Short Takes

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Re: Short Takes

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Sep 11, 2006 4:24 am

[An old, previously missing post]

THE RING TWO (U.S. / 2005)

The Ring Two is, obviously, a sequel of The Ring, which was released in 2002 as a remake of a Japanese film called Ringu (1998), a film which has also mutated all over the east-Asian seaboard. The Ring Two is not a remake of Ringu 2 (1999), but it is directed by the guy who made both Ringu and Ringu 2. Got it? No need really, and your brain can also rest in piece while youre watching the film, which is actually not quite the disaster it is made out to be. Naomi Watts and her son have now moved away from Seattle (where the killer videotape copy did quite a bit of damage) to a small town in Oregon. Apparently, one copy of the tape is still alive, and shows up near two teenagers about to @#%$ (how original!) in the films peculiar opening sequence. It does get better though as director Hideo Nakatas unearthly camera begins to glide up, down, and sideways; also, for the most part, the reliance on atmospheric dread is a welcome sight. The tape eventually gets burned (I could swear I heard some eerie sounds coming from the vhs industry), but this allows for the vengeful Samara (you know, the one with the hair) to take center-stage. However -- other than a wonderful sequence involving angry reindeers -- its onwards and downwards from there as the script by Ehren Kruger tries to channel The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) through The Shinning (1980), eventually settling on "Carrie" -- Sissy Spacek, that is. She is part of a late episode involving maternal impulses which couldve been introduced earlier. But it's all a set-up for the ultimate denouement. In an obvious attempt to pump-up this bloodless PG film into a PG-13 one, we hear Watts (giving a professional performance) scream: "Im not your @#%$ mommy," as she closes an opening. Hopefully, "The Ring Three" will struggle to come out of it.

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*Available on DVD in the U.S. (Universal).
arsaib4
 


Re: Short Takes

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Sep 15, 2006 3:18 am

[And yet another old, previously missing post]

THE ICE HARVEST (U.S. / 2005)



If the words "Ho @#%$ Ho" are uttered early on in a film which is set on Christmas Eve, then it shouldnt be difficult for one to conclude that this may not be an average holiday effort starring Tim Allen. Indeed, continuing the tradition of the surprisingly successful Bad Santa (2003), The Ice Harvest is a blackly comedic tale (less comic, but much darker than the former), which unfolds via a largely unemployed vein of late: a straight noir, seemingly out-of-fashion since the disaster of Oliver Stones U Turn (1997). The Wichita, Kansas set story features John Cusack as Charlie Arglist, a mob lawyer who schemes with a local strip-club manager, Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), to rob one of his clients of $2 million. While this "perfect crime" is pulled off without any hassles, the uncompromising weather conditions prevent them from immediately leaving the city which also represents a quagmire of personal and professional regrets for Arglist. Directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day [1993], Analyze This [1999]), The Ice Harvest features a frigid, sterile surface that well complements the motivations of its protagonists (though, Cusacks hangdog face doesnt always help matters). The duo are mostly seen in seedy strip joints or cocktail bars, with one being owned by the films requisite femme-fatale (a beguiling Connie Nielson), who, of course, is deeply tangled in ways these women tend to be. The script by Robert Benton and Richard Russo is consistently involving, while featuring some delicious one-liners (mostly delivered by Thornton, the perfect anti-hero). But whats truly remarkable about this film is how boldly and thoroughly unselfconscious it is, obliterating any false hopes for a nudge or a wink along the way. Hopefully there will be a harvest of these sort of films around Christmas time for years to come.

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*Available on DVD in the U.S. (Universal).
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby A » Sun Sep 17, 2006 4:49 pm

Sounds like I should be watching this on Christmas
I usually like Ramis' stuff, and Benton is a good screenwriter in my book. Billy Bob Thornton is another plus, ans "straight noir" sounds wonderful to my ears.
I really enjoyed U-Turn (Penn is wonderful in all these situations ), and something like that on precious Christmas time. Yummie!
A
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Sep 17, 2006 6:09 pm

Like any Oliver Stone film, U Turn is never less than interesting, but Stone's visual and thematic overkill eventually took its toll on me. Also, I thought both Thornton (who is barely recognizable in the film) and Nolte chewed so much scenery that there wasn't much left for Penn.
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby A » Sun Sep 17, 2006 7:51 pm

But that's the premise that i really liked about the film. Everything is incredibly over the top, so that the cocksure Penn is constantly upstaged, as everybody is somewhat superior to him. i really enjoyed this irony, and the fact that he still gets away in the end, but definitely bruised by the Americana he encountered. Actually this could be my favorite movie by Stone, as i usually don't think his criticism is completely successful when he goes "serious" (he also often uses too much pathos for my taste).
A
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Sep 18, 2006 2:18 am

I wasn't referring to their characterizations but rather what they have a tendency to do as actors.

"... and the fact that he still gets away in the end, but definitely bruised by the Americana he encountered."

He actually doesn't get away. Obviously, "the Americana," which foreign filmmakers and audiences -- espeically of the European variety -- have a unique perception of, was a bit too much for him.

I rate just about every Stone film higher than U Turn. (Yes, even the much-maligned Alexander.)
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby A » Mon Sep 18, 2006 9:18 am

Ok, but to me both things worked fine together. I actually liked the way Nolte portrays his character very much. But I guess I'll have to watch it again, as I recalled that Penn survives in the end...
Haven't seen Alexander yet, due to the fact that only one person I spoke to liked the film. Everybody was complaining about it so much, and i heared that the theatrical release was cut as well, so I decided to skip it.
A
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby wpqx » Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:24 pm

I enjoyed U-Turn but I hardly will commend it as a masterpiece, and have enjoyed most if not all of the Stone films I've seen more, but I've somewhat avoided a couple, and have plenty to see.
wpqx
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:29 am

MIAMI VICE (U.S. / 2006)



Despite all the reservations that people (including filmmakers) have regarding the use of digital and high-definition video, this format has the potential of becoming the most effective mechanism for portraying emotional and physical vacuity on-screen. While Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke and his DP Yu Lik-Wai have set the standard with their employment of HD in The World (2004) and Still Life (2006), Michael Mann and his partner-in-crime Dion Beebe have done their very best to achieve similar results with Collateral (2004), and now, Miami Vice.

The long, overhead shots in Collateral ultimately never quite coalesced with the characters that mightve been physically displaced, but their lack of depth prevented them from being emotionally so as well. And thus, unlike Heat (1995), Manns best film so far, his existential yearnings didnt have a base to exist on. The characters in Miami Vice may not be much deeper, but they are, or at least seem, tangible, and thats due to the directors exquisite formal schemes. In the film, Manns camera often glides in and around the action, instead of simply hovering on top; and hes been able to discover a certain level of intimacy between him and his actors thats required for what he wants to accomplish. While the delineation -- not to mention the rich black skin -- of both Jamie Fox and Naomi Harris, who are more than just fellow vice cops in the film, shines through even in the glory of digital grain, Mann finds his marker with the films other, much more enigmatic couple. The pale, colorless skin of a brilliant Gong Li -- finally a femme-fatale who looks and acts unconventionally -- might be the primary reason behind her ghost-like mien, but Mann only accentuates her ordeal by providing her with someone similar: Colin Farrell, who can hold the screen as well as any actor working today. They fall hard and fast, and Manns resolutely empty mise-en-scne intelligibly deciphers what comes next -- which is somber enough to draw an errant tear, much like Gongs.

Also, Beebes HD palette which is mostly comprised of shadowy blacks and greys, not only provides a greater degree of verisimilitude to the action, it also imbues the characters with said exigence. What it cant do however is to provide them with a life beyond the frame. Unlike Heat, where even the bit players were memorable, Miami Vice features a few too many individuals who lack the proper depth and scope. And thats partially because Mann once again attempts to set a foot outside the genre parameters, not quite recognizing that he must draw his characters within them in order to elevate them; his tangential forays into "reality" have a tendency to feel a tad self-conscious. (The bullets in the films eventual, rather low-key shoot-out might sound real, but the much-hyped pre-production research into the lives of undercover men that Mann conducted ultimately plays second fiddle to, what else, his images.) Hopefully hell find a common ground one day, but perhaps for now, as Cyril Neyrat of "Cahiers du cinma" stated, "[Miami Vice] belongs to those that would require two viewings. The first, to make a list of its disappointed expectations and weaknesses, and the second, to attend to what it does do: exploit the aesthetic possibilities of high definition and to draw all the consequences for the narrative. Then the weaknesses are changed into hypotheses, undoubtedly fragile but unfailingly innovative, of a new regime of the visible, generating a new kind of action film."

Grade: B
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*The film will be available on DVD in early December.
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes

Postby A » Thu Oct 05, 2006 2:09 pm

Heh, just posted my negative comments on last film seen. Interesting that we saw this at a similar time.

I mostly agree with your assesment, and definitely with the statement from the Cahiers critic, but ultimately this didn`t make it as satisfying an experience as it probably did for you.

it`s not like Mann has lost it, but he clearly needs to get better next time. And reality can also be subtle at times!
I must say the slick cinematography and editing in Heat had much more to say about our world than the "realist" one in Miami Vice...

On your scale, this would be a C+
A
 

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