Mineshaft Gap

It's a screening log, no more no less. Maybe I'll have something interesting to say one of these days...

Lost threads.

X Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006)

I want to try both Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer for crimes against the cinema. Singer for leaving his opus to be finished by a hack and Ratner for the truly terribly finale he gave the once great X Men trilogy.

Without Singer's vision and gift for spinning the metaphor in his films, X3 has no focus. Singer saw Magneto as a villain, but a sympathetic one coming from a genuine place. In Ratner's film Magneto is just evil, with only glances towards sympathy(mostly in the final plot twist, where he elicits too much sympathy). Also Ratner has no idea how to handle the emotional death scenes. One at the center of the film has no resonance, when it should be devastating.

Plus Halle Berry may be the worst living actress.

A sad way to end a once great series.

More Cronenberg.

Naked Lunch (Cronenberg, 1991)

Cronenberg's beautiful, demented epic is a brilliant way to approach an "unfilmable" novel. Combining Burroughs's life, art and hallucinations into his own brand of fever dream, Cronenberg makes Naked Lunch work through some breathtaking cinematography and performances by a large ensemble.

It is perhaps the furthest statement of Cronenberg as an artist, and nearly comes to the level of his masterpiece, Dead Ringers.

Spider (Cronenberg, 2002)

While definitely a lesser effort than Naked Lunch, Spider is an interesting study of what can be done without dialogue. Good performances from all involved, but most important is Cronenberg showing another example of his mastery of suspense.

Oddball Greatness.

Fast Company (Cronenberg, 1979)

A strange little entry in the Cronenberg corpus, this film celebrates his love of cars and reidculous B films. A great, bizarre movie with a fantastic sound track.

Oh, and did I mention that this movie is strange?

The worst screenplay - ever.

The DaVinci Code (Howard, 2006)

Akiva Goldsman's screenplay from Dan Brown's novel is a travesty of writing. The fact that this man won an Academy Award is just further proof of the invalidity of that body.

But in addition to that issue, almost everything else in the film doesn't work. Howard is the biggest hack in Hollywood, but Hanks and Tatou are usually at least charming. In this everyone is dead except McKellan, who has a good time but can't save the entire film. The casting really seems a bad Cliff's Notes on European actors with even Prochnow showing up.

On the whole the controversy is pointless, since all the anti-Catholic rhetoric comes from the villains, and the film is just a bore.

A Cronenberg Masterpiece.

Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 2006)

I wasn't prepared for how good Cronenberg's Dead Ringers would be. The film plays with most of Cronenberg's favorite themes: sexual perversion, dehumanization of the body and corruption of technology. But here they are all taken to there furthest extent in any of his films. The way Cronenberg crafts the tale, slowly revealing everything you need to know and constantly playing with your sympathies shows a mastery of narrative and storytelling.

In addition to this Cronenberg is given his best conduit in the utterly brilliant performance of Jeremy Irons. His ability to craft such defined characters with body language is remarkable, you always know if it is Beverly or Elliot. The arc of Beverly through out the film is one of purely-Cronenbergian tragedy, and Irons plays it beautifully.

Robin Wood argued that Cronenberg films show a sexual fear. But I feel that this is misguided. Cronenberg seems to show that sexuality has been corrupted in a corrupt world. The damaged men of his films only see their own hollowness after experiencing the female. This drives them mad, but it is not the sex that puts them over the edge it is the self realization. His films are a brilliant essay on self loathing.

An odd sort of hope.

Time of the Wolf (Haneke, 2003)

Michael Haneke might be my favorite living director(excepting Godard of course). Based on the two films I have seen, he is a man that has such a distinct style in both writing and visuals that he might rank with the great auteurs. Plus, his avoidance of pat answers gives all his films an edge than almost no American films could match.

Time of the Wolf is brilliant social comment, addressing everything from racism and immigration to bourgeois capitalism and masculinity. His critiques move from blatant to impressively subtle, and his characterizations all have depth. But most important are the last two shots, which manage to find a true redemption amongst the death.

I can't wait to see more of this man's films.

Sex and Car Crashes.

Crash (Cronenberg, 1996)

Janet Maslin was right when she described Cronenberg's 1996 masterpiece as sex and car crashes. But it truly is that and so much more. Crash is film with absolutely no exciting elements but one that is also one of the best thrillers of the 90s. It examines the fetishization of technology and how that leads to the fetishization of death. The film is truly made by the brilliance of Cronenberg's script and his mercurial preciseness with his camera. At all times Cronenberg lets the film unfold in his rhythms.

It is rare that a film can leave you feeling violated and thrilled without almost anything occurring. Crash is a massively underappreciated film.

Ship rolls over, yawn.

Poseidon (Petersen, 2006)

There are maybe 30 good minutes in the new Poseidon Adventure remake, and they are pretty great. The capsizing, the elevator shaft, these scenes are fun and taught. But any time the film requires characters, or any time the film stops for more than 30 second, it is just dismal. Really no one in the film manages to turn in a character performance, for the most part it is just an excuse to have Josh Lucas run around being gallant.

Plus it may have the worst script this year.


Scanners (Cronenberg, 1980)

I wasn't really as enthralled by Cronenberg's first breakthrough feature as I thought I might be. I think in many ways his earlier The Brood is a more rewarding and interesting film. But Scanners certainly features some great scenes and wonderful characters, especially an amazingly evil Michael Ironsides.

But on the whole, the film doesn't work as well as his seemingly more personal work, or his best mainstream efforts(The Fly).

World of Warcraft.

eXistenZ (Cronenberg, 1999)

Yes, I am in the middle of a huge Cronenberg kick. eXistenZ is a film that I loved when it was first released and seems oddly even more prophetic now in this world of The Sims and World of Warcraft. A very interesting and disturbing entry into the world of Cronenberg's body horror. Watching it, or any of his films, makes me feel scared in a way that few movies can.


Mission:Impossible:III (Abrams, 2006)

Walking out of M:i:III I couldn't help but thinking that it was just about as good as that kind of film could be. And yet I was still held at a level of remove from the entire affair. While I loved Phillip Seymore Hoffman, why he had so few scenes was beyond me, but the rest of the film was simply mildly entertaining, though it features some of the best action scenes in the last few years. Still, something like The New World can hold me and even entertain me more than a dozen action films.

I just hope this doesn't make me a card carrying snob.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. United 93
2. A Prairie Home Companion
3. Dave Chapelle's Block Party
4. Hard Candy
5. V for Vendetta
6. Thank You For Smoking
7. Mission:Impossible:III
8Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
9. Slither
10. American Dreamz

No Laughing Matter.

Stick It (Bendinger, 2006)

With a rote, text-book script that contains all of three laughs, bending has really fallen from the pretty decent Bring it On. While the third act is decent, what it takes to get there is just painful.

A terrible script, coupled with very stilted performances, shows that safe is almost never any good.