Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Movie Review - Children of Men

Children of Men is one of those movies that could very easily have been a confusing mess, but fortunately, it successfully achieved my current movie criterion buzzword-- Clarity. A few times, the movie threatened to fall off the tracks of clarity, but each time, it managed to refresh me on the key points I needed to continue on.

The basic plot of Children of Men is that in the year 2027, the world is falling apart and women have been infertile for about 16 years. A young girl is discovered to be pregnant, and she needs to be delivered to a secret group of scientists dedicated to restoring worldwide fertility. However, there is a group that is pushing for an uprising and wants to use the existence of this baby as their rallying point. The movie is essentially a chase, with Clive Owen's character attempting to successfully deliver the pregnant girl to the scientists, avoiding the uprising people.

The movie does a great job of setting up the world through background images, such as TVs, newspapers and graffiti, rather than than an overabundance of expository babble.

The movie's been called a 21st century Blade Runner, and in a lot of ways it's pretty apt. The tone, the grittiness of the world, the bleakness of the story, the humanity of the main characters are all from the same DNA as Blade Runner.

But best of all, the movie achieves clarity at every point, allowing the full tension of each moment to effortlessly shine through without my having to wonder, "Now why is that guy shooting at them again??"

8.5 teeth out of ten.

Movie Review - Elektra

This was on the stack of "Movies that I want to watch that I know won't be any good, but I want to watch them so I can figure out why they didn't work."

I was only marginally impressed with Daredevil, and thought Jennifer Garner was miscast as Elektra. I wasn't looking forward to Elektra when it came out, and less so when almost all the reviews were harsh. But it popped up in the list of movies coming on HBO, so I went ahead and set it to record with my trusty Time Warner (soon to be Comcast) DVR. And there it was sitting in my recorded list as I sat down to eat some grub last night so I opted just to watch Elektra for as long as I could tolerate it.

Turns out I could tolerate the whole film. However, don't take that to mean I enjoyed it or give it a positive rating.

This falls in the category of movies that really didn't need to be made. It didn't bring anything to the action genre or the comic book genre. The story was basically a slight rehash of Terminator 2, where a villain must overcome their evil tendencies to help out a chosen one who has been marked for death. If you've seen a movie, you've seen Elektra. There weren't any surprises in this.

The best I can say about it was that I was never bored enough to stop watching. Some of the effects were neat. The characters were cardboard, but generally likeable. But surprisingly, there wasn't a whole lot of action, and only two scenes were Elektra worer her iconic red costume. There was a lot of talking and running.

Anyway, this movie would probably be better in a group setting with the intent being to ridicule the movie as it plays in the background.

5 teeth out of 10.

Movie Review - Series 7: The Contenders

Now this was a movie that I accidentally watched last night at about midnight. Granted, I had set it to record earlier in the evening, but it was as I was showing Tamara how to use some of the features of the new Time Warner DVR box that this movie started recording right in the middle of the lesson. We just started watching it and before long, we'd abandoned DVR lessons and settled in to finish watching.

The basic premise of this film is that we are watching the marathon of a reality TV show called "The Contenders, Series 7". This reality show randomly selects 6 people from a random town, gives them weapons, and forces them to hunt each other down until only one is left alive. This is apparently a government sanctioned and enforced TV show. So camera crews follow the various contenders around and presents their stories.

The film is shot and presented in video and looks like an authentic reality show. It's like a cross between Cops, Real World, and the Running Man.

What's most interesting about this is that this film was produced in 2001, predating (slightly) the success of Survivor. But it was prescient in its prediction of how reality shows would become more and more extreme. We haven't quite gotten to the point to where a deathmatch reality show is a, um, reality, but we're close.

The movie started off great and had our attention from the first moment. It didn't explain everything at first and just treated you basically as if you had just flipped the channel to a show that had already been on for years and you just hadn't ever seen it before. It seemed to have been done in a semi-improv style and this worked perfectly for most of the first part of the film.

It's only during the second half of the film when they had to steer the plot towards the more convoluted aspects of the story that it started to fall apart a bit. I find this is the case in most mockumentary-style shows is that the movement toward the pre-written story elements always come across as a bit clunky and forced. Such was the case with Series 7: The Contenders.

Overall, it was watchable, even during the contrived parts. An interesting experiment.

Final verdict: 6 and a half teeth

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

DVD Stack - Reds

Finally watched Warren Beatty's Reds. I have to admit that it wasn't at all what I was expecting. I knew it was about the Russian Revolution, but that's pretty much the extent. My assumption was that Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton played Russians caught up in the tides of the revolution. But I was completely wrong.

Instead, the movie is based on the lives of Jack Reed and Louise Bryant, two American socialist/communist activists/writers from the late 1910's who managed to be in Russia during the revolution and got caught up in it. It's really a love story between the two of them set against this backdrop.

I enjoyed it. It was suitably epic in its scope and intimate in its focus. What really added a lot to this film were contemporary (1981) interviews with people that actually knew Jack and Louise back in the day. It gave the film much more of a sense that this all really did happen, and made the dramatic parts seem more like these were the actual people.

Acting was superb throughout as was the cinematography. I'm sure as I watch (or re-watch) more period epics from the 70's and 80's I'll end up with similar opinions, but Reds felt like a movie that was produced within the last few years rather than 25 years ago.

I give it 9 teeth out of 10.

NaNoWriMo - Update

Okay. Here it is, mid-January. I got sidetracked in November by work and life in general, and am currently stalled out at 33,000 words. I hope to get it kick-started tonight or tomorrow and try to get to 50,000 by the end of the month. Not likely, but I'm going to go for it. In any event, I should be able to finish the rough draft of Word War III over the next month or so at the worst.

But before I do that, a couple of movie reviews.