Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bargain shows in Logan Square

I've been going to movies lately. There's a three dollar bargain theater right down the street from here, and it's amazing what you'll talk yourself into seeing when you have no tv, no stereo, and it's only three bucks. In reverse chronological order:

Accepted is ridiculous in that its basic fundamental premise has to do with potential college students that have plenty of money and want to go to school, except no school will accept them. Evidently nobody writing (and there were quite a few writers who collected a paycheck for the screenplay), directing or producing this film has ever heard of community college. Also, how hard is it to get into a school if money's not an issue? Now, if the fake college in this movie preached school being free for everyone, that might be a good start for a legitimate and nicely subversive comedy. Also, I haven't seen this much surgical enhancement (female only, of course) in a movie since... since... ummm, never mind. Further evidence that the film cares nothing for reality, and so it exists in a sort of vacuum, a pneumatic effort to throw a random assortment of jokes at the audience and see if any stick. When Lewis Black is on screen, pretty much all of them do.

Monster House is a good little movie sprung from the Spielberg/Zemeckis philosophy that death and terror should be a major part of any movie for children (call it the Hansel and Gretel approach). So, it was made using the same motion capture animation that made The Polar Express so astonishingly creepy, except they decided to sidestep the uncanny valley by giving all the characters giant cartoon heads. The effect is not unlike a Chris Cunningham film: normal, ultra-realistic bodies and deformed gigantic heads (it's also not unlike a cartoon-characters-on-ice performance, in which the performer is given normally-proportioned costuming except for a giant head to place over his own).

X-Men 3... what can be said about Brett Ratner that does him justice? That he's the most mediocre prominent filmmaker working today? More than Michael Bay, who at least has a personal stamp of ridiculousness and frenetic stabs at iconic imaging and then some quips? Watching a Ratner is like a Film School 101 class, with every directorial decision (or lack thereof) prompting the viewer to ask him or herself, "Okay, what could a filmmaker do to add intelligence, personality, originality, dramatic tension, or to further explore the characters here?" It's filmmaking on autopilot - you can sing along even if you've never seen the film before. I'll just add that a major character dies halfway through - perhaps THE major character of the first two movies and of the comic book series in general - and another major character dies in the first twenty minutes; and yet, not only does it not leave much of an impression emotionally, both times it feels like a somewhat minor plot point. Brett Ratner's films are like pages out of a coloring book - you can tell what the picture's supposed to be, but we're still waiting for somebody to color it in to make it watchable.

Also seen: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, last night, at the Music Box. Bliss, although a little clunkier than I remembered. This isn't fair to the film, but it feels a little bit like a rehearsal for some of Almodovar's less frantic recent work.

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