We've been watching a lot of movies here this weekend. We went out and rented a handful of DVDs on Thursday, and I had a few new ones here that I had recieved for reviewing purposes that I was eager to see, so....
Unfortunately, our local Hollywood Video didn't have the two films I went there specifically to rent – the 2006 horror comedy Black Sheep and the 1983 Roy Scheider classic Blue Thunder. I still can't believe they didn't have Blue Thunder!
Thursday evening we watched – as our Valentine's Day flick – was Must Love Dogs, a 2005 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Diane Lane, written & directed by Gary David Goldberg. While it was formulaic and predictable, the cast – all of them over 40 – was great, and the movie was very well-written and acted. It was also nice for a change to watch a movie about grown-ups – I just wish the story had been fresher.
We finally got to see Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf. While I kept waiting for Shrek to show up, it was a fairly entertaining and straight-forwrard telling of the ancient story. The motion capture, computer-generated actors were, as usual, distractingly plastic, and I never really saw the point of making the movie that way if you're just going to make the cartoon characters look like the actors voicing them, but... it was okay. Liked it about as much as 300.
Was very impressed by Ben Affleck's direction of Gone, Baby, Gone, based on the Dennis Lehane P.I. novel of the same name. Now, I'm not much of a Lehane fan – I don't feel that he's quite as impressive an author as he and his followers seem to believe – but I thought the movie turned out quite good. Casey Affleck was decent enough in the lead, I still have a huge crush on Michelle Monaghan, and Ed Harris was brilliant, as always. The supporting cast was particularly impressive, and big brother Ben did a remarkable job of capturing Boston and its people on film. Definitely worth checking out.
Another flick I'd been eager to see was the Korean-produced D-War (Dragon Wars), director Hyung-rae Shim's second attempt at making an international monster movie blockbuster, after 1999's Yonggary (known in America as Reptilian). Like that earlier film, D-War was shot in English with an American cast, but the story is deeply rooted in Korean mythology. basically, it's about a war between two giant serpents – one evil and one good – both of whom need to get ahold of a young woman containing the power to allow one of them to become an all-powerful celestial dragon. Unfortunately, while the premise is pretty cool, and the extensive creature effects were extremely well-realized by Shim's own, homegrown FX house, the script is inane, filled with gaping plot holes, inconsistencies, underdeveloped characters and banal dialogue. That said, I have to admit that I enjoyed it despite its many weaknesses. I guess I'm just a sucker for giant monsters wreaking havoc. Besides, it tickled me that Shim filmed several scenes in L.A's Bronson Canyon; it gave the flick a nice tie to all those old Hollywood B-movies that I love so much. Intentional or not, it was a nice homage.
The movie we watched that had probably the most impact on me though, was Julie Taymor's Across the Universe, a musical set during the turbulent Sixties, written around and incorporating the songs of the Beatles. The story is slight, predictible and filled with Beatles references, but the cast of mostly-unknowns are all very appealling (and good singers), and Taymor's background as a graphic designer really showed in the film's truly astounding visuals. My wife reviewed the movie in considerable detail in her own blog, so I won't bother here. But I will say that I really enjoyed it, and while it's not perfect, I found it charming, involving and frequently impressive.
Besides – any movie that has five Salma Hayeks in nurse's uniforms is worth seeing.