Monthly Archives: May 2007

Review: Proof

For a story about a groundbreaking mathematical proof, Proof had virtually zero math in it.

If you ask me, that’s a good thing.

Let me put my review in the form of a mathematical equation, though. (Because I can. Yes, I know it’s a cheap thrill and there’s no real point to it, but it makes me happy, and that’s what’s important. Go ahead; sit there and mock, you cowards who won’t even comment.)

([tag]Gwyneth Paltrow[/tag]) + ([tag]Anthony Hopkins[/tag]) + (Award Winning Stage Play script) – ([tag]Jake Gyllenhaal[/tag]) = (a very good movie)

Okay, that was a cheap shot at Jake. I actually think he did a really good job in the movie despite, as my wife pointed out, not looking enough like a geek to be a mathematician.

The mood of the film was very important in selling it to me. The director did an excellent job, through pacing, different camera shots, and of course the actors, of creating a situation where you weren’t really sure whether Catherine was loosing her mind. You could go either way… it could just be the pressure of her father’s death after giving up her life to care for him, plus the arrival of her well-meaning, but overbearing sister that’s making her act a little flat, or she really could be succumbing to schizophrenia. She wonders if she’s going over the edge from the very beginning of the movie, and you take the journey with her. To me, that was the real focus of the movie: is she going nuts? Can Hal stabalize her?

While I liked it quite a bit, though, it didn’t make me sit back and go “wow” at the end. It was a good film, engrossing, but didn’t leave me either excited or pondering life. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a little more of a triumph at the end, but that would have been the “Hollywood ending”, and I’m glad they didn’t do that, since it kept it more real. The question that remained open about her future was more satisfying, if not as exciting.

This is a hard one for me to rate, honestly. I really liked it, but it didn’t touch me as deeply as I’d hoped. Maybe it will for you.

For now…. three and half stars.

[tags]mathematics, stage to screen[/tags]

Review: Down with Love

Quick, think of all those movies from the ’60s. The fun ones. The ones with energy that just kept going. Fast dialogue. Bold colors. Doris Day. Frankie and Annette. Tony Randall. Outdoor locations filmed indoors (and you could easily tell). Now think of the television shows of that time. Ed Sullivan and variety shows. “What’s my secret”-type game shows.

Now smoosh them all together in one movie that, on the surface, talks about feminism, gender equality, one-upmanship, and love. Throw in a couple musical numbers. That’s the formula for Down with Love.

The best thing about this movie was the look. They nailed the “hyper-reality” of the ’60s as seen through a Hollywood lens. The split screens for phone conversations, the hats and hair, the overly large rooms, the fake outdoors, the variety show music, the overacting. Everything was perfect. They even had Tony Randall himself.

Aside from some brilliantly written lines, however, the script didn’t do much for me. They concentrated so much on catching the authentic ’60s feel that when they tried to fit in some 21st century it seemed out of place. The split screen with the exercising was a great idea for a visual as a way to make fun of both the topic of conversation and the filming/editing methods, but comes off way too vulgar for the movie. I’d like to say it took me out of the story, but I was never really in the story to begin with. I really just spent most of the movie enjoying the nostalgia it created.

If you were a big fan of the ’60s comedies, you’d probably get a kick out of this movie. If you’re looking for something to fill 90 minutes, you could do worse. If you’re looking for a movie that’ll give you a couple chuckles, go for it. If you’re looking for a good movie… look elsewhere.

Best line, though, was delivered (in a whiny voice) by David Hyde Pierce:

Where’s my Geisha? I need my shoes.

Three stars.

[tags]sixties, David Hyde Pierce, Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellweger[/tags]

Review: The Spider-Man Trilogy

This weekend I saw Spider-Man 3. Before I got to the theater, I’d been hearing all week from critics and friends that it was “okay” or it “wasn’t as good as the other two.” Some people went so far as to totally bash it. I tried not to listen. I wanted to go in with only my own fears and expectations about whether director Sam Raimi and his team could pull off the tri-fecta.

Spider-ManLet’s face it: this movie had a lot to live up to. The first two movies were unqualified successes by any measure. It could be (and has been) argued that Spider-Man single-handedly brought back the super-hero movie and embued it with a sense of quality that hasn’t been seen since Superman in 1978 (okay, by today’s standards Superman was a bit campy in parts, but in its day it blew your socks off – and if you ignore the campy bits, it still does). Then, by virtually all accounts, Spider-Man 2 equalled or surpassed that quality (it had been years since I’d left a theater with my jaw hanging that wide open—as impressed as I was by the success of Spider-Man, I never imagined they could up the ante for number two). The release date for the third movie was announced before the second even opened, and there wasn’t even a script. Audience anticipation, and the pressure on the film’s creators, approached Star Wars levels.

Spider-Man 2Personally, my anticipation was as high as anyone’s. I couldn’t wait for the next installment. But then I heard the news: they were going to have two villains. My anticipation levels dropped a bit. From a writer’s perspective, the more primary characters you have, the more difficult it is to write a quality story that fits into two hours. It’s hard to fit that many relationships into that time with a deep sense of quality. Then I heard that the rumor was wrong—there weren’t two villains, there were three! My anticipation dropped like a rock. All I could picture was Batman and Robin, the film that almost single-handedly killed the super-hero movie.

Then I heard one of the villains was Venom. Big burst of hope. My favorite Spidey bad-guy. Then I saw some footage. Another big burst of hope. It looked amazing. I was still worried about trying to shoehorn too much in to one film, but anticipation was almost back to original levels.

Spider-Man 3So, did it meet my expectations? Sadly, no. But it didn’t miss by much, and that’s saying a lot. It wasn’t an improvement on the previous two films, but I still put it head-and-shoulders above most other movies of its type (especially sequels). It had the drama and character development I expect from Spider-Man films. It certainly had the top-notch effects. Lots of action, which was good, but they stumbled a little bit there; maybe it was my seat (I was forced to sit very close to the screen and off-center), but I had a hard time following all the action at times—especially during the first fight scene in the alley. I think they were using too many “hand-held” shots and tight framing for my taste. The same kind of thing that put me off in The Bourne Supremacy, though nowhere near the same levels.

The only scene that I can say really felt out of place, though it was still used well to tell the story, was the dance at the Jazz club. I just couldn’t get my heart into that one.

I did like the Saturday Night Fever-ish montage, as it nicely paralleled the “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” montage from the second film.

Spider-Man 3Speaking of parallels, this trilogy nicely parallels the ’70s/’80s Superman films.

  • Film #1: Origin story. Recurring villain is introduced as main adversary.
  • Film #2: Hero loses/gives up powers to become normal, but must regain them to save the world.
  • Film #3: Hero gives in to his dark side, with the help of a catalyst. Bad things ensue.

(So obviously we can expect that in Spider-Man 4, he will rid the world of nuclear weapons.)

The fortunate difference between the two trilogies is that the Superman series got progressively worse, whereas the Spider-Man series has only had a slight mis-step in the third film.

My recommendation: see #3 in the theater while you can.

Spider-Man 1: 4.5 stars

Spider-Man 2: 5 stars

Spider-Man 3: 4 stars

[tags]Spiderman, Tobey McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, J.K. Simmons, Venom, Sandman, Superman, super-heroes, blockbusters[/tags]