Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dreams flickered on a white cloth

Title: "Leaving the Cinema," Wislawa Szymborska, tr. J. Trzeciak

Here are some of the DVDs I've watched the last few weeks.

Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude Vondom! and directed by John Woo. I saw this in the theater when it first came out and remembered it as a silly but enjoyable action film with some pretty cool sequences. So, although it's not my usual kind of thing, I put it on my Netflix list for some mindless escapism. Bad idea. This is possibly the very worst major motion picture ever made. This was Woo's first American film; I can't for the life of me understand why Woo wasn't run out of the country on a rail by The People For Films That Aren't Totally Fucking Retarded shortly after its release. Terrible acting; execrable script; decent concept (lifted, of course, from a famous eighty-year-old short story) mauled to complete laughability by over-the-top presentation; negligible characterization. This is a movie that thinks having a villain say "I don't want you hurting my feelings" on two occasions before he shoots someone is establishing a fully-rounded character. This is a movie that thinks motorcycle gangs with machine guns and vans with grenade launchers can cause mayhem in the streets of New Orleans with total impunity. A film that doesn't bother to give the main character any interesting, devious ways to overcome overwhelming odds, preferring the reliable old "he's invincible for some goddam reason" standby. Utter, complete garbage; I'm ashamed of myself for watching it all the way through, but that's me. I'm a finisher.

Millions, directed by Danny Boyle. Two young lads find a satchel with millions of stolen pounds, days before the conversion to the Euro. Will they spend it all? Will they, influenced by young Alex's visions of long-dead saints, give it to the poor? Or will the crooks get it back? I was not prepared by how entrancing and entertaining this movie was. Boyle takes a well-worn cliché and, with a few twists, such as a dead mother and a new girlfriend and a boy possibly slightly touched with religious zeal, makes it fresh and new. He uses some inventive cinematic tricks as well, such as some apt fast-motion or the same scary, breathy sound effect whenever the crook is seen.

Kicking And Screaming, directed by Noah Baunbach. A few recent college graduates, at a loss for how to begin their lives, remain in their old ruts for a while, flirting and arguing and musing over the Great Questions. I may be, like some of the actors playing students in the film, a bit too old for this kind of thing. It's not bad per se, and it skirts the trap of just being pretentious wankery, but a film about college graduates holds no interest for me at this stage in my life.

Kung Fu Hustle, directed by Stephen Chow. I rented this movie knowing nothing about it. (Actually, I saw this webcomic, and based solely on that, rented the film.) Great idea. I was literally crying with laughter at some of this movie. Holy hell, what a terrific viewing experience! It's derivative of and a mixture (an homage-mélange, perhaps) of a great variety of American films --- musicals, Tarantino, spaghetti westerns and more. but it transcends all its influences, blending them with a pace and wit of such blinding speed that you won't be able to believe your eyes. Complete entertainment.

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