Mineshaft Gap

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


Superman Returns (Singer, 2006)

I'll get the easy part out of the way first: Bryan Singer is the best creator of blockbusters that Hollywood has right now (I still consider Jackson to be a New Zealander). He manages to fit emotion and interesting ideas into his hellaciously fun popcorn films.

Superman Returns fulfills most of those provisions. Brandon Routh is a suprisingly good Superman, and Spacey and Posey both get a lot out of their roles. Kate Bosworth is near-disaterously miscast, but manages to not be too distracting. In fact, the only problem with the film is the lack of focus. Overlong at two and a half hours, Singer should have condenced his film down to its essence: loss, survival and change. Instead we get a little too much Christ imagery and an overplayed father-son angle that seems to go nowhere.

But Singer still directs popcorn better than anyone, and the plane rescue is a great cheer moment: it manages to be cheesy and perfect at the same time. However, the best moments in the movie are almost silent, like Clark watching Lois ascend in an elevator: a wrenching, beautiful moment. It is easy, and perhaps frequently appropriate, to read gay themes into Singer's films, and the beating of Superman definitly plays and is shot in a way similar to a gay bashing or hate crime. In fact the sequence walks the fine line of throwing off the tone of the film, as the sudden ugliness of the scene is initally offputting. But like all good directors, Singer manages to work it out by the end.

Even if Superman Returns manages to go for too much, it is much better to see that than a film devoid of ideas like The Omen. Singer is not at their level, but he has a sesability in line with Howard Hawks or William Wyler: character studies in action films. Maybe if we are lucky Singer can develop into something one day. With his X-Men films and now Superman Returns he certainly seems to be on the cusp of something big. Here's hoping.

Current 2006 Top Ten:
1. United 93
2. A Prairie Home Companion
3. An Inconvenient Truth
4. Dave Chapelle's Block Party
5. Superman Returns
6. Nacho Libre
7. Hard Candy
8. V for Vendetta
9. Thank You For Smoking
10. Mission:Impossible:III

Twice the gore.

High Tension (Aja, 2003)

What a great first 75 minutes and an awful last 15. Aja the writer seems to fail Aja the director, as the third act twist effectively invalidates all of the, yes, high tension that had come before. This guy will make a good movie one day, though. I'll be seeing The Hills Have Eyes soon.

Hostel (Roth, 2006)

On a certain perverse level I really like and even admire Roth's sophomore effort. After a rough first few minutes, I really grew to be with these characters. His problem was choosing torture as his hook. Torture is almost totally uncompelling on screen, unless you choose the Miike-
Audition route and show it in grisly detail. Roth may have more tact than Miike(who appears in Hostel in a funny cameo, if you know who Miike is) but his film's lack the Japanese master's punch. Still, just like Aja Roth may make an interesting film one day if he develops a more interesting take on humanity than the meat puppet.


The Bakery Girl of Monceau (Rohmer, 1963)

My first Rohmer film the first Moral Tale is an interesting and quite sad exploration of male vanity and fickleness. In telling the story of the perfect woman versus the woman on the side, Rohmer eviscerates a certain bourgeois morality and sexual class system.

It also becomes quite hard to watch, as the young man is revealed to be steadily more cold and callous. In some ways it reminded me of Cheever's "Goodbye, My Brother" in it's use of the unreliable narrator and slow reveal.

Within the New Wave, this early Rohmer is more Truffaut than Godard, the literary expressed as the literary rather than transformed into the cinematic. That is not a criticism, however, so much as a different style and one that works beautifully here. It is up there with Antoine et Colette for the best New Wave shorts I have seen.

Scene by Scene

The Omen (Moore, 2006)

What a boring, flat film John Moore has made. Managing to get bad performances from a fairly talented set of actors, The Omen simply recreates the 1976 original an uninspired and C+ film school sort of way. Ridiculous art design matched with robotic acting (except for David Thewlis, who should have been the main character of this tale) meets pointless camerawork to make a terrible film.



L'Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)

The profoundly sad closing moments of L'Avventura center around one important decision: to make a connection or to stay separate and apart. In the moment that Monica Vitti's hand lingers behind Gabrielle Ferzetti's head lasts a lifetime and aches with melancholy. Finally she touches him, she bares herself to try to reconnect but it is no use. Antonioni cuts to a wide shot, emphasizing their distance from each other and the world around them.

And with that culmination, he ends perhaps the cinema's most moving statement about alienation. It is heartbreaking.

Let me borrow some sweats.

Nacho Libre (Hess, 2006)

What an improvment over the massivly overrated Napoleon Dynamite. Thanks to Hess's intriguing sense of location and the brilliant clowning of Jack Black, Nacho Libre becomes silly, funny and endearing. Though it seems to be taking a critical beating, I think this is one of the best of the year.

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

All thumbs.

Even Cowgirls get the Blues (Van Sant, 1993)

Okay. Van Sant is a talented filmmaker with a wonderful gift for directing actors and a genuine eye for Western beauty. Does this film work? I'm not sure. Uma Thurman and company give it their all, and it has a wonderful pictoral beauty, but there is something lacking here that was in My Own Private Idaho.

The film is a lot of fun to watch, however, and Van Sant displays great wit with his prettiness(Mr. Miyagi watching Sissy and Bonanza from the ridge is a sublime moment). A nice companion piece to the greater My Own Private Idaho.

An action movie.

The Hills Have Eyes (Craven, 1977)

Wes Craven is just a plain bad filmmaker. His supposed "horror classic", The Hills Have Eyes, is really more of an action film, and one that fails to maintain any level of suspense at that. Paling in comparison to nearly every other 70s horror flick I have seen, it is pedestrian in its characterization and effect. In fact only the overvalued Craven name has kept this from being a forgotten curio.

Supporting Actors.

The Break-Up (Reed, 2006)

Vincent D'Onofrio and Jon Favreau make The Break-Up watchable, but only during their limited scenes. In any other moments (besides the few decent scenes of Vaughn mugging) are strained at best. Anniston will never be more than a TV star, and this will just further her decline.

Reed and the writers have good intentions, but nothing in their finished project comes close to an interesting human story.

A Horror Movie.

An Inconvenient Truth (Guggenheim, 2006)

The new documentary of Al Gore's campaign against global warming is as frightening a film ever made. Though it perhaps is overplayed in the hagiography of Gore, when it focuses on the lectures it is compelling and terrifying. The crowd a saw it with gasped at several key moments throughout the film, and I believe it has the power to sway people toward understanding of global warming.

The force of the film comes in refuting the claims against global warming and the feeling that Gore genuinely wishes to change the world for the better. He is in fact quite charming by doing a great job of accepting his own nature, that of a college professor, and simply stating things he feels with a passion. It is a wonderful performance, and one that makes you hope he runs for President in '08. After this film, I wouldn't hesitate to vote for him.

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