Thursday, August 26, 2010

[MISP] A couple current movie reviews..


“INCEPTION” and “THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE” - Again, not that my opinion is particularly valuable or well-informed, but both these reviews on current movies appeared on KUNM, and one makes reference to micro-budget filmmmaking, so they might be of some interest.


Also, since I’m posting, a recent spot I did to address a movie-going issue, and also to “reach out” to some theatrical distributors: Movie Theater Announcement re cell phone texting


Finally, just suggesting an incredible film I recalled the other day, after talking to another filmmaker who also considers it “all time top ten”, “SPIDER”, starring Ralph Fiennes). Trailer:  (BTW, this and the PRESTIGE trailer linked below are two of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. Of course it helps that they’re great films).


      Jim Terr

           Santa Fe, New Mexico USA  505-989-9298




Film review “INCEPTION” – KUNM
(Please note that I don’t say here that there’s nothing to get – just that I couldn’t get it)

        Jim Terr © 2010


I just had one of the strangest movie-going experiences of my life.


Watching INCEPTION, the new Leonardo diCaprio blockbuster, I was constantly trying to figure out if this was a real sci-fi / action film or perhaps a parody of the genre, or of Alice and Wonderland and its many levels and levels, down and down the rabbit hole...


I kept thinking of the old joke about the guy – how can I say this on public radio? – who has to pay a few bucks to a stranger in a bar to hold his privates. But it turns out he has a larger bet with someone else that he can make that happen.


Likewise, I was trying to figure out if there’s some private joke or dare here between the director and his buddies: Can I spend $200 million to make a film that’s incomprehensible, and see if no one notices? Perhaps I’m just exposing myself as dense -- but that’s the risk in doing an honest movie review – I just couldn’t follow this film.


The basic premise is intriguing – getting inside people’s dreams to extract information and implant notions. And I wanted to see the film because the director, Chris Nolan, made one of my favorite surprise-ending movies, THE PRESTIGE  (trailer: ), about two battling magicians. The difference was that getting to the surprise ending of the PRESTIGE was fun, and in this case I was just marking time, hoping it would all be over soon. You know you’re in trouble when you’re wishing all the heroes would be killed so you can get out of there.


You know you’re in trouble when there’s not a moment without suspenseful music overlaying the dialogue in a vain attempt to distract you from the fact that it’s totally incomprehensible. One of the longest and most mind-numbing action sequences takes place in some vacant alpine ski resort, as indistinguishable guys in white parkas shoot each other with white guns-- who’s shooting who? Who knows, and who cares? The only possible explanation for this sequence is that the director had a friend with a condemned ski resort, who needed some cash for a location fee. Or perhaps some mountainous state or country was offering tax rebates or guaranteed loans to the filmmakers, to shoot there.


Speaking of filmmaking, this one scored 4,000 on my personal cost-benefit scale, meaning its $200m budget was 4,000 times the $50k budget for which I and any number of people I know could make a more interesting movie. And yes, I’ve seen plenty more interesting films made for $50k or less. The classic Ambrose Bierce short story and Twilight Zone episode, “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge”, covered the mental time-warp element of this film much more quickly and interestingly.


Among the many concrete failings of this thing was the idea that the “victim”, as it were, the heir to a huge multi-national energy corporation, has to take a scheduled airliner to transport himself and his father’s casket to – somewhere or other – rather than using a private jet. Thereby exposing himself to numerous potential kidnappers and brain-robbers. And by the way, neither he nor his father looked like they could balance a checkbook, let alone build or maintain a huge corporation. Poor casting abounds in this film.


One of the few really original elements of INCEPTION, as my companion pointed out, is that it had not one black character, not even the stereotypical security expert or computer hacker. Early on in the film, our whispered wisecracks were annoying the folks in the next row forward, but before long they were all asleep, keeled over on one another like a row of dominos. These, I fear, are the best alternatives in watching this spectacular train wreck of a film. This is Jim Terr.





The Girl Who Played With Fire – KUNM review

            Film Review Jim Terr © 8-2010


The first film adapted from the hit book series, The Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson, was a revelation – a fantastic ride - if you don’t mind a little sadism, violence and revenge in your Swedish thriller entertainment. 


That film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – and in fact the book series itself – evidently blindsided the American entertainment industry. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO had not only a twisted, exciting story of a pair of investigators – an “unlikely” pair, as the cliché goes, investigating a decades-old-disappearance, but a wonderful, unexpected lead female actor, Noomi Rapace (NO-may Rah-PAHS), a spellbinder who would never have been cast in any such American production. In fact, one of the more intriguing aspects of this whole phenomenon is contemplating how badly the rumored American remake will soften the best elements of the Swedish original – including, probably, the choice of lead actress.


So now we have the film version of the second book of the trilogy, called THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. If you saw the first film, I think there’s no denying that the new installment lacks many elements that made the first so exciting. Mainly, the element of newness and surprise in these characters, and the deep doo-doo they step in. And the scenes of violence and delicious revenge just don’t seem to have the edge of the first film, apart from the added familiarity.


Even so, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is a first-rate thriller, reminiscent in many ways of the original Bond movies, with a global canvass and odd, terrifying villains. But I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone who didn’t see the first, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – or at least read the first book - because I think the viewer would be lost.


The new story picks up where the old one left off, this time with our young computer hacker heroine, Lisbeth, and her partner, journalist Mikael, investigating a sex trafficking ring which turns out to involve – surprise – Lisbeth’s long-lost father.

Call me obsessed, but I couldn’t get over how, once again, the distributors chose to use subtitles without a black outline – which costs not a penny more – so that unless you happen to understand Swedish, much key dialogue is lost when the movie scene has white or yellow highlights – which it often does. 


Un-outlined subtitles and all, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is playing at the Screen in Santa Fe and the Century 14 downtown in Albuquerque.



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