So this Friday, I finally caught up with a number of films I’ve been meaning to see, among them:
The Ring (US): A very scary premise, and after the teenage sleepover setpiece I thought this might be one for the ages. But, although the ending somewhat redeems it, this film feels like a missed opportunity. I haven’t yet seen Ringu, so I don’t know how it measures up, but turning the bulk of the film into a Nancy Drew mystery was a straight-up horrible call. After a truly frightening intro, the movie then spends most of its running time lining up all the images on the tape with the ghost story at hand, with all-too-frequent flashbacks in case you’re a short-term amnesiac or something. What everybody involved seems to have missed is that the movie would’ve been much scarier, at least to my mind, if some portions of the tape had just been left unexplained. Instead, the powers-that-be left unexplained key plot elements in the story, such as how little boy Watts sees dead people. I think in another director’s hands – a director unafraid to take risks and one who has a little more faith in her audience to put two and two together – this could’ve been very, very scary. (Although it’s not as bad a swing-and-a-miss as the US version of the The Vanishing.) So, with that in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing Ringu.
Igby Goes Down: I’m really not a big fan of the “unrealistically erudite young NY sophisticate” genre – I liked Rushmore a lot less than most people I know and I find Whit Stillman films to be absolutely insufferable. So when Igby suggests his brother’s a pedantic bore for liking Rilke and later wryly namedrops “The Island of Lost Toys,” I visibly shuddered. But, all in all, Kieran Culkin is rather appealing in the title role, and – with solid support from Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Amanda Peet, Bill Pullman, and Jared Harris – this one turned out to be more enjoyable than I had earlier feared. Claire Danes seems miscast, and I just don’t get what it is about the one-note “clipped and distant” monotone of Ryan Phillipe’s delivery in every film that anyone finds appealing (he’s got less range than Keanu), but, in the end, this one made for a decent rental.
Far From Heaven: I’m hit-and-miss with Todd Haynes films – I thought Safe was splendid and bizarre, but didn’t vibe into the puzzling Velvet Goldmine at all (I am looking forward to his Dylan biopic project.) And, to be honest, this one suffered a bit from being the middle child in my Friday triple feature – I found my attention flagging quite a bit in the early going. Which is a shame, because in the end this turned out to be quite a good film, if a little on the slow side. I thought the retro look and feel started out rather gimmicky (for example, in the lime green police station where Julianne Moore picks up her husband), but settled down as the story took over. And I think I probably would have liked it more if (a) I hadn’t just sat through Igby and (b) if I were more well-versed in the films of Douglas Sirk. But, worth seeing, and Dennis Quaid and Patricia Clarkson were particularly good.
The Core: Without a doubt a poor, poor film, and yet I enjoyed myself much more than at the drab and slow-moving Dreamcatcher. It helped that this film is stocked with actors I generally root for – Aaron Eckhart, Bruce Greenwood, Delroy Lindo, and Stanley Tucci. (As for Hilary Swank…well, I haven’t yet seen Boys Don’t Cry, but I gotta believe she’s much better in that than she was in this, although Halle Berry won recently too and – frankly – she’s rarely any good either.) To be sure, the special effects are well on this side of lame – for example, when the crew get stopped somewhere in the center of the Earth and find themselves inexplicably on the Star Trek: TNG Away Team set…I half-expected Morlocks or Cave Trolls or something to show up. And the story makes very limited sense (as a friend of mine pointed out, how does gravity work on this ship? Everybody’s standing around normally while this bird is digging straight down.) But, as a popcorn film, The Core was reasonably entertaining for two hours, even though I really can’t recommend it.
Next up, I’d like to catch The Good Thief and Ghosts of the Abyss before the fanboy films start flying fast and furious on May 2, with the so-far-well-received X2.