(2005) dir. Garth Jennings
viewed: 05/06/05 at Loews Metreon Theatres, SF, CA
It was a getting off early day from work and what movie that I was interested in that was starting at the right time and POW!! here I am revisiting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, no longer some quirky low-budget 1980’s BBC show, but now a special effects-laden anachronism with a largely American cast.
I had a moderately soft spot for the original tv series, and as a teen had read the first two of Douglas Adams’ books. And I have friends (some who would proudly be called “nerds”) who still are quite ardent fans of this cult of sci-fi humor.
And the first time around, in its time context, I think this was pretty clever and amusing. However, this time, even with all the more sophisticated visuals and effects, this whole concept, pacing, and humor seemed out of place. This story is a story of the early 1980’s, not something that feels very contemporary. As true as it attempts to be, the vision of Adams’ was a uniquely English perspective, with themes that truly commented on the time that it was written.
I tend to like dated Science Fiction more than the real thing, but this film just felt sort of wrong (and it wasn’t particularly clever or funny.) The largely American cast varied in the quality. Though Mos Def turned in the best performance as Ford Prefect, hands down. Still, other than him it all seemed to have the wrong flavor.
That, and it just wasn’t very funny.
(2004) dir. James Wan
Saw starts off promisingly enough. Two characters awake to find themselves shackled in a dark disused basement bathroom with a bloody body lying in the middle of the room between them. They spend the first half of the movie reconstructing how they got there (They were kidnapped but don’t remember the kidnap well). It reminded me of a similar transposition of random characters in a situation in which they have to suss out where they are and what is going on in Cube (1997)
This technique works to set an immediate mystery (and it works), engaging the audience right off the bat. There is, however, a lot of pretense in it, because the situation is so bizarre that it seems more hypothetical than real. It is, after all, the pretense of the movie, is it not?
I felt that the film weakened as it strayed from this perspective, focussing on the prisoners and their unravelling of the mystery as their desperation grows. Because there is this parallel story of the cops who are trying to catch the kidnapper/killer that is outside of this room, outside of this closed world of information, which is also done a lot in flashbacks, but it is a separate narrative trail, if you will.
All in all, Saw was above average as a thriller largely due to creativity. A friend of mine remarked that the film’s cleverness and twists at the end were not necessarily predictable, but that you could see what the filmmaker was trying to do, leading one through by the nose. While, I can see that, I wouldn’t say that that was any more criminal than most Hollywood flicks. Even if you know a surprise is coming, it can still be effective if you don’t know what it is.
(2004) dir. Pedro Almodóvar
It’s been a long time, more than a year, since I tried to write one of these things. So, I’ll keep it simple.
It took me a few tries to get through watching this film, but really that was due to tiredness. I found it interesting and engaging, as is typical for me with the films of Pedro Almod