M for Movies

Seems to me that I’ve been slacking on movie reviews. Here’s two for you to chew over while I’m away.

V for Vendetta

This is a hard movie to review. Number one, I don’t usually like comic book movies because there’s always some degree of ridiculous “that could NEVER happen” content in all comic-book movies that just lifts me right out of the film. Number two, acting is important, and it’s hard to judge a movie where the leading man is basically a disembodied voice behind a mask.

For what it is, V is a good movie. I applaud it for sticking brazenly to its message (that message being: We Live in a Fascist Regime. It is time to Rise Up and Fight The Power, by any means necessary!) Takes balls to do that in this day and age.
V is most successful and effecting as a message movie. Who can help but shed a few tears of joy at the sight of a cruel and dictatorial government being mercilessly and violently overthrown? I hope lots of people see V, and get the message.

Otherwise, I didn’t really connect with anything about V -other than- the Anarcho sentiments. The characters all left me flat. V himself should have our sympathies, but the whole mask thing gets in the way. That, and he suffers from major amounts of comic book unbelievability syndrome. Hard to empathize with a character when you keep thinking “yeah, right.” (Like, how does he pay for his Master Plan?!?) But I will hand it to him…he’s a fan of Mildred Pierce, so he must be quite a cool guy deep down.

Natalie Portman as Evey was supposed to be the audience’s “gateway character” into the movie and the world of V. I just couldn’t get into her, either. Partly because she had many doubts and misgivings about V and his cause that I just would not have shared if I were her. (In her shoes I would have immediately just said, “Sign me up! Where do I get my supply of grenades?!”) Also because I was distracted by just how scarily THIN that girl is. I kept being pulled out of the movie every time she wore a tight shirt and you could count her ribs THROUGH the fabric. Nat, you are a wonderful actress. Just please, EAT something.

To me, the most emotionally wrenching scene was when the Fascists came to drag away Stephen Fry’s character for being a homosexual, who also dared to mock the gubmint on his tv show. (Thank goodness no one would ever get brutalized for being gay here in the US! *cough, gag, choke*) Poor Stephen! I love that guy. I wanted to leap out of my seat and save him.

As far as the direction and design and all that, the movie looked nice, but it wasn’t anything truly special. The directors (those Matrix guys) kept the emotional tone cranked to “melodrama” a bit too much. (Note to directors: henceforth, it will be forbidden to create an “inspirational” scene where a character stands in the pouring rain and lifts up their arms triumphantly. Failure to abide by this rule will result in the suspension of your Director’s Guild membership.) Also, they fell back on that old, overdone, tired, “Matrixy” stuff. Slow-mo knife-throwing, etc. Put in a fork in that shit, it is DONE.

Overall, V is a fun movie if you’re in the mood to want to get up, lace up your shit-kicker boots, and go out on the streets and riot against The Man! And that is why, when all’s said and done, I liked it very much.

Night Watch

I saw this about 3 weeks ago, I just forgot to review it. It’s playing in -extremely- limited release, so catch it before it’s gone! I think we only got it because Pgh has a small, but very concentrated Russian population. Night Watch is a Russian movie, basically about vampires, psychics, werebeasts, and other stuff very reminiscent of White Wolf’s “World of Darkness.” (But not as much of a blatant rip-off as Underworld.)

The beauty of Night Watch is that it takes all of those tired old concepts, and puts a new twist on them. It’s all very complicated, and if you don’t pay close attention during the first 7 minutes or so, you’ll be lost. Basically, throughout the world exist “others”…beings with supernatural powers. Some are dark, some are light, and they were continually at war. Then, eons ago, their leaders called a truce. To uphold this truce, two bodies were created: the Night Watch, whose officers keep the dark others in check, and the Day Watch, who are charged with keeping the light others in check. Right there is one of the (for a movie of this genre) revolutionary concepts put forth in Night Watch. Unlike every other fantasy movie, the good and evil is NOT cut n’ dried. The “good” others need to be kept in check also, because they can and do abuse their powers. For a cheesy vampire flick, that’s pretty freaking brilliant.

I’m not going to bother with the plot. There really is too much of it. Night Watch is a very busy movie. There’s prophecies, the end of the world needs to be stopped, the birth of a “great other” who will unbalance the light and dark (Anakin??), vampires of the loose, yadda, yadda, yadda. All of that is largely irrelevant. Night Watch is a visceral and visual -experience- of a movie, the plot comes second. They actually do some things that -I’ve never seen done before- in a movie. For instance, the subtitles. Instead of just sitting there on the screen, they USE the subtitles to great effect. Sometimes they turn red with blood, once, a character fell over and his body partially obscured the titles…stuff like that. The titles become part of the action of the scene. It sounds like small potatoes, but I’ve honestly never seen that done, and in the world of movie making, gawd knows I thought all original thought was dead. My jaw dropped when I realized i was seeing something completely NEW.

So bottom line, skip Underworld II, skip Ultraviolet *gag*, skip whatever other cheeseball horror flick is out this week, and make the effort to track down Night Watch and see it instead. It is worth your investment of time and effort!

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