The success of this movie, creatively as much as commercially, is down to a triumph of casting. Of course, they had Will Smith, fresh off his breakthrough role in Independence Day, but that coup carries some hazards. Smith’s high-energy presence can dominate and unbalance a movie if allowed, requiring an actor of equal weight and with a complementary presence to even the scales. Thus, pairing Smith with the deadpan Tommy Lee Jones is half the key to the success of Men in Black.
This second teaming of writer Ed Neumeier and director Paul Verhoeven is not close to being the equal of their first effort, RoboCop. The attempts at social commentary are just as ham handed and the 1997 film lacks the humor and human dimension of the first. Fans of the original Robert A. Heinlein novel are also advised to steer well clear, as any resemblance between the source material and the final product is strictly accidental beyond the title and the names of a few characters. All this would be forgivable if it produced a good movie. Sadly, forgiveness is impossible in this case.
The film does offer some nifty special effects and plenty of grue for fans of the old ultra-violence, but other elements like story logic and characters that matter to us are missing in action. Continue reading →
Sometime after This Is Spinal Tap bombed at the box office (because its supposed target audience was too stoned or too stupid to realize that it was a joke) and was then revived as a cult hit on home video, an idea must have been germinating in the mind of actor Christopher Guest. The end result was this take on the same basic format, the improvised fake documentary, in a very different setting. While gentler (and quieter) than Tap, Waiting For Guffman is just as funny in its own way.
It’s probably appropriate that the film adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel L.A. Confidentialcontains a fictional TV series that’s an obvious riff on Dragnet. This film seems like it wants to expose every dirty secret about the LAPD that Jack Webb ever whitewashed.
Contact is a nobly intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying adaptation of Carl Sagan’s only novel. It details the circumstances surrounding the first clear sign of intelligent life in outer space and their effects on the life of a young and idealistic radio astronomer named Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster).
It’s hard to say what was crazier: spending $200 million on a period love story with a downer ending or the backlash that started a few nano-seconds after the film cleaned up at the Academy Awards. Make no mistake, L.A. Confidential was the superior picture that got robbed of the Best Picture statue, but snubbing a superior, less commercial film has become sort of an Oscar tradition in recent years.
Just because Confidential was the better movie doesn’t mean Titanic sucked, not by a long shot. James Cameron’s epic no more deserves the constant elitist sneering and sniping it has received any more than it deserved the Best Picture award.
The Fifth Element is a big, noisy, goofy piece of cotton candy, and I mean that as compliment. This is not a film that tries to be anything more than what it is and it’s a lot of fun. Director Luc Besson has put his own adolescent daydreams up on the screen and surrounded them with a dense, richly imagined universe.