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OK, I can return those DVDs now

Quick reviewage:

Lady in the Water

AWK-warrrrrrd.


Having just read The Man Who Heard Voices, written by definite M. Night Shyamalan supporter Michael Bamberger, I went into the film knowing what Shyamalan tried to do with the story. Hell of a bellyflop, though an ambitious bellyflop. And yendi was right (so was shadesong), that it's funny and often well-acted. But I wasn't really touched by it, and as I know Shyamalan can touch me, I was even more aware that the movie wasn't connecting with me arrrrgh.

In a "he didn't make the film I wanted to see" way, I wanted Lady in the Water to admit more that the characters are stuck in an often arbitrary story. I wanted to see them questioning all of these details and rules, wondering "How does this work? WHY does this work?" I get the feeling that Shyamalan filmed some of that, but cut out most of that. Hey, Moses questioned God; Paul Giamatti and his tenants are allowed to question the forces that have them caught up in trying to fulfill the fairy tale and save Bryce Dallas Howard's angelic Story. They're still allowed to have faith, which is another point the film makes; I just think it could've made the point stronger.

Something Shyamalan could've done to turn around expectations: there's an infamous scene in Lady in the Water where Farber, Bob Balaban's critic character, is confronted by the ravenous, wolf-like Scrunt. (It's infamous because it's almost universally regarded as Shyamalan getting back at critics, mainly for the often angry reaction to his film The Village.) It's actually kind of a clever scene, where Farber starts analyzing what's happening ("this is precisely the moment where the mutation or beast will attempt to kill an unlikeable side character..."), and he says what would happen if this were taking place in an R-rated horror story, and what would happen in a more family-friendly horror story. Farber convinces himself that he'll escape the Scrunt, he turns to leave...and the Scrunt eats him. What I wanted to see? Farber turning, the Scrunt jumping to attack, and Farber managing to sidestep and then punch the Scrunt just enough to knock it to the side. "And sometimes," he would say, "the character will surprise you," and then he'd just barely escape.

("Punch the Scrunt" sounds like code for something.)

Rocky II

Watched with a smile almost throughout. This is a good film, as a lot of you know; I definitely want to watch Rocky III finally, to see Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed become friends. And to see Mr. T dropping charisma bombs, to borrow a phrase from Mike Russell.

Ah, Rocky Balboa: he feels strongly, he's inarticulate about those feelings, he tries so hard to articulate those feelings. So he's a fast talker, being charming by talking talking talking, but when the chips are down, his feelings are obviously deep. Makes me glad for the poem scene. I forget how good a performance Stallone gives as Rocky, that he can give.

(Here are my brief thoughts about the first Rocky, which I first saw last year. And I still think Stallone and Robert Downey, Jr. should play the same character at different times in life. They've become similarly craggy.)

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
smwance
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
I gotta ask, what the hell is a "charisma bomb?"

I haven't seen Lady in the Water mainly because I was so badly disappointed with The Village. I saw enough of The Happening (I snuck in while seeing something else) to realize that movie wasn't very good either.

It's a shame, too. M. Night's first three movies are skillfully, artfully crafted stories that pull you in, generate sympathy and offer a catharsis you don't seen in a lot of modern films. He clearly knows how to tell a good story when he applies himself, and I really hope his earlier movies aren't him just using up a very clever bag of tricks only to have nothing left afterward.
chris_walsh
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
I gotta ask, what the hell is a "charisma bomb"?

"Dropping charisma bombs" is making a hell of a charismatic impact, leaving happily stunned "Whoas" in one's wake. Mike used it to describe Mos Def's performance in Dave Chapelle's Block Party. (I can't find that review, but I remembered the phrase.)
chris_walsh
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't warm to Signs, but for reasons I quickly realized weren't really fair. It's a film about personal reactions to huge, world-changing events, and it had the misfortune to come out after 9/11, a huge, world-changing event that we all had to react to. (Trivia: the film's accident aftermath scene was shot the night of 9/11, and Shyamalan delayed filming to have a small ceremony to commemorate the people who died.) So some of the events in the film felt rather arbitrary to me in comparison, but then, what wouldn't? So I knew my reaction was unfair. I still didn't really like it, though.

I also have issues with Mel Gibson that sometimes keep me from really enjoying his work, with exceptions like Braveheart and Chicken Run.

Still, as much as Shyamalan can frustrate me, I root for him. I want to be moved by him again!
knowmad
Sep. 17th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)
Been a while since I saw Signs, but I remember having a big problem with part of the plot, having to do with the aliens and water (spoilers?). Hoo boy. That part wanted to be War of the Worlds, but it thudded in a major way.
chris_walsh
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that part really wasn't thought through well. Makes me wonder how much science fiction M. Night's experienced.

The water thing now makes me think of my newspaper editor Michael. He'd get a Diet Coke from the machine in back, open it, drink part of it, then forget how long he'd had the can and assume the remaining drink was flat and get another can. He'd sometimes have up to five partially full Diet Cokes around his desk...
smwance
Sep. 18th, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
The water plot point is one that seems to come up a lot with the critical viewers of Signs. I'm able to overlook it only because the plot isn't the point of the movie, but the family issues that I think are brilliantly presented in it. It's not a perfect movie, but I was really moved by it, and despite my issues with Mel Gibson as a person, I thought his portrayal of such a conflicted man was very moving at times.
chris_walsh
Sep. 19th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
Gibson did give a good performance. So did Joaquin Phoenix and the kids.

The family issues certainly were handled better than they were in The Patriot, which felt synthetic to me.
leonardpart6
Sep. 17th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
"Punch the Scrunt" sounds like code for something.

Yes. It means "to make a series of terrible movies".
chris_walsh
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
Hey now.

So...what are your thoughts related to Rocky II? Don't worry, I'm not asking for a full review 'cause I couldn't pay for one.
leonardpart6
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
It's a very good movie hindered by a desire to repeat everything that worked in the first movie, but with the ending everyone wanted the first time (not realizing why the original's ending works). Of all the sequels (yes, even V), it's the only one that openly refuses to take any risks - and it's perfectly content to not do so.

For what it is, though, it works. The acting's solid, the character growth pushes the story where it should. But it could've been so much more.
chris_walsh
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
I can see that. (So it's no Godfather Part II, but Stallone was probably fine with not trying for that.) Things did happen too conveniently: I watched Rocky II's fight and thought I hope the both of them don't go down, that'd be too convenient, and they did, though it wasn't quite as melodramatic/convenient as I feared it would be.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )