the marketing campaign exploited as much as possible by suggesting that the events in the movie really were real. I could be cynical about the whole marketing brouhaha surrounding this movie, and I was before I saw it. But now I realize that this marketing campaign not only enriched the experience behind the film, it also gave worldwide popularity to a movie that would otherwise have ended up as some young filmmaker's freaky cult experiment.
After all this adulation, you might think I have nothing against this movie. Far from it. There are times when you suddenly realize you're just watching some trees, or worse yet, simply a black screen. The fact that the film doesn't grab you enough to suck you into it does not count against it. The ending may be very smart and uncomprimising; then again, it may be an easy way out for the script writer. See this film anyway.

Posted by cronopio at 02:53 AM, September 27, 2001

A Simple Plan - review

Money is the root of all evil, and the more money, the more evil. In "A Simple Plan", the money's 4.4 million dollars, so it's not surprising that the mayhem that ensues leaves half a dozen people dead. More interesting is that the people who are most decent and moral on the surface turn out to be the most cold-blooded, calculating monsters, while the losers and no-good bums turn out to be the (anti-)heroes of this movie. The fact that this particular moral of the story is not emphasized at all is, I hope, intentional. It makes for the right amount of subtlety required by this otherwise pretty straightforward little tale. "Fargo", also about big heaps of money in a snow-covered Northern state of the US, is more absurd and caricaturistic, which, in my book, makes it a better movie. "A Simple Plan" is OK, but that's about it.

Posted by cronopio at 01:21 AM, September 26, 2001

The Boxer - review

After Jim Sheridan did a great job telling the story of six Irishmen jailed for a decade and a half for an IRA attack they had nothing to do with, he joins up again with Daniel Day-Lewis in The Boxer. The movie tells the story of Danny Flynn, a Belfast boxer, home from 14 years in prison, who thinks he can escape the politics around him. Instead, he's caught between the hawks and the doves in the IRA. Renewing his teenage love affair with Maggie (Emily Watson), who's married with a prisoner, doesn't help much either. And when his reopened boxing school accepts police donations, the lines are easily drawn. Offering no sentimentality and a realistic and pacifistic view of Northern Ireland, The Boxer is a good movie.

Posted by cronopio at 01:11 AM, September 25, 2001

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - review

I always hated the crypto-fascist Dirty Harry movies, but Unforgiven was interesting. So it is with Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It has many clichés of the Deep South: a cackling, black old voodoo witch; refreshing lemonade on a hot and humid day; local blond belles; and a fondness of guns. But nevertheless, the lavish and Gallic culture of Savannah, Georgia does impress and carry you away, much as it does John Cusack, a New York journalist, writing a book on Kevin Spacey, the local big shot, on trial for killing his gay lover, played by Jude Law. What some people don't know is that the eponymous book this movie was based on, is itself based on fact. I am now inclined to read that book, which I fear has been somewhat Hollywoodified in translation. Still, I recommend this one.

Posted by cronopio at 11:23 PM, September 23, 2001

United (?) States

Today, I saw New Yorkers on the news who had taken to the streets pleading for peace. It's ironic that the people who had the core of their city ripped away are the ones urging for restraint, while everybody around them seems to think that bombing an already devastated third world country will accomplish something. The most cynical thing is that most of the people who died in the attacks of September 11th were probably more knowledgeable about the Middle East, and sympathetic to the problems there, than those who wish to honor their memory by means of warfare. There's also a lot of talk about unity going around; some of it sounds as if healthy debate about this problem is out of the question.
The newspaper said that the victims in the Twin Towers were from 63 different countries, among them Pakistan, the Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. If Bin Laden is responsible for this, and if he did it to create a unified Arab front against the United States, in many ways, he couldn't have picked a worse U.S. target.

Posted by cronopio at 03:12 AM, September 23, 2001

One Eight Seven - review

Blurry, confused photography with lots of blue and red filters in this film. Samuel L. Jackson turns from saint into monster into martyr. This movie, about a teacher who is so sickened by the violence and danger oozing out of the punks he teaches that he pulls a Death Wish on them, struck me as just on the wrong side of perverse. The film hypocritically leaves it to us to make up our judgment of the teacher Mr Garfield, which is a bit sickening. Unlike in Taxi Driver, where we can see the main character break down slowly into psychosis, Garfield seems to represent The Right Thing To Do. Even if it is only a suggested moral of the story, it's a pretty perverse one.The fact that this story was written by a teacher makes me wonder about the status of the education profession in the USA.

Posted by cronopio at 04:10 AM, September 22, 2001

Three Kings - review

Three Kings starring George Clooney, Mark "y Mark" Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze, was described by Clooney as "like those movies from the classic era of American cinema.. you know, like M*A*S*H..." This caught my attention. Since the horrible and tragic Twin Towers attack, American patriotism and xenophobia is at an all-time high. I needed a reminder that some people in the US wouldn't kill anything wearing a turban. Even if it was made several years after the Gulf War, it still tells stories many Americans seem not to want to hear. Nevertheless, the bastards-turned-humanitarians spiel didn't quite work for me. Good cinematography, good speed, but the satire was not that great. After all is said and done, it simply isn't a black comedy, which was what I expected.

Posted by cronopio at 12:56 AM, September 21, 2001