Teen angst, this is my friend, aliens. Aliens, meet my old pal, teen angst. That’s how I imagine the introductions going were, you know, teen angst and aliens actual people. There are all manner of films about angsty teen vampires, angsty teen werewolves, angsty teen wizards, and, hopefully soon, angsty teen necromancers. It was only a matter of time before someone paired the story of an angsty teen with the drama of an alien invasion. Thinking about it, it seems inevitable, and a little shocking that it hasn’t happen sooner. But happen it does in D.J. Caruso’s new film “I Am Number Four”.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Comparisons to “Taken” and “The Bourne Identity” appear to be inevitable when talking about Jaume Collet-Serra’s new action thriller “Unknown”, starring Liam Neeson, but I’ll try to keep that talk to a minimum. The “Taken” reference feels lazy, or at least too easy, and the only real connection between the two films is that both prominently feature Liam Neeson kicking the crap out of people. The “Bourne” comparison is a little more appropriate as both revolve around memory loss, a shadowy past, and a helpful, not to mention beautiful, stranger, as well kicking the crap out of people. “Unknown” isn’t a great movie, nor is it terribly original, and it wants to be much more important and deep than it is. What it is, is a decent suspense film that morphs into an action vehicle along the way.
Paul Giamatti is good, always. He’s even good in movies that I hate, like “Sideways”. In nearly every role he delivers a bravura performance (see, I can sound hoity toity and smart), which are frequently showered with adoring exaltations like “role of a lifetime”, and words like “bravura”. His turn as Barney Panofsky in “Barney’s Version” is no different. Giamatti is great; witty and charming, combative and affected, and conveys a wide range of emotion and depth with subtle, almost miniscule changes in facial expression, posture, and something ineffable in his eyes that occasionally slaps you across the face. You like Barney, and root for him despite the fact that most of the time, he’s a miserable prick. The only problem with the performance is that it’s become standard. Giamatti is good exactly as you expect him to be, in the exact same way that he is always good. His another-day-on-the-job is most actors Oscar moment. What should seem special winds up feeling normal.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I frequently rant about how studios ruin otherwise promising action films by suppressing violence in order to garner a PG-13 rating and thus achieve a wider audience. A truly kickass movie will kickass despite a noticeable lack of blood and swearing, just look at “Live Free or Die Hard” (though we all know that would have been ever better with a little splatter and if John McLane’s signature “Yippie-ki-yay, mother fucker” hadn’t been concealed by background noise), but a movie like “The Eagle”, suffers irreparable damage in its quest for PG-13. This is the kind of movie that needs the freedom and wiggle room provided by an R rating. “The Eagle” would never have been a great movie, that’s a fact, but if the action had been handled appropriately, it could at least have been fun to watch. Instead, the action and violence are toothless. You can feel where the filmmakers reigned themselves in and pulled back, and the result is that “The Eagle” feels castrated. In trying to make a movie for everyone, they made a movie for no one.
Friday, February 4, 2011
“Sanctum”, the newest 3D extravaganza produced by James Cameron, will make you never go into a cave ever again. Not that “The Descent” didn’t already do that, but this time the only monsters lurking in the darkness are the human kind, not to mention one seriously pissed off Mother Nature. During the exploration of a series of unexplored, mostly underwater caves in Papua New Guinea, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. A diver drowns, a typhoon overtakes the camp before the team can escape the catacombs, and the torrential rains begin to fill caves with a handful of survivors trapped inside.