Sunday, June 29, 2008

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part VI

Oh boy, I'm really behind on getting these out. I have about 15 more reviews to still release, plus another 15 or so to write. Must... get... cracking...

D-War (2007)
Where do I start with a movie like this? The story is silly, the screenplay is laughable, the acting is almost entirely wooden, none of the characters act believably, half the scenes end abruptly without any sort of reasonable conclusion, and to top it all off, it’s a story that is about Korean mythology with reincarnated Koreans, that takes place solely in modern day Los Angeles, with only one (minor) character who is Asian of any kind. But wait, there’s more! Not only is Los Angeles being attacked by two dueling dragons, there is also an ancient Korean overlord (who looks as un-Korean as anyone can look) whose sole purpose is to look menacing as a Sauron wannabe while he makes the blade of his sword appear magically from its hilt. He also commands hoards of undead soldiers that appear inexplicably out of nowhere and headquarters in a castle (wha?) that is another complete ripoff of Lord of the Rings. Of all the films I’ve seen from 2007, this one would make the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, and I fully expect to see a Rifftrax available for it very soon.

Silent Running (1972)
It is an interesting look at one man’s obsession, and the lengths he will go to to keep the things he finds most valuable from being destroyed. I liked the interplay between our hero and his robot pals, and the film has an interesting look. On the other hand, it suffers from 1970's minimalist story syndrome, and many of the decisions our hero makes don’t follow logically from the story.

The Dirty Dozen (1967)
The film tells the rousing story of a group of misfit soldiers who elect to go on a suicide mission during WWII in lieu of serving out their prison sentences. While we don’t get a full look at each member of the titular dozen, the film does a wonderful job juggling its large cast in a way that we still get to know most of the twelve. Lee Marvin lights up the screen in every scene, and watching the film makes me want to check out more of his extensive work. The film has a lot in common with The Great Escape: a war movie that feels like a comedy until the third act when the tension ratchets up several notches, leading to a sobering ending that still does not seem out of place.

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Once I was able to get over Freddie Highmore’s sporadically successful attempt at an American accent, I was drawn into a world where magical beings live just beyond our perceptions. The film has a wonderful visual flair to it, and the creatures get enough screen time to keep me from feeling cheated out of some good otherworldliness, but not so much that it felt like one giant CG lovefest. My biggest complaint is that in the end, when all the interpersonal family conflict is being resolved, it is done through heavy-handed, unnatural dialog, bordering on preachy. Remember, when it comes to movies: show, don’t tell.

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
I saw a high school production of the musical back in eight grade, and was interested to revisit the story. The movie started pretty well, with a couple imaginatively produced musical numbers (especially one involving lots of phone calls) but as the story progressed, there was less and less to distinguish it from other musicals of the time, and the Elvis Presley parody got old by the end.

Coming up next: A hodgepodge of films that have very little in common.

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