The Z/Web Archive
Postings for the Month of November 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
What's there to say? A good adaptation of a good book. It's fairly faithful (especially considering the length of the original source), is entertaining, fun, and has some good drama as the tone of the series becomes more serious. Nothing remarkable here, however. It's everything we expect in the series. Recommended, of course, but just don't expect more than the book.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Leisurely paced film about a young girl growing up in West Africa. It was full of interesting imagery, especially for someone like myself who grew up in Africa, but the story was slight, and it's mostly just about her learning about life. It's interesting but probably has narrow appeal.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Cool kid-oriented flick in the Jumangi vein, about a board game that comes to life. Films of this kind often try to hard to be something they're not; this one just tells a simple story simply and it works. Good special effects, story, characters, and well-directed. May not be a world-changer, but it's certainly entertaining and well done.
Friday, November 4, 2005
History of Violence
Movie: History of Violence
Director(s): David Cronenberg
I wouldn't say this is a great film, but it's certainly above average. It's an intriguing premise: a regular guy working in his diner defends himself from criminals and shoots and kills two of them. Where did he learn such skills? What is his background? Suddenly questions are being asked, and the man's family begins to wonder who he is. Mysterious strangers visit the town and claim they know the man, that he's not Tom, but Joey, a gangster. The film is a lot like Clint Eastwood's amazing Unforgiven, which deals with the nature of a killer. Unfortunately, this film, while similar, doesn't give us much more of an understanding of that nature. The killings and violence are brutal and shocking, quite gory, but take place so quickly and suddenly that we wonder if we saw what we thought we saw. It's a profound effect, powerful, and makes the violence something disturbing -- a near-impossible task in today's jaded world where casual violence is a media constant.
That's impressive, but the film has two key flaws. One, the story is too linear and ordinary. On the one hand I like that -- it's better than the overly complicated plots most films use -- but this film hints at so much more that we're left disappointed at the ordinary ending. We're wanting to do something superhuman and have him kill like 50 people at the end instead of just a handful. This could have been corrected by less foreshadowing that something amazing was going to happen at the end. The second flaw is that the film only hints at the complex inter-personal relationships of the man with his family. When it does it's very good, but it doesn't go far enough. There are lots of scenes of "profound looks" between wife and husband, but I wanted more dialog, more literal expression, where she can question him about his past, ask him what it's like to kill, etc. Instead she's quietly angry and frustrated, sealing him off with silence, and he's not the most talkative man. The result is that we're left unsure of what we've seen. Is the man a hero? A murderer? An anti-hero? The silence leaves us with more questions than answers. While some abiguity is good, in this case, it weakens the most powerful aspect of the film. If you watch Unforgiven, it is filled with lectures on the nature of violence and evil, and it clearly condems killings. History has one such moment, where the killer dad scolds his son for fighting at school, but the moment is thrown away when the kid reacts angrily and storms off, reminding the dad of his own violence past, and the dad is left puzzled and unsure of himself. Granted, he's a different character from Eastwood's, but there are still many similarities, and Clint's film is better. History isn't bad at all: it's just not quite great. I'd still recommend you see it for yourself and make your own judgement, however. It's a deeply personal film and everyone must understand it in their own way.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
The Legend of Zorro
Movie: The Legend of Zorro
I remember I liked the first movie: it was fun and sexy, though the plot and action was overdone. This one tries to recreate the same, but unfortunately fails. The biggest problem I had was that the plot calls for the two main characters, Zorro and his lovely wife (the incomparable Catherine Zeta-Jones) to fight and separate (they actually get divorced). The fight seemed artificial and awkward. She was upset he still wanted to be Zorro, yet of course that's why she loved him in the first place! After a lot of mysteriousness, we find out that the fight was not real: she still loves Zorro but was being blackmailed into the divorce by people who threatened to reveal his true identity. The whole thing's a convoluted mess. Of course it all ends happily with everyone reuinited, but until that moment it's an unpleasant, uncomfortable film. These two were meant to be together so why separate them so cruelly? Why make us endure watching Zorror become a depressed drunk and jealous husband? I would much, much, much rather have seen a husband-and-wife team of fighters who cooperate and love each other but one or the other is put in jeopardy during their adventures. Even worse is the reasoning behind the blackmailing of the wife doesn't make any sense. Combine the plot nonsense with villains that Zorro keeps fighting but doesn't defeat (Is he really that poor of a hero?) and lame action sequences that are ridiculously improbable and boring to watch and I couldn't wait for this film to end. That was sad, as I expected it to be a lot of fun, but it was dreary and depressing, and much too long. And Zorro's too-cute son is the worst actor I've seen in decades.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Today I was planning to take my mom back home and we were just getting ready to leave when Uncle Keith showed up out of the blue. That was cool. His timing was better than if he'd come on the weekend when I was gone! I set up a video chat with Uncle Lloyd in Springfield and that was cool: he and Keith chatted for over an hour. Keith only stayed the one night, however, but Grandpa sure appreciated seeing his son for a bit.