Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Cinema Glances

The Orphanage- okay, this one was on DVD. The packaging made this look like it was a sort of directorial followup by Guillermo Del Tor to Pan's Labyrinth, but it isn't. He was a producer, but some other Spaniard is the actual director. Nonetheless, this is a pretty effective ghost story. It relies more on lighting and sound effects, in the tradition of The Haunting, to make its scares. The little kid in the film becomes 'disagreeable' way too quickly to be believable but all the rest of it is pretty good, including the film's ending... which could have been really syrupy and mawkish, but since the whole film deals with bad things happening to children a little relief was warranted.

Public Enemies- Michael Mann's revisit of Heat, only set in the 1930's. A fair number of liberties taken with history, but the period 'feels' really real, in this gangster movie based on a nonfiction book (that didn't have said liberties in it). While this movie is good, I came away from it really feeling like it was a missed opportunity. I liked Johnny Depp and Christian Bale both, no problems with any actors, but this movie just lacked drama. It reminded me oddly of Tom Cruise's recent Valkyrie. That film had everything going for it but was just not 'there'. This is a well-made movie that will just NOT go into the upper tier of gangster movies like Miller's Crossing or The Untouchables. Heat all those years ago had the same problem. The fireworks promised by having De Niro and Pacino in the same film never materialised. I think Michael Mann has an eye for making a good looking film but he just won't push the content to where the audience is really moved. There are moments in The Untouchables or my personal highwater mark for gangster movies, Road to Perdition that I will just never forget. This movie doesn't have any such moments.

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs- really well-animated and the texture work on the various critters is unbelievable. A great argument for CG being the new stop-motion animation in a way. I saw the 3D version and it worked really well. Clear picture and no post-film headache. The story is not nearly as funny as the first one, but the quest plot moves along fast enough to keep it interesting. It does have some good moments, the highlight for me being the laughing gas scene I think.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- my view is pretty much the same as the majority of reviewers. It is good, darker than the others, more grown up. The movie dispenses with a lot of the side characters and background to focus on the teenage love pangs, which the book did not get into nearly as much, but that you really could believe was going on. In other words, the movie is a pretty good version of the events told in the book, but from a slightly different viewpoint. It was probably a good move. Most of the background details are alluded to in the movie for all the Potterphiles who need them... the movie doesn't contradict. There are some pretty scary bits in the movie, and I don't mean that just little kids would find them scary. Considering how dark and violent the last book is, this movie is a pretty good indicator that they won't try to pull punches in the last two movies.

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