Monday, 30 August 2010

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Based on the James Jones novel of the same name, this film depicting the Marine assault on Guadalcanal in 1942 is wonderful....

Up until the last hour.

Really, while director Terrence Malick is a cinematic genius, casting himself as the wily Captain Smith was the wrong choice. Seemingly in every frame during the last half of the movie, Malick shoves aside such veteran actors as Nick Nolte and Sean Penn to occupy the center of the action.

The trend continues in the most recent DVD special edition. Malick talks on five separate commentary tracks, striking in that he literally doesn't say the name of any other person involved in the production. Twenty hours worth of press interviews are also included, in which the director goes into great detail about his early life, including a game by game description of his career as a Little League pitcher.

Malick is famous for keeping his home phone number public and inviting anyone who "wants to just shoot the breeze" to call him up at random. Sadly, at some point, the director will have to learn to let his art do the talking and stop being so publicity mad.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Auto Focus (2002)

This otherwise excellent biopic on the notorious life of Hogan's Heros star Bob Crane shows how an ending coming out of left field totally derails a movie.

Ten minutes before the final credits, after Crane has been discovered to have been beaten to death in an Arizona hotel room, director Paul Schrader moves heaven and earth to link the homicide to former public school teacher Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch). There are a lot of confusing references to lakes and astrology signs, as well as a lengthy monologue about an unseen "painting party" that the star supposedly attended in 1962.

Who knows? Maybe the fault lies with the source material, the biography by Robert Graysmith. Still the last bit, where the wisecracking San Francisco detective and the nerdy cartoonist brandish some strange looking watch as final proof of their theory (I couldn't bear to rewatch to get the name) is simply too much.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Salt (2010)

An adaption gone totally wrong. Somewhere, Marc Kurlansky is weeping tears of bitter frustration...

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Stand (1994)

A faithful television adaption of Stephen King's classic goes off the rails at the end with a questionable new twist.

With the fate of the last few survivors of a global superflu at stake, the miniseries ends with former rock musician Larry Underwood (Adam Storke) facing off with Satanic foe Randall Flagg (Jamey Sharidan) in Las Vegas. Only in this version, it's a fight to the death.... with dueling guitars!

In an awkward flashback, it is revealed that the pandemic was caused by Underwood selling his soul to Flagg at midnight at a Louisiana crossroads. In exchange for a (ironically brief) taste of stardom, the New Yorker signed a contract in his own blood giving the Devil "anything he desired."

Even this might have been acceptable had the producers stayed with the traditional blues motif. However, with a duel featuring songs from such late-80s pop-metal bands such as Ratt and Skid Row, every last inch of dramatic seriousness is drained from the scene.

So for all you aspiring directors out there, remember. While a little Winger might go fine at your 20th Year High School Reunion, it's probably not a good idea for your first feature.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Breach (2007)

Yet more questionable revisionism from director Billy Ray. While Robert Hanssen might have been the most dangerous Russian spy in American history, there is little proof that he ever worked directly with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. And though the scene at the end with the pumpkin might have seemed fresh and original when written, it feels like it's been done before.