Monday, October 16, 2006

Movies: October 9 - 15

Dirty Pretty Things (2002): I was fairly disappointed with Dirty Pretty Things. I remember Roger Ebert giving this film quite a bit of praise when it was first released and it was the first English language film of Audrey Tautou (Amelie), so I had fairly high hopes. The subject matter, however, is a bit difficult. Dirty Pretty Things is set in a hotel in England where there is some black market organ harvesting going on. Audrey Tautou and the male lead are both illegal immigrants so they already need to stay quiet about their own existence but they get drawn into this world unwillingly. The movie is sad and uncomfortable to watch, but it is not the sadness or discomfort given by the far superior (and completely unrelated) film Hotel Rwanda. There are levels to sadness and discomfort and quality, and Dirty Pretty Things is a film that within 25 minutes I did not want to watch. I finished the movie, and the movie improved somewhat, but not enough to enjoy or praise the movie.

X-Men: Last Stand (2006): I was less excited for the third X-Men movie than I would have been before I found out that Bryan Singer was leaving to direct Superman and that Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) was stepping in. I did not expect Ratner to ruin the movie, but I feel Singer tends to produce higher quality films than Ratner does. I did not trust Ratner's vision. It is difficult to say exactly what Singer had planned for X-Men 3, but it was clear he was setting up the Dark Phoenix Saga. X-Men 3 had some Dark Phoenix, but the movie also crammed in the Mutant Cure from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men books. Either storyline is more than enough to fill up a movie, but pushing them both together in less than two hours means that much will be lost. The Mutant Cure storyline got the most attention, and this is a great storyline, but the whole thing was rushed. Dark Phoenix is introduced, but then it is ignored for a while the Cure storyline is pushed to the front, and then both storylines converge. Certain acts towards the end were well done and well told, though one major character death is undone in a short clip after the credits roll. That was disappointing. X-Men: Last Stand is a fast paced Superhero movie that is better than most would expect considering the director involved, but the storylines are given less attention than they should.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party (2005): This is a documentary / concert film for a block party that Dave Chappelle organized in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Chappelle gathered together an incredible lineup of performers including Mos Def, The Roots, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and perhaps a one night only reunited of The Fugees (Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, etc). There were a couple of other performers, but these are the ones who I knew. Chappelle goes back to his old neighborhood and gave Golden Tickets to some of the residents and brought them to New York as well. The coolest thing he did was bring an entire marching band to perform and they joined Kanye West on "Jesus Walks". As a concert film, Block Party features some fine, powerful performances. As a documentary about setting up the concert the film is not quite as impressive. It is worth watching just for the music, though.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
(2004): Somehow the filmmakers decided it would be a good idea to try to fit the first three Lemony Snicket books into one movie. By the end of the first hour we were midway through the third book. This means that all the storylines were rushed. They were staying with Count Olaf for a short period of time, but then the sequence with Uncle Monty and the Reptile Room was very, very short. The movie barely gives us enough time to care about the Baudelaires, let alone the Guardians. Uncle Monty is one of the most sympathetic of all the guardians, but there is no time to care for him. Time for the next Guardian. The film brings us from set piece to set piece without lingering over everything. The movie has the overall tone and style of the novels, and it is reasonably faithful to the storylines of the novels. I don't quite remember the spyglass organization, but I imagine it is being used as the early version of VFD. The characterizations of the characters were well done, but the movie did not amount to anything and because the viewer is not given any time to care about anything that is going on it is a bit of a mess. Not worth the time spent watching it.

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