jmac Movie Journal

jmac Movie Journal

I love movies. Most of the movies I watch appear at the screen of the nearby Railroad Square Cinema, or on the TV set of my friend and neighbor Andy, who has a special deal with everyone who publishes DVDs to send him a copy of each new release and put it on his tab. I swear.

I don't consider these full-on, qualified reviews, but just collections of thoughts I had after seeing each film.

I will avoid putting major spoilers in these entries, writing only the sorts of things I don't mind reading before I see films, but I suspect my tolerance for plot point foreknowledge may be on high side, so please be careful.

The City of Lost Children
Consumed: 12/04/99

For much of the film's start, I feared I was watching a French Time Bandits, a whole lot of bizarre and beautiful imagery kludged together with little attention paid to how any of it was supposed to fit, but it pulled itself together about halfway through, becoming a very enjoyable story while staying beautiful to look at.

It's the story of Mr. One, a simple, friendly strongman whose adopted little brother (an impossibly cute toddler who acts utterly oblivious to his peril and tries to eat everything nearby, and whose only line in the film is "burp") is kidnapped by the agents of Krank, a cruel homonculus beseiged by nightmares, trying to have good dreams for once by stealing them from the minds of children. Mr. One makes a friend from a member of a junior theiving ring, and off they go to rescue the kids (as well as Krank's unwilling clone assistants).

The movie takes place in a skewed version of an early 20th century European harbor town, and has lots of retro-tech of the kind that I most easily associate with CD-ROM adventure games like Riven. Lots of miraculous machines made from wood and brass and using staticky interlaced monochrome video screens and circular iris-dilating doors that go 'ssshnck' when they close. I really dig that stuff. Conspicuous amounts of Rube Goldberg devices lying around, too. Yay.

Dark Star
Consumed: 12/04/99

John Carpenter's first film, or something. Yes, it has all the stuff you'd except to see in a student's science fiction film from 1974; bucketfuls of synth music accompanying young and extraordinarily hairy actors as they pull off wonderfully cheesy homages to 2001 and chase beach-ball aliens through 'engine rooms' that are so obviously the basement of a building somewhere on campus. But the story explodes with creativity and love, full of dark humor done right, capped with a very satifying ending.

I dunno much about Carptenter -- the only film of his I've seen anywhere near recently is They Live -- but it's wonderful fun to see his just-getting-started filmmaking genius peeking out now and again from behind the constraints of tiny budget and mediocre acting. Many brief scenes are flat-out ingenious; pay attention to the cuts and camera angles when the alien (which makes threatening beach ball noises; I respect that they chose not to try to hide its obvious beach-ballness by having it make more 'normal' alien sounds) steals a broom from one character and whacks him upside the head with it. Great stuff.

The special effects ain't bad, either. They use a lot of the... emf, I dunno the word for it. The same look of glowing, sliding, sparkling animated cosmic thingamajigs epitomized in the work of people like Mike Jittlov. I really go for that, much moreso than I would for the fair-to-midding-quality CG animation which would undoubtedly grace this film were it made today. It's more... I don't want to say 'honest', but. Hm. Maybe 'alive'. I just like it.

The acting quality, as I mentioned, is variable; the actors did the best job in scenes that I'd think would be the most fun, such as trying to convince an artifically intelligent bomb, stuck in the bomb bay, that it shouldn't detonate. They more or less read their lines tonelessly in the less intense scenes. But that's OK, because we know that these are just straight lines for an upcoming gag, and they really do all work in the end.

Everyone should see this movie. It is a good-for-you movie.

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