Friday, December 3, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part IX

The Wicker Man (2006)
Nicholas Cage wears a bear suit, punches women, and screams ridiculous lines in this remake that fails in just about every aspect that the original succeeded. Where the original is creepy, this one is boring. Where the original is suspenseful, this one is silly. And while the original has an interesting religious discussion, this one creates an unnecessary back story for Cage’s character that only serves to confuse matters.

Speed Racer (2008)
The races are fun, the sets are colorful, and the actors are attractive in this movie that is an enjoyable two hours that won’t stick with you.

Play Time (1967)
There is no real story to speak of here, merely a series of extended comedic set-pieces enacted almost entirely through the visuals. The highlight of the film is a sequence that depicts the opening of a restaurant in which almost everything goes wrong. There are some wonderful gags sprinkled throughout the film, from the doorman who is unable to do his job because he has to use an ultra-modern button panel that is a complete mystery to him, to a floor tile that has come unstuck so every time the head waiter walks passed that spot on the floor he actively avoids the tile. The pace of the film is almost maddeningly slow, leaving the audience to seek out the comedy instead of having it spoon-fed to them.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
On our way to see this movie, my friend asked me how I would do a dramatization of the Alice books. After giving it some thought my answer was that since the books are so episodic with very little overarching story and almost nothing carrying over from one scene to the next there were only two ways to really do it right. The first way would be to do a very faithful adaptation and take advantage of the episodic nature of the books and do it as a television show or web serial. The other way would be to take characters and situations from the book and put them into a brand new story that has a much more structured narrative. This movie uses the second tactic and is mostly successful. The Mad Hatter plays too large a role (it makes me wonder if Johnny Depp being cast in the role caused it to grow too big) and the Jabberwock is woefully underused, but the visuals are gorgeous, transporting the audience into a fascinating world of wonder.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
So this is my first foray into the real world of Bollywood and it was a mostly enjoyable experience. It features a cast of wonderfully colorful characters and has some fun musical numbers. On the other hand, at over three and a half hours long it occasionally gets tedious, especially during the climax of the film which revolves around a cricket game. Since this movie taught me pretty much all I know about cricket, I had a hard time really investing in the action of the game since I don’t know all the nuances of the sport, though I can speak with more authority when I say that cricket is indeed a stupid sport.

Coming up next: more catching up from 2009.

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