Friday, January 28, 2005

I have to say that the bland Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow improves on second viewing. When I saw it for the first time, the movie had bored me after a promising start - I had simply not been able to see what the hype was all about. But I thought it was good fun the second time (which leads to a question: do mediocre movies seem good on second viewing?) and for once, the repeat viewing told me what I had not been able to pinpoint before - in other words, the problem with Sky-Captain. (It's definitely not the actors. Paltrow smirks, smiles, grimaces and frowns to great effect; Law does the same but he's kind of lost his shine these days. Angelina Jolie gives the best pouty English accent that I've ever heard.)

My experience with action movies tells me that they strive for realism. All the millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars that are pumped into the special effects are for the sole reason of making an audience not notice them. A side-effect of this is the palpable sense of danger that results - I know that the plucky heroine won't die despite all the fires raging around her but I fear for her life, just the same. The problem with Sky-Captain is that it forgets the cardinal principle of the same comic books that it wants to cinematize (if such a word exists) - while the story skips along jauntily, comics rarely waste time in action scenes. Sky-Captain does and to its detriment - it's action scenes are too noisy, too incoherent and ultimately fail to convey what action must - danger. When we are with Sky Captain and plucky Polly Perkins playing Nancy Drew, SkyCaptain coasts along like an especially enjoyable comicbook; when we're with SkyCaptain battling enemy aircrafts, SkyCaptain becomes a noisy, unentertaining and tame action movie.

Monday, January 24, 2005

When characters are defined by their sexual kinks, and nothing else, you get Shiner, an odd, unsettling movie by Christian Calson. I must admit that I saw this movie because it seemed to be one of those grungy, edgy underground movies and truth be told, I haven't quite made up my mind about it. The film tells three interconnecting stories; about two men Danny and Tony who get their kicks by beating the heck out of each other, a woman Elaine who likes mild sexual violence, and an amateur boxer who is being stalked by a creepy-crawly gay man. Ultimately though, none of the story-lines manages to make a great impact, although I must admit, the boxer-stalker subplot manages to hit genuinely wierd notes at times.

Writer-director Calson shoots in a gritty, naturalistic home-video syntax that is at odds with his dialogue which is melodramatic to the point of being cringe-worthy. Ultimately though, Shiner fails because it is never able to take us into the protagnists' heads as they fight. The violence never attains the intensity of, say, the boxing scenes in Raging Bull; instead the sounds are oddly muted and we never see the blows landing. In a movie that is about extreme sadomasochism, we never quite see why the characters love being "hit"; instead we merely observe them as freaks in a freaky movie.